Finding Your Perfect Freelancer: A Closer Look at Toptal and Upwork

in Productivity

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Choosing the right talent marketplace for hiring freelancers in 2024 can feel like a Herculean task, especially when you’re comparing giants like Toptal and Upwork. Each platform has its unique advantages and drawbacks, and it’s crucial to understand these nuances to make the right choice for your business. So, which one is the best? Toptal vs Upwork? Let’s dive straight into the comparison.

Pricing-Per day
-Per hour
-Per project
-Fixed fee
-Per day
-Per hour
-Fixed fee
Fees$500 deposit requiredNo fee is required for general use; $50 monthly fee for the Business package
Candidate selectionFull skills review & rigorous vetting process for all freelancersNo mandatory vetting process (optional skills test available)
SupportHelp to find a freelancer from a Toptal team member; account manager for larger companies; email and chat support for smaller companiesEmail support if problems arise; otherwise, you’re on your own.
Notable clientsDuolingo, Bridgestone, USC, Shopify, KraftHeinzMicrosoft, Airbnb, GoDaddy, Bissel, Nasdaq
Best for?Large and medium-sized companies can pay for the best, most qualified freelancers.Smaller companies want to vet their own freelancers and get the job done quickly.

Key Takeaways:

Toptal and Upwork are two popular freelance marketplaces, each with their unique pros and cons. Toptal provides an exclusive pool of highly vetted professionals, ensures protection against scams, and offers excellent client support, but can be more expensive and time-consuming to find a match. It’s best suited for large-scale, specialized projects.

On the other hand, Upwork provides quick access to a vast number of freelancers with varying skill sets. It offers features like bidding to get the lowest price possible and a ten-day complaint period for problem resolution. However, its large freelancer pool can also mean encountering underqualified or low-quality freelancers, and their customer support may not be as effective.

While choosing between the two, businesses should consider their project size, budget, and the level of expertise required. Toptal might be more suitable for larger, specialized projects with a higher budget, while Upwork could serve smaller, budget-constrained projects well.

With the exponential increase in the number of people working from home and the rise of the online side hustle industry, there’s never been a better time to find talented, high-quality freelancers online.

Toptal and Upwork are two of the many freelancer marketplaces that have sprung up in recent years to take advantage of this growing industry and make it easier for clients to connect with freelancers.

And although both of these platforms serve the same function, they are different in many ways. So, which is the best option for your company?

In this article, I’ll do an in-depth dive into what Toptal and Upwork have to offer and help you decide which one is the best fit for your needs.

Summary: Which is better for companies, Toptal vs Upwork?

  • Toptal is the better option overall for large and mid-sized companies looking for highly-qualified freelancers.
  • Upwork is a better fit for smaller companies looking to find freelancers quickly and cheaply.

How Does Toptal Work?


Toptal (short for “top talent”) is a freelancer marketplace that boasts of working with “only the top 3%” of freelancers.

Although Toptal features freelancers representing a wide variety of services, backgrounds, and skills, some of the most common are graphic designers, web developers, UX/UI experts, project managers, and finance experts.

If you’re a company or an individual looking to hire a freelancer on Toptal, you’ll first need to develop a project or job description that clearly expresses your goals and expectations for the project.

Once you’ve done this, a Toptal team member will vet your application. That’s right – just like their freelancers, their clients also need to meet their standards before being allowed to use the platform.

Finally, once your job or project proposal has been accepted, you can either review freelancer profiles yourself and reach out to them personally or work with a Toptal recruiter to find the best freelancer for your specific needs.

Because of Toptal’s rigorous vetting and review process, it can take up to three weeks to be assigned (or find) a freelancer and make a deal. 

This is a clear downside if you’re hiring in a rush, but the relatively slow pace of their matching process is deliberately designed to ensure the best results for both your company and their freelancers.

If you want to learn more, check out my full Toptal review.

How Does Upwork Work?


Like Toptal, Upwork is an online platform connecting freelancers with people and companies who need their skills.

To use Upwork, you first have to make a profile on the platform. This is free, and you can sign up as either a client, a freelancer, or both.

Once you’ve made your client profile, you can browse freelancers by category. Some popular categories include Development & IT, Design & Creative, Sales & Marketing, and Writing & Translation.

When you find a freelancer who you think might fit your company’s needs, you can reach out to them directly. Or, alternatively, you can post your job description in Upwork’s Talent Marketplace and let the talent come to you.

If you don’t know where to start, you can also opt to work with one of Upwork’s Talent Scout recruiters and let them help you find the right freelance partner for your project.

For large companies looking to hire multiple freelancers in lieu of normal staffing, Upwork also offers a slightly different platform, Upwork Enterprise.

However, this option is unnecessary for most smaller companies and/or companies looking to hire a single individual for a particular job or project.

Key Features Breakdown

As you can see, Toptal and Upwork are similar in many ways. However, there are many key distinctions between these two freelancer marketplaces that may make a crucial difference when you’re trying to choose which one is right for you.

As such, let’s take an in-depth look at several important aspects of these platforms and see how they compare to each other.

Freelancer Talent Comparison

toptal vs upwork freelancer comparison

For anyone looking to hire a freelancer, the quality of the work they will produce is one of the most important concerns. So, how do Toptal and Upwork stack up when it comes to talent?

Let’s take a look at Toptal first. To sell your labor on Toptal, you first have to pass a rigorous skills review process that can take up to five weeks.

This process includes several steps where different factors are evaluated, including language ability and personality screening, a comprehensive skill review, a live interview, a test project, and more.

In other words, Toptal ensures that all of its freelancers are actually as good as they claim to be. This level of careful vetting is unique to Toptal and not something Upwork offers.

With Upwork, signing up as a freelancer is free and relatively instant. You simply sign up, make an account, and you’re ready to go – no vetting required. 

That’s not to say that there aren’t tons of talented, qualified individuals offering their services on Upwork.

In fact, Upwork’s relatively easier sign-up and application process means that there are more freelancers on Upwork at any given time, resulting in a larger pool of talent for you to choose from.

Upwork does offer optional skills testing for freelancers, who can then add the results of these tests to their profiles to boost their chances of finding clients.

All in all, since Upwork doesn’t do the vetting for you (unless you’re using Upwork Enterprise), it’s up to you (the client) to screen potential freelancers yourself and determine whether they’re qualified and fit for your project.

Freelance Marketplace/Platform Comparison

Both Toptal and Upwork come with fairly intuitive, user-friendly platforms that make it simple and straightforward to find a freelancer.

When you create an account with Toptal, you’ll be able to manage all of your ongoing projects through a sleek, polished-looking dashboard. Toptal uses a sophisticated algorithm plus its team of experts to match you with the right freelancers.

The platform’s marketplace layout is organized and straightforward, and thanks to Toptal’s top-notch customer support and simple design, it’s easy to find the right talent to fit your needs.

Upwork also comes with a fairly straightforward, user-friendly dashboard for managing your projects and requests.

Navigating the site is generally quite easy, but due to the sheer number of freelancers, it can be overwhelming at first to sort through and manage work requests.

All in all, when it comes to marketplace design and user experience, Toptal and Upwork are more or less comparable, although Toptal’s hands-on approach to customer support does take a lot of the work off your plate.

Costs & Rates Comparison

how to hire freelancers

One of the most noticeable differences between Upwork and Toptal is their price tags.

Let’s take a look at Toptal first. Toptal requires a $500 deposit, no matter what the ultimate cost of your project will be. This deposit will be refunded if you don’t end up working with any of their freelancers, so it’s relatively risk-free.

Toptal allows clients to negotiate deals for paying an hourly rate, a daily rate, a fixed fee, or a project-based fee.

The hourly fees that freelancers on Toptal charge are relatively higher than on Upwork, with Toptal freelancers charging anywhere from $40 – $120 dollars an hour on average.

Once you decide on a freelancer to work with, you’ll receive a single price quote that includes Toptal’s service charge (they don’t take a commission from their freelancers, so this cost comes out of the client’s side).

All in all, you should absolutely expect to pay more with Toptal than with Upwork.

Upwork is an all-around cheaper option, with some freelancers offering hourly rates as low as $10. Upwork takes its commission fee from the freelancer’s side, not the client’s, so there shouldn’t be any unexpected charges.

upwork hiring talent

Clients and freelancers can agree to an hourly rate, a fixed fee, or to pay by project.

Upwork also offers a more suitable option for larger businesses, Upwork Enterprise, which comes with an account manager, talent sourcing services, a Work Diary to track billable hours, and the option to use Upwork Payroll. 

Unsurprisingly, Upwork Enterprise is not free. To sign up, you’ll need to contact the company and get a custom price quote.

When it comes time to pay, Upwork is committed to protecting both the client and the freelancer. Once you’ve paid the agreed-upon amount, your money goes into a frozen account that the freelancer can see but not immediately access. 

If you’re unhappy with the quality of the work or feel that it in some way breaches the terms of your agreement, you have ten days to file a complaint with Upwork’s customer support team and have your concerns addressed before your money disappears.

Support Comparison

upwork help and support

Like most freelance marketplace platforms, both Upwork and Toptal offer customer support. However, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends: when it comes to customer service, Toptal undoubtedly has the upper hand.

Toptal offers a hands-on approach from the very beginning, helping you find the right freelancer for your project and ensuring a good match. If you have any questions or concerns along the way, customer support is available via email and live chat.

Upwork offers email and live chat support, and its website has a helpful forum with troubleshooting advice and answers to many commonly-asked questions. Enterprise clients have phone support, but this option is not available to regular clients.

Many clients have complained that Upwork’s customer service is slow and often unresponsive, and although the company seems to have made an effort towards improvement in this area, it’s still safe to say that Toptal is the better option when it comes to customer support.

Key Differences Between Upwork and Toptal

So what are the most crucial differences between Upwork and Toptal? It comes down to two factors: vetting and cost.

Upwork takes a more hands-off approach, meaning that you (the client) will have to do all the vetting and hiring. 

Toptal, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: the platform takes a completely hands-on approach, doing all the vetting, interviewing, and hiring for you. Toptal boasts several distinctive features that differentiate it from Upwork, ensuring exceptional work quality and client satisfaction.

Toptal hiring

One notable feature is Toptal’s talent badges, which highlight freelancers’ expertise and accomplishments, providing clients with valuable insights into their capabilities.

Additionally, Toptal’s rigorous vetting process and comprehensive screening, including technical assessments and interviews, guarantee a high standard of work quality. Furthermore, Toptal offers a personality test for freelancers, enabling clients to assess not only technical competence but also a cultural fit for their projects.

It is worth mentioning that Toptal’s co-founder, Breanden Beneschott, brings his expertise and vision to the platform, further reinforcing its commitment to excellence.

For this reason, there’s a pretty remarkable difference in cost.

While Upwork offers a broader pool of freelancers, Toptal’s focus on top-tier talent, talent badges, rigorous screening, and the vision of its co-founder collectively contribute to its reputation for delivering exceptional work quality and service.

Finding Upwork freelancers is understandably cheaper, but it’s more hit-and-miss. Toptal takes pretty much all risk out of the equation, but ease and peace of mind come with a much higher price tag.

Toptal Pros and Cons

toptal pros cons


  • All freelancers on the platform are carefully vetted and screened, resulting in an exclusive pool of highly ranked professionals.
  • The client dashboard is relatively user-friendly and makes finding and hiring talent easy.
  • A Toptal team member will help you find the right freelancer and act as a liaison.
  • Thanks to Toptal’s careful scrutiny, both clients and freelancers are protected from scammers.
  • An excellent option for companies or individuals who need a large-scale, highly specialized project completed by a qualified professional.
  • Toptal clients include leading brands such as; Priceline, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard, KraftHeinz, Udemy, Gucci, and many more.


  • It can take a fair amount of time (up to three weeks) to get matched with a freelancer.
  • You get what you pay for, and Toptal is undeniably far more expensive than Upwork.
  • Not the best fit for small projects (or small companies working on a tight budget.)

Upwork Pros and Cons

upwork pros cons


  • As one of the most popular freelance marketplaces, Upwork boasts a genuinely huge number of active freelancer accounts on its platform (around 12 million).
  • It’s fast and easy to sign up and find a freelancer.
  • Skills can be searched for either broadly or narrowly.
  • Upwork’s bidding feature helps you get the lowest price possible.
  • If there’s a problem, you have ten days to file a complaint with Upwork before the client receives your money.


  • Upwork’s huge number of active freelancers can be a pro, but it can also be a con. This is because Upwork doesn’t carefully vet its freelancers, meaning you’ll have to wade through a fair number of inexperienced, underqualified, or just plain poor-quality freelancers.
  • Due (again) to their lax vetting process, the platform has dealt with scams in the past.
  • Not great when it comes to customer support

Questions & Answers

Our Verdict ⭐

Toptal and Upwork are different in many ways, and both platforms have pros and cons.

Upwork is geared towards smaller companies or startups looking to get work done quickly and cheaply, and there are tons of satisfied customer reviews to back up this business model.

Toptal, on the other hand, is designed for larger and mid-sized companies looking to pay for the best freelance talent around. It has a highly skilled labor pool and offers assistance and guidance from start to finish to ensure that you’re happy with the quality of the work and the finished product.

Ready to Hire Top 3% Freelancers? Try Toptal

Build your next project with the top 3% of global freelancers on Toptal. Experience top-tier talent and a virtually risk-free hiring process.

In short, if it’s within your budget, then Toptal is a better talent marketplace for companies looking to hire freelancers.

How We Evaluate Freelancer Marketplaces: Our Methodology

We understand the critical role that freelancer hiring marketplaces play in the digital and gig economy. To ensure that our reviews are thorough, fair, and helpful to our readers, we’ve developed a methodology for evaluating these platforms. Here’s how we do it:

  • Sign-Up Process and User Interface
    • Ease of Registration: We evaluate how user-friendly the sign-up process is. Is it quick and straightforward? Are there unnecessary hurdles or verifications?
    • Platform Navigation: We assess the layout and design for intuitiveness. How easy is it to find essential features? Is the search functionality efficient?
  • Variety and Quality of Freelancers/Projects
    • Freelancer Assessment: We look at the range of skills and expertise available. Are freelancers vetted for quality? How does the platform ensure skill diversity?
    • Project Diversity: We analyze the range of projects. Are there opportunities for freelancers of all skill levels? How varied are the project categories?
  • Pricing and Fees
    • Transparency: We scrutinize how openly the platform communicates about its fees. Are there hidden charges? Is the pricing structure easy to understand?
    • Value for Money: We evaluate whether the fees charged are reasonable compared to the services offered. Do clients and freelancers get good value?
  • Support and Resources
    • Customer Support: We test the support system. How quickly do they respond? Are the solutions provided effective?
    • Learning Resources: We check for the availability and quality of educational resources. Are there tools or materials for skill development?
  • Security and Trustworthiness
    • Payment Security: We examine the measures in place to secure transactions. Are payment methods reliable and secure?
    • Dispute Resolution: We look into how the platform handles conflicts. Is there a fair and efficient dispute resolution process?
  • Community and Networking
    • Community Engagement: We explore the presence and quality of community forums or networking opportunities. Is there active participation?
    • Feedback System: We assess the review and feedback system. Is it transparent and fair? Can freelancers and clients trust the feedback given?
  • Platform Specific Features
    • Unique Offerings: We identify and highlight unique features or services that distinguish the platform. What makes this platform different or better than others?
  • Real User Testimonials
    • User Experiences: We collect and analyze testimonials from actual platform users. What are common praises or complaints? How do real experiences align with platform promises?
  • Continuous Monitoring and Updates
    • Regular Re-evaluation: We commit to re-evaluating our reviews to keep them current and up to date. How have platforms evolved? Rolled out new features? Are improvements or changes being made?

Learn more about our review methodology here.


About Author

Matt Ahlgren

Mathias Ahlgren is the CEO and founder of Website Rating, steering a global team of editors and writers. He holds a master's in information science and management. His career pivoted to SEO after early web development experiences during university. With over 15 years in SEO, digital marketing, and web developmens. His focus also includes website security, evidenced by a certificate in Cyber Security. This diverse expertise underpins his leadership at Website Rating.

WSR Team

The "WSR Team" is the collective group of expert editors and writers specializing in technology, internet security, digital marketing, and web development. Passionate about the digital realm, they produce well-researched, insightful, and accessible content. Their commitment to accuracy and clarity makes Website Rating a trusted resource for staying informed in the dynamic digital world.

Lindsay Liedke

Lindsay Liedke

Lindsay is the Chief Editor at Website Rating, she plays a pivotal role in shaping the site's content. She leads a dedicated team of editors and technical writers, focusing on areas such as productivity, online learning, and AI writing. Her expertise ensures the delivery of insightful and authoritative content in these evolving fields.

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