How to Think About Job ‘Loyalty’ When You’re an Independent Worker

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Once upon a time, loyalty in a full-time job was pretty simple. You showed up to work every day, did your best and assumed your employer would take care of you. 

But we’ve long since left that world behind. Young workers are now more likely to change jobs every few years; and, with their increasing choice to become independent workers and contractors, they are often handling multiple jobs at the same time.

What does loyalty look like when every employer is completely new?

We’ve already seen the struggles that freelancers have under these conditions. According to a recent study by my company, Invoice2go, 32 percent of independent contractors surveyed said that establishing trust was a major concern. Some 66 percent said that competition was growing among independents, making it harder for these people to stand out.

This continued shift isn’t going to stop. According to research from The Conference Board, only 49.6 percent of workers surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs. No wonder they’re seeking out new and exciting ways to work on their own.

Recently, yet another study by Burson-Marsteller found that not only do the majority of companies use independent contractors, but 42 percent of them believe that freelancers are just as loyal as employees. When businesses can no longer tell the difference between employees and contractors when it comes to loyalty, we know something is changing.

But if freelancers can be just as loyal as full-time employees, what does that loyalty look like in today’s new world of employment?

Loyalty to a person

Today’s world is one in which you may work not one full-time job, but multiple jobs, equaling full-time hours perhaps through a combination of traditional paid work alongside freelancing and side jobs.

And, in this context, being able to show loyalty through a range of gestures may make the difference between surviving and thriving as an independent worker.

First, workers in the new economy need to be honest, both with themselves and their employers. Managing multiple jobs is no easy task, and loyalty to an employer requires those workers being completely up-front about where they have or haven’t worked in the past, or currently.

It’s easy to imagine a situation in which an employee has a conflict of interest when dealing simultaneously with multiple businesses — a situation that wouldn’t occur in traditional full-time employment. Being up-front about these potential conflicts will earn you respect from your potential employers.

Most people are loyal to other people, not businesses, and that shouldn’t change when you’re managing multiple jobs. In the new economy, managing your loyalty will require that you build good, solid relationships inside these companies with people you can trust.

Loyalty to one of those managers or employers might also put you in a position to leverage your extensive network — gained through freelancing — to help the company fill other jobs. If, for instance, you’re brought on as a contract web developer, you may know UX researchers or designers who could help your employer. Not only would such a move on your part show dedication to your employment, it would also demonstrate your loyalty to the business and its success.

Loyalty to a project

The notion of “loyalty” leads to another point — loyalty to a project. Being hired as a freelancer or contractor usually means you’re working on a project for a specific period of time: You should endeavor to try to be loyal to that project, even when things go awry.

One way, for instance, would be to throw in an extra hour or two of work on a project when it’s not required and when you might not get paid extra compensation. This will demonstrate that you’re willing to go “above and beyond” to get things done.

And, what if the project extends beyond your contract? See what you can do in order to contribute more, and think twice about finding new contracts when your project is meant to end, as projects inevitably run past deadlines. These efforts will go a long way in demonstrating to your employer that, as a contractor, you can show just as much loyalty as a full-time employee.

It’s a new world, all right. But a contractors’ economy isn’t necessarily less loyal; it’s just that loyalty may display itself in different ways. As our working lives become more complex, we should ensure that we display more loyalty, not less — and as a result, take full advantage of what the new economy of independent work can provide.