When you’ve been freelancing for some time, you may be wondering what comes after mid-level gigs and independent referral jobs. How you can take your skills to the next level and work with world-class companies in enthusiastic teams on the cutting edge of your industry? That’s where Toptal comes in – and invites you to apply to their exclusive platform if you’ve got the right stuff.
What Is Toptal?
Toptal has a pretty straightforward mission: they collect and provide a platform for the top 3% of freelance talent online, and connect that talent with some of the biggest companies in the world – companies like HP, Airbnb, Zendesk, Pfizer, and more. They’re especially popular in the tech company sector, heavily recruiting top developers and designers in addition to finance experts, project managers, product managers, etc.
They're a hot Silicon Valley startup pulling in over $100 million dollars in annual revenue, all based on that value proposition of assuring their corporate clients that they’re working with the best of the best. They consider their distributed workforce to be one of the defining pillars of their corporate culture – their value depends on the strength of their freelancers, so they invest in their remote workers with flexible scheduling and pay apparently commensurate with that offered by local recruiters.
What Kind of Jobs Can You Find with Toptal?
Toptal hires freelancers from a wide variety of industries to join their stable of remote workers ready to go for their clients. You'll find five main industries listed on Toptal's front page: Developers, Designers, Finance Experts, Project Managers, and Product Managers. Consider that just the beginning, however – whether your experience is in customer service, writing and editing, or sales, Toptal has a place for you.
As I mentioned previously, they work extensively with tech companies, which is great for you if you have programming expertise. Some of the recently posted full-time positions on Flexjobs include Back End Engineer, Data Engineer, Front End Developer, and Data Scientist – whether you enjoy coding in Ruby on Rails, working with Python, or developing web experiences, there's rewarding work to be found with Toptal.
If you have no tech-oriented experience, no problem! Toptal also regularly hires talent in many of the most common remote work industries – just look at some of the other job listings they’ve listed on Flexjobs as of this writing: Sales Consultant, Editor, Talent Sourcer, Communications Specialist, and Client Partner. If you have that administrative experience common to many virtual assistants, there’s work for you at Toptal – especially if you are skilled in communication, being a point of contact for clients, and have some management experience. Not to mention the opportunities available to you self-starters with incredible research and analytical skills who can work with executives (this goes out to you editors and writers).
Don’t limit yourself to Toptal’s freelancing platform, either – their Careers page offers many of these opportunities listed above.
What Does Toptal Pay?
There is no official word from Toptal on how much they pay their freelancers, so I can't give you exact information on that front. However, doing a little research through judicious Googling and checking Glassdoor suggests that Toptal's wages seem to average out around $30 per hour. This varies depending on your freelance position with them – you may be paid more or less depending on whether you’re a coder or a salesperson or an editor. The general buzz around their pay rates seems positive, though – that’s what you get for being the best of the best.
Requirements for Working with Toptal
The requirements for working with Toptal all depend on the position you’re applying for – but they’re all common sense requirements that you can predict based on the position. If you’re a coder, you need to have experience coding, perhaps certification or training, and the ability to demonstrate your skills. If you’re a product manager, you’ll be expected to have product management experience and demonstrable evidence of your skills. As an expert in your given industry, you no doubt have what you need to qualify.
You’ll also need access to all the tools required for a remote position of any type. You should have access to a private computer or laptop (whether PC or Mac) along with high-speed Internet access. You may need access to a variety of software applications from coding platforms to word processors to shared workspaces like Google Drive or Slack. You’ll also want to have a comfortable and quiet space to work in while freelancing with them.
How to Apply for Toptal
From the front page, hit the green Apply As A Freelancer button. You’ll be taken to a form where you can select what kind of freelancer you are from their five main industries (Developers, Designers, Finance Experts, Project Managers, and Product Managers). You'll also provide your name, email address, and register with Toptal to proceed.
When you submit your form, you must agree to the following: “I acknowledge that the Toptal screening process is confidential and that I will not publicly disclose details about this process.” This may be why application details are scarce apart from those who’ve successfully been hired by Toptal.
From reading accounts of other folks who have applied with Toptal, I can briefly outline the rest of the process for you: if you make it through their screening process, you’ll be invited to a short, preliminary Skype chat. This call is to assess your fit with the company as well as your English-speaking skills. If you progress past this point, you may be tested on the skills you state you have – so, if you’re a coder, you may be asked to complete a timed coding exercise. There may be another demonstration of skills required after that, this time with live participation from a Toptal recruiter. Make it through and you could become part of the top 3% of freelancers.
If you’re looking for a career with Toptal rather than as a freelancer with them, check out their Careers page as I mentioned above – the jobs listed there usually have an application form embedded right into the listing.
What People Are Saying About Toptal
With 150 reviews on Glassdoor, Toptal is rocking a pretty solid 4.3 stars, with over 85% of reviewers saying they'd recommend working with Toptal to a friend.
Most of the positive reviews highlight the same aspects of working with them: first, you truly are working with top talent when you become a freelancer with Toptal. Several people mention feeling inspired every day to do their best work and level up their skills thanks to the other enthusiastic professionals from around the globe on their teams. You’ll also find Toptal praised for standing behind their values and generally treating their workers with respect. And, of course, people love the fact that it’s remote work so you can work from anywhere you wish.
The negatives tend to share some similar stories as well – you’ll find several people saying Toptal has poor work-life balance and expects you to be standing by and available for work at any time. It also seems like Toptal’s invitation to provide honest feedback to management during team calls may not be something they actually want their remote workers to do, with several people mentioning poor reception and perceived retaliation when they have done so. You’ll also find some people mention difficulty and loneliness in the transition to working from home – but all of you seasoned freelancers have that one in the bag!
What do you think? Will you apply with Toptal? It sounds like an exciting opportunity if you’ve got the skills they’re looking for, and it’s a serious plus to be able to introduce yourself as part of the “top 3%” of freelancers. Give it a go and apply – then come back and tell us how it goes!