Toptal Review: Alternatives and Competitors for 2018

Looking for a Toptal review? Updated 2018 rating for Toptal: alternatives, competitors, and pricing directly from our experts.

What is Toptal and Why are You Here?

You may be a startup co-founder, a CTO of a growing company, or a product development manager in a large organization. Either way, you have the exact same problem finding and managing reliable software and app developers, frontend or backend engineers.

If you are reading this article, it means you were searching for Toptal (freelance platform) alternatives. This might be because you have already used their service and found yourself disappointed. Or you’re simply shopping around to see what market has to offer. Hense, you’re looking to make an educated decision about hiring the most reliable developers out there to build or support your online product, meaning you will actually be able to give your customers the product you promised.

And that’s the right approach. At the end of the day, you’re looking to invest thousands (maybe millions) of dollars, and weeks, months, or even years of your time in your product on the project. That amount of time and money poses a significant risk should the project fail, therefore it requires proper research.

To make it easier for you, here is a clickable content of the article:

What Toptal Has To Offer

To deliver real value while you're reading, let’s go over the different developer requirements for the specific product development needs you may have. Once this is outlined, it’ll be easy to see where Toptal fits best in terms of the service their website offers.

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    If you have a simple project, aka a handful of landing pages, then you’ll probably need a part-time engineer, namely an individual who is focused primarily on small projects and has build similar solutions before. You can purchase a landing page template and he/she will implement it for you, connect it to the email forms and your domain name, set up the server, etc.

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    If you’re building something more complex, let’s say a simple corporate WordPress based website, then you may need a professional WordPress developer. He/she would probably adjust one of the paid design/theme templates, write the backend, set up the server and complete all other necessary steps in order to launch and support your website.

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    However, if you’re launching a more serious website, you may need to hire a complete dev team, or a dev shop/agency, or individual specialists and manage them by yourself. They will be able to build a custom website, let’s say a marketplace, for example, using NodeJS for the backend and AngularJS for the frontend. They will use WordPress to set up your company blog for your SEO marketing efforts and link it to the website. With this type of project, your development team will need to have a professional designer, frontend and backend developers, and a devops specialist. If you have never managed a project before, it may be tough and risky to build the whole team yourself. In this case, it would be easier for you to hire a complete dev team.

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    The next level of complexity is developing a mobile application. For this, you will need to hire a complete mobile development team, mobile experienced designer, and web developers for your backend infrastructure and the server environment. Your project could even have both mobile apps (for iOS and Android) and a website. This will increase the complexity of the team you need even further.

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    Finally, you may have a complex Java or .NET based software solution for your enterprise level SaaS product with multiple microservices and complex API integrations. It may also involve some data engineering, artificial intelligence integration, or a blockchain based solution. At this stage, you will need top-level experts working as a team, with relevant expertise and an experience in cyber-security, high-availability systems and different server architectures etc.

Obviously, you may have a project which fits somewhere in between the examples above. However, these are pretty much the most likely examples of the types of projects that you may need help with.

On their website, Toptal states that they are an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, and finance experts in the world. They go on to say that top companies rely on Toptal freelancers for their most important projects. The claim to provide the highest quality of freelance talent for any company size and any tech stack or environment. To this end, they make sure all of their elite freelancers speak, read, and write English clearly and fluently.

Now you can see what type of project you have and what exactly the Toptal offers, we can discuss their pros and cons. As a result, you will now understand if they fit your product requirements and understand when to use them.

Later, to help you further, I will outline a table with Toptal alternatives, so you can make an educated decision and pick the most suitable software development service for your project.

The Pros and Cons of Toptal

As you can imagine, many people have been attracted to Toptal because of their claim to only hire the top 3% of freelance talent. This statement implies that only the cream of the crop work for them.

However, as you may already know, few companies ever consider the fact that good developers are only a small part of a project’s success. A successful project hinges on a well-defined product development process and practices. This often includes tech-savvy project managers and account managers. Without these core components, project delays and problems are inevitable.

As for the Toptal, in short, their main added value is that they already have done the job of vetting experienced freelancers. On the other hand, it’s up to you to manage the developers.

Let’s get into more details. Let’s start by looking at the potential advantages of using Toptal:

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    Toptal allows companies quick access to a pre-qualified database of freelancers (freelance developers, designers, and financial specialists). This may save you a significant amount of time when help to hiring developers for small projects.

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    Cost of hiring individual freelancers can be lower than working with agencies. While hiring freelancers might be more costly on a per hour basis compared to a full-time employee, when considered on a project by project basis freelancers save companies considerable amounts of money.

While Toptal’s business model is ideal for companies that need to quickly bring in some extra developers to their team, their approach may not be ideal for companies that need a more structured approach. Let’s take a closer look at some of the potential drawbacks to using Toptal:

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    Talking to our new clients and reading reviews in professional communities, we found frequent claims relating to poor management and low morale, which if true, obviously are a huge concern for businesses and entrepreneurs. Also, you have to hire and manage developers yourself, which means there is no project management support and no client-facing tools for project management either.
    As you can imagine, you not only need regular updates regarding your project’s progression, but you also need confidence that the development management team and developers are keeping the project on track from their end. Companies who wish to have detailed updates to maintain oversight of their projects might find themselves frustrated.

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    Toptal offers different types of freelance talent - developers, designers, and financial specialists. That being said, they are not specifically focused on developers, instead, they offer a broad variety of different freelancers. In the majority of cases, especially in the software development world, it’s better to work with field-experts who are focused on one type of service.

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    Even top freelancers are still freelancers. You should keep this in mind. Freelancers are individuals who have decided to leave long-term careers and stable jobs for a life of freedom, self-management, and ability to work when and how they want. This all may drastically impact your product chances for success. In addition to that, they mostly work from homes, without a proper cyber-security environment. And if they go down with cold - there is no project manager to notify you. On top of all of that, most freelancers work on multiple projects simultaneously, sometimes fitting too many projects in their schedule, simply because they will earn more.

Now, let’s talk about when it’s appropriate to use Toptal.

When to use Toptal

Companies frequently look to undertake projects such as in-house software development to streamline internal processes or to expand/diversify their business models. Adaptation is at the very core of today’s global business environment, so in order to stay ahead of the competition, companies need to be able to change fast.

The task of creating a simple eCommerce website can involve scores of developers should the site require multiple features and a complex UI design. Since companies only employ full-time staff to handle day to day operations, they are unable to undertake such projects without hiring new staff.

Freelance outsource platforms such as Toptal allow companies to employ skilled specialists on a temporary basis to undertake the projects that they don’t have the manpower to do otherwise.

Freelance outsource platforms such as Toptal allow companies to employ skilled specialists on a temporary basis to undertake the projects that they don’t have the manpower to do otherwise.

Generally speaking, companies will turn to Toptal at some point during the latter part of the project planning phase on a consulting basis. This way they are able to put together their team of programmers/designers/finance experts so that it is ready for when the project starts.
Once a project is complete, they will sign off on the project and the contract is effectively terminated unless the company decides to continue for any reason.

Because Toptal has freelancers all over the world, pricing can vary across several factors. Based on the businesses’ feedback, Toptal sales managers would usually work with you to find the right price point for your project. Typically, engagement pricing falls into the following ranges:

According to Toptal’s website, pricing is as follows:

Developer:

  • Hourly: $60-$95+/hour
  • Part-time: $1,000-$1,600+/week
  • Full-time: $2,000-$3,200+/week

Finishing this part of the article, I should say that you will need to make sure you have enough skills in project and team management to work with developers from Toptal. After all, you will end up hiring several individuals who may never have worked together before. In addition to that, make sure to have a plan B. That’s where we come to the Toptal alternatives.

Toptal Alternatives: Comparison Chart

Parameters Toptal
Community Freelance developers, designers, financial specialists
Main Focus Development, design, finance
Dedicated Account Manager No
Data Driven Agile Process No
Daily project updates By request
Weekly project updates No
Parameters Upwork
Community All sort of freelancers
Main Focus --
Dedicated Account Manager No
Data Driven Agile Process No
Daily project updates By request
Weekly project updates No
Parameters CodementorX
Community Freelance developers
Main Focus Software consulting
Dedicated Account Manager No
Data Driven Agile Process No
Daily project updates By request
Weekly project updates No
Parameters Gigster
Community Freelance developers
Main Focus Development
Dedicated Account Manager Yes
Data Driven Agile Process No
Daily project updates By request
Weekly project updates Yes
Parameters DevTeam.Space
Community Field-expert development teams
Main Focus Development and support of complex software products
Dedicated Account Manager Yes
Data Driven Agile Process Yes
Daily project updates Automated bitesize updates with roadblock tracking
Weekly project updates Data-driven project performance reports

Thankfully, in today’s world, we never lack choice. There are numerous competitors out there that are competing with Toptal at the top of the software development industry.
In order to show you the best alternatives to Toptal, it is a good idea to compare them to their closest competitors. Let’s start with Upwork.

Toptal vs Upwork

Upwork is one of the world’s largest and oldest freelance platforms. Previously known as oDesk, the site underwent a massive revamp after it merged with Elance a few years ago. The platform is now the go-to freelancer website as it operates as a marketplace for freelancers of all skills and professions.

The Upwork model is a standoff approach, which means that developers are connected to clients, after which clients are entirely responsible for the vetting, hiring and management processes.

Like Toptal, Upwork hosts both an hourly and per-project payment options.

Unlike Toptal, however, they allow freelancers with entry-level experience to become part of their active community, which for companies increases the change to snap up great developers for less money but also increases the chance of problems relating to inexperienced developers and even fraud.

Freelancers tend to avoid using Upwork as their main source of work due to the platform’s exorbitant 20% fee on work completed. Toptal doesn’t deduct fees from freelancer but rather charge a higher rate, from which they pay their freelancers a set rate.

Arguably, Upwork gained its popularity because it was among the first to offer companies the chance to hire remote workers. However, this doesn’t guarantee the quality of their freelancers, nor does the platform offer much in the way of management help or tools either. Both of these factors will be a deep concern to client companies.

Toptal vs CodementorX

CodementorX’s business model is very similar to Toptal in many ways. They offer the chance for companies to access vetted freelancers through their platform. CodementorX promises to match companies with relevant developers within 72 hours and charge companies on an hourly or weekly rate.

Their approach follows the stand-off model to the extent that CodementorX offers no managerial oversight or tools to client companies other than a daily checkup with developers by their director of technology. If your project required several frontend reviews, they will assign a non-technical in-house team to try to help.

One key area where CodementorX has an advantage over Toptal is that they offer a code vetting service. Naturally, for an additional fee, CodementorX will review your code with a set of freelancers who promise to identify bad code or bugs.

In addition to this, CodementorX will pair company developers with expert mentors and training coaches. The aim of this service is to school client-side developers on how to write better code to improve the products they create.

While companies will benefit from CodementorX’s singular focus on software development, once again the platform falls short by offering little in the way of day to day project management. Companies who think they may benefit from CodementorX’s code reviews may prefer this to Toptal, however, for those who require the safety of agile project management, CodementorX falls short.

Toptal vs Gigster

Gigster has one unique selling point when compared to the freelance development platforms like Toptal. While the platform matches clients with developers in the same way, it differs in that Gigster assigns a project manager to oversee project development. The client only communicates with the project manager throughout the process, which doesn’t add transparency. Toptal does not offer this service.

Given this added level of responsibility, the cost of using Gigster to develop a project is higher than using Toptal. Gigster offers a price estimation service that can be found on its website. Companies need to beware that this is an automated service, so the actual price can vary quite significantly.

For complex projects or for those companies without the required development experience, Gigster could be a better choice than Toptal. However, Gigster still lacks a well-refined agile development process that streamlines the development process and keeps the client informed on a daily basis as to how things are really progressing.

Toptal vs DevTeam.Space

DevTeam.Space is a data-driven agile software development platform. We deliver higher quality than a freelance platform or agency, yet at scale. Unlike Toptal, DevTeam.Space is exclusively centered on software development, allowing to focus on coding the most kickass products on the planet.

At DevTeam.Space, you’re matched with the most relevant field-expert development teams. The project management process is agile and data-driven. As a part of the process, you’re guided with a tech account manager and a tech project manager at no additional cost. During the project development process, you receive daily bite-size updates and weekly performance reports.

Learn more about the DevTeam.Space process here.

This gives DevTeam.Space an enormous advantage over Toptal, which just connects developers to clients and lets them manage interactions, as DevTeam.Space experienced managers are able to take charge and use well defined data-driven agile development processes to ensure your project runs smoothly.

The DevTeam.Space service is most helpful for businesses with complex long-term projects. Usually, these projects require building both mobile and web apps, serious architecture and security expertise, and other experts being connected to the project on a per-request basis. These type of projects, depending on a client’s business stage, can easily be scaled from a team of 3 people to 100x of engineers.

Trying to undertake such projects using unmanaged freelancers from Toptal would be a stressful and time-consuming effort even for an experienced project manager.

Such projects require a data-driven approach by design in order to keep up with the quality, speed, roadblocks tracking, and financial part of the product development. It’s equally important for a growing Internet startup or an established business.

And that’s where the DevTeam.Space data-driven agile process, top-rated developers, and account managers’ guidance deliver on the promise and can help you build and scale multi-million dollar online products.

By offering this complete package, the DevTeam.Space takes away all the stress and time-consuming effort that goes with a complex product development. So you can focus on marketing and business growth.

To see if DevTeam.Space can help you simply post your project.