Quality vs. quantity. Ah, the classic debate! And when it comes to hiring freelancers, the debate is still there.
Toptal has a large number of quality freelancers for you to add to your team. But Upwork has a lot more freelancers, filling in the talent gap where Toptal doesn’t have the right freelancers (yet).
In this article, you’ll learn about the difference between hiring freelancers on Toptal and Upwork. This will help you decide which website is best for your needs.
Upwork does a good job of removing scammy and inactive users.
This makes it relatively easy to find virtual assistants and entry-level associates to help you get work off your plate.
If you want to do the work yourself, here’s a quick process I recommend using:
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.
Toptal doesn’t have nearly the total number of freelancers for you compared to Upwork. 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.
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.
Upwork has a massive freelance talent pool to choose from, with over 12 million freelancers. Additionally, according to Upwork’s CEO, they get over 10,000 people signing up to their website every single day. Whether you are looking to hire a Ruby on Rails developer, a brand designer, or a software engineer, if you’re looking for freelance talent, Upwork has it.
Upwork is a good place to start if you’re looking to dip your toe into the freelance talent pool to see what a short-term, one-off project is like.
The difficulty of using Upwork to source freelancers is that you have to vet the talent. And if you don’t have a clear process to get the results you’re looking for, you’re banking on the freelancer having enough in place to do this for you. This is where Toptal shines.
Toptal uses a 5-step screening process to source the top 3% of freelancers:
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 Upwork.
While Upwork doesn’t have a formal screening process, they do their best to keep bad players off their platform.
To keep it simple, Upwork wants freelancers to create a 100% complete profile. To get a 60% complete profile, freelancers need to include:
The final 40% comes with a mix of different profile items you can add. This includes:
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:
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.
With Upwork, you set the pace of the hiring process. That said, finding the right candidate involves:
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.
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:
What you pay your freelancer depends on:
Upwork will charge you 3% on every payment you make. This is common among freelance marketplaces.
In addition, Upwork costs $49.99 a month for their Plus plan.
Plus Upwork members receive:
For bigger business clients, Upwork offers a Business plan for $849 per month. You’ll pay a 10% service fee on all payments to freelancers rather than 3%.
Business Upwork members receive everything from the Plus plan, and:
Finally, Upwork also offers an Enterprise plan with no price listed. In addition to the Business plan, you get:
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.
For the most part, Upwork let’s the freelancer and client do their own projects without stepping in. However, if push-comes-to-shove, Upwork is willing to step in to resolve any disputes.
The length of a dispute resolution depends on the project type.
Hourly disputes related to time billed by the freelancer during the previous work week will be processed within 4 business days.
Hourly disputes outside of the above time frame along with any fixed price disputes may take up to 30 days to be resolved. Upwork will contact both parties within 2 business days to begin the process.
Upwork and Toptal are both beneficial for different hiring needs.
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.
Further, Upwork has access to freelance talent that Toptal doesn’t have at the moment. If you’re looking to work with translators, videographers, or marketers, Upwork will be your better bet.
If you have the opportunity to work with Toptal freelancers, check out Toptal first.