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Toptal Review: Our Experience Using Their Developers & Designers [2017]

toptal review

Toptal, as stated on their site is “an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, and finance experts in the world.”

Considering Upgraded Points was built (from the ground up) using TopTal, we wanted to write up a helpful review of the company.

Since Day 1, we have been extremely impressed with the service and would highly recommend TopTal to anyone looking for skilled, professional developers and designers. 

In this article, we’ll discuss why that is, as well as cover some of the negatives as there’s no such thing as a perfect company in our eyes.

Background

I was first introduced to TopTal in 2015 by a very close friend of mine, Brian, who had used the service to build a major project of his. Brian knew that I was looking for a talented developer to build out Upgraded Points and felt that it was worth my time to speak with Toptal.

Onboarding

After signing up, I was quickly contacted by David – one of the sales engineers for Toptal. David did a great job of listening to my requirements and really “dug” to make sure he understood the situation as he was responsible for finding the best developer for my project in the Toptal network.

What I was requiring was a difficult position to fill as I needed not only a developer (coder) but also some talented with UI / UX. Usually, you need two people to fill those requirements, but I wanted just one person to make everything easier and more seamless.

Round 1

A few weeks later, I was connected with a developer / UX designer. The way it works is that you’re recommended (by your sales engineer) a member of the Toptal network. You then screen their application and decide whether you want to get on a call with them or not. After a call (typically on Skype) you then make the final decision on proceeding or not.

After my call with the first candidate, I was somewhat confident that it was going to work out but concerned that the entire scope of the project wasn’t totally understood. To cut a long story short, we gave it our best shot for the next 10-12 days but I just wasn’t convinced that he was “the one” to build out Upgraded Points now and for the long-term.

I was a little disappointed, but I spoke with Martin (director of Engineering) who had taken over control from the sales engineer and Martin was absolutely fantastic about the situation. I didn’t have to pay anything for those 10-12 days of contact with the developer/designer and Martin put all of his energy into finding a replacement.

I felt it was going to be very hard to find the perfect match in the 1st round of attempts, especially as you’re not only matching their developers to your needs but also personalities. That’s tough.

Round 2

Martin, after only a week since I’d asked him to find me a replacement, ending up scoring a BIG win for me. The developer/designer that he found ended up building Upgraded Points to what it is today – completely from scratch. It might not seem apparent, but there’s actually a lot going on behind the scenes that aren’t obvious when you’re browsing through the site. Marcelo is the “unicorn” because not only does he have coding skills (and exceptionally well), he also has a great feel for (clean) design.

The “Not So Good” Stuff

  • Our 1st developer didn’t work out, but even though ~2 weeks were lost, Toptal didn’t charge us anything and instead found us a new developer who worked out very well (we still use him today!). The end result was excellent but it would have been perfect if they’d found Marcelo first-time around!
  • It is a little more expensive to hire through Toptal because they are adding on their profit margin. But – for us it is worth it because we would never have been able to find someone so talented and pre-qualified. The extra we pay has been more than justified by the service and “product” (i.e. our site!) that we’ve received.

The “Good Stuff”

  • Professional onboarding and customer service
  • Marcelo is extremely talented, very responsive and to date – everything that I’ve wanted has been done. In the past with our developers, they’ve been keen to say “no” because thinking through an issue
  • Marcelo is what I call a “creative” developer, meaning that he’ll suggest a different / better solution if there is one vs just doing exactly what you’ve asked. This is key and is one of the requirements to be a worker within the Toptal network.

Bottom Line: We highly recommend Toptal! If you’re looking for the lowest cost option, this won’t be for you. But if you’re willing to spend a little more, save hours and hours of time (and money) researching and testing different developers/designers, Toptal is for you.

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