Now more than ever, finding and hiring talent from a diverse pool of applicants is accessible and straightforward with the various tools that are available. Freelance job boards are all too common, with most hiring managers thinking in terms of Fiverr vs Upwork.
But what about Toptal? Toptal takes a different approach to looking for work and seeking talent, and our Toptal review will help you understand just how Toptal works, what type of talent you can expect to see on their job boards, and how much the service costs.
In addition, our Toptal review will examine pros and cons of the service to ultimately decide whether the price tag of the service measures up to the quality and features provided in finding the best talent.
Let’s get started!
What is Toptal?
To begin our Toptal review, let’s discuss briefly what Toptal is.
A third party hiring solution that can work with any company, Toptal is a type of go-between that connects companies with freelancers and contractors. As you may be able to tell by the name, Toptal focuses on the top talent.
As such, Toptal only allows pre-vetted freelancers to join the platform, which is unique— other freelance marketplaces allow anyone to join. This is what they call the top 3% talent on Toptal. They use a screening database to ensure that only those in the top 3% are considered.
Freelancers will first apply to join the team of freelancers and they will either be accepted or not. Companies can also put in specific requests for their projects if they need a particular type of freelancer.
Toptal review: Pros and cons
In this section of our Toptal review, we are going to consider the claims that Toptal makes about their talent offerings and what upsides and downsides come with their services.
They mention the top 3% of talent and have a whole page on their website dedicated to the idea; it seems, though, that it may just be a marketing ploy. They don’t really give any insight into what 3% that is or how clients are judged.
Is it 3% of freelancers online? All people in the workforce? Is it global? In one particular job market? As you can see, the claim is problematic at best as far as our Toptal review is concerned.
We think that it may mean the top 3% of all applicants to the Toptal talent base, which is great because it means they do take a look closely at the candidates, but it doesn’t guarantee a higher quality if the applicant pool isn’t strong to begin with.
Here are some pros and cons to consider in our Toptal review:
- Toptal abides by a fully-developed screening process. Toptal ensures that only the most qualified applicants are part of their freelancer database through a multi-step screening process. On Upwork or Fiverr, anyone can post anything they want and it’s never screened. Toptal has language tests, skill reviews, and also test projects to make your life easier.
- Personalization and project-specific matching is offered in the freelancer search system. Toptal uses your project description to find people based on your criteria— experience, rates, and availability; they do this through AI and customer support representatives.
- Toptal does all of the tedious selection work. You’ll gain access to more targeted freelancers because Toptal does all of the matching and talent selection, invoices, as well as vetting, which is convenient for you and minimal in terms of admin and search time.
- Minimal risk is present when using Toptal. Toptal offers a free trial and has various protocols in place to ensure your safety; you’ll get a downpayment refund if you don’t hire a freelancer, and if someone doesn’t finish the job they’ve already been paid for, Toptal will hold them accountable.
- The people hired are typically professional and pleasant. It’s not common to have negative experiences on Toptal because they do an examination of each application and a personality analysis for maximum efficiency.
- Both remote and on-site talent can be hired on Toptal. Whether you need remote or on-location work, Toptal can help you.
- Talent categories on Toptal are a bit limited. The current Toptal offerings are primarily limited to tech-specific jobs such as developers, project managers, and designers; there should be expansion to other industries, primarily freelance writers, data consultants, photographers, and more.
- A gray area exists about how they get the best talent. While they offer an extensive infographic that explains the screening process, there’s no real way to ensure that this talent pool is any different than other less expensive services. More metrics to illustrate the difference would be ideal.
- Toptal can be time consuming in comparison to Fiverr or Upwork. Because Toptal is focused on a more time-intensive hiring process with emails, searches, and lengthy interviews, sometimes it can be easier to just create a simple Upwork posting and hire someone quickly, especially if you’re under time constraints.
- Toptal’s sales funnel isn’t the greatest. You have to first create an account and provide details before you’ll even get a glimpse of the talent pool; once you do that, the sales team will begin to insist that you take them up on free trials, deposits, and high-dollar talent. It can be a bit overwhelming.
- Toptal is a more expensive hiring solution. There are multiple fees involved with Toptal, including freelancer fees and commissions for each person you hire. The initial deposit is $500, which will be applied to your first payment or refunded if you don’t go forward with a hire. We will examine this later in our Toptal review.
Toptal review of the types of services you can hire for
This section of our Toptal review will explore the talent pool of Toptal and what you can hire for; while there are extensive options for those in the tech world, outside of that, it’s fairly limited.
Some general job titles available on Toptal are:
- Project managers
- Product managers
- Finance experts
Those main categories are then broken down further into sub-categories; here are some examples:
- Android developers
- Salesforce developers
- WordPress developers
- Java developers
- Animation designers
- Ecommerce site designers
- Blockchain designers
- Presentation designers
- Scrum masters
- Virtual project managers
- AI project managers
- Interim CPOs
All of these can benefit tech companies such as startups or software enterprises, but those who need more creative or alternative tasks completed by freelancers like writers, voiceover artists, musicians, HR reps, translation experts, and more, you won’t find a wide talent pool on Toptal.
Our Toptal review notes this as one big downside for all those outside of tech
Toptal work quality and the hiring process
When seeking to hire a freelancer, it’s important to select from the best talent pool available. Our Toptal review does praise the company in this area; they have a good selection of talent if you’re willing to take the time and go through their process.
On other sites like Fiverr and Upwork, you’ll be paired with freelancers from all around the world that don’t go through any type of screening process or information verification. Toptal offers its own screening process and will match you with more targeted applicants, helping you to find the best fit.
Once that’s done, you’ll then speak directly to a Toptal hiring expert to provide an outline of relevant project or job information. Using that information, they’ll identify the top two freelancers based on pricing, skills, and availability.
It’s then that you’ll communicate directly with the potential hire and clarify your project and any other relevant details or questions. These are all required steps in the Toptal hiring process and they can’t be bypassed.
This can be great for those that are dedicated (and have the time) to find just the right freelancer for their project. Fiverr and Upwork offer a much quicker solution as the employer can browse profiles, portfolios, and reviews themselves and make direct contact with an applicant as they see fit.
Our Toptal review finds this to be either beneficial or challenging depending on the hiring party. With Toptal, you will have peace of mind that the candidates have already been vetted and you can simply focus on the final steps, even though the process is longer.
Toptal also allows for Skype conversations with the freelancer, test projects, and negotiations before sealing the deal.
Toptal pricing and fees
As our Toptal review mentioned in the pros and cons section, Toptal has a higher cost than the other options discussed. While that may be a downside for some, it also offers some benefits.
Here are some pricing pros from our Toptal review:
- No-risk trial period offered to test out the freelancer before finalizing the offer
- No recruiting or termination fees from Toptal
- Initial budget is set by you or your team
Toptal does take a commission from each transaction you complete on their platform, which is similar to an employment agency; the pricing, though, is set by you from the get go.
To get an idea of the average talent cost on Toptal, we’ve examined reviews and also confirmed with Toptal customer support on what a company pays on average.
Hourly jobs typically cost upwards of $60 per hour; there’s an option to find freelancers that will accept less than $25 an hour, but this doesn’t turn up many results. If you’re looking on Upwork or Fiverr, you’ll be likely to find talent that will work for much lower rates.
Part time work usually runs about $1,000 to $4,000 on a weekly basis, and full-time freelance workers ask anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 weekly.
Lastly, in order to get started with a new freelancer, you’ll need to make a deposit of $500. This will be credited to your first invoice, or refunded if you decide not to go forward with the project.
Toptal pricing, then, is undoubtedly higher than the competition such as Fiverr, Upwork, and other solutions. While the other solutions out there can also be pricey depending on your criteria and project length, they are usually more affordable than using Toptal.
Toptal begins at higher pricing rates, so you’ll need to decide whether or not it's worth it (and viable) to keep your freelancer on. Our Toptal review would love to see some lower-tier options in terms of pricing for more flexibility.
Toptal user interface
Here our Toptal review will discuss the user interface of Toptal and the hiring process. It’s not the same as creating a posting on Upwork or Fiverr. Toptal employs human workers and also uses algorithms to make its pairings.
When you first begin the process, the step-by-step wizard will ask for a plethora of information about your project. The first step is to select what type of employee you’re looking for.
It will then send you through a variety of different questions, asking you how long you will need the developer, and how many workers you need.
If you need more than one, you can build a team using Toptal.
You’ll answer how many hours you want them to work for you; for instance, will they be working full time, or a few hours a week? Per project?
Toptal will ask you what skills you want to see in your new hire, and you can either use pre-populated ones or search for your own.
Finally, you’ll need to agree that you can offer an hourly salary that fits within the range of $60-$210 per hour to ensure you meet the Toptal hourly rates offered. There was no option for anything lower than $60 when our Toptal review team went through the process.
Toptal’s system will then load for a moment and ask you to put in your contact information to get on to the next step. This whole process seemed more like something you’d do with a personalized hiring company rather than one of the typical job search boards, at least in our Toptal review experience.
Toptal customer service
The final section of our Toptal review will cover the customer service offerings of the company.
Toptal has mastered the art of combining personalized talent selection with the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence. It’s a seamless process and very easy to get started with simple, manageable fields.
Once you provide your information, though, you’ll be dumped into the Toptal sales funnel, which is quite relentless. If you want to continue, you have no choice but to speak to one of their representatives.
You will likely need to speak with a Toptal representative during your project as well; what if you encounter a problem with payments or billing? What if your freelancer begins to drop the ball and leaves the project altogether, or doesn’t submit work on time?
Toptal doesn’t have a live chat option to resolve any issues quickly via web; they also don’t have a direct support phone number, as you’ll be routed to the sales phone line if you need immediate assistance.
The only other option is a contact form that helps you to get in touch with the customer support team. Because there isn’t a detailed knowledge base, tutorials, or guides, this doesn’t seem like enough, especially for the price of the service.
There is a FAQ page and some blog articles, but the customer service offerings left our Toptal review wanting more.
Toptal review: Our final thoughts
All in all, our Toptal review finds some great benefits of the service, including their screening process and ability to hire both remote and in-person freelancers. You'll be able to take your time in finding the right candidate and leave most of the vetting up to Toptal.
That said, there are still some things that could bring Toptal down for some considering the service. For instance, the price points are extremely high and there isn't really enough evidence to show that their talent pool is any better than other solutions, regardless of their screening process.
Additionally, there isn't a solid customer support system, especially considering the pricing and sophistication of the selection process. The hiring process also takes longer than other platforms and the salesy nature of Toptal may be a turn off for many.
Our final Toptal review verdict is that some companies will find Toptal a great fit for their projects and perhaps they can find more adept freelancers with higher skill sets or experience levels. Even so, that’s not to say it’s impossible to find that on other job posting platforms like Fiverr or Upwork.
If your company has the budget for Toptal, you may very well enjoy it. If you are a smaller company that has a small-scale team, it may be out of the realm of possibility. First consider the needs of your business, including budget, hiring timeline, and skill requirements. That will reveal whether Toptal is for you. Thanks for reading our TopTal review! Don’t miss tips for hiring on Upwork, and if you’re curious about the two, check out Fiverr vs Upwork. Happy hiring!