The Bottom Line
Toptal is the best freelancer marketplace known for its financial experts, technical developers, and project/product managers. However, it does not have freelancers in other fields, such as writing, voice acting, or video. One of the benefits of using Toptal is that you can try out each freelancer with a 14-day trial period before committing to working with them.
- Thorough vetting process
- Maintains high-quality standards
- Professional and friendly freelancers
- Minimal risk thanks to the 14-day trial
- Hire on-site and remote talent
- Requires a $500 refundable deposit
- Expensive compared to low-quality platforms
- Doesn’t cover more creative niches
|Freelancers||Developers, designers, finance experts, project/product managers|
|Free Trial||14-day for each new freelancer|
|Required Budget||$500 for the deposit|
Table of Contents
2-minute Toptal review
Toptal is a platform that connects businesses with top-tier freelancers. The name “Toptal” is a portmanteau of “top” and “talent,” which reflects the company’s focus on only accepting the top 3% of freelancers. This stringent vetting process sets Toptal apart from other freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr, which do not vet their freelancers but leave it to you. As a result, Toptal’s freelancers are consistently high-quality and reliable, with relevant skills, language proficiency, strong personalities, excellent communication skills, and a track record of successful past projects. Many well-known companies, such as Gucci, Duolingo, and Bridgestone, have used Toptal for their projects.
Because Toptal only features top-tier freelancers, the rates on the platform tend to be higher, with an average hourly rate of $80+. This pricing may be worth it for businesses that need the best talent and are willing to pay for it. It’s important to note that freelancers with similar skill sets on other platforms may not necessarily be cheaper; the difference is that you will not find low- or mid-tier freelancers on Toptal.
Toptal has an average rating of 4.60 from a total of 2,698 reviews, indicating that most customers and employees are generally satisfied with Toptal. Toptal received 4.9 stars from Photutorial because of the highly personalized hiring process and top-quality freelancers.
Toptal freelancers set their own rates based on their location, experience level, and skills. On average, the hourly Toptal fees for freelancers are:
- Developers: $90–$170/hr
- Designers: $80–$150/hr
- Finance experts: $90–$230/hr
- Project managers: $90–$150/hr
- Product managers: $90–$150/hr
These rates may vary based on the project’s complexity and demand for the freelancer’s skills. Toptal does not charge any additional fees on top of the freelancer’s hourly rate, like other platforms. For example, Fiverr has a 5.5% service fee. So, if you pay $100 for a freelancer, you’ll pay $105.50 instead.
Before starting a project with a freelancer, you must make an initial deposit of $500. This deposit acts as a guarantee to protect both Toptal and the freelancer from scams and is refundable if you decide not to work with the freelancer. If you do decide to work with the freelancer, the deposit will be applied as your first payment.
Toptal offers a 14-day trial period with each new freelancer you choose. If you decide the freelancer is not right for you, you can request a full refund, including the deposit, without any questions.
Overall, Toptal’s pricing is geared towards enterprises and SMBs, but entrepreneurs willing to invest in high-quality talent may also find value in the platform.
Types of Services Offered
In terms of the types of services offered, it’s important to note that Toptal is not as broad as other platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer, where you can find a freelancer for just about any task. Instead, Toptal currently focuses on four main categories: developers, designers, project and product managers, and financial experts. This range of skills is useful for marketing purposes, but it’s worth noting that professional copywriters are not currently represented on the platform. For the popular freelancing services that are missing, such as content writing and management, voiceovers, and video production, we recommend using Bunny Studio.
Each freelancing type contains dozens of subcategories. For example, designers specialize in AI design, branding, creativity, mobile apps, visuals, wireframing, and many more. A surprising diversity can be found among developers because, even though Toptal is not a developer-first platform, you can find a freelancer for almost anything. They cover all major programming languages (C++, Python, React, etc.), platforms (WordPress, Magento, etc.), and operating systems (Windows, iOS, Android, etc.), putting them on par with a dedicated developer platforms like Codeable.
The Toptal network also includes finance experts with expertise in areas such as financial modeling, market sizing, startup funding, and more. However, in 2023, the most popular freelancing talents on Toptal are iOS and front-end developers, UX and UI designers, financial modeling consultants, interim CFOs, digital project managers, and AWS experts.
Who’s Toptal Best for?
Toptal has been used by diverse customers, ranging from tire conglomerate Bridgestone to the University of Southern California and startups such as Bluedrop and Sidekick. For example, Toptal’s freelancers built the entire Bridgestone the entire manufacturing execution system, which keeps each factory working like clockwork while giving project managers a complete overview (BTW, you can hire project managers at Toptal, too).
Based on Toptal’s previous and current customers, it’s evident it’s the best marketplace for hiring freelancers. But because Toptal is more expensive than other marketplaces, it might not be the best choice for solopreneurs on a tight budget. Instead, we recommend it to established companies and start-ups looking to hire top-quality talent on a flexible basis. Toptal guarantees the quality of its freelancers by having a strict screening process that lets only the top 3% of applicants in. Additionally, with a quick turnaround time of 0–3 weeks to find a Toptaler, companies can quickly and easily scale their team up or down as needed.
One of the main benefits of using Toptal is cost savings. With a simple, cost-effective pricing model and no hidden fees, companies saved upwards of $1 million per year by using Toptal in 2022 instead of traditional hiring methods. Plus, with no recruiting fees and no termination costs, companies can save even more.
In addition to cost savings, Toptal offers other benefits that can help companies succeed. With a very low failure rate and well-versed talent that can quickly adapt to a company’s project management and collaboration tools, companies can expect a smooth, hassle-free experience when working with Toptal. Plus, with talent that has excellent communication skills and the ability to convey complex concepts clearly, companies can rely on Toptal to help with their team dynamics and build an amazing team and product faster.
How To Get Started On Toptal
Hiring a freelancer on Toptal differs from services like Fiverr and Upwork. Instead of creating job offers, you answer a questionnaire based on which Toptal algorithm and human workers match you with the best freelancers for your project.
1. Answer the questionnaire
If you’re interested in hiring a freelancer through Toptal, you can start the process by clicking the “Hire” button on the Toptal website. This will open a questionnaire that helps Toptal gather all the information it needs about your project and your company. You’ll first be asked to choose from five talent categories: developers, designers, project managers, product managers, or finance experts.
The questionnaire will also ask you more specific questions, such as the number of employees in your company, the type of project you need assistance with (new, existing, or ongoing), and how long you’ll need the freelancer. This helps Toptal match you with freelancers open to working on projects of that duration.
You’ll also be asked about the level of time commitment you’re looking for (full-time, part-time, or hourly), when you’d like to start (immediately, in 1-2 weeks, or more than 2 weeks), whether you’re open to working with a remote freelancer, and the freelancer’s level of experience (entry, individual contributor, management, or leadership).
Next, you’ll be able to specify the skills and experience you’re looking for in a freelancer. For example, if you select “web design” as the type of freelancer you want, Toptal may suggest some relevant skills like HTML, CSS, and Adobe Creative Suite. You can also add additional skills manually or choose a different type of freelancer to see a different list of recommended skills.
Finally, you’ll be asked to provide information about your budget for the project. Toptal uses an hourly billing rate, so you’ll need to divide your total budget by the estimated number of hours it will take to complete the project to determine your hourly budget. This will help Toptal match you with a freelancer available within your budget constraints. Keep in mind that the actual number of hours needed to complete the project may vary based on factors such as the project’s complexity and the freelancer’s skills and experience.
If the criteria you entered match any freelancers, Toptal’s algorithm will take a few minutes to connect you with them. If no match is found, you’ll be redirected to the homepage and can start the process again.
2. Complete a call with an expert
If Toptal can successfully match you with one or more freelancers, the next step is to provide your contact information so that a Toptal representative can contact you. This typically includes your name, email address, and phone number.
The representative will use this information to provide more details about the freelancers matched to your project and answer any questions you may have. Once you have provided your contact information, the representative will follow up with you to discuss the next steps in the process.
You can schedule a call with a Toptal representative at a convenient time or postpone the call if you want to learn more about Toptal and its services before speaking with a representative.
To schedule a call, you can typically use a calendar tool or scheduling software to select a date and time that works for you. The representative will then contact you at the scheduled time to discuss your project and the freelancers matched to it.
You can also request to postpone the call if you need more time to review the information provided by Toptal or have additional questions before speaking with a representative.
Either way, you will have to complete a call with a talent expert before proceeding.
3. Connect with talent
After you finalize your account details and review the terms, you can review hand-selected talent and connect with them. From there, you can proceed with the free 14-day period. After its completion, you may move forward with the freelancer or ask for a new one.
What We Like About Toptal
Overall, Toptal is an amazing marketplace, making it our Top Choice for a freelance site.
1. Highly-vetted, no scams
We’ve hired numerous freelancers over the years, interviewing over 1000 candidates. However, some turned out to be unreliable and not worth our investment. With Toptal, you’re assured of working with only the best freelancers. Toptal thoroughly screens all freelancers before they are available to clients, ensuring they possess not only technical skills but also strong communication and time management abilities.
2. Streamlined hiring
If you’re new to hiring freelancers, you may struggle to craft a successful job posting on your first attempt, as it requires some experience. This is where Toptal comes in to help. Instead of writing lengthy job descriptions and conducting multiple interviews, Toptal streamlines the process for you. You simply have a few brief conversations with Toptal employees, who then select the best freelancers for you. From there, you only have to interview the pre-screened freelancer and decide whether or not to move forward with the project.
3. 14-day free trial
While other Toptal reviews don’t advertise it (for some reason), we emphasize this important feature. The free trial ensures complete safety and a money-back guarantee if you’re unhappy with what you get. In addition, the free trial is not a one-time benefit. Instead, it applies to every new freelancer you hire.
4. Kind employees
As described earlier, hiring a freelancer through Toptal involves interviews with Toptal employees. In our experience, these calls are very brief, which fits nicely into our working schedule. There are no lengthy talks—in 10 to 15 minutes, they get all the information they need to connect you with the most relevant freelancers. This shows that the employees are well-trained to be efficient and know their stuff well. For our development job, we first talked with David, who then redirected us to his superior, who was even kinder.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
No freelance marketplace is without faults, and the same’s true for Toptal. Despite several of its flaws, Toptal’s advantages decisively outweigh its cons.
1. Takes long to hire; it might actually be faster
Let us explain. Most freelance platforms work like this: you post a job offer or approach a freelancer yourself, interview dozens of applicants and find the best one, discuss details, and hire the freelancer. Depending on how thorough you are and how many applications you get, this process can take 30 minutes to several weeks. In contrast, Toptal recommends the best freelancers based on your requirements, with which you can then conduct short interviews to pick the best one. Overall, hiring at other marketplaces is faster in the short run, but because you might run into scams or freelancers that won’t meet your requirements and finish the project, Toptal saves you time.
You won’t find low- or mid-level freelancers on Toptal—you can only hire professionals. And top freelancers are much more expensive, so if you can’t afford to pay at least $80 per hour, Toptal isn’t for you. In addition, before hiring, you must deposit $500 to show Toptal you’re a serious client and to protect them from scams. Although the deposit is fully refundable if you don’t hire after the 14-day free trial, it’s still a sizable amount that not every business can pay upfront.
3. Limited services
Compared to the giants like Upwork and Fiverr, which cover everything under the Sun, Toptal handles only designers, finances, development, and project management. This means you cannot get writers, editors, social media specialists, and other highly-demanded freelancers.
Best Toptal Alternatives
What sets Toptal apart from other freelancing platforms are the pre-screened candidates, low failure rate, and quality guarantee. Thanks to this, you can save money and time, even compared to cheaper freelancers. In addition, the entire recruiting process is highly personalized and assisted by a Toptal representative who helps you along the road.
|Toptal||Other platforms||Typical employment|
|Time to find a freelancer||0–3 weeks||0–4 months||1–4 months|
|Failure rate||Very low||Very high||Low|
|Termination costs||None||Usually none||Very high|
Toptal vs. Upwork
The main difference between Toptal and Upwork is the quality of the freelancers, but they are both great platforms for many businesses and individuals. Toptal is the clear winner regarding work quality. Their freelancers are handpicked for each project and must pass a rigorous selection process. As a result, businesses can rely on a pool of highly skilled professionals to get the job done right.
Upwork, on the other hand, takes a more open approach to freelancers. While this can be advantageous for companies with a specific project in mind and willing to put in the extra effort to find the right freelancer, it can also be risky.
Toptal vs. Crossover
We tried hiring freelancers using Crossover, but there was no way of hiring any of the freelancers. It’s impossible to create an account or get in touch with any of the freelancers. However, as a freelancer, you can get in touch fairly easily, yet getting accepted is a lot more difficult. On top of that, Crossover seems to be for full-time jobs instead of freelancing.
Therefore, we recommend Toptal for hiring high-quality freelancers, while Crossover could be better for full-time workers.
Toptal vs. Turing
The main difference between Toptal and Turing is the range of services offered. Toptal offers designers, developers, managers, and financial experts, while Turing focuses only on developers. Therefore, Turing is better for hiring developers as it is more specialized and promises to hire freelancers based on a Silicon Valley bar.
However, we have not seen much evidence that Turing actually delivers the promised results. Therefore, we also recommend Toptal for developers (for now).
Toptal vs. Gigster
The main difference between Toptal and Gigster is that Toptal is more focused on connecting businesses with individual developers. At the same time, Gigster is more focused on connecting businesses with teams of developers. As a result, Gigster requires at least a $55k budget per project, while Toptal requires only a $500 deposit.
Toptal vs. Codeable
In contrast to Toptal, Codeable focuses on the development, particularly WordPress. At $80-$120 per hour, it is slightly more expensive for developers than Toptal. The cost is also influenced by the project’s complexity, urgency, and size.
For instance, the price range for creating a unique plugin is between $960 and $3,460. Of course, more difficult projects may extend far beyond that.
We suggest Toptal for all other services and Codeable for web development, particularly WordPress.
Toptal vs. Andela
We found that Andela is more akin to Fiverr than Toptal in terms of quality and pricing. The average hourly rate is $25, while the quality ranges from disappointing to mediocre. Some clients report great success, but they seem few and far between.
Toptal vs. Fiverr
Fiverr is looking to be a low-quality alternative to Toptal. The site offers a variety of services for just $5, including logo design, web development, and even SEO help. However, the quality of these services is often poor, and many users have complained about the lack of customer service. If you’re looking for a low-cost option for your business, Fiverr may be worth considering, but be aware that you may not get the best quality for your money.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Toptal legitimate?
Yes, Toptal is a legitimate and professional recruiting company specializing in high-end freelancers. It is trusted by many businesses, including large corporations like Google, Disney, and JPMorgan Chase, as well as small businesses.
How does Toptal make money?
Toptal charges a service fee for its platform, which is added to the freelancer’s hourly rate. This means that the freelancer receives their full earnings, and the client pays an additional fee for using Toptal’s services. The final price includes the service fee, so the client does not have to pay any additional fees. It is unclear what percentage of the hourly rate is the service fee, but it likely varies based on the freelancer’s expertise and field of work, from 20% to 50%.
How much is Toptal worth?
According to The Hustle, Toptal is valued at over $1B and is 100% owned by Du Val, one of the founders.
Where is Toptal located?
Although Toptal was founded in the United States, it has no physical headquarters.
How We Tested Toptal
For our initial testing of Toptal, we tried recruiting several freelancers for various projects, ranging from web design to finance consultation and project management. In addition, we considered several of Toptal’s case study participants, including Bridgestone, a tire and rubber company that ordered a cross-platform app; the University of Southen California, which developed a virtual assistant to improve mental wellness; Sidekick, a startup that built a disruptive cloud-based platform setup; and ADcrush, which scaled revenue using marketing automation. We wrote the entire Toptal review according to our best practices for testing.
Over the years, we’ve continued monitoring, testing, and reviewing Toptal as clients and outside observers. Our experience has been consistently positive. Put simply, pretty much everyone who tried Toptal likes it, at least the ones who can afford it. Toptal’s overall customer rating is 4.7 out of five across more than 1,700 reviews at G2 and Trustpilot.
Why You Can Trust Us
Matic Broz authored this Toptal review. He has written more than 230 Photutorial articles, including the best freelance websites, Toptal vs. Upstack, and the Freelancer.com review. He had freelanced in the past but has since started hiring freelancers himself, including from freelance marketplaces like Fiverr, Upwork, and Toptal. Due to his analytical approach and accurate writing, his work has been published in The Guardian, USA Today, and Petapixel.
In addition to drawing on personal experience, we read up a whole lot on Toptal, including numerous articles featuring interviews with the company’s founder published by Forbes, Mixergy, and Fortune. We scanned the client’s Toptal Reddit reviews and customer review sites like Trustpilot and G2.
Toptal Review for Freelancers: Is it any good?
In our experience, TopTal has both pros and cons for freelancers. On the positive side, TopTal is a premium service that attracts higher-quality clients and has a professional in-house sales team to onboard them. This can be a significant advantage over platforms like UpWork, where clients may be more likely to cancel projects or “flake.” However, the premium nature of the service does come at a cost. Toptal charges some of the highest fees of any platform we have used, as they sell your hours to clients at a rate that is about double what you earn. This can be difficult to justify, especially since other platforms now serve high-end clients at lower fees.
Another issue with TopTal is the restrictions placed on working with clients outside the platform. If you decide to work with a client full-time, you or your employer would have to pay a $50,000 buyout fee to hire you off Toptal. This can be a major deterrent, especially since other platforms offer more flexibility in this regard. For example, Contra charges no fees and allows you to work with clients outside the platform, while UpWork takes a lower cut than Toptal.
Overall, while Toptal may have been a good option in the past, many alternatives may be worth considering for freelancers. These include Contra, LinkedIn, Behance, and CloudDevs, which other users have recommended as alternatives with lower fees and more flexibility. If you are new to freelancing, we recommend making profiles and applying to jobs on multiple platforms, and weighing the client volume versus fees on each before committing to a high-fee site. This will allow you to make an informed decision about which platform best fits your needs and goals.
- Christopher J. Dwyer. Key Providers For 2022: Toptal. Future Work Exchange. Published October 7, 2022.
- Peter High. Toptal Offers A New Arsenal For The War For Talent. Forbes. Published October 2, 2017.
- r/webdev – Is Toptal legit? Reddit. Published 2013. Accessed January 1, 2023.
- Hire top talent that fits your company’s needs. | Toptal®. Toptal.com. Published 2023. Accessed January 5, 2023.
About your guide
Matic Broz is a multifaceted creative professional, with experience as a photographer, graphic designer, and business owner. He has a decade of experience in helping other creatives improve their craft and start their own businesses. His writing and research have been featured in notable publications such as The Guardian, PetaPixel, and USA Today. Additionally, his scientific research has been recognized with a cover feature in the prestigious MDPI-owned journal. In his leisure time, he enjoys photography, hiking, and spending time with dogs. Read more
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