Toptal vs FlexJobs: Which Is Better for Hiring Freelancers?

August 4, 2020

We recommend you hire freelancers on Toptal over FlexJobs because Toptal vets their talent. However FlexJobs is better for smaller projects.

You can read our individual reviews to help you make an informed decision:

Or if you continue reading, you will learn the pros and cons of hiring freelancers on Toptal and FlexJobs.

Toptal vs FlexJobs: Which Freelance Platform is Best to Hire freelancers?

FlexJobs praise and pros

FlexJobs offers several different factors that help it stand out from competitors within the hiring industry.

Hand-screened positions

Applicants will notice this more than you will, but FlexJobs hand-screens every job posting they put on their site to check for errors, remove spam, and generally ensure that each job posting meets their standards.

As an employer, the main benefit of this is that applicants know you’re serious about the job and that you’ve already passed through a check to determine its validity. That can help encourage people to speak up, especially if they’ve been looking for a position like the one you’re offering and can’t quite believe it’s true.

Unlimited job postings

FlexJobs offers an all-in-one payment plan (more on that below) where you can post as many jobs as you want while you have an active account with them. Only using them to hire for one position isn’t very cost-effective unless it’s a major position, and you want to do a lot of searching on your own. Using FlexJobs for many posts tends to work out much better.

Excellent job filtering

Have you ever visited a job site where things are jumbled together with no easy way to sort them, other than a few brief search terms? It doesn’t work particularly well. FlexJobs offers a robust filtering system that you can use to label each of your job postings, and thereby reduce the number of people who see them.

That’s usually a bad thing, but job filters are good when they help eliminate searchers whose goals don’t align with yours. The more you make use of these filters, the more likely you are to get applicants that are worth considering seriously.

Reduced costs

Employees heavily value flexibility in their work schedules. There are some businesses where flexibility doesn’t work due to the nature of the job, but for everyone else, it has a significant impact on morale and employee retention. In fact, FlexJobs found that 30% of people they polled quit their job because it didn’t offer flexible options.

Many users told FlexJobs that they’d be willing to give up some pay or benefits in return for flexible scheduling and remote opportunities. Even a 10% reduction in pay can be a lot of savings for your small business.

Toptal praise and pros

Toptal’s claim to screen 3% of the talent may or may not be entirely accurate (I’ll discuss Toptal’s vetting process in a moment).

What matters is Toptal saves you time spending hours filtering through freelancers for their performance. After all, if Toptal didn’t have hoops for freelancers to jump through, then their available talent would dilute. As a result, their market differentiation would be… the same as almost any other freelance marketplace.

Many entrepreneurs hiring on Toptal note their support staff is very hands-on. Toptal also has a fantastic UI and billing process. 

Toptal has a fast placement process. According to Toptal, “In a typical engagement, we’ll introduce you to candidates within 24 hours. And 90% of our clients hire the first candidate we introduce.”

Toptal sets high standards for freelancers. freelancers must maintain high customer satisfaction ratings. Otherwise, Toptal will remove them from the platform.

A no-risk test project. The first time you work with your freelancer, you get a two-week test period with your new hire. If you’re not satisfied, Toptal will take the loss and won’t charge you for the freelancer’s work. (Please note: this is not a “free trial” in that if you accept the project, you will pay for the hours billed).

Toptal’s screening process 3% will weed out some quality workers. But it’s better to miss out on a potential A player than to waste precious time on a borderline freelancer who turns out to be a B or C player.

Winner: Toptal

What type of freelancers can you hire on FlexJobs and Toptal?

Type of freelancers on Toptal

Toptal doesn’t have nearly the total number of freelancers for you compared to FlexJobs. But do you really need 12 million freelancers, or just a handful of freelancers to consider to get the job done? More than 100,000 people apply to join Toptal every year, but they accept only 3%. In simple numbers, that means they add roughly 3,000 freelancers every year. 

That means rather than spending your time and energy vetting freelancers, Toptal does the heavy lifting for you.

Toptal is a good place to start if you’re serious about growing your business and are ready to invest in top talent at a reasonable rate. 

As of this writing, Toptal has vetted developers, designers, and finance experts. If you want to hire a freelancer with a different skill set, you may want to consider a different freelance platform.

The difficulty of using Toptal to source freelancers is if you are looking for someone to help with a small, one-off project. Toptal asks for a $500 commitment for the first project, which is fully refundable if you’re freelancer is not a fit.

Type of freelancers on FlexJobs

Most of the remote jobs on FlexJobs focus on technology-related positions. These include positions for things like programming, web development, and graphic designs. Most employees who use FlexJobs expect that focus. But you’ll find higher quality developers and design freelancers on Toptal because they vet the talent.

Winner: Toptal

What is the screening process on Toptal and FlexJobs?

Toptal’s screening process

What’s Toptal’s vetting process to make sure you work with world-class talent?

Toptal uses a 5-step screening process to source the top 3% of freelancers:

  1. Language & Personality - In this phase, Toptal is looking for candidates who read, write, and speak English fluently. They also look for personality traits, drive, and passion to see the work through to completion. According to Toptal, an estimated 26.4% of applicants pass this test.
  2. In-depth Skill Review -  Here, Toptal screens freelancers for technical knowledge. According to Toptal, only 7.4% of total applicants make it through this round.
  3. Live Screening - After testing the freelancer’s skills, Toptal does a live screening test. Toptal supplies an expert in each domain to do a video chat with the applicant. During the screening, the candidate receives a test while an expert watches how and what they do. If they fail, they may be asked to re-apply in a month. According to Toptal, only 3.6% of applicants pass this round.
  4. Test Projects - Over 1-3 weeks, a freelancer must complete a test project related to a real-world scenario. Here, the candidate puts everything into action, testing everything from competence to their professional style. According to Toptal, only 3.2% of applicants pass this round.
  5. Continued Excellence - Once the test is complete, Toptal freelancers are expected to maintain high-quality work. If work quality slips or there’s poor communication, the freelancer is let go. According to Toptal, only 3% of applicants continue to their high standards.

Even with this level of screening, Toptal has a wide pool filled with a specific talent set. Instead of hiring any DevOps engineer, Toptal can help you find an “AWS DevOps engineer who understands Docker, Jenkins, RDS...” and any other needs you may have. 

The dollar per hour will often increase when you need a specific skill set. But you’ll also know the freelancer better fits your needs than finding a freelancer for yourself on FlexJobs.

FlexJobs’s screening process

FlexJobs requires job seekers to pay $6.95 for a week to $49.95 for a year. At this point, it appears there is no other screening process.

Winner: Toptal

How long is the hiring process before you work with a freelancer on Toptal and FlexJobs?

Toptal’s hiring process

Hiring normally takes a long time, as anything worth doing should take time. But because Toptal screens their candidates, they can place you with a candidate in 48 hours:

Toptal’s hiring process

If there are no candidates available in Toptal’s network, it typically takes 1-3 weeks for Toptal to locate, screen, and work with every expert.

FlexJobs’s hiring process

With Flexjobs, you set the pace of the hiring process. That said, finding the right candidate involves:

  1. Write out a detailed job description (0-2 hours).
  2. Wait for candidates to apply (1-3 days).
  3. Schedule a phone call (1-5 days).
  4. Wait for the freelancer to scope out the project and send a proposal (1-3 days).
  5. Choose from the proposals (1-3 days).
  6. Negotiate the proposal (1-3 days).
  7. Sign the proposal (1-3 days).

Again, there’s a degree where you set the speed in which you hire. But hiring too fast will cause more damage to your business and brand in the long run.

Winner: Toptal

Pricing and fees: How much does it cost to hire freelancers on Toptal and FlexJobs?

Toptal’s pricing

Toptal does not charge a fee above their regular pricing. Instead, they add a profit margin above the freelancer’s rates. 

Most rates you’ll pay are what you’d expect to pay outside their platform. 

Toptal offers this pricing chart:

Toptal pricing - What’s Toptal’s fee structure?

What you pay your freelancer depends on:

  • The tech stack needed for your project.
  • The necessary skill(s) to complete the task.
  • The project size.
  • What market you are in.
  • General market demand for the type of freelancer needed.

FlexJobs’s pricing

FlexJobs offers a comprehensive pricing plan where the only difference is how long you’re registering for.

FlexJobs’s pricing - What’s FlexJobs’s fee structure?

This has both good and bad attributes compared to some other hiring sites, and that makes their pricing one of the most important parts of this FlexJobs review.

Realistically, most companies are going to want the 3-month plan as a minimum. Hiring can take a while if you want to sort and vet candidates, and losing access to their database after just one month could negatively impact your ability to sort and track applicants. This is particularly true because FlexJobs helps monitor applicants across multiple sites.

The main positive of this pricing plan is that you don’t have to pay lots of extra fees to access all of the services FlexJobs provides. Small businesses are considerably more price-sensitive than larger companies for hiring, and it’s always better to avoid getting nickel-and-dimed by hiring sites when possible.

In fact, the fees on the employee side go to help pay for screening all the jobs, which is a direct benefit to you.

However, despite the relatively high cost of FlexJobs, it does not offer personalized support like hiring managers or caseworkers. Many other hiring sites offer this sort of help for their higher-paying plans, but FlexJobs expects you to do all of the hiring work yourself. That’s a problem if your goal is to reduce your own workload as much as possible.

Winner: Toptal

Does Toptal or FlexJobs offer any kind of risk-free trial or guarantee?

Toptal’s Policy

Toptal requires a $500 deposit which applies to your first bill. If you get a freelancer you are not satisfied with, you are not required to make any payment. You can choose to either part ways with Toptal or restart the hiring process.

The first time you work with your freelancer, you get a two-week test period with your new hire. If you’re not satisfied, Toptal will take the loss and won’t charge you for the freelancer’s work. (Please note: this is not a “free trial” in that if you accept the project, you will pay for the hours billed).

Toptal does not mention any information on their website how they handle disputes. However, every Toptal client receives an account manager who can help resolve your issues.

FlexJobs’s Policy

FlexJob offers a full refund within the first 7 days of your membership starting. They state this is a one-time offer. This may mean that if you decide to use FlexJobs again and have a bad experience, you can’t get a refund again.

Winner: Toptal

Is FlexJobs or Toptal better for hiring freelancers?

FlexJobs and Toptal are both beneficial for different hiring needs.

When should you consider hiring on Toptal?

Toptal is an excellent freelance platform for hiring quality talent. Because of the time they invest in curating the best talent, you’ll spend less time to find the right freelancer.

If you’re looking to hire vetted developers, designers, or finance experts for a project with a budget of $2,000 USD or more, go with Toptal.

When should you consider hiring on FlexJobs?

FlexJobs is worth considering for smaller projects. 

That said, websites like OnlineJobs and Fiverr are a much better deal at this price point.