Toptal Alternatives: Comparing Toptal with Trio and Upwork

It’s likely you’ve noticed when searching Google for some variation of ‘hiring software developers online’, you’ll be met with an ad for the freelance marketplace Toptal. This California-based freelance platform is fiercely aggressive at promoting themselves online, but it’s worth noting that their services don’t match the unique goals and requirements for individual projects. Often times the overall structure of a huge freelance platform like Toptal doesn’t vibe too well with a companies values, culture or budget. Considering this, it’s important to understand the alternatives for hiring tech talent, and what individual strengths and weaknesses each one has. Let’s break down the differences between Toptal, and two alternatives for outsourcing developers, helping you decide what makes sense for your project. 

TLDR? Here’s a summary of the key differences between these different places to outsource software development, with more detailed descriptions in the full article. 

Toptal has experienced developers but much more expensive than alternatives. Made up of freelancers who go through an intensive vetting process. Flexibility to have work done on an hourly basis, or on a retainer. Well suited for larger companies with a lot of resources for hiring talent, but startups or SMB’s that can’t spend top dollar on hiring should consider the alternatives.

Trio Balancing affordability with quality offers vetted developers at much more reasonable prices compared to Toptal. Not a freelance marketplace, rather a software-house that lends out its roster of developers on a contractual basis. Much more favorable options for smaller companies and startups, but services can extend to enterprise-grade as well. 

Upwork Massive freelancer marketplace that deals with many verticals besides just tech roles. Not really any vetting here, developers capabilities are assured through user-feedback. There is a huge amount of talent to find here, and often at very cheap rates, though it can often be a challenge to secure the right person for a project with so many freelancers competing for your attention. This can be a good option for companies on a budget, but remember to consider that quality is hard to guarantee here. 

Full Breakdown

Toptal

Making a name for themselves by touting an extensive vetting process that only "3% of the top developers" make it through, Toptal wants to be seen as a premium service. Although this claim of 'top talent' is alluring, it's important to understand if the way Toptal is structured works for you, let's break down some different positive and negative factors. 

Pros

  • Their vetting process seems to attract some exceptional talent, with their available freelancers comprising of some developers who have worked at Fortune 500 companies.
  • A fully integrated platform for managing different parts of the hiring process can reduce a lot of the headaches encountered when hiring freelancers.
  • As a lot of their talent has large amounts of enterprise experience, large-scale projects are well-suited for freelancers found here.

Cons

  • Highly expensive. With the assurance of high-quality developers comes a hefty price tag for projects. Don't expect to work with Toptal developers if you are on a budget, their developers can often cost up to $1000 per day.
  • No benefits provided for freelancers. Toptal developers work as independent contractors and aren't given any form of benefits or job security.

What’s the verdict on Toptal? 

Understanding the freelancer ecosystem that Toptal is powering is important, the key thing to understand here is that their talent is just that: freelancers. They may have some great developers for hire, but oftentimes the price for hiring them can seem a bit high compared to how much you can hire freelancers for elsewhere. Additionally, if you want to build a relationship with the talent you enjoy working with at Toptal, there's no guarantee they will be on the platform at any given time. Toptal doesn't work very closely with their developers, not providing benefits or clear communication between them. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, where you can assure developers are looked after, you might want to consider some alternatives for outsourcing your tech talent.

Trio

 Utilizing a bit of a different approach to outsourcing tech talent online, Trio rejects the idea of using precarious freelancers to staff projects. They utilize a full-time staff model so their team of developers is always available at any time, and they easily integrate into your team to make your project easier. By maintaining a full-time team of developers in Brazil, Trio is able to possess some of the following advantages when compared to a site like Toptal. 

Pros

  • A team of software developers that is vetted through a rigorous interview process. Because Trio hires all their developers as full-time staff, versus using freelancers, they have extremely high standards for who they take on to their team.
  • Affordable pricing. Different countries have different economic structures which means that it can be easier to afford developers from outside of the U.S economy which can normally be very expensive due to the cost of living expenses and other general overhead costs.
  • US Friendly Timezone’s (GMT -3, just an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time) assure you can communicate with your contracted developers effectively, and without making them stay up all night to work with you on your project.

Cons

  • Not a huge pool of talent to choose from when compared to Toptal. By maintaining full-time staff, Trio is limited in their ability to have a seemingly endless supply of developers available.
  • Mainly focused on startups and SMB’s, their developer's skill sets can be applied to enterprise setting but they tend towards smaller, more collaborative projects.

What’s the verdict on Trio? 

Trio takes a lot more of a personal approach to outsourcing development. By maintaining their team in South America, they are able to offer comparable quality to an industry-leader like Toptal, while assuring their rates are a lot more affordable. The company takes care of a lot of the heavy-lifting when it comes to hiring, and they even go out of their way to ensure their developers are taken care of like full-time staff. If you are seeking an outsourcing option that strays away from some of the more expensive options such as Toptal, while ensuring quality is guaranteed, Trio is definitely worth taking a closer look at. 

Not feeling any of these options? Consider Upwork

Looking to handle most of the hiring yourself, and not looking to break the bank? It’s definitely worth considering some of the larger freelance platforms such Upwork or one of its countless competitors. You may not get truly vetted developers, but a lot of companies looking to get much shorter-term work do find a lot of success using these platforms. We break down some of the pros and cons in more depth in one of our prior articles, but essentially a lot of the pros of Upwork come from its massive, often unbelievably cheap talent. Perfect for bite-sized projects, but lacking the benefits of other forms of developer outsourcing discussed here as well as no oversight from a firm like Trio or Toptal to guarantee quality. A quick-fix it can be, Upwork can work wonders in a pinch, but don’t be surprised if the results you get from it are a mixed-bag. 

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Jake Oulahen

About

I write about all things tech, up-and-coming startups, and shifting industry

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Often times the overall structure of a huge freelance platform like Toptal doesn’t vibe too well with a companies values, culture or budget. Considering this, it’s important to understand the alternatives for hiring tech talent, and what individual strengths and weaknesses each one has.