Toptal Review 2023: Is It Worth Paying More Than Upwork and Fiverr?
In the sea of online freelance job boards, Toptal takes an alternative approach for talent seekers and job seekers. In this Toptal review, we examine how Toptal works, the quality of the talent you can find on the site, and how much you can expect to pay.
In addition, we take a look at the pros and cons of Toptal to find out if the high price tag is worth it to attract the best talent.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What is Toptal?
top valleya name that comes from above valleyent, acts as an intermediary between hiring companies and freelancers. Its main advantage lies in its crop of pre-screened freelancers. While most job boards and freelance marketplaces allow anyone to create a profile, Toptal uses its vetted database of freelancers to ensure companies only hire the “top 3% of freelance talent”.
From the “Top 3% of Freelance Talent”, Toptal means that they only accept “typically less than 3%” of the freelancer applications they see each month.
Accepting less than 3% of applications isn’t necessarily the same as having the top 3% of freelance talent, because there are certainly talented freelancers who don’t apply to Toptal, but you get the basic principle. The core idea is that freelancers have to pass various language proficiency tests, skill checks, a live screening and test projects, which is much more involved than the verification process on platforms like Upwork or Fiverr (these are pretty much just open marketplaces where any freelancer can hang their clapboard).
If you are a freelancer, you can apply to join Toptal’s talent network, but you must pass the verification process. And if you’re a company looking to hire talent, Toptal can help you find the right freelancer for the job. Or they can even help you put together an entire team of freelancers if your job requires it.
Toptal Review: Pros and Cons
Let’s start our Toptal review by looking at the pros and cons, and then dive into what it’s like to hire a freelancer at Toptal.
- Toptal has a strict admissions process for freelancers. Toptal eliminates the workers who absolutely shouldn’t be there, while anyone can create an account and show off their “expertise” on Freelancer.com, Upwork, or Fiverr. For example, Toptal does not accept people who fail language tests, competency assessments and test projects.
- The people you hire are usually very nice and professional. Part of Toptal’s review process is an ongoing excellence check and personality analysis. They want to make sure they get hard workers with no drama.
- The freelancer search system offers personalization and project-specific pairings. Using a combination of AI and customer support staff, Toptal takes your project description and finds people who fit based on experience, rates and availability.
- Toptal does the dirty work. You can focus on selecting a freelancer from a narrowed list and working directly on your project while Toptal manages most of the talent selection process, invoices and verification.
- There is minimal risk. You’ll get a deposit refund if you don’t hire a freelancer. And there is a free trial. They also hold freelancers accountable so you don’t end up with a worker who does half the job, pocket the money and forget you.
- You can hire remote and on-site talent. You can hire employees remotely or have them come to the office.
- Toptal is generally more expensive. In terms of price, you should generally expect to pay more than platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. Additionally, you must make an initial deposit of $500 to get started (This will either count towards your first payment or be refunded if you decide not to proceed with the project).
- It doesn’t cover many types of creative freelancers. Toptal is great when it comes to hiring technical, project/product management, or finance professionals, but there aren’t many freelancers in more creative fields like writing, photography, music, etc. If you’re looking for creatives like this, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere . However, you can find illustrators and animators, so there are quite a few creative freelancers on Toptal.
- Toptal has an unwanted sales funnel. There isn’t much information about the talent pool until you create an account and apply your project details. In principle, you cannot browse through a marketplace of freelancers like on many other platforms.
Toptal review of the types of services you can hire for
As we write our Toptal review, Toptal presents six general categories of talent you can hire:
- developer – Software engineers, programmers and software architects.
- designers – UI, UX, visual and interaction designers (plus illustrators and animators).
- financial experts – Financial modeling/assessment, interim CFO, market sizing and more.
- project manager – digital and technical PMs, Scrum Masters and more.
- product manager – Product managers, product owners and more.
- project consultant – Toptal project consultants can help you build a whole team.
Each of these primary freelancer categories is broken down into subcategories.
A non-exhaustive list of examples includes:
- Android developer
- Java developer
- WordPress developer
- Salesforce developer
- animation designer
- presentation designer
- Ecommerce website designer
- Blockchain Designer
- Virtual Project Manager
- Scrum Master
- Temporary CFOs
- AI Product Manager
- Business Analysts
- product owner
- JIRA Administrators
However, if you’re looking for help with more creative tasks like writing, voiceover, translation, music composition, etc., you should probably look elsewhere.
Toptal quality of work and the hiring process
Hiring the right people starts with reaching out to the best talent source. We think Toptal offers a wonderful crop of talent if you’re willing to put in a little extra work to find it.
Unfortunately, we have this new way of hiring, where an automated system matches you with random people around the world, with limited interview processes and information about these freelancers. At the very least, Toptal offers its own talent database and narrows down the list based on your choices.
After that, speak to a Toptal recruitment expert for more information about your position. They use this information to determine the top two freelancers for the job based on pricing, availability, and skills.
Finally, speak to each freelancer to clarify the scope of your project.
In general, you should have a few potential candidates available for review within 24 hours, and Toptal says that 90% of Toptal users hire the first candidate Toptal suggests.
From the landlord’s perspective, this is both beneficial and worrying. A solution like Fiverr allows me to quickly find designers and developers by looking at profiles, portfolios, and reviews. I can hire people in seconds, which makes quick jobs easier.
However, it can also lead to questionable hiring decisions. Toptal will at least do the verification for you, even if it means taking the time to follow the process. In addition, Toptal also facilitates Skype calls with the talent, negotiations and test projects to find out if someone is right for your company.
Total Prices and Fees
In general, Toptal’s prices are higher than more unregulated marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr, although this depends on your specific project and the freelancer you’re working with.
But let’s start with some price advantages from our Toptal review:
- Toptal has no recruitment or termination fees.
- You also get a risk-free trial to test your freelancer before committing.
- You set the starting budget.
When Toptal tells you the price, you’ll see one consistent price that includes both Toptal’s service fee and the freelancer’s salary, so there’s no cost beyond the number shown.
What you pay for Toptal depends on the specific position you want to fill and which freelancer you work with. However, you can get an idea of what to expect by playing around with Toptal’s salary calculators. Here are the global averages for some popular developer categories:
Again, prices for different specialties can be higher or lower, but this should give you a general idea of prices on Toptal. In some places the prices are also higher. For example, if you’re looking for a full-stack developer in North America, the average freelance rate jumps to $70-$120 per hour.
You should also keep in mind that these average prices are the prices that freelancers set and do not include Toptal’s service fee. Toptal does not take commission from freelancers. Instead, they add their service fee to the freelancer’s rate and present it to the hiring companies as a unified rate.
If you’re on a really tight budget, you can find cheaper average prices elsewhere. For example, Upwork Pens their “median” full-stack developer rate is $32.80 per hour, which would be well below the Toptal average. However, the “expert” rate at Upwork is $100 per hour. So if you assume that all Toptal developers are considered experts, there might not be much of a difference.
However, Upwork makes money by taking a commission from the freelancer, rather than charging an additional service fee from hiring companies like Toptal. So if a freelancer at Upwork charges $100 an hour, that’s what you pay. But if a freelancer at Toptal charges $100 an hour, you pay the $100 plus Toptal’s service fee. These figures are also shown as a uniform price (So you won’t see separate fees for the freelancer fee and the service fee); but that is exactly what is happening in the background.
As a contrasting opinion on Toptal’s pricing compared to platforms like Upwork and Fiverr, Toptal’s legal team explains the following:
[…] The fees charged by Toptal talent offerings vary widely and depend on myriad factors such as: B. the client, the role, the level of experience required for a particular job, the market demand for certain skills, and so on. Using these single values to support arguments that Toptal is more expensive than the competition is deeply wrong.
You can do your own calculations on how Toptal compares in price to the competition and draw your own conclusions. You’ll quickly find out how it all works in practice.
Finally, you need to make a deposit before you can get started with your new freelancer. The deposit is $500 but will be credited to your first bill (or refunded if you decide not to proceed with your project, so you get your money back if Toptal doesn’t work for you).
When you pay during an ongoing agreement, Toptal generally invoices twice a month with payment terms of 10 net.
Toptal user interface
Hiring a freelancer at Toptal is different than what you’re used to from services like Upwork and Fiverr. Instead of tenders/competitions, Toptal uses an algorithm and human workers to match freelancers with companies.
The automated step-by-step wizard asks for all information about our project. For example, you can choose from talent options such as developers, designers, and product managers.
It also receives specific, requesting information about the schedule for that project.
That way, you won’t be paired with freelancers who have no intention of staying for your six-month project.
You can also tell Toptal how many workers you need.
We like this site as it is unique to Toptal while competitors usually require you to hire staff one by one. Toptal tries to build a team for you, at least if you need one.
You can also look for freelancers who want to work 40 hours a week or 5 hours a week or on a project basis.
You can search for desired areas of expertise to ensure freelancers have the right skills. For example, you can include skills like web design and UX design for a developer or designer.
Finally, Toptal allows you to specify your budget.
As you can see, budgeting encourages jobs over $25 an hour. And many user reviews state that the prices are regularly on the higher end.
Toptal then spends a moment matching you with the best talent based on your selection.
This is one of the areas where Toptal excels as you will be contacted later about the very best people for your job.
During our Toptal review, we found that Toptal operates more like a personalized recruitment company, as opposed to the fully automated job boards and marketplaces we’ve become accustomed to.
Toptal Review: Our final thoughts
Overall, our Toptal review revealed a wide range of benefits, from the screening process to the options to hire both external and internal staff. You get a risk-free way to test candidates and don’t have to worry about billing and invoicing.
However, we have identified a number of potential issues that could discourage many tenants and employees from using the platform. First of all, it is generally more expensive than many other popular freelance marketplaces. So you need to think about whether Toptal’s vetting process and talent pool is worth the money for you.
It’s also not that easy to just jump in and browse the available talent as you have to go through Toptal’s sales funnel and make a $500 deposit to get started. Remember – the deposit will be refunded if you decide not to continue the job. However, it makes it more of a commitment to start with Toptal compared to other platforms that can start your freelance search right away.
The benefit, however, is that with Toptal you can avoid wading through inferior freelancers and go straight to a talented pool that passes basic tests of language proficiency and ability.
Overall, we recommend Toptal for those who would rather not sift through thousands of applicants or browse through an endless supply of freelancers on places like Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr. You might pay a little more, but you can let someone else do the hard work of screening talent and go straight to the best candidates.
Interested in other options? If you are specifically looking for WordPress developers, you can check out our post on where to hire freelance WordPress developers.