Don't Do It Yourself

Toptal Review 2021 – An Honest Toptal.com Review For Hiring Freelancers

Toptal Review

What is 10x talent?  The term originates with 10x software developers.  These unique individuals have 10 times the productivity, quality, and business impact of average individuals.

A VP of Engineering at Google, Alan Eustace, goes so far as saying “One top-notch engineer is worth 300 times or more than the average”.

See why we recommend Upstack over Toptal for developers.

Read Our Upstack Review

Toptal will match you with 10x talent.

Qualities that set top talent apart

  1. Strategic decision making
  2. Excellent communication skills
  3. Time management meeting deliverables and deadlines
  4. A team player with a positive attitude
  5. Initiative, determination, and perseverance

But I’ve found the opposite to be even more true.  One bad hire can cause a ripple effect of never-ending strings of software bugs, customer complaints, missed deadlines, a toxic work environment.  And too often the root of the problem is mediocre software design, sloppy coding, and a bad attitude.

If you need 10x talent, Toptal provides experts in just about any field.  They have an ultra-selective screening process and claim to be more selective than Harvard and the Navy Seals.  Let’s take a closer look at how it works and the pluses and minuses.

What is Toptal?

Toptal is an exclusive network of freelancers working in a wide range of industries. They connect clients to the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, and project managers from around the world.

You can connect with a freelancer in less than 48 hours, and can scale their services up or down with no strings attached. Toptal prides itself on its rigorous vetting process for all their freelancers, as they select only the “top 3 percent” of talent.

By simply reaching out to their industry experts, you’ll be in contact with a personalized freelancer with a 98% trial-to-hire success rate.

What is Toptal Infographic

Toptal is a high-end freelancing website that claims to provide the top 3% of all freelance talent.

They have a rigorous screening process to only recruit the most elite freelancers. To give you an idea of the caliber, Toptal has hired people from Wharton, MIT, CERN, Google, and industry-leading specialists from around the world.

Toptal freelancer qualifications - college degrees

Here’s some of the specialized freelancers you can find:

  • Software architects, full-stack developers, app developers
  • Blockchain consultants, data scientists, UX designers
  • Start-up funding and Venture Capital specialists
  • IT Project and Product managers, Agile coaches
  • Part time CFO’s, M&A consultants, fintech consultants, and financial analysts
  • And many more

Who is the Toptal business model good for?

  • Companies who need top talent but may not be ready to commit to a full-time person on payroll.
  • CEO’s looking for an interim CFO
  • Start-ups looking for expert advice on M&A or venture funding
  • Teams looking for a full-stack developer that can do it all

Companies like AirBnB, Google, Disney, HP, JPMorgan Chase, Pfizer, and Zendesk have all used Toptal.

Toptal Review

Pros: Here’s what I like about Toptal

  • Toptal review - ProsFast placement process to fulfill hiring needs.  Typically it takes 0-3 weeks to find and expert fitting your requirements. According to Toptal, “In a typical engagement, in almost all cases we’ll introduce you to candidates within 24 hours, and 90% of our clients hire the first candidate we introduce.”
  • Slow, rigorous screening (that most employers can’t easily replicate). Only 3% of freelance applicants pass the process. The screening includes an evaluation of skills, English language mastery, personality test, and a thorough, real-world test project that takes 1-3 weeks to complete.
  • Freelancers (toptallers as they are called) must continue to maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction or they are ejected from the program
  • Fluent English communicators. Candidates must be able to read, write, and speak English extremely well.
  • On top of developers for every platform, there are lots of specialties you’ll have a hard time finding on other freelance sites like CFO’s, M&A specialists, start-up advisors, blockchain experts, and more.
  • No-Risk Policy.  You get a two-week trial with your freelancer. And you’re only billed if completely satisfied. If not, Toptal won't charge you for the freelancer's work during the trial.

Cons: Here’s the only things I don’t like about Toptal

  • Toptal review - ConsIf you only need help with a smaller project, Toptal may be like hiring a gourmet chef to make your box of mac & cheese…overkill.
  • If you want an onsite hire and don’t have an office in a major city, Toptal probably isn’t a good fit. Most of their placements are remote workers.

What Does Toptal charge?

It’s free to sign up with Toptal. They first set up an introductory call to understand your hiring needs in detail.  Toptal will then charge an hourly rate based on the freelancer’s qualifications (rates start around $60/hr).

There is a refundable $500 deposit for Toptal to begin a search for you (to ensure you’re serious).  If you are not satisfied with performance within the first two weeks, Toptal will refund both the deposit and any charges for the freelancer's work.

Toptal Coupon Code

Get a $100 Amazon gift card for using Toptal (you must use this link to sign up and continue past the no-risk trial period). After you’ve hired someone on Toptal, email me (Geoff) at support AT ddiy.co to request your gift card.

Toptal Alternatives

Like some of Toptal’s features but not convinced if it’s right for you? Here are some of our favorite Toptal alternatives:

Read our full post on Toptal alternatives to evaluate the above options and see how they compare against Toptal in terms of cost, type of services provided, vetting processes, and hiring tools.

Is Toptal Good For Freelancers?

While this post has primarily been written for businesses looking to hire freelancers on Toptal, we understand that many people that read this post may be developers looking for more work.

If you're a freelancer looking to get more gigs and work with some of the best companies in the world, Toptal is a great place to start. But please keep in mind that they do have a pretty rigorous screening process and only accept the top developers. So, you will need to go through an interview process and demonstrate your coding abilities before getting accepted into their network.

Yes, but don't forget to join other freelance websites…

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Like any other position, getting a job can be a job itself. One of the best things you can do as a developer to increase your chances of getting more freelance work is to apply to multiple freelancing websites. Some sites like Fiverr and Upwork are significantly more lax in their application and enrollment process. But getting noticed and quality opportunities takes some time. And finding really good clients takes a little bit of luck.

There are also a number of other websites for developers that have a similar model as Toptal. These sites include Upstack, Arc, and Guru. Apply to all of these websites and start interviewing as much as possible. The more platforms that you apply to, the more likely that you will get accepted into them. Follow up with your recruiting managers the same way that you would if you were looking for a full-time gig. The squeaky wheels usually get the grease.

Remember, freelance hubs like Toptal are in a constant tug of war with finding and placing talent. They are all competing with each other to for the best developers. That's their primary goal-to build an amazing network of talent. Without you, they can't fulfill job requests. And in turn, they can't make any money. As a developer, as long as you are actually good at what you do, you have leverage. Your skills are in high-demand.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does Toptal cost?

It’s free to sign up with Toptal. They first set up an introductory call to understand your hiring needs in detail. Toptal will then charge an hourly rate based on the freelancer’s qualifications (rates start around $60/hr).

There is a refundable $500 deposit for Toptal to begin a search for you (to ensure you’re serious).  If you are not satisfied with performance within the first two weeks, Toptal will refund both the deposit and any charges for the freelancer's work.

Is Toptal better than Upwork?

Toptal provides access to elite talent. While anyone can post a profile on Upwork, all Toptal freelancers go through a vetting process before they can work on the platform. Toptal claims to provide the top 3% of all freelance talent.

Is Toptal legit?

Yes, Toptal is a serious, professional recruiting company for high-end freelancers.  The platform is used by both small businesses and large companies like Google, Disney, and JPMorgan Chase.

Where is Toptal based?

The Toptal leadership team is headquartered in Silicon Valley, but most of their employees are remote and from around the globe.

How do you apply for Toptal?

To apply for Toptal, you need only provide your email to sign up. You can also connect your LinkedIn account to optimize the process.

For finding freelance candidates, Toptal first asks what talent you want to hire (designers, developers, project managers, etc.) You’ll then specify what type of project or design you’re looking for.

They’ll then ask you how long you need your freelancer, what type of payment method you prefer, as well as specific skills you’re looking for. Other questions, such as the size of your company and whether you allow for remote work, helps Toptal narrow down a list of freelancers to choose from.

When did Toptal start?

Toptal officially began operations in November of 2010, and has since grown to become the largest fully remote company in the world ten years later.

How much money has Toptal raised?

Toptal’s annual revenue is estimated to be around $192 million.

What kind of jobs does Toptal offer?

Toptal’s most popular freelance jobs are as follows:

  • iOS app developers
  • Front-end developers
  • UX designers
  • UI designers
  • Financial modeling consultants
  • Interim CFOs
  • Digital project managers

How does Toptal choose its freelancers?

Toptal screens all their candidates on their communication skills, personality, professionalism, and domain-specific skills.

While any and all freelancers are able to apply, they undergo the aforementioned screening and tests before they’re hired to work for Toptal.

What is the Toptal screening process?

They employ portfolio reviews, technical coding challenges, user or market research, formal assessments, and live problem-solving sessions to analyze each candidate.

They also match each hire with one of Toptal’s industry experts to demonstrate live proficiency with a project similar to what the candidate would be working on in a real client setting.

How much can you make on Toptal?

Some freelancers have reported making as much as $75,000 to $90,000 a year on Toptal if you get hired as a full-time freelancer.

Is Toptal a good company to work for?

Reviews on job sites have relatively favorable employee reviews for Toptal. Many employees who have worked for Toptal cite paid time off and the flexibility of remote work as great benefits. Some have complained about management and inconsistencies with clients. Others have claimed that there are too many freelancers and not enough work to go around.