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Toptal vs Upwork - Best Site for Hiring Freelance Developers?

If you've ever been able to hire a developer, you have likely faced a decision on which outsourcing company to choose, especially when looking at popular Toptal vs Upwork websites.

These two locations both offer hiring development resources, but what is the difference between them? Which one makes the most sense for you?


We are writing this article because we have dedicated app developers from Toptal and Upwork and CollectiveRay has experience working with freelancers from both locations.

With Toptal we went through the onboarding process and quickly worked with a freelancer who exceeded our expectations.

Before using any of these providers, we tried hiring on popular marketplaces and this is what happened:

  1. We hired someone to copy the code and give us work that someone else owned.
  2. We hired another programmer who stopped responding and never gave us the job.
  3. We tried several times with several people from different countries with different budgets. It took us a long and very frustrated time to find good programmers. In addition to many missed appointments ...

Then we found out about Toptal and Upwork and everything changed.

Toptal vs Upwork



Per hour, per day, per project or fixed fee

Per hour, per project or fixed fee


Deposit fees of $ 500 per offer


Candidate selection

Fully reviewed and tested for skills

Open platform, anyone can apply. Optional skill test


Email and ticket support. Account manager for larger customers

No support for free users. Email and ticket support for premium users.

Billing methods



Customer experience

Polished experience with better dashboard and smooth hiring process

Polished but not that well organized. Some elements hard to find. The hiring process is a smooth one, but all of the work has to be done.

Complaints and resolution

Email and chat support. Complaint system in the dashboard.

Complaints function in the dashboard. Email and ticket support.


All of the candidates' skills are tested and verified. Hire from a huge talent pool.


The dashboard is easy to get to grips with. The dashboard has everything you need to start hiring freelancers.


The dashboard provides all the tools needed to hire a freelancer Ability to set milestones and review work.


The talent pool is limited compared to open marketplaces. Some dashboard elements are difficult to find and use.


The prices are higher and match the skills. The quality of freelancers varies greatly.


Not upfront about fees. The filtering, questioning and setting is up to you.

First place

Toptal wins for the quality of the available developers

Upwork wins for projects in the lower price range and for the diversity of talents.



What is Toptal?


Toptal is a marketplace where only the top 3% of applicants are accepted. The basic requirement is very clear, even from the name they have chosen for themselves, they only employ top talent.

The company was founded in 2010 by Taso Du Val and Breanden Beneschott and their aggressive growth has been attributed to the way they work.

But what makes this company so special?

  1. They only hire the best talent. The company only accepts the top 3% of developers who apply for freelance jobs with them.
  2. They have very tough tests to make sure they weed out anyone who is not of the highest quality. This pre-screening of candidates applying for admission to the company means one thing.
  3. You will have at least 3 interviews and at least 3 skill tests which are not for the faint of heart.

So when you hire at Toptal, you hire the best.

As a hiring company, it means that as a customer, you will save all of the time and effort involved in finding and hiring freelance developers. You don't have to worry if the freelancer you hire will meet your expectations. These experts are guaranteed to be the best in the business.

All major development niches are covered, including Javascript developers, WordPress, PHP programmers, web designers. Essentially, if you are looking for a technical freelancer to hire, they have your back.

In order to be admitted as a freelancer with them, you have to go through 4 test phases

  1. Singing interview to test the language
  2. Review of skills for assessing knowledge
  3. Live tests to prove skills
  4. Exercise projects to assess the quality of work

As you can see, this rigorous testing process guarantees that only top talent are listed with this company!


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What is Upwork?


Upwork is a freelance developer marketplace. As a client, you publish a project description on the website and offer potential candidates to win your project. Once you've hired a freelancer, you agree to a fee. You put this fee in an escrow account and agree to be released once the freelancer submits the work as per your specification.

This company merged two popular freelance platforms, elance and oDesk, in December 2013. It has created the largest freelance platform connecting thousands of freelancers with clients. Rather than being limited to developers, this is a marketplace for all kinds of skills.

Users from all over the world compete to win your project. So, you can expect to get plenty of suggestions for your project at a variety of prices.

Usually you decide in advance what you want to pay for. When compiling your project description, you should determine the current rate for the size and complexity of the project. You can choose to pay by the project or by the hour, and developers who apply for your job will submit proposals accordingly.

With so many freelance workers, making good choices is quite difficult, especially when you have that many applicants for most jobs.

This marketplace tries to guide you by awarding "Achievements" to freelancers on their network. You get achievements like "Rising Talent," freelancers who are relatively new but have a good success rate. People who have been on the platform for a long time and have a good rating can also achieve the status "top rated".

Typically, however, all types of applicants apply for most positions. So the toughest job for a recruiting company is separating the wheat from the chaff. If you want to know more about them, this is a great review here.

Visit Up Work now


Now you have a good idea of ​​who and what Toptal and Upwork are. Let's compare these in several key areas. We will look at:

  1. Prices and Fees
  2. Candidate selection
  3. support
  4. Billing methods
  5. Customer experience
  6. Complaints and resolution

Each of these can have a huge impact on how positive your experience is on each platform.


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Prices and Fees

The price and fee structure of Toptal and Upwork is very different.


  • Toptal offers payment according to the hourly rate, project or fixed fee.
  • Upwork also offers an hourly rate, project, or fixed fee.

At Toptal, the hourly rates for working with the crème de la crème are usually USD 50 per hour and above. Upwork's hourly rates can be lower, starting at $ 10, depending on the skills you need.


Toptal requires an upfront payment of $ 50 regardless of the cost of your project. This will be refunded if you don't hire. Unfortunately, they are not informed in advance of their fees and will quote on a case-by-case basis.

Upwork has four business plans.

  • Free - Doesn't cost anything per month, but includes a 3% fee on all payments to freelancers you hire.
  • Plus - $ 49.99 per month and includes dedicated support. It still includes a 3% fee on all payments to freelancers you hire.
  • Business - $ 849 per month and includes a dedicated account manager and detailed reports. No payment fee, but 10% 'customer fee'.
  • Enterprise - Offering and encompassing compliance services and fully managed solutions.


Candidate selection

The selection of candidates can be a significant headache or be buttery smooth depending on your needs. Here, too, Toptal and Upwork have different ways of working that are suitable for different target groups.

Toptal goes to great lengths to review all candidates with a 97% failure rate. Although this does not guarantee success, it does significantly contribute to smoothing the path. As mentioned in our overview, candidates have a four-step selection process before they are accepted on the platform.

This includes:

  1. Singing interview to test the language
  2. Review of skills for assessing knowledge
  3. Live tests to prove skills
  4. Exercise projects to assess the quality of work

Upwork is an open marketplace with no review or selection system. Anyone can join in, create a profile and start working. The choice of candidates is yours.



Both Toptal and Upwork are very easy to use and for the most part problem-free. However, a service can only be rated as really good if something goes wrong. So how do they stack up?

Top valley

This platform has a customer service department that can help with most issues. Depending on your membership level, you may be provided with an account manager. They also run tests to try out a developer before hiring them to minimize problems.


If you are a free user, you are largely alone. There is a useful user forum with a lot of advice, but customer support is off-site and not very helpful. Business class customers receive priority or dedicated support and can use it when needed.

Billing methods

Both platforms are similar in terms of billing. Both accept most major credit cards and PayPal. Toptal also accepts major bank accounts and transfers for a fee.

Both use an escrow service for payment. Toptal requires this first deposit and pays freelancers first. In the case of active projects, this is then billed every two weeks.

Like Toptal, Upwork uses an escrow account that must be prepaid. They then set milestones or release the entire fee, depending on your agreement with the freelancer.

Customer experience

The customer experience is very subjective, but since we've used both to hire developers, we have an idea of ​​what it's like to be a customer on both platforms.

Toptal has a more sophisticated feel and you have the feel of a more professional setup. You are on your own most of the time and are free to manage your hiring and firing at will. The dashboard is very straightforward, communication is generally professional and timely, and work can be followed between milestones.

Upwork feels polished too, but is a little more random. The dashboard is easy to use once you get to grips with it, but it has a few special features. Since applying for a project is free, it can get a bit overwhelming at first. More work is also required as you will see applications that vary widely in terms of quality and suitability.

Complaints and resolution

Complaints and solutions are two important aspects of using freelancers regularly, which we also examined in our comparison between Upwork and Toptal. The vast majority of your time on any platform will be positive, but there will be times when you will need a little help.

Toptal offers account managers for larger companies or email or chat support for smaller customers. The website doesn't even mention a complaints procedure, but there is one that can be accessed through the dashboard. Again, the system is customer-centric vis-à-vis the freelancer, so any problems you face when hiring a developer should be resolved in your favor.

Upwork has a reporting function in the client dashboard that you can use if necessary. It provides a way to communicate your problem and make customer service aware of it. You are then in their hands as their decision is final and there is no calling. The system is biased in favor of customers, so you should get a positive result.


What is the difference between them

When considering which platform to use between Upwork and Toptal, there are some very noticeable differences.

  1. quality - With Toptal, quality is guaranteed. Although you can find good developers at Upwork, you will have to find out for yourself by trial and error.
  2. price - You will likely find that hiring top talent by the hour can be a little more expensive. However, this difference is usually fixed due to the shorter development period and the shorter quality of the work done.
  3. Setting method- Toptal goes to great lengths to do the hard work for you. This does not guarantee success, but it does drastically increase the chances. Upwork is free for everyone and you have more work to do in selecting candidates.


Should you rent from Toptal or Upwork?

When trying to decide between Upwork and Toptal, your choices are:

  • If you want to hire top-notch developers in a short amount of time, choose Toptal.
  • If you are hiring more experienced developers or need highly skilled skills, choose Toptal.
  • If you want to choose from a narrow field of preselected developers, choose Toptal.
  • If you're hiring for a low-end project or don't need such skills, consider Upwork.
  • When you have the time to go through a hiring process to find a good programmer yourself, choose Upwork.
  • If you want to choose from a much broader and more diverse field of candidates, choose Upwork.


See top valleyfreelancer

frequently asked Questions

Is Toptal good?

Toptal is a very good option for companies looking to hire reliable freelancers. The way the company works means you're guaranteed to get good results as freelancers have to go through very rigorous testing to get listed in their market. While the hourly rate is generally more expensive than other places, you will find that people choose to work with this company because of the total security and guaranteed good results.

How much can you earn with Toptal?

Most of the developers on Toptal make between $ 800 and $ 3,000 a month, but there are developers who make a lot more. This is because the typical hourly rate for work averages between $ 60 and $ 90, although you can find higher hourly rates. Multiply these rates by 20 to hours per week and you are in between that income range.

What does Toptal cost?

Toptal is asking companies that work with them to deposit $ 500 once they have recruited talent. However, if they decide not to continue, the deposit will be refunded. The labor costs then depend on the hourly rate of the hired developer. This typically ranges from $ 60 an hour for part-time work to more than $ 6,400 per job for full-time workers in certain niches that are in high demand.

How do I work for Upwork?

To work for Upwork, all you have to do is create a freelancer profile with your skills and then search for vacancies. You will be much more effective as a freelancer if you earn a reputation for quality work. Ideally, start with small jobs, even if it means you won't make as much money until you have built a reputation.At this point, you can promote higher quality, more valuable jobs.

How are you paid in Upwork?

There are several different withdrawal methods you can use to get paid in Upwork. Various payment methods are supported, including Direct to US Bank, Direct to Local Bank, US Dollar Transfer, Instant Payment, Paypal, and Payoneer. Upwork works with a trust concept. The company that has a job must deposit the fee in advance. This amount will be released to the freelancer when the company approves that the work was submitted as per the specifications.

Conclusion: Upwork vs Toptal

What is our verdict after all of Toptal's analysis against Upwork?

As a customer, both platforms are skewed in your favor. The setup is designed to work for clients through freelancers. All arbitration and complaints are usually directed at the customer. So if you are using either platform to hire a freelance developer, you should get the skills you need.

Toptal offers a narrow field, but it was weighed, measured and not found to be defective. They're usually on the higher and more expensive end of the freelance market, but their skills are guaranteed.

Upwork is a marketplace that is open to everyone. You have access to a huge, diverse talent base, but you have to do a lot more work to filter the good from the bad.

Both offer hourly or project-based payments and offer their customers fiduciary services. Both offer a review system and opportunities to provide feedback about the experience and the individual freelancer.

Our judgment applies to high-end projects that depend on quality over price. Choose Toptal.

For projects on the lower end of the scale or when price is more important, choose Upwork.

Have you worked with Toptal, Upwork? How was your experience Well? Bad? Indifferent? Tell us about your experience below!

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David has worked in or around the online / digital industry for 18 years. He has extensive experience in the software and web design industry with WordPress, Joomla and the niches that surround them. As a digital consultant, he focuses on creating a competitive advantage for companies by combining their website and the digital platforms available today.

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