Upwork vs Toptal: Which Platform is Best for outsourcing and Hiring Freelancers

What’s the difference between Upwork and Toptal? Upwork and Toptal are two well-known freelancing platforms, but they operate differently. Upwork is a more open freelance website based mainly on the bidding model, whereas Toptal offer much high-end services to find top-vetted talent.

Upwork vs Toptal: which one to choose for outsourcing your jobs?

Many small businesses and solopreneurs need to hire freelancers because they have a limited workforce. Outsourcing projects on Toptal and Upwork allows you to develop your business quickly without paying monthly salaries to extra staff members. Depending on your budget and specific needs, you can find a freelancer to outsource any task.

Types of ratesPer hour, per day, project, or packagePer hour, project, or package
Weekly working hours and availability0-50 hours0-40 hours (by default but can be greater)
Deposit and set up fees$500 deposit (Fully refunded if not used). A 2-week trial period is available. None
Pricing rangesMinimum hourly rate: $3
Expected price range: $20 to $250+ per hour.
Minimum hourly rate: $3
Expected hourly rate: $5 to $100 per hour.
Project price range: $5- $500,000
Transaction feesFees vary depending on the services, usually a fixed percentage of the project cost.Flat 5% fee per transaction. A discounted flat fee of 3% for eligible US clients using ACH.
Candidates selectionFully vetted, top 3%.An open platform where anyone can apply. Optional skills test
Assistance and supportSupport center,
email, phone, chat, and account managers for SMB and Mid-Market customers.
Email, Upwork Community, conversational AI powered by Forethought, phone support for Enterprise Solutions.
Payment methodsCredit cards, bank wires, ACH, and PayPalPayPal, a bank account, electronic funds transfer, credit cards, direct contracts (escrow services), Venmo, TransferWise, Upwork work marketplaces
Customer experienceRefined experience with a better dashboard and a smooth recruitment process.The hiring process is smooth, but it requires more work. Multiple back-and-forth messages.
Toptal and Upwork services overview

Regardless of the platforms, buyers usually expect lower prices from sellers in developing countries like India or The Philippines. It is one of the advantages of global outsourcing. Both platforms have a minimum hourly rate of $3 and allow short-to-medium-term projects.

While both sites seem to have a wide range of pricing, outsourcing on Upwork can be cheaper, but the quality varies widely. Most Toptal talents offer prices over $30, but you get top results.

Here are some elements explaining the price differences between the platforms:

  • Upwork accepts sellers looking for entry-level jobs, while all Toptal talents are experts in a domain.
  • Toptal focus on tier-one projects, unlike Upwork.
  • Talent locations
  • Two different the vetting processes
  • Fees applied for buyers and contractors

What is Toptal?

Toptal is a freelance marketplace founded in 2010 by Taso Du Val and Breanden Beneschott and has experienced rapid growth. The company only accepts the top 3% of talents. So when you hire with Toptal, you hire the best. 

Unlike Upwork, all the freelancers have passed a vetted process and are experts in their field. Therefore, you should expect to pay more on Toptal than on Upwork. But Toptal offers a hassle-free way to outsource tasks and get the best quality possible.

Toptal allows freelancers to set an hourly rate even though the company recommends price ranges according to region and services. Ultimately, the buyer and the contractor must agree on a price that benefits both parties.

What is the Toptal screening process?

They have strict tests to keep only applicants who can produce high-quality work. The vetting process is what sets this company apart. The entire screening process takes 2-5 weeks to complete.

Step 1: Accessing English proficiency, communication skills, and personality traits.

Step 2: Testing problem-solving ability and technical knowledge to evaluate if an applicant is an expert in a specific domain. 

Step 3: Live interview where Toptal screeners assess candidates’ ability to solve problems, communication skills, and creativity.

Step 4: Applicants must successfully complete a test project within 1-3 weeks. 

Step 5: Freelancers of the Toptal network should keep a track record of excellence while working with customers. 

Who can benefit from Toptal outsourcing

Toptal connects top freelancers with companies worldwide, including prominent Fortune 500 brands and Silicon Valley startups (trusted by Bridgestone, Union Station, Bubble, ConsumerAffairs, etc.).

Toptal covers all the major industries, including:

  • Life Sciences and Healthcare 
  • Technology
  • Financial Services
  • Services and Consumer Products 
  • Industrials
  • Media, Communications, and Entertainment

Here are 9 in-demand services and talents on Toptal: 

  • React.js Developers
  • C++ Developers
  • React Native Developers
  • Android Development Services
  • iOS Development Services
  • AWS Consulting Services
  • Designers
  • Project managers
  • Finance experts

Companies conducting projects with a high return on investment or without a budget cap are most likely to benefit from Toptal talents. If the main focus is getting top-performing contractors, you have found the right website.

Toptal most in-demand talents

What is Upwork? How does it work? 

Upwork is a marketplace for independent freelancers. As a client, you post a project description on the site, and potential candidates bid on your project. Once you hire a freelancer, you agree to a fee. You file these fees in escrow and agree to release them once the freelancer submits the work to your specifications.

This company was born from the merger of two popular freelancer platforms, elance and oDesk, in December 2013. It created the largest freelancer platform in the world, connecting thousands of freelancers with clients. Rather than being limited to developers, it is a market for all kinds of skills.

What is the Upwork bidding process?

Users from all over the world compete to win projects, so you can expect many submissions for your project at a wide range of prizes. Contrary to Toptal, as a client, you are the one who vetted the freelancers. 

The bidding model has its pros and cons. One of the benefits is the ability to find better deals than with Toptal. Working with sellers unable to deliver high-quality work is one significant disadvantage. Many Upwork freelancers are as good as Toptal contractors, but others provide average-quality services. 

You usually decide what you want to pay upfront. When writing your project brief, you should research the going rate for the size and complexity of the project. You decide if you want to pay per project or hour. Sellers who apply for your job will submit proposals accordingly.

Upwork badges

With so many freelancers available for hire, making a good choice is tricky, especially when you have many applicants for most jobs.

The platform has a system of badges to help you find the best talents. Here are the badges from beginner to expert:

  • Rising Talent
  • Top Rated
  • Top Rated Plus
  • Expert-Vetted Talent

You will usually have all kinds of candidates applying when you post jobs, so the most demanding part of outsourcing on Upwork is selecting suitable applicants. 

Who can benefit from Upwork outsourcing

Upwork allows small-medium businesses to find independent contractors to outsource various tasks. It provides a budget-friendly way to hire freelancers, but compared to Toptal, it requires extra work to choose the best applicants. 

However, some big brands have used Upwork to get more work done or scale quickly. For example, Microsoft hired talented video creators on Upwork to scale video production. 

Upwork independent workers offer various services, including:

  • IT and Development 
  • Design and Creative
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Writing and Translation
  • Admin and Customer Support
  • Finance and Accounting
  • HR and Training
  • Legal services
  • Engineering and Architecture

According to an article on the Upwork blog, here are 8 in-demand jobs and skills in 2022 on the platform:

  • Machine learning
  • Automation
  • Data Analytics
  • Virtual reality development
  • Video production
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Product management
  • Social media marketing
Upwork in-demand skills

Any businesses looking to scale while keeping costs in check can benefit from Upwork. It includes most online entrepreneurs (professional bloggers, YouTubers, sellers, course creators, service providers, etc.) and brick-and-mortar companies lacking specific in-house skills.

Pros and cons of using Toptal or Upwork

Whatever platform you choose, one of the most significant advantages is getting access to skilled contractors without the hassle of hiring new employees.

Benefits of Toptal outsourcing

Senior Toptal domain experts perform candidate matching to help you find an expert quickly (usually in under 24 hours). Most talents work remotely, with options to have Toptal experts on-site temporarily.

  • All candidate skills have been tested and verified while passing the screening process. 
  • Get access to the best talent Worldwide. 
  • A trial period is available.
  • Save time and avoid the headache of freelancer vetting. 
  • Suitable for greenfield projects, project recoveries, and product enhancements.
  • Smooth hiring process due to the Toptal candidate matching. 
  • Dedicated delivery manager for each project

Benefits of Upwork outsourcing

Upwork has one of the most diverse pools of talent among freelancing platforms. You can become a free member and find workers at competitive prices. 

  • A cost-effective way to get more done.
  • Get access to freelancers with specific skills without hiring extra employees.
  • Manage unexpected workload and seasonal tasks
  • Large talent pool available 24/7. (location, culture, skillsets, schedule, etc.)
  • Skill training phase and get results fast
  • Avoid the extra charges and training period related to hiring and employee 
  • Flexibility
  • New and fresh perspectives to grow your business

Disadvantages of using Toptal or Upwork

Choosing a good freelancer on Upwork can only be easy if you know precisely how to handle the process. You must spend extra time giving specific requirements and reviewing the delivery to get the best results. 

Toptal is not suitable for businesses on a low budget. You need a $500 initial deposit, and it is hard to know all the applicable fees before finalizing your order. 

Hiring on Upwork or Toptal

Hiring on Upwork is more challenging than finding a Toptaler. While you may have more candidates, it can also be overwhelming and time-consuming. Toptal seems less flexible than Upwork, but their matching process simplifies your job.

How to hire a freelancer on Toptal

Hiring a Toptaler is pretty straightforward since the Toptal team will do most of the hard work on your behalf. You can schedule a call or submit your project to define your business needs. Try to provide the most details possible.

You may be looking for a single freelancer or many talents to complete a cross-functional team. 

Step 1: Choose the type of talent you need

Define specific skills, solutions stack, and talent roles among the following:

  • Developers
  • Designers
  • Project Managers
  • Product Managers
  • Finance Experts

Once you provide all the information, you can submit your job description.

Step 2: Wait a few days to get a perfect match

You will receive a status report within a few days (usually within 24 hours). Toptal team will review your job description and connect with you to better understand your needs and answer your questions. 

Step 3: Team integration

Once you agree on the best candidates, Toptal will introduce you so that your new talents start working as soon as possible.

Step 4: Work with Toptaler at No-Risk

They’ll start the process again at no cost if you’re not entirely satisfied after a trial period working with a Toptal. Payment is due only if the recommended talent is a good fit. 

How to hire a freelancer on Upwork

Hiring a freelancer on Upwork is a multi-step process starting with writing a comprehensive work description. The vetting process requires more involvement than on Toptal. It would be best if you spent some time to ensure that the potential candidates can provide the service you want. 

Click here to Find A Freelancer

Step 1: Write a clear job description

Give as many details as possible in your work description. 

  • problem to solve
  • deadline
  • required skills, experience level, and background
  • recommended location and time zone 
  • add 1-2 screening questions 

And post your project.

Step 2: Find the best freelancer. 

After posting your project, you can find freelancers in three different ways:

  • Upwork recommended candidates
  • Search for potential freelancers using the platform search tools
  • Freelancer will send you proposals based on your work description

Once you find potential matches, start by looking at their profiles. Here are some elements to check:

  • a professional profile picture
  • descriptive and concise title
  • profile description, including specific skills, background, 
  • work history & portfolio
  • reviews

Make sure that the freelancers have understood your work description and are addressing your needs in their proposals. You can interview potential finalists before making a choice. Offering a paid test project or asking for sample works is an excellent way to vetting freelancers. 

Agree on a fixed price or an hourly rate. Paying by milestones is a good practice if you offer a fixed price. Make sure to keep all exchanges on the platform to benefit from the escrow process.

For the hourly rate, agree on the number of hours per period. Ensure the freelancer installs and uses the Upwork Team app to track working hours. Now you can start the project.

Step 3: Communication and project management

Use the built-in collaboration and communication tools to manage the project. Using the message center for any work delivery and written communication is best. You can chat in real-time or use video chat. 

Step 4: review delivery and accept the work.

The funds remain in escrow until the freelancer delivers the services or work according to your requirements. Upwork allows you to deposit funds for fixed-price work into escrow. You can decide to release all the funds at once or pay by milestone.

 It’s essential to review the work thoroughly before approval. If you are still looking for a better outcome, discuss it with the freelancer and ask for revision. Upwork has a dispute assistance process if you can’t get the expected job. 

Step 5: Rate the freelancer

Once the project is complete, please rate your experience working with this freelancer. On Upwork, rating and feedback are essential for freelancers and future clients. 

Final thoughts:

Both platforms are excellent ways to supplement your workforce and get more done without hiring more employees. 

Toptal is the best solution for companies willing to pay to get the best workers possible. If your only concern is getting quality work, you should definitely try Toptal. Entrepreneurs who are looking for the best deals and have some time to spend on vetting freelancers can outsource projects on Upwork

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