Toptal - A Follow Up After 6 Months
2nd October 2014
Its been 6 months since I have joined Toptal and while I promised to write a followup article earlier, I can happily say I have been so busy with projects (including Toptal projects) that I simply haven't had the time. Toptal is excellent, particularly if you are a programmer that isn't very business savvy. It should be noted that my background is in business and I have a successful company CakeCoded which employs a team of developers, but given that the average programmer isn't that business savvy, Toptal is a great company for them!
The average programmer wants to write code, not worry about invoicing and chasing up payments. Furthermore, many developers aren't interested in managing multiple clients and chasing up multiple payments. For some, it is the fear of the next project and where next month's work will come from one your current project ends. With Toptal they take care of all this for you - allowing you to do what you do best - write code!
Toptal lets you set how much you want to work for them - either by small hourly projects, part-time of full time. For example at the moment I'm fairly busy with CakeCoded clients, so they allow me to part-time. I have availability of ten hours a week with Toptal but if you are looking for part-time or full time work that is also there.
I've worked with two different clients in the six month period with Toptal, one has been fantastic to work with - and in many ways is the dream client they talk about having. The other was for a CakePHP website and while there was enough work on a weekly basis but for various reasons it didn't work out with the client.
I was worried about ending the agreement with that client, especially after Yuriy's blog mentioned that they would not pay out, but in the end, it was a fairly smooth process. The Toptal representative simply ended the engagement when I expressed unhappiness with the client and offered the client a substitute programmer. Another advantage of Toptal I guess, is that if you aren't happy with the project, they have enough programmers to take over!
There seems to be amble work available as well! There is consistently over 100 projects available and new projects come in daily. Even for a niche like CakePHP development, there seems to always be 1-2 projects available - so it is great to know work is available if I ever need it.
So overall I am definitely happy with my Toptal experience. My biggest problem with them would be there payment methods. As an international based programmer they only offer a few options - one being PayPal and the other international bank transfer. I actually have an international US bank account set up but they charge a whopping 45 dollar transaction fee every-time a payment takes place and whilst this wouldn't be too bad if working full time, with only working part-time it is a significant amount per transaction.
In regards to PayPal, sites like Elance and Freelancer.com pay the PayPal fee on your behalf, whereas with Toptal the fee is taken after you receive the payment - so you are immediately losing 2-3% on your payment. On top of that you have to deal with Paypal's exchange rates which are a lot worse then those offered by services such as MoneyCorp which I use for other clients.
Finally Toptal pay every two weeks which is pretty generous though it should be noted that they do wait for the client to pay them before they pay a time sheet, so there has been some periods where if a client is late to pay, the payment sent to me has taken some time. There has also been a couple of times where I have had to followup with Toptal in regards to payments, although it should be noted that when I have they have always been prompt to make the payment.
Don't let this put you off by any means though - when I say the payment is late, it is one or two days late, and there has certainly never been an issue over my time sheets, or being paid other than them being a few days late a couple of times.
So to conclude if you are an experienced programmer who isn't interested in running a programming business then Toptal is a great choice for you.
For a more recent update, check out my 2 year Toptal update.
My name is Michael Houghton and I have been freelancing as a web developer for nearly fifteen years.
Would you like to learn the secret to my success as a freelancer? Visit FreelancerMentor.com to sign up & learn my formula (for free).