More than 53 million Americans are doing freelance work, according to an independent study commissioned by Freelancers Union, Elance and oDesk. That figure accounts for 34 percent of the entire workforce. Hiring freelancers makes good financial sense for many small businesses because they can pick and choose their talent, eliminate various full-time costs like healthcare and only pay when extra work is needed.

Despite the benefits of using a freelancer, hiring isn’t always a slam dunk. Failing to set clear expectations, not managing communications and letting freelancers call all the shots can topple a project before it gets off the ground. To ensure your success, consider these tips for better handling freelancers:

Set Expectations

Set crystal clear expectations with your freelancers from the moment you discuss hiring. Put everything in writing, from deadlines to payment, and leave yourself wiggle room to revisit their contract from time to time. Although your freelancers aren’t full-time employees, include them in strategy meetings and discuss the full scope of the project involved. The more information they have about what you expect and the parameters of the job, the more likely they’ll stay productive and follow through with the terms you’ve outlined.

Simplify Communication

Hiring a freelancer often alleviates some of the workload and stress around the office. And although it’s tempting to assume your freelancers are on track and doing their job without any follow up, it’s essential to check in with your contractors and keep communication easy. Schedule regular phone calls or meetings through tools like Hipchat. These conversations can be brief and are designed to keep in touch, but they can really help develop a relationship and get you an update on the project.

Take communication a step further and use collaboration tools like Asana. Set up tasks, keep track of communication, check off tasks and give feedback all in one place. Keep up your relationship with your freelancers by asking them to work in house as needed or to stop in for a meeting once a month. Putting in face time can help solidify your relationship and clear up matters that are hard to define by email or a phone call.

Stick to Your Deadlines

Freelancers need specific guidelines and deadlines to perform and maintain their productivity. Don’t give vague requests like “as soon as possible.” Instead, outline when you need specific tasks completed and ask for a weekly status report so everyone is on the same page. It’s also essential to empower your freelancers to meet deadlines by giving them materials and feedback in a timely manner. Remember freelancers can’t meet their deadlines if you don’t stick to yours.

Keep Freelancers Happy

Freelancers may not be official team members, but it’s still crucial to keep them happy. Respect their opinions and use positive feedback and reinforcement to help increase their output and productivity. Offer to give a reference or testimonial, and invite them to discuss how the project could run smoother next time.

A happy freelancer is also one that gets paid in a timely manner without constantly following up on invoices. Simplify the accounting process by using a tool like Sage One so everyone on your team gets paid on time. Sage One can also create easy invoices for freelancers who want to streamline their own accounting procedures.