Toptal Review


Toptal Review 2022 – Is Toptal worth your money?

All you need to know before hiring from Toptal in one comprehensive Toptal review.


1. What is Toptal?

Toptal pitches itself as the global leader in freelance marketplaces that enable clients to connect with their international network of remote talent

Toptal insists that they stand apart from the majority of other hiring networks due to their extensive vetting processes and they claim to accept only the top 3% of the candidates that pass through the multi-step screening process to get into their platform. 

Aside from the tech stack of their talent, Toptal takes a thorough look at each applicant’s past work experiences and conducts an overall character analysis in order to ensure their customers would only receive the crème de la crème of the remote talent.

2. Background to Toptal

Founded in 2009 by Taso Du Val and Breanden Beneschott, Toptal started as a virtual company from the get go with no offices on location. The company grew at an exponential rate receiving several thousand applications from candidates that wished to join their platform each month. The talent network that was initially focused on offering software developers, expanded to include designers in 2015. 

By 2016 Toptal acquired Skillbridge, an innovative platform in the on-demand business talent space, and by 2019 Toptal had included project managers, product managers and finance experts for hire in order to better serve clients with larger projects.

3. How does Toptal work? 

Toptal takes pride in its personalized matching process where freelancers are handpicked from their vetted pool of professionals based on the requirements of the client. 

Here’s a look at the current portfolio of services offered by Toptal as of 2021:

  • Developers: As a marketplace for top-quality tech talent ranging from developers to architects and consultants Toptal aims its services towards high profile companies and startups to enable them to fulfil their projects.
  • Designers: In addition to developers, Toptal offers some of the best  UI/UX, designers in the industry.  
  • Finance experts: Toptal provides finance experts that can provide your company financial modelling & valuation, interim CFO work, startup funding support, pricing strategy, market sizing, and other similar services that enable the leading companies to face any impending financial challenges. 
  • Project managers – The Toptal platform provides elite companies with access to hire some of the best project managers that specialize in technical project management inclusive of Agile, Kanban, Lean, projects. 
  • Product managers – Additionally you may also find product managers that are experts in ideation, product research, user stories, roadmaps, execution, and launch that are able to provide services for a successful end-to-end product lifecycle. 
  • Toptal projects – Toptal can provide your company with a carefully curated and fully managed team consisting of the top tech talent that can deliver solutions to your critical business projects.

In order for the ideal talent to client match to take place, Toptal has initiated several steps for a prospective client to go through prior to signing up for their services. 

Let’s have a look at the steps involved:

1- The clients have to submit a form on the Toptal site answering a set of questions that would explain what they’re looking for. The questions include areas such as:

– what kind of talent do you need

– do you need just one or several freelancers 

– the job description of the freelancer

– how long do you require the services of the freelancer

– the tech stack other specific skill requirements

In addition, they also request information on the nature and capacity of your company. Finally, you’re required to sign up to Toptal with your company and contact details so that they can reach you out. 

2- The internal team would then review your request and get in touch with you for further clarifications so that they can meet your exact needs. This would be a more in-depth call where they would get into all the nitty-gritty details with regards to the project they expect to develop for you.

3 – Once all the details are received Toptal would look through their existing talent network to try and locate the ideal match for the client based on skills, expertise and experience. If they cannot find a suitable match within their pool, they would expand their search to locate the right candidate, conduct the screening processes and get them across to the client.

Within a few days of your submission with the detailed requirements, you’ll be notified of the status of your request. The status can be one of the following three: 

  • Toptal has found the most suited talent for your project within their network and they are ready to work with you immediately.
  • Toptal has located a suitable candidate outside of their network that is currently being evaluated to ensure they match your specifications, and Toptal will notify you once the screening process is completed.
  • Toptal does not have a suitable candidate that meets your requirements at the present, but their team is on the lookout for potential hires and would inform you if they are to come across any.

4- Once Toptal has finalised their prospective freelancer(s) suitable to your needs, you are put in touch with the respective Toptalers so that you can review and sign off on the ones you prefer. You may choose to interview and reevaluate them if you intend to and once you’re ready they can be integrated into your team after signing off the contract agreement. Toptal requires an upfront fee of $500 charged from clients as an initial deposit that would be credited towards your first invoice.

5- You begin your trial process of working with the Toptaler(s) during which time you will evaluate the performance of your talent and decide if it’s the most ideal match for your need. If you’re not 100% confident with the freelancer you’ve been assigned you can either part with Toptal at no cost (the initial $500 deposit will be returned to you) or have Toptal restart the process of finding the right fit for you free of charge.

6- Toptal claims to provide flexible payment solutions typically taking place every two weeks where the client needs to review the freelancer’s work and approve payments.

4. Toptal’s business model 

The way that Toptal ensures customer satisfaction is through providing highly skilled and vetted talent on demand. In order to attend to their client’s needs at the earliest, Toptal consistently maintains a bank of vetted talent ready to go. 

The client invoicing is done directly through Toptal and they would take their cut of the payment that’s set as a service charge and Toptal pays their freelancers the pre-determined amount as per their contract. 

Freelancers are able to decide their hourly rate that should fall within the bracket of the recommended rates of Toptal. The freelancer payment may vary based on the seniority and expertise of the talent as well as their country of residence.

All Toptal’s developers undergo a rigorous screening process inclusive of skills testing, personality assessment and language testing prior to signing up to their platform. In most cases it takes well over a month for an applicant to complete their screening process, Toptal’s onboarding process consists of the following steps according to their website:

  • A video call interview where the candidate’s personality and language proficiency will be assessed.
  • An extremely challenging timed skills test where the developers are allocated a test that needs to be conducted within a specified time slot.
  • A live screening evaluation where an expert from Toptal would conduct an interview/live screening session where the candidates will be requested to undergo a specific set of coding exercises that aim to discern their problem-solving ability, communication, depth of experience together with originality.
  • A simulated project where the candidate is required to complete a real-world project within an allocated amount of time (usually 3 to 4 weeks). This is an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate their competence and professionalism within this challenging work environment.
  • In order to maintain their track record of top of the line performance, Toptal continuously assesses their talent through all their client engagements and assigned projects.

The failure to pass any of these levels would disqualify a candidate from proceeding further in their application process and they may have to wait a couple of months and reply. They are able to undergo the application process thrice in total after which point their account will be suspended and they will no longer be able to apply.

Interesting to note however is the fact that even after passing Toptal’s stringent evaluation processes to join the platform, most freelancers find it difficult to find work due to the insufficient amount of projects that are on offer. According to reviews left by Toptalers past and present, there are way too many freelancers onboard the platform than the number of clients and projects on offer so if you’re new to the marketplace it is extremely difficult to land any projects.

When looking at Toptal’s reviews on recognized review sites the likes of G2, Trustpilot and Glassdoor, it is pretty evident that there is an exceedingly large number of negative comments by freelancers that, either interviewed to join their platform as well as from current and former talent of Toptal.

Here’s a look at some frustrating feedback left by freelancers:


5. What are the pros and cons of hiring through Toptal? 


Pros – 

  • Highly screened talent – Due to their extensive vetting process Toptal claims to assure the proficiency level of their talent with the majority of them having previous experience working with some of the biggest companies in the industry.
  • Fast hires – Clients are able to save time by hiring through Toptal’s prevetted bank of candidates. In comparison to the traditional hiring methods where companies have to gather applications, conduct callbacks and interviews and screen the talent themselves, hiring through Toptal appears to save a lot of your time and energy.
  • Reputed name – As an industry leader with an established brand name that has been respected and recognised for over a decade, Toptal has worked with some of the largest companies boasting of client names that include fortune 500 companies.
  • Flexible hires – Ability to find candidates to fulfil flexible forms of employment ranging from full-time, part-time to project-based contracts.
  • Successful outcome – Toptal claims to have a very low failure rate when it comes to the delivery of the clients’ expectations.

However, much of these statements are what Toptal themselves boast of and if one was to peruse third-party review sites for feedback from clients of Toptal, there appear to be quite a few contradictory experiences from clients. 

A few Toptal reviews from clients are listed below:





  • High cost – Due to the high cost of Toptal, they are not the most suitable option for startups and bootstrapped companies. In most cases, the markup Toptal keeps on the hourly rate of their developers is over 100%.
  • Prefer big-budget projects – Toptal is not recommended for those that require a talent for small scale projects with minimal supervision as they tend to opt for larger projects at established companies that have bigger budgets.
  • Lack of autonomy for clients – Toptal representatives are involved in your project processes every step of the way. While this may seem like a positive, their clients have expressed having felt as if Toptal is always looking over their shoulder at the proceedings between clients and talents thereby taking away some of their autonomy. 
  • Additionally, Toptal requests their clients to under no circumstance discuss the price they pay with the talent, making it only too obvious that they do not want their talent to be aware of exactly how much of a commission Toptal keeps on their services.
  • This lack of transparency has left a sour taste in the mouth of many of Toptal’s past employees which can be clearly seen in their reviews of Toptal available on third-party apps. And as clients that intend to hire good talent for reasonable prices, there are certainly better alternatives that do not keep such exuberant margins on the rates of their talent that are worth looking into.

6. Cost of hiring from Toptal

Toptal’s claims their high price point is due to the quality and efficiency of systems they have in place in order to provide the utmost services. Toptal’s pricing may vary based on the scope of the project and the experience and location of the talent. 

The current Toptal pricing scale is depicted below:

Toptal developer rates:

  • Hourly: $70-$200+ per hour
  • Part-time hire (20hrs/week): $1,000-$2,400+ per week
  • Full-time hire (40hrs/week): $2,000-$4,800+ per week

Toptal designer rates:

  • Hourly: $70-$150+ per hour
  • Part-time: $1200 – $2400+ per week
  • Full-time: $2400 – $4800+ per week

7. Is Toptal the right fit for you? 

It’s tough to find high-quality tech talent so it’s understandable that people turn to Toptal in order to have access to the top 3% of candidates. You can save so much time and effort by selecting from pre-vetted candidates that are handpicked for your requirements. Additionally, having a trial period to work with your talent allows you the flexibility to dive in risk-free. 

When compared to regular recruitment agencies that charge massive upfront fees to keep you on the platform, to ultimately offer you, non-vetted candidates that you need to interview and assess for yourself, it may seem that Toptal is a goldmine. Toptal does the screening and manages the talent so all you have to do is focus on the project at hand.

However, It is important to note that Toptal is not the only available option for this nature of services. Toptal just happens to be on top of your google search due to their extensive SEO strategies and big budgets on marketing. So dont be fooled.

It’s evident that for the steep price they charge, Toptal promises to offer a lot. However, based on customer feedback which may just be the best mode to determine the service efficiency of a business, we can determine otherwise.



8. Toptal alternatives to hiring freelancers and why you should consider these instead

Toptal’s expensive service and elaborate processes tend to make a lot of small to medium-sized clients shy away from their services. For those that feel that Toptal may be a little ‘too over the top’ for their needs, there’s quite a number of alternatives to Toptal available nowadays for hiring freelancers.

Check out our article on Toptal alternatives for a more in-depth and detailed overview of Toptal’s eight closest competitors in the market today.  

To break it down, here’s a bit of insight:

If you require the same standard of services as Toptal at a lower cost, you should check out CloudDevs

If you want the cheapest option and do not quite care about the quality and the expertise of talent, go with Fiverr

If you need to make a fast hire and you do not want to waste time having to interview and screen talent yourself, go with CloudDevs

If you wish to find developers from your own timezone, your best bet is once again, CloudDevs!

Here’s a look at how Toptal fares in relation to its closest competitors in the market:

toptal competitors

9. A brief summary of our review of Toptal

In the following infographic, we have laid out all the key takeaways from this article for your easy reference:

toptal review summary


$200+ million
$70-$200+/ hour 
Up to 3 weeks to hire talent
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