Toptal vs Upwork (2023): Which one is better for hiring?

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Toptal vs Upwork

The main difference between Toptal and Upwork is the quality of freelancers, but both are excellent platforms for businesses and individuals alike. With a high-quality selection process for their freelancers, Toptal is a clear winner regarding work quality. Thus, businesses can rely on a pool of highly skilled professionals for their projects.

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.

Our experience: We hired a freelancer on Upwork because it was cheaper. Although we were still paying them a decent hourly rate, it turned out that the freelancer was pretending to be a pro. Although we did get a refund, it cost us a week, and many uncomfortable emails, and in the end, we hired someone from Toptal, who did an amazing job. It is worth noting that we tried Upwork many times, and usually, we had to find a new freelancer elsewhere.

Toptal LogoLightroom iconUpwork Logo
Photutorial Rating4.9/5.04.3/5.0
Best ForGetting highly-skilled freelancers within 48 hoursAny type of freelancer at a lower cost and quality
Project DurationLong-term or highly-specializedShort-term and general
Talent LevelTop-level designers, developers, finance experts, product managers, and project managersAny niche at low to high quality
VettingOnly the top 3% are accepted, and a 5-week vetting processNone; up to you
Guarantee14-day risk-free; billed only if you’re satisfiedYou can get a refund if the freelancer agrees
Cost$500 deposit; pay hourly at $60+/hourfrom $5/hour
Pros– Only the top 3% of applicants are accepted, so you can be sure you’re getting quality;
– The onboarding process is very smooth and personal;
– You’ll be assigned a personal account manager;
– Competitive pricing
– Massive pool of freelancers to choose from;
– More flexible pricing;
– Easy-to-use platform
Cons– Not as many freelancers to choose from
– Not as much flexibility in pricing
– 20% fee on all payments
– Not as exclusive, so quality can vary
ReviewsToptal review
Try Toptal FreeTry Upwork

Introduction to Toptal and Upwork

What is Toptal?

Toptal is a global business, technology, and design talent network. As an elite talent agency, Toptal connects the world’s best companies with the best freelance talent in over 100 countries. Because they emphasize quality rather than quantity, they only work with the top 3% freelancers.

It was founded in 2010 by Taso Du Val and Breanden Beneschott. Their mission is to make the best talent more accessible to businesses worldwide. In the past, companies had to rely on traditional recruitment agencies to do this, which takes time and frequently causes frustration for companies and freelancers.

Toptal homepage

Toptal wants to change that by making it easier for businesses to find and work with the best talent in the world. To that end, all freelancers are pre-screened, and only the best in their field are approved. This ensures that businesses only work with the best.

It is known not only for its quality but also for its outstanding customer service. The company has a dedicated team that assists businesses with everything from finding the right freelancer to managing and ensuring that projects run smoothly.

If you are looking for outstanding freelancers for design, development, finances, product and project management, Toptal is a great option to consider. With its focus on quality and excellent customer service, the company will surely help you find the perfect freelancer for your next project.

What is Upwork?

Upwork is a freelancer marketplace where businesses and individuals can connect and collaborate. It’s an excellent way to find talent for short- or long-term projects or hire someone for a one-time task.

Upwork homepage

Upwork can be used in three ways:

You can use Upwork as a client to find and hire freelancers for your projects. You can advertise a job, find qualified candidates, and invite them to apply. When you find the right freelancer for the job, you collaborate with them on Upwork until it’s finished.

As a freelancer, you can use Upwork to find work and advance your career. You can create a profile highlighting your skills and experience, as well as search for and apply for relevant jobs. Once hired, you complete the work and are paid through Upwork.

As an agency, you can use Upwork to find and manage multiple freelancers for your clients. Similarly to individual clients, you can post jobs, find qualified candidates, and invite them to apply. Once you hire a freelancer, you can add them to your agency profile and manage all your freelancers in one place.

Toptal vs Upwork: Which is the Better Choice for You?

When selecting a freelancing platform such as Toptal or Upwork, there are several important factors to consider. We’ll review some of these critical factors below to help you make the best decision for you and your company.

1. Type of work

If you need something very specific or complex, Toptal is a good place to look because it offers more experienced freelancers than Upwork. On the other hand, if your requirement is more general or less complex, Upwork may be a better option because it is usually cheaper.

2. Budget & Quality

The second factor to consider is your budget, which is directly related to quality. Upwork may be a better option if you have a limited budget because prices are typically lower. However, if you have a bigger budget, Toptal might be the better choice, as freelancer prices are higher, but you also get better freelancers.

Because Toptal only works with the top 3% of freelancers, you can be sure that the quality of work will be high. However, this also means a smaller pool of freelancers to choose from.

3. Project scope

Finally, regarding the schedule and scope of the project: Upwork is better if you need the work done quickly or if the project scope is limited. Toptal, on the other hand, is better for longer projects because it takes longer to get started, and the entire process is aligned with ongoing tasks. However, this does not preclude you from using Toptal for short-term projects.

4. Ease of use

Upwork is generally more user-friendly than Toptal. This is because Upwork has a larger pool of freelancers, making finding someone to work on your specific project easier. But Toptal has a more stringent selection process, so finding the right freelancer may take longer, yet will be done for you by the Toptal team.

The Pros and Cons of Toptal

There are several advantages to working with Toptal over other freelance websites, but there are a few disadvantages to be aware of. Overall, Toptal is an excellent choice for businesses or individuals looking for high-quality freelancers willing to pay a little more for that quality.


Working with Toptal has several advantages, one of which is the screening process they use to vet their hirees. Freelancers must first pass a rigorous test evaluating their skills and abilities to be accepted. When you post a job on Toptal, you can be confident that you will only receive applications from the best.

Toptal also provides a satisfaction guarantee. If you are unhappy with the freelancer you were matched with, you can request a refund and be paired with another freelancer. This eliminates much of the risk of hiring the wrong person because you know you’ll only pay if you’re satisfied with the work.


However, there are some drawbacks to consider when deciding whether or not to use Toptal. For starters, the platform is significantly more expensive than other freelancer websites. This is due to the high quality of available freelancers, but it also means that small businesses or individuals may be better off looking elsewhere.

Furthermore, due to the Toptal selection process, the pool of available freelancers is much smaller than on other websites. As a result, you might be unable to find the ideal candidate for your project and have to settle for someone who isn’t quite as good as you had hoped.

Overall, Toptal is an excellent choice for businesses or individuals looking for quality freelancers who are willing to pay a little more for that quality. On the other hand, those on a tight budget or who need to fill a position quickly may want to consider other options.

The Pros and Cons of Upwork


There are many freelancers to choose from, so you can find the right person for your project. Because of the screening process (which is not as thorough as Toptal’s), Upwork freelancers are typically very talented and professional. Upwork’s messaging, and video chat features make it simple to communicate with freelancers. And, if you’re concerned about being taken advantage of, Upwork provides an escrow service that holds payments until you’re satisfied with the work.


However, in our experience, Upwork has several overpriced freelancers, who charge just as high as pros but deliver miserable results. While it was easy getting a refund, it took more than a week away from our projects.

The fees that Upwork charges can be pretty high, as the platform retains a 20% share of all payments. Also, there is no guarantee of quality when you hire a freelancer on Upwork. Although most freelancers on the platform are talented and professional, there are always a few bad apples. Therefore, it can be difficult to find the right freelancer in such a large pool of potential candidates.


If you’re patient and lucky, you can find also good freelancers on Upwork. However, expect to spend several days vetting your applicants, and in the end, you might not get the desired results anyway.

While Toptal is more expensive, you have a greater chance to be connected with a good freelancer on the first try, thus saving you time and budget.

The main downside of Toptal compared to Upwork is that Toptal doesn’t offer all the services Upwork does. However, instead of using Upwork for those, we recommend trying an all-in-one outsourcing platform like Bunny Studio ONE.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Toptal better than Upwork?

There are some important differences between Toptal and Upwork. Due to the more rigorous selection process, Toptal is better for finding highly skilled freelancers. This is especially true for technical positions such as programmers. Upwork is more of a general marketplace, making finding a wide range of freelancers easier.

Is Toptal more expensive than Upwork?

Toptal is generally more expensive than Upwork because there are no cheap and amateur freelancers. However, freelancers of equal skill are priced the same at Toptal and Upwork, so neither is cheaper if you also consider quality.


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