Which Platform is best for freelancing?

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Are you a struggling freelancer? Are you well-stocked with the skills in your field but still find it hard to land a high-paying opportunity? Do you feel like a misfit in saturated marketplaces? Are you having trouble ranking gigs on fiver? Are clients not responding to your applications on Upwork? Are you troubled with non-professional client behavior or afraid of scams on freelance marketplaces? Let’s cut to the chase here, are you looking for the best platform for freelancing?

Warning: Before I give you a solution, I must warn you that is highly likely that after reading this article, you will find the secret to working with Fortune 500 US companies or landing a Remote job in Silicon Valley while averaging your yearly income above $200,000. Stop reading if you are happy with your current income.

The solution to your problem

Your search for top freelancing platforms will always end at Toptal.

What is Toptal?

Toptal stands for “TOP TALENT” Located in San Francisco, California, United States, Toptal was founded in 2010. It is an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project manager and Project Consultants in the world. Top companies hire Toptal freelancers for their most important projects. Why? Because the platform keeps only the top Top 3% of Freelance Talent by passing the applicants through a rigorous 2 months (approx.) screening process.

But once you are part of the Toptal freelance Talent pool, it takes less than a month to land jobs at Toptal. Do not panic! You will find the secrets to selection in this very article (You can also read my own journey in the last section). Considering all the comparison charts of freelancing top websites, Toptal reviews indicate that it is consistently ranked among the top 5 freelancing websites in the World.

Why work on Toptal? Is Toptal Worth it?

Compared to other freelance platforms, Toptal gives a highly personalized experience to its freelancers. Some key benefits include: –

  • Remarkably high paying rates, averaging 100$/hour. New users can easily land a job in the 70-80$/hour range. Even for a new user, a full-time commitment (40 hours/week) yields $10,000+ per month.
  • You are assigned a business address such as [email protected] The specialized email enhances your professional personality and grants you access to many online tools where business email is required.
  • No Marketing or SEO skills are needed to rank your profile. Once you are a Toptaler you are already certified among the Top 3% of professionals in your field.
  • Qualified Staff is available to optimize your profile for the best pitching in front of clients.
  • The best part is finding a job is the responsibility of Toptal’s staff, not yours! ‘Matchers’ do all the heavy lifting; all you need to do is to convince your client in video interviews/follow-up emails that you can complete the job.
  • Once an engagement starts, you are assigned an ‘Operations Manager’ to manage administration and billing for you.
  • The personalized Coaching staff is available for your career counseling, informs you about trending skills, and grooms you on how to carry yourself on the platform.
  • Extraordinarily strong networking in Slack and LinkedIn.
  • Toptal has a partnership with Udemy and AWS (Amazon Web Services), where you can get selected premium courses for free.

Toptal Careers

Developers:

Seasoned software engineers, coders, and architects with expertise across hundreds of technologies.

Designers:

Expert UI, UX, Visual, and Interaction designers and a wide range of illustrators, animators, and more.

Finance experts:

Experts in financial modeling & valuation, startup funding, interim CFO work, and market sizing.

Project Managers:

Digital and technical project managers, scrum masters, and more with expertise in numerous PM tools, frameworks, and styles.

Product Managers:

Digital product managers, and scrum product owners with an expertise in numerous industries like banking, healthcare, eCommerce, and more.

Project Consultants:

Toptal Project Consultants assemble managed teams of seasoned experts for your most urgent business needs.

toptal job availability

Toptal Jobs Availability (Under Developer Vertical)

Except for Core Jobs, all other areas are considered specializations and require freelancers to go through additional screening processes.

Toptal Sign-Up Process

Toptal claims that a candidate will have five times more opportunities if he signs up with reference to an existing user.

Do not make the MISTAKE that I made. I tried signing up for Toptal without any reference. It not only reduced my chances 5 times, but I also missed a 500-2500$ bonus. Do not worry, you can click on my referral to apply for the most elite freelancing platform.

500$ is always awarded if you sign up with a referral and 2500$ is awarded if you sign up with a referral and land a job that falls among ongoing trending skills. For the Months of November-December 2022, trending skills among developers are:

Screening Stages

The only drawback of the platform is that it has a rigorous screening process. The following data has been taken from the Toptal website regarding the steps involved in the selection and the percentage of applicants left after each stage. The last column indicates my comments on each phase:

Step Assessment Area and success rate Success rate My Comments
1 Language and Personality

The first step of the screening process is a comprehensive English language and communication interview evaluation. Assessment is made on personality traits, to look for candidates who are enthusiastic and fully engaged in their work.

26.4% The success rate indicates correctly that it was the easiest part of the screening process. Do not be late for the interview time given. Sit in front of the camera well-dressed, speak fluent English, and introduce yourself! 74% of people fail this due to poor communication skills.
2 In-Depth Skill Review

This step evaluates each applicant’s technical knowledge and problem-solving ability through various assessments. Every member of the Toptal network is an expert in their domain, and they typically only advanced candidates with exceptional results in this phase.

7.4% This is tougher. Being a developer, I was given a 90-minute programming test, which is evaluated by an automated system. You can seek syntax help from the search engine during this test. You can choose any language to program the given logic. This part requires intermediate-level algorithm-building skills to pass.
3 Live Screening

Each candidate is interviewed by Toptal screeners who are experts in their functional domain. Their screeners provide specific live exercises, looking for problem-solving ability, depth of experience, communication ability, and creativity.

3.6% This is THE HARDEST part. If you make it, you will become part of the Toptal Family eventually. This is a 30-minute proctored test, where a subject matter expert observes you on camera and your screen while you solve a problem. You are not allowed to use a second screen or seek help from Google. I was not aware of this rule before attempting the test. I did not have python’s frequently used functions in my mind. I failed it once, deferred for one month, practiced from Codility.com, and passed in the second attempt after one month.
4 Test Projects

Each candidate is assigned a test project to evaluate whether they can “walk the walk.” Test projects that take 1-3 weeks are comprehensive and provide real-world scenarios for candidates to demonstrate their competence, thoroughness, professionalism, and integrity.

3.2% Although I applied as a desktop application developer, they tasked me to develop a backend Web API as a 1 week test project. The project involved API development for an eCommerce Book Store. Although the task was easy, I had never built a web app before. I learned Python Django in 4 days and successfully completed the project in 3 days. Then I scheduled the presentation of my project 3 weeks ahead. I thoroughly learned Django during the time to prepare myself to answer questions in the Final interview with the expert. I succeeded in this interview on the first attempt.
5 Continued Excellence

Members of the Toptal network maintain a history of excellence while collaborating with clients.

3.0% It took me an overall 2.5 months to successfully pass the complete examination process and now I am doing my best to satisfy client requirements to the best of my ability.

Toptal Alternatives

Toptal vs Turing

Turing is another trending platform that claims to keep the top 5% of world talent. Turing tries to generate long engagement times using survey forms. Moreover, their screening tests and skill tests are not proctored, which can allow candidates to cheat leading to the provision of low-quality work to clients. Due to weakness in their screening system, they are yet to build trust in the Market, therefore they usually are unable to employ their freelancers whose asking rate is above 40/hour. I have been on board Turing for the past 6 months, and they are yet to provide a valid opportunity.

Toptal vs Gun.io

Gun.io is also a platform reserved for developers. But the screening process merely involves a general interview with their staff. It is currently an emerging platform but looks promising overall. This platform also provides specialized staff for administrative requirements.

Toptal vs Upwork

Upwork is an open marketplace where no screening is required. However, their system of guaranteed payments on hourly contracts makes them a unique platform. Intermediate SEO and Marketing skills are required on Upwork to land opportunities. Compared to Toptal, pay rates are comparatively lower, but higher than the rest of the platforms in the business. Upwork has mechanisms to reward highly skilled freelancers with better opportunities using their Top Rated and Top Rated Plus badges. Upwork customer service is highly active, however, they do not provide personalized staff for day-to-day operations.

My journey to first Toptal engagement as a Freelance Developer

I started my freelance journey with 2$/hour 11 years ago (2011) on Upwork (Formerly oDesk) during my third semester of Mechanical Engineering (See! I was not even a developer). Till 2017, I worked as a mechanical product designer on Upwork until I started hitting a plateau of around $32/hour. Feeling a stoppage in further financial growth, I decided to switch to electronics and programming.

I started with Arduino IDE / Raspberry pi-based projects for embedded systems, but I could not carry it for more than 2 years due to the extensive requirement of prototyping just to validate microcontroller codes.

I switched to a software-based skillset starting from C#, followed by Python. I felt a rise in offers and I was able to raise my hourly earnings up to $55/hour. I kept working with this rate for well over 2 years, gained considerable experience in Python, and became a Top Rated Plus Freelancer on Upwork in 2021.

In thirst for further growth, I discovered Turing at the beginning of 2022. It was purely a futile effort to spend time signing up for Turing. A few months later, I got inspired by a video of Hisham Sarwar who narrated his story of selection on Toptal as a designer. Taking lead from his video, I applied on Toptal as a developer. It took me 2.5 months to pass the screening process.

I landed my first Toptal engagement at $80/hour in November 2022 as a Python Developer. I also work on Upwork as a Top Rated Plus Mechanical Designer and also offer some micro-services on Fiverr as a Level 1 seller. You can join the Toptal family by clicking on this link

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