Toptal vs UpStack (2023): Which Is Best For You?

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The Bottom Line

The main difference between Toptal and UpStack is the scope and focus of the services offered. Toptal offers a wider range of services, including software development, design, finance, and project management, and has a larger pool of freelancers to choose from. UpStack, on the other hand, specializes in software development and has a smaller pool of freelancers. Additionally, Toptal has a longer history and a larger global presence, while UpStack is a newer and more specialized company. Ultimately, the best choice will depend on the client’s or freelancer’s specific needs and preferences.

Introduction to Toptal and UpStack

Toptal and UpStack are both companies that offer freelance services to businesses and organizations. They both provide access to a pool of highly skilled and experienced professionals who can work on a variety of projects, from software development to design and marketing.

ServiceToptalUpStack
Toptal LogoUpStack logoLightroom iconUpStack logo
Photutorial Rating4.9/5.04.5/5.0
Best For Clients Whoare looking for a wider range of services and a larger pool of freelancers to choose fromspecifically need software development services and are looking for a more specialized and focused company
Best for freelancers whohave a broad range of skills and are looking for a company with a larger pool of potential clientsspecialize in software development and are looking for a company with a focus on that area
Project DurationLong-term or highly-specializedLong-term or highly-specialized
Talent LevelTop-level designers, developers, finance experts, product managers, and project managersMedium and top-level developers
Vetting5-week, top 3%6-step test, top 1%
Guarantee14-day risk-free; billed only if you’re satisfied14-day risk-free; billed only if you’re satisfied
Cost$60–$90/hour$50–$80+/hour
Deposit$500$399
Pros– Quick Hiring: Easy to select a freelancer.
– Fast Connecting: Clients and freelancers matched in two days.
– Trial Period: Two weeks to evaluate a freelancer.
– Highly Skilled Staff: Top freelancers provide quality work.
– Talented Pool: Top 1% talent. 
– Quick Recruitment: Matched in 3 days.
– Specialized: Just developers.
– Free Trial: 14-day trial.
– Support: 24/7 support.
Cons– High Rates: Expertise comes with high costs.
– Upfront Cost: $500 fee to access services.
– Small Network: Extensive screening limits available freelancers.
– Model: Not for short-term work.
– Deposit: $399 fee.
– Rates: Expensive.
– Time Zones: Difficult to reach.
– Network: Smaller pool.
ReviewsToptal reviewUpStack review
Try ToptalTry UpStack

Despite their similarities, there are some key differences between the two companies. Toptal was founded in 2010 and has quickly become one of the world’s leading providers of freelance services. UpStack, on the other hand, was founded in 2015 and is a relatively new player in the market.

One of the main differences between Toptal and UpStack is the scope of their services. Toptal offers a wider range of services, including software development, design, finance, and project management, while UpStack primarily focuses on providing freelance software developers.

Another difference is the size of the companies. Toptal has a larger global presence and a larger pool of freelancers, while UpStack is a smaller and more specialized company.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the services offered by both companies, as well as their company culture, hiring and vetting processes, and client feedback. We will also provide recommendations for potential clients and freelancers based on our comparison.

Pricing comparison

Toptal and UpStack are two of the leading remote freelancing platforms in the industry. They both provide access to talented freelancers and allow businesses to quickly find and hire the best people for their projects.

In terms of pricing, both Toptal and UpStack are a bit more expensive than some other options on the market. Toptal requires a $500 initial deposit, while UpStack requires a $399 deposit. These initial fees may seem high, but they ensure that both platforms have high-quality freelancers in their talent pools. In addition, if you’re unhappy with the services, you are eligible for a full deposit refund within 14 days.

The hourly rate for freelancers on Toptal and UpStack is typically higher than on other sites. The average hourly rate for freelancers on Toptal is between $60 and $90, while the hourly rate on UpStack is slightly lower at $50 to $80. However, this higher hourly rate is justified by the quality of work you can expect from freelancers on these platforms.

Toptal and UpStack have strict vetting processes that ensure that only the best freelancers are included in their talent pools. Additionally, both companies offer discounts for businesses that are just starting. Toptal has a special program for startups, while UpStack offers a loyalty program for companies already using their services.

Comparison of services offered by Toptal and UpStack

Both Toptal and UpStack offer freelance services to businesses and organizations. However, there are some differences in each company’s specific services.

Toptal offers a wide range of freelance services, including software development, design, finance, and project management. They provide access to a pool of highly skilled and experienced professionals who can work on various projects.

UpStack, on the other hand, primarily focuses on providing software developers for hire. They offer a smaller range of services but have a specialization in the area of software development.

In terms of pricing and payment terms, both Toptal and UpStack offer flexible options to fit the needs of their clients. Toptal offers hourly, part-time, and full-time engagement options and the ability to pay via invoicing or a credit card. UpStack offers hourly and project-based pricing and allows clients to pay via invoicing or credit card.

In addition to finding projects, each company offers various other services. Toptal, for example, offers project assistance and advice for teams working on specific projects. The company has also developed its project management platform that helps managers manage their teams more efficiently. Meanwhile, UpStack offers project management services specific to software engineering, so developers can work together more efficiently.

Aside from project-related services, both companies also provide mentorship programs. Toptal’s program provides one-on-one guidance and advice from experienced professionals who have been successful in their fields, while UpStack’s program provides additional guidance on how to grow and expand your existing skills.

Comparison of company culture and work environment

One important aspect of choosing a freelance service provider is the company culture and work environment. Toptal and UpStack have unique company values, missions, and policies on work-life balance and remote work.

Toptal’s company values include excellence, transparency, and collaboration. They strive to provide the best possible service to their clients and prioritize building strong and productive relationships with clients and freelancers.

UpStack’s mission is to help businesses and organizations improve their software development processes and drive innovation. They focus on providing high-quality software developers and creating a positive, collaborative work environment.

In terms of work-life balance and remote work policies, both Toptal and UpStack are flexible and offer a range of options to fit the needs of their freelancers. Toptal offers the ability to work on a full-time or part-time basis and allows freelancers to work from anywhere in the world. UpStack also offers flexibility regarding work hours and location and encourages freelancers to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

It is difficult to directly compare the two companies regarding employee satisfaction and retention rates. However, both Toptal and UpStack have received positive feedback from their freelancers and have high retention rates. Freelancers at Toptal have reported high satisfaction levels with the company and its services, and many have been with the company for several years. UpStack has also received positive feedback from freelancers, who praised the company for its supportive and collaborative work environment.

Comparison of the hiring and vetting process

Toptal and UpStack are known for their strict vetting processes, which aim to give businesses access to the best freelancers worldwide. Both companies have their features and processes that make them stand out.

Toptal has a 5-step recruitment process that ensures that every freelancer they hire is highly qualified and experienced. This process includes skills assessments, interviews, and reference checks. Toptal also offers industry experts available to discuss goals and expectations, and they can match businesses with a freelancer within 48 hours. In addition, Toptal claims to hire the top 3% of all freelancers that apply.

UpStack has a 6-step test that candidates must go through to be hired as a freelancer. This process includes skills assessments, coding challenges, and a review by the UpStack team. UpStack boasts a “top 1%” talent pool, which includes developers from all over the world. 

Both offer sophisticated AI systems used to match businesses with the right freelancer, and they have a 14-day free trial period with each candidate.

One notable difference in the hiring and vetting process between Toptal and UpStack is the focus of the services offered. Toptal offers a wider range of disciplines, including software development, design, finance, and project management, while UpStack is solely focused on providing freelance software developers.

Top 1% vs 3%

Toptal claims to hire the top 3% of the freelance pool, while UpStack claims to hire only the top 1%. Does that mean that UpStack has 3 times better freelancers? Not necessarily.

The truth is that we don’t know how both companies procured those numbers. For one, Toptal claims that 3% of the freelancers that apply are accepted, which would mean 1 in 30. However, what does that mean for UpStack? Do they hire 1 in 100 freelancers that apply or 1 in 100 freelance developers that exist?

In summary, we know that both companies offer the best freelancers, so the best choice for you will depend on nuances. Try both of them and decide for yourself.

Comparison of client feedback and reviews

When choosing a talent network like Toptal or Upstack, it’s important to consider the company’s reputation and the feedback from its past customers. This can give you a good idea of the level of service and quality you can expect from the company.

In this regard, Toptal and Upstack have strong reputations and many positive customer reviews. Toptal has been in business for over 10 years and has earned a reputation as one of the top talent networks in the industry. The company has an average customer rating of 4.8 out of 5 on leading review platforms, with customers praising the quality of the developers and the support provided by the company.

Upstack, a newer company, doesn’t have as much customer feedback. However, the company has an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 on leading review platforms, with customers praising the expertise and professionalism of the developers in the network.

Overall, both Toptal and Upstack have strong reputations and many satisfied customers. The key difference is in the number of reviews, and the time the companies have been in business, with Toptal having a larger and more established reputation.

Conclusion and recommendations

In conclusion, Toptal and UpStack are both companies that offer freelance services to businesses and organizations. While both provide access to skilled and experienced professionals, the two companies have some key differences.

Toptal offers a wider range of services and a larger pool of freelancers, while UpStack specializes in software development and a smaller pool of freelancers. Additionally, Toptal has a longer history and a larger global presence, while UpStack is a newer and more specialized company.

For potential clients, the choice between Toptal and UpStack will depend on their specific needs and preferences. If a client is looking for a wider range of services and a larger pool of freelancers to choose from, Toptal may be a good option. If a client specifically needs software development services and is looking for a more specialized and focused company, UpStack may be a better fit.

For potential freelancers, the choice between the two companies will also depend on their skills, experience, and preferences. If a freelancer has a broad range of skills and is looking for a company with a larger pool of potential clients, Toptal may be a good option. If a freelancer specializes in software development and is looking for a company focusing on that area, UpStack may be a better fit.

Overall, both Toptal and UpStack have their own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice will depend on the client’s or freelancer’s specific needs and preferences.

About your guide

Matic Broz profile image
Matic Broz

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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