Why Toptal is a highly rated freelance marketplace and how to get in?
⚠️ Disclaimer: The information provided is based on our research, and we do not claim that any of the information was approved by third-parties (e.g. Toptal). We encourage all readers to do their own research.
Toptal is a global remote company that provides a freelancing platform that connects businesses with software engineers, designers, and business consultants.
Their website distinctly says they "Hire the Top 3% of Freelance Talent®". And that is one of the reasons why getting into a high-skilled network like Toptal gives a freelancer a massive amount of leverage in the market.
In most of the freelance marketplaces, we can see a race to the bottom wherein folks are forced to reduce their rates in order to compete in the market. It's getting tougher and tougher every day to be a gig employee.
However when you are part of Toptal, you can get gigs based on your skills vis-a-vis your hourly rate.
Also, Toptal reduces some of the heavy lifting involved in working as a freelancer operating out of India. Things like getting paid, dispute management, how to get to high-quality clients are all taken care of by the Toptal network.
Most of the clients are a charm to work with because Toptal has rigorous critera on the demand side as well.
Lastly, The Toptal community is very active and helps you in being a better programmer. Toptal offers benefits to invest in your skill development. For eg, if you want to take a programming course, they will be happy to reimburse the fee.
At the time of writing this post, there are 4 rounds you have to go through before you can be part of the Toptal network.
1️⃣ So the first round is the easiest, which is a simple phone call where they check that you can speak proper English and that you are like a good enough developer. This round is handled by a non-tech person.
2️⃣ The next round is the hardest for most people because it is a competitive programming style round where you have 90 minutes to solve three coding puzzles (1st - easy, 2nd - medium, 3rd - hard). You can choose any language to solve these questions.
Pro tip 1: Sign up for HackerRank (or similar platforms) to get practice and attune your muscle memory to solve exercises within time constraints.
Pro tip 2: Don't cheat. They have an extensive mechanism in place to detect fraudulent activity.
3️⃣ The third round is a live coding session where you get 10-15 minutes to solve a DS/Algo problem. This is also a stressful experience because the interviewer is watching you right from the camera. You're writing code in front of them, so you can't Google too much. And you can't ask for help.
Pro tip 1: Practice mock rounds with your friends to get prior experience of a stressful environment.
Pro tip 2: Take a nap before the interview. So that your mind is totally empty and you go in feeling relaxed.
4️⃣ And the fourth round is about creating a software project. So like making a front end plus back end website using React and ExpressJS and MongoDB (or any other stack that you feel comfortable with). This round is kind of simple if you have been into software development because you just have to make sure that you write clean code, handle all the edge cases, etc.
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It's a mix of push and pull strategy. You will see a feed of all available jobs which you can then apply for, and then the recruiter (Toptal person who pays middleman between the client and you) will reach. When you have built some reputation within Toptal, recruiters might reach out to you directly and ask you to take a look at a specific job.
How long do these jobs last for? Are the engagements of short-term nature or are there jobs where you end up working for more than a year with a specific client.
Frankly, it depends a lot on the company. If a company is very small, then there is a huge chance that they will have a change of priorities. But if you work with an established company, chances are that it will be a long-term engagement.
The great part about Toptal is that you do have a slew of high-quality opportunities waiting in the pipeline. So you can pick yourself up quickly.
Also, the fact that you can command higher rates helps a ton. The advice here is to save a lot of that income and keep an emergency fund for the periods when you don't have a client.
That said, it can be frustrating to get dropped after every two (or three) months. So please do consider the tradeoffs before you jump into freelancing.
Toptal is still the gold standard though because they have the most numbers of jobs available when compared to other platforms.
You can start your application process by creating an account here.
It's ok if you do not pass in the first attempt, as Toptal allows to re-apply after a break of couple months.