The global skill shortage and skyrocketing demand for software developers have led many companies to embrace hiring freelancers and remote developers rather than in-house specialists. As a result, in 2021, 80% of hiring managers stated that they increased hiring freelancers in the Web, Mobile, and Software development categories.
Such a rise in demand for software developers has significantly impacted the freelance market. According to Statista, there were 70.4 million freelancers last year in the US labor market, and this number is predicted to reach 73.3 million in 2023. About half of the US freelancers provide computer programming, IT, marketing, and business consulting services.
As the market of remote developers continue to grow, so is the number of freelance marketplaces. Therefore, it can be challenging to choose the best platform when it comes to hiring remote developers.
To help companies make an informed decision, we’ve compiled a detailed comparison of two well-known platforms i.e., Toptal and Upwork. Both platforms offer freelance specialists for hire; however, each has their peculiarities, advantages, and drawbacks.
In this article, we will provide a detailed comparison of Toptal vs. Upwork to help you understand their differences and choose the most suitable platform. We’ll also explore an alternative option, an IT staff augmentation company like JayDevs, to help you find the right fit for your next software development project.
Toptal: A Freelance Platform for Top Professionals
Toptal was founded in 2010 by the former engineer Taso Du Val and entrepreneur, Breanden Beneschott.
In the very beginning, the Toptal platform included mainly software engineers.
Gradually, the talent network expanded, and now it provides freelancers of five specializations: developers, web designers, finance experts, project managers, and product managers.
What sets Toptal apart is its commitment to elite talent. The platform boasts of only featuring the “Top 3% of freelance talents” in its pool. This focus on high-quality talent has made Toptal a popular choice for companies seeking the best freelancers in the market.
How Does Toptal Work?
Toptal operates on a project-by-project based model and offers three hiring options:
- Individual experts with hourly, part-time, or full-time commitment,
- Multiple freelancers who can blend into your existing teams,
- Full-fledged teams assembled upon your request.
The hiring process with Toptal requires the following steps:
- Submitting an application by contacting the platform and filling out a quick form detailing your project specifics and requirements,
- The platform managers will review your application and look for a suitable freelancer match,
- Toptal will introduce you to a shortlist of candidates, and you can then interview freelancers to select the best fit for your project.
The easy freelance hiring process and flexible models sound very fitting. But how does the platform ensure quality control to connect your business with top freelancers?
The whole process consists of five stages and can take up to five weeks.
Language and Personality Test
Toptal evaluates English proficiency, communication skills, and personal qualities. This helps ensure that the freelancer can effectively communicate with you and your team.
In the second step, the freelancer must complete a series of tests covering relevant programming languages and technologies to prove their technical skills and expertise.
The next step is live interviews conducted by Toptal managers experienced in a relevant domain. They provide real-time exercises to confirm the results of the previous two steps. These interviews are designed to better evaluate the freelancer’s skills.
Each candidate must complete a test project to prove their competence and professionalism. This helps to evaluate whether a developer is skilled enough to work on real-world projects.
Ongoing Communication Excellence
This is more a principle rather than a separate stage. Toptal provides a dedicated account manager for ongoing communication support for freelancers and clients. This allows you to avoid misunderstandings and other issues preventing a successful collaboration between you and Toptal freelancers.
By following these five steps, Toptal accepts only the top 3% of freelancers, thus eliminating the risk of low-quality work or fraud. The result is a platform full of top-notch freelancers who have been thoroughly screened and are ready to tackle your project confidently and professionally.
Toptal: Pros and Cons
Toptal is a platform that reduces your effort in seeking highly skilled freelance developers for a project. But no platform is perfect, so you should consider the advantages and disadvantages to ensure this is the best-fit option for you.
- Thorough vetting process: Due to the multi-step screening process, you can hire truly quality freelancers.
- Flexible hiring solutions: You can hire a single freelancer or assemble a development team; you can also leverage different options of time commitment.
- Easy hiring process: You contact Toptal and provide your requirements. They’ll take care of the rest.
- Quick talent matching: Toptal claims that they, typically, find candidates within 24 hours.
- Free two week trial period: If you are unsatisfied with your freelancer within the first two weeks, you can opt out without making any payments.
- High costs: Freelancers’ hourly rates range from $60-$150/hour, while the average hourly rate for an in-house developer in the US is $55-$82/hour.
- Limited talent pool: Given Toptal’s selectivity, there is a limited pool of remote developers.
- Initial deposit: Toptal requires an upfront payment of $500. On the other hand, it could be refunded if you decide not to move forward with their talents.
Toptal vs. Upwork: When Should You Go for Toptal?
Toptal provides world-class freelancers, thoroughly screened and approved. Such an approach ensures prime specialists but goes with a big price tag of $60/hour and higher. Is the game worth the candle? It definitely is in the next cases:
- You have a complex or highly sophisticated project which requires expert developers,
- You have a long-term project and need to engage reliable freelancers,
- You are not limited by tight budgets and can afford spendings about $500/day on a developer.
Reviews from Toptal Clients
We’ve accessed different review platforms (i.e., G2, Trustpilot, and Clutch) and found that most client feedback on Toptal services are positive. For example, there are 1490 reviews on Trustpilot, while 96% are 4–5-star ratings.
Given the overwhelming amount of positive feedback, Toptal’s services sets the impression of a reliable platform.
In conclusion, Toptal is a platform with top talented freelancers who have passed a rigorous vetting process. Toptal offers flexible hiring solutions and matches you with the best-fit developer talent for your project. Despite all the benefits, Toptal stands out with high average rates of $60-150/hour, which can be a barrier for some clients.
Let’s see what Upwork has to offer in the race between Toptal vs. Upwork.
Upwork: A Freelance Platform for Everyone
Upwork was rebranded and launched as Upwork in 2015, after merging with the Elance-oDesk company.
With over 12 million registered freelancers, Upwork offers freelance services within software development, content writing, video making, sales, marketing, and more.
The platform’s mission is to create “economic opportunities.” With Upwork, you have vast flexibility for hiring freelancers under small budgets.
Toptal vs. Upwork: How Does Upwork Work?
The hiring process of Upwork differs from Toptal. Depending on your needs, you can use one of the following options to hire Upwork freelancers:
- Talent marketplace: Post jobs and start receiving proposals from candidates. The platform embraces the bidding system, so developers apply for your job, offering their prices.
- Browsing profiles: You can look through the profiles on your own and send job offers directly.
- Project catalog: You can browse through the catalog of fixed-price services and choose the one that aligns best with your budget and timeframe.
Given the staggering number of 12 million freelancers, it’s hard to imagine Upwork pre-screens each potential candidate thoroughly. Indeed, the platform does not conduct an elaborate screening process for developers but uses a four-step process to let developers onto the platform.
Here is a detailed explanation of Upwork’s screening process:
As the first step, a freelancer creates an account. This involves providing information such as personal data, services category, relevant work experience, skills, educational background, language proficiency, and hourly rates. This information will form the foundation of the freelancer’s profile, which will be visible to potential clients.
Waiting for Approval
Once the profile has been submitted, a freelancer must wait for approval before working. Upwork evaluates the profile to meet platform criteria as well as to meet demand in the marketplace.
Finishing Up the Profile
Once the profile is approved, a freelancer can complete it by providing more detailed information. For example, they can add expertise level (i.e., entry, intermediate, or expert), add more portfolio items, and enrich the profile overview. This will help you find the needed freelance talent based on their expertise.
Passing Qualification Tests
Upwork also offers skills tests that freelancers can take to demonstrate their expertise in a relevant area. It’s not an obligatory option; however, it will help you hire talented freelancers with confirmed skills once completed.
If you compare Upwork vs. Toptal’s vetting process, it’s clear that Upwork’s focus is quantity, not quality. Upwork has a large pool of talent, so you have a more comprehensive selection of candidates.
Upwork: Pros and Cons
Within the Toptal vs. Upwork contest, the latter offers almost unlimited access to hiring remote developers. But it’s not the only factor to consider when choosing a hiring platform. Here are some pros and cons of using Upwork:
- Wide talent pool: A vast pool of freelance developers and diverse skills from developers to marketing specialists.
- Flexible and affordable pricing: Freelancers on Upwork offer lower rates starting at $15/hour, while Toptal’s average rates start at $60.
- Online dashboard: Once you register on Upwork, you get the all-in-one dashboard to hire freelancers, track progress, make transactions, and more.
- Secure escrow system: This option works for fixed-priced projects and holds the payment until the project is completed to your satisfaction.
- Possibility of refund: If unsatisfied with the job, you can file a dispute (for hourly contacts) or request a refund (for fixed-priced contacts) and get your money back.
- Requires time and effort: Sifting through hundreds of freelancers can be time-consuming. Additionally, it may require several hiring attempts before you find the ideal talent.
- Lack of vetting process: Upwork does not provide a rigorous vetting process, so there are no guarantees that you’ll hire highly skilled freelancers.
- Language barrier: Since the developers do not pass any language tests, you can stumble upon a candidate who is not fluent in English.
- Transactions fee: The marketplace charges a 5% fee for all transactions and 3% for each transaction for eligible US clients.
Toptal vs. Upwork: When Should You Go for Upwork?
When comparing Toptal vs. Upwork, it’s clear that Toptal is about quality and selectivity, while Upwork is more about quantity and flexibility.
So, what needs can Upwork cover? Upwork would be an optimal option if you require the following:
- Remote talents for a short-term project or a set of tasks that do not require solid experience.
- To optimize your budget by hiring developers at lower costs.
- A freelancer who’s ready to take on small tasks regularly.
Reviews from Upwork Clients
Comparing the reviews of Upwork vs. Toptal provides insight that Upwork has more reviews on different platforms yet a lower overall rating. For example, on the Trustpilot platform, Upwork has 4.0 out of 5, with an overall review count of 9025.
There is both positive and negative feedback. Some of them are inspiring, and some of them that raise a red flag:
Comparing Toptal vs. Upwork, the latter does not seem like an intensely reliable source. People often complain about poor customer service and low work quality.
Based on this, we can conclude that Upwork is the largest freelancing platform providing various freelancing services ranging from software development to content writing. To make it possible, they offer a simplified four-step sign-on process and check the profiles of candidates. In the Upwork vs. Toptal competition, Upwork stands out with its affordable rates starting at $15/hour and a vast freelance pool of any level. Therefore, if you’re looking for an affordable and diverse freelancing platform, Upwork may be a good option for you.
Other Ways to Find a Software Team or Developers
With a side-by-side comparison of Toptal vs. Upwork, it’s clear that these marketplaces serve different purposes and have different specifics. But whichever platform you choose, both have common challenges when hiring freelance developers:
- Additional efforts for micromanagement.
A freelancer is an independent worker. In most cases, no matter how skilled freelancers are, you’ll need to micromanage their work. This is a time-consuming process.
- Lack of dedication and commitment.
Another stumbling block is that many freelancers can have too little commitment. Since they usually work with several clients simultaneously, it can result in late responses or a superficial understanding of your project. They can also decide to end your cooperation, and you’ll need to look for a replacement beginning the whole hiring cycle again.
- Lack of team integrity.
With freelance platforms, teams are comprised of people with diverse mindsets and attitudes who may not have worked together before. Such conditions may cause missed deadlines, miscommunication, and poor overall results.
All those issues can become fatal to the success of your project.
But an optimal alternative to avoid them is staff augmentation and dedicated team’s models.
Such remote companies have their own vetted developers and can provide you with best-fit developers on a contractual basis or assemble a self-guided dedicated development team.
In both cases, you receive remote talent that works similarly to an in-house team. They collaborate closely on your projects and are motivated to deliver high-quality results within deadlines.
Additionally, working with software development vendors allows you to regulate your involvement and level of control over work progress, freeing up your time for strategic aspects of your company.
Hire Remote Software Developers at JayDevs
JayDevs: Who Are We?
JayDevs is an IT staff augmentation vendor that provides top-notch dedicated developers and IT professionals to businesses of all sizes.
Established in 2017 with a small team of 5 co-thinkers, JayDevs has since grown into a trusted IT talent vendor boasting a team of over 100 highly skilled professionals.
We provide top experts in different areas ranging from software engineers, QA specialists, DevOps engineers, and UX/UI designers. To cover the needs of our clients with maximum efficiency, we pay special attention to high-quality staff and a reliable hiring process.
By adhering to these principles, we offer staff augmentation and dedicated team hiring models.
Team augmentation is an outsourcing software development model that involves hiring one or several external talents to extend your in-house capacities. You can contact staff augmentation vendors and hire best developers of specific expertise. Once hired, developers will become a full-fledged part of your team and self-organize their work according to your requirements.
JayDevs eliminates the headache of hiring reliable remote developers by extending your team with vetted middle and senior developers of the skill set your project requires.
Augmenting your development team with JayDevs specialists provides you with huge flexibility and scalability:
- Hire remote developers for short-term and long-term projects.
- Choose from hourly, part-time, or full-time commitments.
- Adjust the number of resources to match your project needs.
Moreover, you can count on affordable rates with our staff augmentation services. While Toptal vs. Upwork hourly rates are $60-150 and $15-90, respectively, with JayDevs, you can hire qualified developers at $38-66 an hour.
The dedicated team model involves hiring a remote team to work on a specific project. With this model, a vendor sets up a complete team consisting of a project manager, software developers, QA specialists, and other staff needed. The team is fully accountable to you, and you can regulate your level of involvement.
With JayDevs, you receive an ideal combination of professionals who’ll work together like clockwork, staying committed to milestones, deadlines, and business goals.
Hire a dedicated team to get the following benefits:
- Develop a project from scratch or complete the existing one effectively.
- Get vital project aspects covered, including project planning and assessment, ongoing project technical support, and product maintenance.
- Scale your team up and down as needed.
How Does JayDevs Work?
JayDevs operates on a project-based model and provides clients with safe hiring on a contractual basis. Whether you need a single software developer or an entire team, all you need is to contact us and start the hiring process:
- You can contact us here or send an email directly to email@example.com.
- After your reach out to us, we analyze your requirements and shortlist pre-screened developers. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours with candidates’ CVs and rates.
- We arrange live interviews within seven days to ensure the best fit for your needs. Our developers can also complete a test task upon your request. On this step, we’ll sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement to ensure the project and business data is confidential.
- If you’ve found your perfect match, we’ll sign a contract, and the developer or dedicated team will start working on your project immediately.
At JayDevs, 93% of software engineering talents are senior developers with 7+ years of experience. To provide our clients with top staffing services, we have a multi-step system of verification:
Background and Reference Check
At the very first stage, we request references from previous employers to ensure the specialist has a positive professional background.
English Proficiency Check
To nullify potential language barriers, we conduct English checks and onboard professionals with at least B2-level proficiency.
Soft Skills Check
By interviewing each candidate, we assess their communication and personal qualities such as pro-activity and problem-solving skills. This assessment ensures that the candidate can communicate effectively, leading to successful project cooperation.
Technical Skills Check
The last and most important step involves a thorough technical assessment. We conduct technical interviews with each candidate and thoroughly evaluate their project portfolio, domain expertise, and certifications. Each candidate also fulfills a test task to demonstrate their professional skills in action.
Such a selection system is aimed at hiring the best of the best. Only developers who successfully walked through each step are welcome to join JayDevs.
Our Core Services
To address the increasing needs of our clients and cover each stage of the software development life cycle, we provide a variety of services including:
- Back-end development: Java, NodeJS, Python, and PHP
- Mobile Development: iOS, Android, Cross-platform, Swift, Flutter, React Native
- UX and UI Design
- DevOps Engineering
- Machine Learning Development
- AWS Consulting and Development
- Manual and Automated Testing
Toptal vs. Upwork vs. JayDevs
The comparison between Upwork vs. Toptal reveals that both freelance websites have their own strengths and weaknesses. That’s why you may need to leverage more reliable options to hire remote developers as staff augmentation or dedicated resources.
For more clarity, we’ve created a wrap-up of the core peculiarities concerning Toptal vs. Upwork vs. JayDevs:
When considering Toptal vs. Upwork vs. JayDevs, define the specifics of your project, budget, and qualification level of remote developers that you need to hire:
- If you’re looking for the best talent available.
Toptal and JayDevs are your spot for hiring top talent. Toptal and JayDevs provide proven developers for scaling in-house capacities. However, if you are on the lookout for affordable rates ranging from $34-68/hour — JayDevs is your way to go.
- If you’re looking for a wide range of skills.
Consider Upwork vs. Toptal in this case. If you require diversified specialists of different levels for ordinary projects or routine tasks — you can go with Upwork. If you need a wide range of skilled developers for complex projects, you’d better go with Toptal.
- If you are looking to save money.
Upwork and JayDevs are your options to consider. Upwork provides the lowest rates starting at $15/hour, but there is no guarantee that you’ll find skilled developers. If you are on a budget but still need qualified and reliable remote specialists, JayDevs is your one-stop solution.