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  5. Toptal vs Upwork: Which Offers the Best Results in 2024?

Toptal vs Upwork: Which Offers the Best Results in 2024?

Oliwia Owsianowska Oliwia OwsianowskaFreelance Jobs Expert June 21, 2024
June 21, 2024
Choosing between Upwork and Toptal is challenging because each platform addresses different freelance hiring needs. Whereas Toptal focuses heavily on the quality of its talent pool, Upwork covers a wider range of niches and offers more affordable rates. However, after spending a few weeks testing both services, I realized this comparison is more nuanced than I initially thought.

If you’re looking for a platform with a flexible pricing model, Upwork is ideal. It lets you choose between fixed-price or hourly rates, helping you manage project costs effectively. However, if your priority is securing top-tier talent at any cost, Toptal is a formidable alternative. Keep reading to explore a detailed breakdown of features, ease of use, pricing, support, and more.


Toptal Ensures Elite Talent, While Upwork Enhances Flexibility

Sample freelancer profiles on Toptal
As you see, you won’t find newbies on Toptal
Both platforms have tailored their features to meet different client demands. While Toptal focuses on delivering specialized talent for high-stakes projects, Upwork offers versatility and convenience for a wide range of professional services. Depending on your project’s complexity and the expertise required, either platform could be the right fit.

Toptal prides itself on an exclusive selection process. It admits only the top 3% of freelancers through a rigorous five-week screening that includes language and technical assessments. You will appreciate its personalized matching process, a semi-automated procedure overseen by its experts, which allows you to find the best fit for your projects in record time. This makes Toptal an ideal choice for projects requiring experts in fields like technology, design, and finance.

Additionally, Toptal offers a no-risk trial, allowing clients to work with freelancers for up to two weeks without financial commitment. If unsatisfied, you can hire someone else or request a refund. This risk-free trial period ensures you don’t have to commit to a hire that might not fit your project.

Adnan S. predefined projects
You can purchase a project on Upwork with just a few clicks
On the other hand, Upwork provides a much broader talent pool of professionals from various fields. This is beneficial if you’re looking for specific skills on a budget. Upwork’s Project Catalog feature streamlines the hiring process by allowing you to quickly purchase predefined services.

Upwork also offers flexible hiring methods, including direct searches and a traditional bidding system. For project management, web design and development, and other popular freelance services, Upwork excels with advanced tools that help track progress and manage payments efficiently. At the same time, its Enterprise Solutions cater to large organizations with customized service plans and dedicated support.

Toptal's form for clients
Toptal uses form submissions to match you with talent rather than let you browse freelancers directly
While Upwork impressed me, Toptal stands out for its unmatched focus on high-quality talent. It ensures you work with freelancers in the top 3% of their fields and uses a personalized matching process to enhance project alignment and reduce hiring time. Additionally, dedicated project managers keep your project on track and within budget, making Toptal ideal for high-stakes projects.

Ease of Use

Upwork Is Easier To Navigate

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Upwork is intuitive, providing direct control throughout the hiring process. You can easily browse profiles, set project rates, and select from proposals submitted by interested freelancers, tailoring the process to your specific needs. It’s also ideal for urgent projects, as you can quickly start collaborating with freelancers. I appreciated Upwork’s extensive tutorials and pop-up prompts, which can help you quickly learn and adapt to the platform.

Toptal’s interface is clean and uncluttered. The straightforward layout makes it easy to navigate, with a simplified dashboard focusing on core functionalities without overwhelming you with details. However, its meticulous screening and matching process extends the hiring time, which may not suit projects needing immediate attention. The platform is more geared towards ensuring quality matches than quick project setups.

Upwork's tool for transactions and invoices
Go to the “Manage finances” tab in your dashboard to find more management tools
Comparatively, Upwork stands out in project management and reporting functionalities. Its tools are designed to efficiently track progress, manage payments, and generate detailed project reports, so you can easily handle multiple freelancers or complex projects. While Toptal supports effective project management, its tools are less extensive. Unlike Upwork, it lacks features like real-time chat for instant communication and detailed time-tracking.

Upwork is a more user-friendly platform, especially if you value quick hiring processes and robust project management tools.


Upwork Triumphs With Consistently Low Rates

While Toptal’s pricing structure offers good value, Upwork generally has more flexible and budget-friendly options.

Upwork operates on a commission-based model. You pay a percentage of the freelancer’s earnings, which varies depending on the total amount you’ve billed each freelancer. This is beneficial as it allows for scalability and flexibility, accommodating projects of all sizes. Upwork offers both a free and an enterprise solution for larger clients. The paid option includes additional features like enhanced search capabilities and premium customer support.

In contrast, Toptal is considerably more expensive and primarily caters to enterprises and top-tier professionals. While Toptal doesn’t offer free plans, the company justifies its higher costs with its extensive vetting process. Although easy access to the “top 3% of freelance talent” sounds too good to be true, I have indeed found it easier to find high-quality freelancers on Toptal compared to Upwork.

That said, Upwork’s core platform features and most tools are free to use – and that’s hard to beat. It provides access to many freelancers and all the essential tools needed for hiring and collaboration. If you need assured expertise and personalized support, Toptal provides these benefits by giving you access to a select group of highly qualified professionals (though this comes at a higher cost).

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Toptal Takes the Lead in Customer Support

Toptal offers personalized support, including dedicated account managers available around the clock to address concerns and facilitate project operations. Although I’m not currently a registered client, I’ve used TopTal in the past and was satisfied with the support I received. Many clients online have also shared positive feedback about TopTal’s prompt communication and attention to their specific needs.

Toptal FAQ section
Access key information independently using Toptal’s FAQ
Upwork also offers a range of support options, including live chat, email, and phone support. However, the availability of these services can vary depending on your plan, with more comprehensive support reserved for Enterprise clients. I’ve generally experienced quick response times with Upwork, but unless you’re on an enterprise plan, the level of personalized assistance won’t match Toptal’s.

While I appreciated Upwork’s quick response times and reliable support, I have to give the edge to Toptal for its commitment to personalized, 24/7 assistance. If premium, round-the-clock support is a priority for you, Toptal is the better choice.

Lean on Upwork for Affordable and Quick Freelance Hiring

After testing Upwork and Toptal, I found that Upwork is more flexible and affordable1. Its commission-based pricing model adapts well to various project sizes and needs, offering both free and paid plans with robust tools for project management. This makes it especially appealing if you’re looking to maximize efficiency while keeping costs in check.

Toptal offers top-tier talent and excellent support, making it ideal if you need guaranteed elite professionals and are willing to pay a premium. However, its higher costs and lack of a free plan may not suit everyone. In contrast, Upwork is more affordable, has a large talent pool, and allows quick hiring, making it ideal for most freelancing needs.

Broad talent pool, flexible
hiring, advanced project management
Top 3% talent, rigorous screening,
personalized matching
Ease of Use
User-friendly interface, quick
hiring process
Quality-focused setup,
slower-moving projects
Free and paid plans,
cost-effective for various sizes
Premium pricing, no free plans,
best for high-budget projects
Comprehensive for all
24/7 personalized support


What is the main difference between Upwork and Toptal?

Upwork offers a broad talent pool for various budgets and project sizes, focusing on flexibility with its commission-based pricing. In contrast, Toptal provides top-tier talent by thoroughly vetting its freelancers, focusing on high-quality outputs. It caters primarily to enterprises and high-budget projects.

How does Toptal ensure the quality of its freelancers?

Toptal ensures top quality by conducting a multi-step vetting process. This includes thorough language and technical assessments, live screenings, and a comprehensive review of each freelancer’s professional background to admit only the top 3% into their network.

Is Upwork suitable for both small tasks and large projects?

Yes, Upwork is designed to accommodate both small tasks and large projects. It offers flexible hiring options with hourly and fixed-price jobs, making it suitable for many project sizes and budgets.

What are the fees associated with using Upwork or Toptal?

On Upwork, freelancers are charged a 10% service fee on their earnings for all types of contracts, including hourly, fixed-price, and Project Catalog projects. Clients pay just 5%. Toptal generally has higher fees due to its premium service, including a one-time initiation fee and a client marketplace fee.

How quickly can I hire someone through Upwork or Toptal?

Hiring times can vary: Upwork allows you to receive proposals within minutes and has a faster setup for urgent projects. Toptal’s process involves an extensive matching system that might take longer but ensures high-quality talent tailored to your needs.

If you want to consider even more options, check out our complete list of the best freelance websites in 2024.

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