Toptal vs Guru: Which Is Better for Hiring freelancers?

August 10, 2020

We recommend you hire freelancers on Toptal over Guru because Toptal vets their talent. Guru has more freelance talent than Toptal, but you have a higher likelihood of running into scammers.

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 Guru.

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

Guru praise and pros

Since its start in 1998, Guru has been connecting clients and freelancers with a user-friendly interface. Here are some of the positive features of the platform.

You can hire freelancers with one click

The main goal of Guru is to simplify the hiring process for people and companies who need to contract a freelancer. Instead of reaching out to freelancers to ask for resumes and quotes, Guru provides you with a convenient way of advertising jobs and a streamlined hiring process.

When you find the freelancer you want, Guru helps you save time on the hiring process. With just one virtual signature, job orders automatically go through to help you close projects more quickly and get your team working.

The interface is simple and user-friendly

The interface of the Guru website is clean, sleek, and easy to use, even if you aren’t very tech-savvy. You can use a virtual dashboard to manage all aspects of your workflow, including going back and forth with your hires, checking project status, sharing files, and more.

When it comes time to pay, the site supports a wide variety of electronic payment services, making it a versatile choice. Instead of being limited to credit cards and Paypal accounts, Guru lets you pay freelancers using e-checks, wire transfers, and in-site cash funds. 

All transactions are protected by SafePay at no extra cost. Instead of sharing sensitive information directly, you and your hires share an account where you can deposit funds anonymously. This feature helps keep you safe from malicious third parties looking to steal your funds or your virtual identity. 

There’s a huge pool of potential candidates

Guru has been connecting entrepreneurs and freelancers since its creation some 20 years ago. Now, the site boasts thousands of subscribers looking for workplace solutions. You can pull from a pool of online candidates from around the globe, giving you a huge choice of unique skill sets to choose from. 

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 Guru and Toptal?

Type of Freelancers on Toptal

Toptal doesn’t have nearly the total number of freelancers for you compared to Guru. 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 Total 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 Guru

There are over 1.7 million freelancers on Guru’s platform.  You’ll find a large mix of freelance talent, from programmers to everyday, run-of-the-mill writers.

But Guru doesn’t screen their talent, so you will have to go through a lot of options before you find one that works for you.

Winner: Depends on your needs.

What is the screening process on Toptal and Guru?

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 Guru.

Guru’s screening process

One of the biggest risks of hiring an unknown freelancer is running into scammers. Each year, online scammers ruin countless lives through financial fraud and identity theft.

At the very least, scammers on freelancing sites can waste your time. Sifting through profiles can be frustrating and time-consuming when a significant portion of applications aren’t from serious freelancers.

Scammers come in a variety of shapes and sizes on Guru. Some are simply ghost profiles that accept cash for projects and then disappear. Others use the identity of real and respected freelance workers to earn work and then fail to deliver the promised quality upon completion.

Falling prey to a scammer means that you might lose money, end up with a project that isn’t completed on time, and potentially have valuable data fall into the wrong hands. Guru falls short of expectations when it comes to removing these suspicious profiles from its platform or protecting clients.

The influx of scammers on Guru is the main reason that the site has received a failing grade from the Better Business Bureau. Reviews published on the BBB website reveal that Guru doesn’t offer financial compensation to clients who were scammed and doesn’t take action to remove illegitimate profiles from its platform.

Guru’s screening process

Winner: Toptal

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

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.

Guru’s hiring process

With Guru, 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 Guru?

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.

Guru’s pricing

Guru’s pricing

While Guru typically has higher fees than its competitors, a basic account is free. You can post unlimited job offerings and receive limitless quotes from freelancers, though it isn’t guaranteed that they’ll all be legitimate. 

While a Guru account is free for employers, you should remember that even their free accounts can incur service fees. Be aware that the site takes a 2.9% cut whenever you make a transaction and a 3.5% cut when you withdraw money. If you want to receive more applications for your project, you will have to pay $29.95 to promote your listing for 30 days.

For employers that want a customized solution, Guru Enterprise offers tailored solutions for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to hire freelancers. The Enterprise plan offers superior online support compared to  Guru’s base option along with enhanced security features, including a dedicated compliance team and advanced account monitoring. 

While there are no costs for creating an Enterprise account, users still have to pay the site’s base service fee. However, with an Enterprise account, Guru allows you to choose a flat fee structure, or decide to split fees with the freelancers you hire.

Winner: Toptal

Does Toptal or Guru 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.

Guru’s Policy

According to Guru, their platform is designed to deliver a successful freelancing experience. However, in case of disagreements between employers and freelancers, Guru does offer arbitration services.

Arbitration is only applicable to cases where there are funds in SafePay. Once you request arbitration, Guru’s team reviews the agreement between you and the freelancer, any job expectations set, communication between the two parties, and the work delivered.

During arbitration, both parties have the option to provide additional evidence or comments in the WorkRoom for the arbitrators to consider. Once a ruling is reached, the funds in SafePay are distributed accordingly and you will receive an email with a link to view the details of the arbitrators’ findings.

Winner: Both websites

Is Guru or Toptal better for hiring freelancers?

Guru 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 Guru?

Guru has more freelancers than Toptal. So if you can’t find a freelancer on Toptal, you can consider hiring on Guru.

If you’re looking to work with translators, videographers, or marketers, Guru may be your better bet.