When you hire a new employee, you put him or her through extensive training, not only on the responsibilities of the new position, but also on your company’s history, values and culture. But what about your freelance talent?

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Freelancer

Freelancers play a huge role in business. In fact, nearly a third of U.S. workers operate on a freelance basis -- and that number keeps growing. Consequently, freelancers are likely already playing an increasingly important role in your business model. This means that you are finding it vital to bring them deeper into the fold and engage them in a way that helps them act as ambassadors for your brand.

Yet, many companies fall short of this task. They view their interactions with freelancers as merely transactional. And this is a mistake.

If someone is producing work for your company, he or she shouldn’t be a stranger to you or your business but rather feel inspired by your mission and values and feel as much a member of your team as your 9-to-5 employees.

Nor will you be on a one-way street. Building relationships with freelancers has benefits for your business, as well:

  • Promotion. Freelancers who align and engage with your vision will go out of their way to be ambassadors for your brand, even when they’re not actively working with you.
  • Networking. Freelancers are constantly networking and searching for their next gig. Their constant connecting could bring interesting people your way.
  • Consistency. When you build a solid connection with freelancers, they will be more enthusiastic about working with you regularly and delivering outstanding work. They'll also be more familiar with your brand, which will save time on hiring and lend consistency to your tone and goals.

So, how do you build these solid relationships? You can’t reap the above benefits without doing a certain amount of due diligence. And that starts with ensuring that you and your team can articulate your company’s values, messaging and brand voice. If you’re not clear on these things, your freelancers certainly won’t be.

Once you start actively looking for potential freelancers, give that mission the same consideration you'd give to hiring potential full-time employees. Ask questions to gain insight into whether these individuals understand your business model and why they want to work for you. Try to gauge whether they have a desire to work for you beyond simply paying the bills. If not, they likely won’t be able to consistently meet and exceed your goals.

Finally, the hiring phase isn’t the final step of the process. What is, is making freelancers feel like part of the family. So, once you've vetted freelancers and hired the ones who are a great fit for your company, here's how to make them feel like an important part of the team:

1. Provide a company email address.

Once they’ve been sufficiently vetted, giving freelancers a company email address is an easy way to show that you trust them and makes them feel like valued, integrated teammates.

2. Give them a byline.

Giving freelancers public credit for their work shows that you value their contributions. This is especially powerful for your blog and other client-facing materials.

Related: 3 Secrets to Finding the Best Freelancer for Your Company

3. Keep them in the loop.

If you’ve just closed a funding round, developed a new product, changed prices or released any other news, let your freelancers know! Not being in the know about important events or milestones is a surefire way to make your freelancers feel as though they’re not valued members of your team.

4. Give them gear.

Do you have logo-embossed shirts? Hats? Sunglasses? Anything you’ve given your in-house employees should also be shared with your freelancers. This goes for marketing materials, such as business cards, as well. You can even give them fliers, coupons, samples and other swag that they can hand out at conferences and events.

Your freelancers may not be around the office all the time, but they’re still a vital part of your operation. When you let them know that you value their contributions, they’ll repay you with more passion for your cause and their very best work -- and they’ll be more willing to be a hard-working ambassador for your brand.

Related: Your Freelance Communication Bridge Is Falling Down. Here's How to Fix It.