There are a lot of perks to being an independent contractor, especially if your field allows you to work from home. That said, the benefits of independent work come with a host of responsibilities, chief among them the development and maintenance of a strong work ethic. Here is a short list of the essential factors that demonstrate a strong work ethic, and how to cultivate them in yourself.
Emotions and feelings are leading indicators of action. This is just as true for actions that demonstrate a strong work ethic, and one of the most important positive emotions that an independent contractor should experience is determination. Your determination can help you build a strong work ethic. Just as critically, you can rely on determination to maintain a strong work ethic, even when you don’t feel particularly inspired to do so. This means you don’t let obstacles get in the way of being a professional or from delivering great service to your clients. Determination can encompass, and engender, a lot of other positive factors: sense of responsibility, discipline, quality, and timeliness. No matter what you aspire to be, your sense of determination will likely play a big role in getting you there.
One of the most surefire ways to give the impression of a strong work ethic is to get a lot of stuff done. Incredibly productive people stand out from the crowd and among their competition. Try thinking about people in your own life who seem very productive; there is a chance those are the same people to whom you attribute a healthy work ethic. Technically speaking, the most productive people are those who operate efficiently, which is not the same thing as having a strong work ethic. Nevertheless, you are probably most efficient and productive when you stress quality, consistency, and mastery, all things that can improve with your work ethic.
Emphasis on Quality
Imagine two different laborers who build birdhouses. The first person builds 12 birdhouses per day while the second person only builds eight. Given just this information, you can see how someone might assume the first person demonstrates more work ethic. Now what if you later learn that birdhouses built by the first person tend to be boring, haphazard, and nondurable? On the contrary, the second person’s birdhouses are ornate, functional, and hold together very well even under tough conditions. Suddenly, the second person seems to have the stronger work ethic. After all, that person emphasizes quality. The first person seems to care less, and that lack of integrity and respect for customers is made evident through flimsy products. There is an art to getting work done right, and the first person seems to be missing it.
Cooperation may be one of the more underrated factors associated with a strong work ethic, and this may be because many people see work ethic through an individualistic lens. This perspective may be even more tempting for independent contractors who operate without any immediate co-workers. Having a great work ethic means aspiring to work well with others and having the discipline, respect, and integrity to follow through on that aspiration. You may already have examples in your working career where a lack of communication or internal dispute damaged the final product. If you want to develop a more cooperative work ethic, try the following exercises:
- Practice empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of your suppliers, customers, and other associates.
- Review all of your communications to ensure a professional, clear tone.
- Be considerate of other’s contributions and acknowledge them.
- Admit when you don’t know something or need help completing a job.
The concept of professionalism encompasses a lot, and you may find that you appear professional as an incidental benefit of being determined, productive, focused on quality, and easy to work with. In some ways, a strong work ethic is just as much a prerequisite for professionalism as the other way around. Another aspect of demonstrating professionalism is how you present yourself. You want to appear clean and prepared for the job at hand, and give off the impression you are respectable and treat others respectfully. Part of this is also cultural; you might spend some time familiarizing yourself with the customs of your industry to ensure you give off the right kind of professionalism for the work you do.
Effective Work Habits
A strong work ethic is, almost by definition, habitual. A habitually healthy worker knows how to organize, prioritize, dedicate his/herself, and maintain the appropriate procedures necessary to get the job done. Obviously, this isn’t a definitive list of the factors that make a strong work ethic. In fact, some people might effectively demonstrate a strong work ethic without fully embodying each one of these characteristics. But if having a strong work ethic is important to you, these are some excellent areas on which to focus and improve.