Toptal

Toptal

Toptal was founded in 2010 by Taso Du Val and Breanden Beneschott, both experienced software developers, engineers, and designers. Toptal's mission is to create a network of "elite" software engineers from around the globe to work on custom software design projects. You have to pass through an extensive screening process to be accepted as a Toptal software engineer that includes proving you are proficient in English, being tested on your personality, passing algorithmic tests, and creating a sample project. The company says it usually takes less than 3% of applicants.

Toptal provides engineers who are proficient in multiple platforms, including:

  • Java
  • JavaScript
  • C
  • C++
  • C#
  • iOS
  • Perl
  • Python
  • Ruby on Rails
  • SQL

Toptal claims its network comprises thousands of software engineers and more than 2,000 clients. Toptal announced it achieved 189 percent revenue growth in 2014, and is on track for an $80 million plus run rate for 2015.

The Good

  • Focused on software engineers
  • Payroll
  • Growth
  • Networking opportunities
  • Global outreach
  • Largely good reviews

Focused on Software Engineers: Toptal is run by software engineers and only accepts the top talent in that field. By focusing only on its field of expertise, Toptal promises to provide its clients with talented software engineers who are the best fit for their projects and who can produce excellent work. Toptal also promises the engineers in its network that it handles larger, more complex projects that it terms "serious, intriguing engagements," which will keep the members of its network employed in work that matches their skill levels.

Payroll: Freelancers who belong to the Toptal network do not have to handle payment or billing issues. Toptal bills the clients usually twice a month and then pays the freelancer.

Growth: Toptal has received news coverage from outlets including Forbes and BusinessWire about its success in the niche market of supplying top-flight software engineers from around the world. The company is seeing significant revenue growth and has an impressive list of current investors that includes venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, Adam D'Angelo of Quora, Dave Hersh of Jive, and Ryan Rockefeller. With its strong revenue growth and investor capital, Toptal has the resources to attract clients and to keep its members employed.

Networking Opportunities: Toptal sponsors educational and social events for its members. Toptal members also post blogs and provide training on developing technology and trends. The company partners with groups like Major League Hacking, a student hackathon league, to sponsor Hackathons, where students can show off their development work. Toptal also has a Global Mentors Program where Toptal members mentor disadvantaged and low-income students to help them become software engineers.

Global Outreach: Toptal engineers live and work in over 93 countries. Forbes uses Toptal as an example of a company that is helping businesses outsource work to global talent.

Largely Good Reviews: Toptal's Facebook page has 49 five-star reviews from customers and software engineers expressing satisfaction with the work available and the quality of Toptal's members. The Facebook page only has five one-star reviews. Software engineers Michael Houghton and Cameron Barr have posted blogs discussing their satisfaction with Toptal's screening process and the work and salary available to software engineers who make the cut. Barr discusses his experience after a year working for Toptal and praises the company for the quality of the clients, the hassle-free payment process, and states his annual revenue nearly doubled when he joined the Toptal network.

The Bad

  • Lack of experience

Toptal is a fairly new company with only five years of experience. The company does not list the number of members it has or how many jobs are available to its members before they are accepted into the network. Given the complexity of the screening process to be accepted by Toptal and the fact that only about three percent of applicants make the cut, Freelancers may appreciate additional information about the number and quality of jobs Toptal has available and how many members you will be competing against should you be accepted by the company.

Additional areas where we think Toptal needs to improve its support to freelancers include:

  • The number of jobs they have posted (is currently unknown)
  • Limited number of registered freelancers
  • Unknown costs
  • Limited number of payment options

The Bottom Line

With its focus solely on software designers/engineers and its founders and senior staff expertise in the software engineering industry, Toptal is a good company to work for if you are a talented engineer. The application process to join Toptal is complex because the company carefully screens its members to make sure they have the required communication and technical skills to do the job. Toptal has strong financial backing and its revenue growth shows that it is getting work for the members of its network. As with any agreement, if you make the cut and are accepted by Toptal, read the terms of service carefully and ask for clarification if anything confuses or concerns you before you choose to accept the company's offer.

Toptal has the expertise to seek out challenging and well-paid jobs for software engineers and it is actively seeking members in countries throughout the world. Toptal's model can help engineers work where they live and can assist its clients in outsourcing software development projects and designs to the best talent regardless of their location.

8 Toptal Reviews

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  • User Score

    9

    August 7th, 2017

    I didn't see any of these negative reviews here before I tried Toptal, and I am glad I didn't because I think I wouldn't have given them a chance. First of all you need to understand what you getting. You are not buying a final product, you are not getting an agency that usually has a process on how they get something done. What you are getting is a contractor that comes pre screened and then picked for you by Toptal. If you understand that you will have a good experience. This is not a service where you just hire someone, send them some wireframes and comeback to a finished product 2 weeks later. You have to manage your contractor, create a schedule and check in on them. We worked with a few people from Toptal and we had great experience at all times. Yes, there were road bumps and there were some delays, but they were never unexpected as contractors kept us in the loop at all times with daily meetings (again that's what we asked and that's what we received). I think most people expect some quick and easy solution that will take care of their problems and that's where miscommunication happens.

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  • User Score

    10

    August 5th, 2017

    Top rated developer on Upwork with number of successful projects. And recently joined toptal and landed on my first job. After a month, I can say its far better than other sites like Upwork or Fiverr where you have to beg and compete with low quality developers to get a project. Where one bad experience can ruin your whole profile. Toptal on the other hand, due to vetting and fixed rates done justice to client & developer. On toptal, you can work calmly without tension of billing or rates negotiation. You can also schedule break. If there is some issue, you can talk to assigned recruiter to discuss and fix the issue. So, from freelancer's perspective, I must say toptal is far better than Upwork.

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  • User Score

    7

    July 15th, 2017

    Used Toptal and had a good experience despite a few issues they had to resolve

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  • User Score

    0

    July 12th, 2017 Oregon, WI

    TopTal's hiring practices are unfair and disadvantageous. Even when the objective of the assessment has been accomplished, they still deny continuing in the process and they make artificial hurdles that prevent people from getting in. Without improving their discriminatory recruitment practices I do not know how they could be given a good review.

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  • User Score

    1

    June 9th, 2017 Dublin, CA

    Awful experience. Toptal doesn't care about the clients or projects, they just care about the $. After spending over $100k with them, a small bug was found during an engagement with one of their resources. Over a week goes by without any resolution or care, just a "sorry" and "things happen." Unprofessional, unreliable, and a poor experience with all of the "talent" provided.

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  • User Score

    10

    April 16th, 2017

    As a remote .NET developer I work via Toptal for thier clients with very careful assistance since 2012.

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  • User Score

    1

    August 11th, 2016 Cookeville, TN

    **Buyer Beware* Total Estimated Cost: $8,800 Total Actual Cost: $22,745.13 Estimated Project Completion: 8 Weeks Actual Project Completion: Never completed after 26 weeks of work and payments As you can see by the numbers above we had a very poor experience with Totpal. We are taking time to write this honest review to help others that might be looking at Toptal for a future development project. We can only attest to the one project we had with them so this experience will obviously differ from some of the other reviews they have had. Here are some highlights of what we experienced: Lack Of Communication: This was our first development project and we were using Toptal as being an expert in finding the top developers in the world. Toptal had us interview three developers that they said were fully capable of completing this project and from those interviews, we chose one. This developer was friendly to work with but we had a hard time getting a timely response from him. During the 26 weeks of the project we had several times that we would go days without being able to get in touch with him. We often communicated this with our project manager at Toptal who would have to get involved to get the developer communicating again. Toptal never did fix the communication problem but instead just sent an email to the developer each time we contact Toptal. Lack of Delivery: Our developer initially estimated 8 weeks to complete the project. We gave a very detailed overview of our project with 20 plus pages of “mock ups” showing what the final project should look like. The developer commented that this was one of the most detailed project descriptions he had ever received. We added very little to the original project and the stuff added was typically a change the developer recommend to the project and not an addition to the overall scope. Despite our detailed instruction, the project dragged on and on as the developer kept saying he was running into “bugs” or he needed more time. Every time we pinned down a “new” date of completion with the developer he would miss the deadline and we would continue with a new deadline. Toptal was aware of the delay and did very little to speed up the process or question why it was taking so long. At one point, Toptal added a second developer to help speed things up and the second developer was worse than the first developer. The second developer rarely communicated with us and was not getting things done. He was however very prompt at billing his hours to us. After 26 weeks, we were no closer to completion and ended the project with Toptal. We are now working with a new company and developer that is night to day better than the experience we had with Toptal. Our new developer communicates with us daily and we are now almost at completion. Excessive Cost: Be very cautious of the estimate you get from Toptal in the beginning. We were estimated $8,800 and ended up paying over $22,000 with no completed project. If we kept going with them, we likely could have just poured in more money with no results. We asked Toptal for a partial refund and have yet to get one. If we do get a refund, we will update this section of the review to let all of you know. We are paying an additional $5 to $7k to have our new developer finish the project. If we had gone with this developer originally we would have saved SO much money. Bottom Line: The bottom line is we were charged almost 3 times what we expected and did not even get a completed project out of it. Toptal fail far short of our expectations. Toptal claims to have the best developers in the world but the two that we worked with were very poor. Toptal management has yet to rectify the poor experience and the negative financial impact this project has had on our company. We hope that you do your due diligence in talking to several companies before you make a decision on going with Toptal. Our mistake was not looking around more and taking Toptal's online reviews and their word in assuming our experience would be a good one. We learned our lesson and hope to help you to not make the same mistakes as us.

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  • User Score

    1

    February 20th, 2016

    Having seen lots of positive reviews, which we now suspect are instigated by Toptal themselves given some posts we have seen by employees, we decided to give them a try. We tried to recruit for a couple of projects and throughout the process we found Toptal reminiscent of pushy salesmen, self-interested, intimidating and attempting to bill as much as possible whilst doing as little as possible. In our experience, their focus is on helping their consultants maxing the invoicing whilst doing as little as possible more interested. **Questionable Timekeeping and over-billing** Their developers working hours were all over the place. They wouldn't even bother to log his hours on our time-monitoring system, despite being asked to do so on a number of occasions and having agreed to do so from the start. Hours would be often be plucked from thin air and billed. On questioning them developers would become argumentative and develop a strop. **Misleading 10 day trial** The 10 day trial is misleading marketing designed to hook in clients. They allocate trial days based on the length of the project - thus beware. We were told to make a decision within 5 days, impossible given one of the developers was unprepared to start the project and the other had been doing odd hours here and there - both much less than 5 days. **Unprepared developers** The first developer was totally unprepared - we had asked for them to undertake a simple review task prior to the interview. One had a brief glance and the other didn't bother - a warning signal that we should have paid more heed to than we did. When the project started, one spent a number of days to install the basic php development environment on his local machine despite claiming several years experience developing in php - we were expected to pay for something that is expected as default. The other did a few hours here and there whilst working full time on other projects and completing Toptal recruitment tasks. This meant our project came in last typically at the end of a long working day - leaving him exhausted and unable to complete anything but the most trivial of tasks. Strangely, we were informed by Toptal that our expectations were unsatisfactory! **Conclusion** Overall poor experience and one that overall added significant delays to our projects - our clients were unhappy with the results as were the other developers who had to review the work that was done. Ask lots of questions before you use these guys - as you would of used car salesmen. Don't believe the positive reviews - and lack of negative reviews simply means Toptal bullies, pressurises and fabricates stories to get websites to take down reviews. This has happened with ourselves with this review and if anyone is interested supporting emails can be provided.

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