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Toptal vs Upwork: Which Platform Should I Choose to Hire a Tech Team?

Toptal vs Upwork: Which Platform Should I Choose to Hire a Tech Team?

Nine-to-five-day-a-week used to be a standard way to structure collaboration. However, it looks like a growing number of business owners prefer more flexible team management strategies – such as freelance.

The popularity of freelancing is growing at a steady pace. According to statistics, 57 million American freelancers contribute more than $1 trillion to the economy. 

A business owner should consider tapping into a large talent pool of freelance workforce. In this post, we will compare two common platforms for sourcing skilled contractors – Upwork and Toptal. Find out which platform you should choose to complete a project. 


Upwork: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It’s enough to as much as mention Upwork in the freelancing community to realize how polarizing the platform is. Some creators rely on it faithfully and are happy with the infrastructure the platform provides. 

Other freelancers don’t have a single kind word to say about the website, criticizing its support, high processing fees, and low project rates in their Upwork reviews. 

All in all, the following are the most impactful benefits and drawbacks of Upwork. 


  • Large user base – Upwork offers business owners instant access to a multi-million global workforce. On the platform, it’s virtually impossible to not find a professional whose skill set matches project requirements. 
  • Relatively thorough screening. Although Upwork is not the most selective freelancing platform, professionals still have to prove their skill set to access projects. The contractors featured on the platform have detailed profiles, with a close-up photo, a bio, and a range of portfolio samples. Thus, business owners will not feel clueless when shortlisting project candidates. 
  • Reliable payment infrastructure. Upwork has a secure and flexible system that helps project publishers ensure they pay only for the amount of completed work and avoid hidden fees. Other than that, there’s a payment exemption feature allowing project managers to contact Upwork customer service and reclaim their money if a contractor was paid for low-quality or copied work. 
  • Detailed dashboard that gives business owners a big-picture view of all ongoing and completed projects, as well as respective deadlines. 


  • High Upwork fees for freelancers. Recently, the company raised its commission per project to 20%. As a result, a lot of high-skilled professionals were discouraged to keep using the platform. Thus, business owners might have a harder time finding top-tier talent on Upwork. 
  • Miscommunication is the new normal. As mentioned above, Upwork has a large community of international talent. While having access to an affordable workforce is convenient, discussing project requirements and brainstorming ideas with a freelancer who isn’t fluent in English adds to the pile of a manager’s stress. 
  • Project managers need to pay for a subscription to Upwork Plus, Business, or Enterprise to unlock some of the platform’s best features – secure payment, email-based Upwork support, and many more. 


Platform For Top 3% of Freelancers: Toptal

Toptal is known as a website with a strict selection system – out of over 100,000 yearly applicants, only about 3% make the cut. Such rigorous vetting protects clients from fraud and ensures access to the creme-de-la-creme of the freelance community. 

Pros and Cons of Choosing Toptal

At this point, you might be wondering if Toptal is the right fit for your next tech project. Getting to know the strong suits and weak spots of the platform in the Toptal review: 


  • Tech-focused platform – if you are looking for software developers, project managers, or other IT specialists, Toptal is the right place to find skilled talent for tech openings. The platform specializes in sourcing development, design, and testing the workforce. 
  • Rigorous screening process gives business owners confidence in the technical and communication skills of a tech professional. Before joining the platform, Toptal careers applicants have to pass a 5-step selection that involves the assessment of both technical and communication skills, as well as tests a candidate’s commitment. 
  • Reliable talent matching. Toptal uses a robust set of criteria to handpick candidates that will fit your job opening to a tee. Thus, business owners don’t have to spend a lot of time shortlisting and interviewing tech professionals. 
  • Risk-free trial. A business owner can start a no-commitment collaboration with a tech professional and, in case things didn’t go well, let the professional go without having to pay for his working hours. 


  • High average rates. Due to a rigorous selection process, the website attracts top-tier developers who have above-average Toptal salary expectations. The rates of developers on the platform start at $45/hr. 
  • Smaller talent pool compared to more liberal freelancing sites. Toptal’s strict selection puts a huge entry barrier in front of tech professionals. Since even proficient developers often don’t want to go through the trouble of completing a multiple-step vetting process, business owners might be missing out on skilled talent. 
  • Initial deposit for using Toptal. To publish a job opening, a business owner needs to pay a one-time $300 fee. For startup or SME owners, it’s often a discouraging prerequisite. 


Toptal vs Upwork Comparison

After exploring the pros and cons of both platforms and getting a better understanding of how these websites work, you are finally ready to break a tie between Upwork and Toptal. 

To make an informed decision, take a look at this side-by-side Toptal vs Upwork comparison.

Type of freelance marketplaceGeneral freelance marketplaceTech freelance marketplace
Most popular types of talentSoftware development






data science. 

Average hourly rateWide range, depending on the skillset and location of a candidate$60-200/hr
Talent vettingA screening testA 5-stage assessment process with rigorous Toptal interview questions
Candidate matchingNo specific algorithms24-hour matching
Trial periodNoUp to 2 weeks of free trial
Payment methodsBank deposits

Bank wires


Credit card deposit or a wire
Project pricing typeHourly rate

Project-based payment

Hourly rate
Billing scheduleSends invoices twice a monthSends weekly invoices

Toptal Vs Upwork: Where Should You Hire Freelancers?

Toptal and Upwork have drastically different operating modes – that’s why it’s not easy to figure out which platform is a better fit for your needs. 

Our team worked with a lot of tech teams – in our experience, there are cases when Upwork is the right option and companies for which Toptal is a better fit. 

You should choose Toptal if:

  • You don’t have budget constraints.
  • Hiring top-notch talent is the company’s main priority. 
  • A team leader doesn’t have enough time to interview candidates. 

You should choose Upwork if: 

  • You want to have a wide pool of options. 
  • The project is on a limited budget. 
  • You have enough time to interview developers. 


Reliable Way to Find Skilled Developers: Hire Talent Abroad

Freelance websites might seem like a great idea – it takes little commitment, and there’s a lot of affordable talent. However, working with independent contractors has a ton of limitations – they will not be passionate about the project and are not reliable overall. 

That’s why, if you want to build a project that will run for years, it’s better to gather a remote team that will be joining you for the long run. While hiring local talent is expensive, that is much less the case for opening an office abroad

Here are the benefits of starting an in-house team overseas:

  • Opportunities for expanding services into new markets. Tapping into new regions opens a lot of growth trajectories for business owners – from promoting existing products among locals to building new projects that meet the needs of the market. 
  • Cost reduction. Hiring a tech team abroad helps cut both salary, office maintenance, and tax costs. To see the difference in software engineer salaries all over the world, check our breakdown of engineer salaries worldwide
  • Access to skilled talent. The shortage of available tech professionals will not be a problem if you hire software engineers in markets where the demand for tech talent isn’t as booming as is the case for the US and Eastern Europe.
  • Improved brand reputation. Running an HQ abroad turns an SME into a “global company”. Thus, it allows managers to improve brand image and increase investor-friendliness. 



Both Toptal and Upwork have the infrastructure necessary to help business owners connect with affordable tech talent. When it comes to the size and affordability of the workforce, Upwork has the upper hand. As for the reliability of tech talent, TopTal is definitely a cut above the rest. Thus, business owners should choose an appropriate freelancing platform based on the needs of their projects. 

Another way to find affordable and skilled talent for a tech project is by opening headquarters abroad. Regions like Ukraine, Mexico, or Argentina are known for their skilled IT workforce. The salaries of these professionals are much lower than those of their American counterparts – see it for yourself by running our salary calculator

To hire and manage talent abroad, you need continuous legal and hiring assistance. That’s where Bridge professionals usually step in offering business owners guidance and a streamlined platform for talent management. Find out how we help business owners open tech offices abroad, take a look at the markets we work in, or leave us a message to move forward with hiring tech talent!

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