There was a time not that long ago that freelancing wasn’t taken seriously as a viable career decision. The prediction is that within the next decade a majority of the U.S. workforce will be composed of freelancers.

It’s obvious that freelancing has now become a very serious career choice. This information shouldn’t be all that surprising nor shocking.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes love hiring freelancers and independent contractors. There are many reasons that this has become the case. Freelancers and independent contractors are a much more cost-effective way to hire for your business. These individuals don’t have to be provided benefits —  and the business owner will no longer need to purchase large office spaces.

The remote worker/working phenomenon.

There are companies where the entire staff works remotely — meaning that the business can be run out of a home office, coffee shop, coworking space, or small office.

These persons can be hired on a per-project basis.

Furthermore, businesses no longer have to hire a full-time staff and have them on-hand. They can hire freelancers or contractors for project-based work. If you’re a small business and your business needs an IT specialist for your website — you can hire someone just for that project instead of having a full-time IT specialist constantly in-house.

Most importantly, businesses can easily find a deep pool of talented and experienced freelancers with a specialized skill sets. Your business can look for those people who have created profiles on sites like: Upwork, LinkedIn, or Fiveeer — to land gigs.

Whenever you need these professional services, you can search these sites to find the right freelancer for the right job by reviewing their profile and samples of their work.

The business owners come back again and again. You can build yourself a name in this way.

What I’ve noticed, however, is that business owners rarely work with a freelancer or contractor just once. Even though you don’t need an in-house IT guy — you will require their services periodically.

You can have a permanent job as a freelancer, too.

It makes sense to keep working with the same person again and again — once you know their strengths and work ethic. Your freelancer has also come to know you’re expectations and business processes.

There may even be times when you need to bring-in an independent contractor for a large-scale project that may take months or years to complete.

An owner can find a freelancer who is loyal and productive.

For both situations, you need to build loyalty and keep your freelancers and contractors happy so that they’ll be productive.

Here are ten ways that you can achieve this connection with the payoff of satisfaction.

1. Offer competitive wages and pay them on-time.

I know that you want to work with freelancers for a decent price. The thing is, you pay for what you get for. If you need a content writer who charges $5/hour, do you think they’ll be as talented at the writer charging $25/hour?

If you want to attract and retain talented freelancers and contractors you have to pay them a competitive wage. After all, if they do solid work, meet deadlines, and are response, they will find someone to pay them what they’re worth.

Pay a good, competitive wage so you can keep the treasure you find.

Simply put, don’t short-change your independent workers if they’ve earned it. If you can’t afford to pay them a higher hourly rate, you could give them performance-based bonuses to show your appreciation.

One final note about payments. Always. Pay. Your. Freelancers. On-time.

They need to make a living as well. So the longer it takes for them to get paid, the harder that makes it to pay their expenses. If possible, you may want speed-up the payment process.

The payment schedule matters.

I’ve been able to keep several amazing freelancers around simply by moving by payments from 30 days to 15 days. This way these freelancers can get compensated for their work every other week instead of waiting a month or more.

2. Provide unique perks and incentives.

Perks don’t have to reserved just for your full-time employees. You can also offer perks to your freelancers and contractors.

For example, a couple of years ago I was working with a freelance writer who had been writing content for me for years. They asked to move back a couple of deadlines because they’re computer crashed. I immediately purchased them a new laptop and sent it to them. It wasn’t just my way of thanking them for all of their hard work — this also made it possible for them to get back to work ASAP.

Depending on your budget and what motivates your independent team, consider perks like transportation costs to company event or industry conferences, paying for them to attend an online class, or good ole’ fashioned gift cards.

3. Respond in a timely manner.

Even though all people try to create and stick to a schedule — the truth is that every week is different for freelancers. One week they may work 10-hours a day — but the next week they put-in just four hours a day.

This can be stressful when they have bills to pay. As a result, they may have to scramble and take-on quick gigs for some fast money.

You come-in and assign them a large project at the last minute. Since they already committed to other clients — that’s not fair to expect them to drop what they’re doing and adjust their schedule to you.

Make it less stressful for your independent workers by being responsive to them. This means assigning tasks to them in advance so that they can add it to their schedule. It also means providing them with relevant materials and information when give a new project. Also, make sure that you respond to any of their questions or concerns in a timely manner.

4. Communicate clearly.

As pointed out in a previous Calendar article byChoncé Maddox, “Solid communication between yourself and your remote team is a crucial key to success when it comes to maintaining a business that thrives.” This is true for both your in-house team and freelancers.

However, considering that your independent workers are working remotely, “communication becomes even more important and can be tricky to improve.”

The good news is that you can improve your communication with your freelancer and contractors by:

  • Setting expectations at the start. Be crystal clear about your company’s culture and what you expect from your freelancers. Also be upfront about when you’re available for check-ins and how much guidance you’ll be providing.
  • Using the right tools. Consider using a project management tool like Asana or Trello to assign and track projects. If you need to set-up a teleconference, use Skype, Google Hangouts, Uber Conference or Zoom.
  • Scheduling regular meetings. Even though meetings can be a waste of time, you should schedule frequent check-ins with your freelancers and contractors. It makes them feel like they’re a part of the team and gives them a chance to address any issues or concerns. Use a scheduling tool so that you can find a time that works for everyone automatically.
  • Finding your own rhythm. Don’t communicate too much since that may make the freelancer feel like you’re micromanaging them. Communicate just enough with them so that they feel like they’re being listened to.

5. Treat them like employees.

Not any one of use like to feel excluded. Your contractors are the same. That’s why you should make them feel like they’re any other employee by treating them with respect. This means paying them on-time, providing training opportunities, and inviting them to team building or social events.

I asked one of my freelancers to join a couple of my other employees at a industry event that I couldn’t attend. This not only helped integrate the freelancer with some of my full-time employees — it also made him feel like he was a key member of the business since he was a representative.

As an added perk, he got to do some networking which helped his freelance business. He was appreciative of both opportunities.

6. Extend anti-discrimination protections.

“While employees are protected in the U.S. from discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — independent workers are not — and the same is true across the world,” writes Jen Curry, Director at Samaschool, in an article forVirgin.

“Companies can create their own policies to show commitment to upholding basic protections from discrimination for independent workers. This includes protections – from retaliation if an incident is reported,” explains Curry.

“These policies can extend to broadly cover how independent workers are treated in the workplace. Hopefully with much of the same support and resources enjoyed by employees.”

7. Give them the right tools and materials.

If you want tasks to be completed by the deadline, then you need to equip your freelancers with the right tools and materials to get the job done. Remember, the sooner you provide them with these tools and and materials, they sooner they can start working.

This may vary from business to business, but let’s say you bring-in someone from the outside to manage your social media accounts. They’re going to need your social logins to properly do the job.

8. Enhance their skills.

Just like your full-time employees freelancers want a chance to strengthen or develop new skills. Self-development will not only help all employees become more efficient and productive — but will also set everyone apart from competitors.

Consider paying for all company employees to attend an online class, third-party training course, or certification.

9. Create contracts.

I’ve learned throughout the years that one of the most stressful parts of being a freelancer is uncertainty. They could be working with your for years, only to be let go tomorrow.

You can get around this by creating contracts.

This is beneficial for both parties since it outlines your expectations, deadlines, and payments. Best of all, it protects both of you. When there’s a contract you know that the freelancer will have to complete their end of the bargain if they want to get paid.

For freelancers, it gives them a little job security and guarantees that you won’t stiff them.

10. Share your goals.

Finally, you can make your independent workers feel like they’re a part of something bigger by sharing with them your vision,goals, and processes. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same mission.

Because employees and freelance employees all feel like they’re a part of team, they’ll become more attached and loyal to your organization.