upwork vs. toptal

Upwork vs. Toptal

Upwork and Toptal are two of the most popular freelance marketplaces in the world. Upwork is a platform that connects freelancers with clients from all over the globe, while Toptal is a platform that connects top talent with top businesses.

Are you looking to get into the exciting world of freelancing or just want to further your career as a freelancer? Have you wondered about Upwork vs. Toptal? So, which one is better? In this blog post, we will compare Upwork vs. Toptal and help you decide which one is right for you!

I do want to preface this post with a note on where we here at School For Freelancers stand on platforms like Upwork and Toptal; we preach and teach that these platforms can be a great way to kickstart and sustain a lasting freelance career, BUT they are not for everyone.

Upwork and Toptal can be great resources for freelancers, but ONLY if you have the right skill set and mindset. If you are looking to simply dabble in freelancing or are not willing to put in the work required to make a success on these platforms, then Upwork or Toptal may not be the best option for you.

Getting yourself out there and finding your own clients without these platforms can take a lot of work and is very time consuming, but once you build up momentum with a strong portfolio and a network of clients, word of mouth begins to take off and you could eventually find yourself turning down work.

Again, these platforms are great and can really help freelancers make a lot of money if done right, but they may not be best for you depending on where you are at in your career or what services you are offering. Now back to your regularly scheduled post…

Freelancing is seeing huge growth in popularity. It’s hard to ignore the ability to set your own schedule and work at your own pace, but many freelancers have difficulty finding work because they aren’t using the right platforms.

This can seriously limit your potential to earn a great living (yes, it can be done!).

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. We’ve compiled the biggest differences between Upwork and Toptal to help you find the right fit. Continue reading to find out which works best for you.



Upwork is a popular site for freelance jobs. It’s great for finding opportunities in almost any niche. If you have little to no experience, don’t count yourself out because Upwork has plenty of opportunities for entry-level freelancers too!

After creating a unique and memorable profile (avoid boring and predictable), you can start applying. As a new freelancer, you start with 40 free connects, which are used when submitting proposals. You’ll need to buy more once you run out.


Payment for Upwork freelance pays on a per hour, per project, or fixed-price basis depending on the job. While you can submit your proposal for work, keep in mind that some jobs have a set price range as far as what they are willing to pay.

Don’t undervalue your services or fall for some of the few scammer ads, but stay competitive as much as possible to find work. Getting your first gig is the hardest part.

You can get paid by:

  • Per hour
  • Per Project/Milestone
  • Fixed Price

Application Process

Anyone can sign up for an account on Upwork and submit proposals. Upwork clients can search and find freelancers who match their job requirements. Upwork takes a 20% commission from the total project cost, which is deducted from the freelancer’s payout.

All jobs have the following desired qualifications: experience level, time commitment, project length, and pay range.

You then submit a proposal with samples of your work and desired pay range.

Withdrawing Funds

You can withdraw your earnings via a number of options from Direct Deposit to Paypal. Keep in mind that some options come with an added fee.

You can also set the frequency of payments based on time (Ex: weekly) or earnings milestones (Ex: $100).

How does Upwork work?

Upwork is a freelance job board that connects freelancers with clients. It’s great for finding opportunities in almost any niche, and it’s especially good for entry-level freelancers. Upwork charges 20% of your earnings, but it will lower down up to 5% if you reach a certain amount earned, so factor that in when setting your wage expectations.

You can withdraw your funds via a number of options. Upwork is a great option if you’re looking to get started in freelancing or want to find opportunities outside of your current niche.

Billing Options:

  • Credit Card
  • Bank
  • Paypal

Upwork Pros:

  • Efficient Search and Reviews – Upwork has an efficient search system that includes qualification requirements, ratings, and reviews to make sure you are a good fit for the job.
  • Intuitive Working Platform – Upwork makes it easy to communicate with clients, upload files, and track hours.
  • Accurate Billing – Upwork bills clients accurately, so you don’t have to worry about discrepancies.
  • Wide Range of Jobs – Upwork offers a wide range of jobs in various categories with varying rates so you can find something that matches your skillset and experience level.
  • Niche – Upwork has a ton of opportunities in almost any niche. Upwork is great for entry-level freelancers.

Upwork Cons:

  • Pay – Upwork doesn’t guarantee payment for work completed because it’s not a standard employer-employee relationship, which can be frustrating if you don’t receive the money owed to you. Upwork only pays out once every two weeks, which is annoying but they do offer some flexibility around this.
  • Sign Up – It can be cumbersome to sign up and create a profile on Upwork. You have to submit proposals in order to apply for jobs, which can take some time and effort.
  • Competition – There is stiff competition on Upwork, so it may be difficult to get your first job.


When considering Upwork vs. Toptal, Toptal freelance is quite different in that only 3% of people who apply are accepted. This is because they want the top talent on their site.

This, of course, means that it’s a great place to find high-paying jobs with clients looking for the best talent.

Toptal also lets you choose how much work you want to take on, so there’s no pressure or need to prove yourself if you don’t want any more than just a few jobs per month.

You also get to work with some of the best talents in your field, which can be a great opportunity to learn and grow.

Payment and Additional Fees

Like Upwork, Toptal pays on a per hour, per project, or fixed-fee basis, plus they have a per-day payment option as well for freelancers. Learn more about how Upwork pays its freelancers here.

Application Process

The sign-up process consists of at least 3 difficult skill assessments and 3 interviews. This is why only 3% of people are accepted as freelancers.

So, only top applicants with experience and who are confident in their skills should apply for Toptal.

Withdrawing Funds

Toptal generates invoices twice per month and earnings are withdrawn via credit cards, which can then be transferred to your bank with an ABA router. You can also have earnings wired to your bank or sent to PayPal.

How do Toptal works?

Toptal is a freelance talent platform where you can find top-notch freelancers. Upwork vs. Toptal, the latter requires applicants to go through a strict screening process so that only the best candidates make it on board — but what does this mean for employers? Upwork has thousands of freelancers available at any given time; Toptal has only a few hundred. Upwork has more variety in skillsets, while Toptal specializes strictly in elite talent (software developers). Upwork is geared towards all industries and skill levels; Toptal focuses solely on software development.

Toptal Pros:

  • Elite Talent – As mentioned, Toptal only accepts the top three percent of applicants. This guarantees that you’re working with some of the best talents in your field.
  • Flexible Hours – You can choose how many hours you want to work each week, which is a great option for those who don’t want too much pressure.
  • Upwork vs. Toptal, the latter’s flexible hours are a great benefit for freelancers who don’t want to commit themselves full-time and prefer part-time gigs or project work over long-term commitments.
  • Network Connections – Toptal has an extensive network of top talent to choose from across all industries with over 100 countries represented among its members.

Toptal Cons:

  • Strict application process – As mentioned, Upwork vs. Toptal, the latter requires applicants to go through a strict screening process so that only the best candidates make it on board. This can be a pro or con, depending on your viewpoint.
  • Fewer freelancers – Upwork has thousands of freelancers available at any given time; Toptal has only a few hundred. Upwork has more variety in skillsets, while Toptal specializes strictly in elite talent (software developers).
  • Competition – As with any other freelance platform, you might want to compare Upwork vs. Toptal.

Upwork vs. Toptal: The Best Option for Freelancers

If you are a freelancer newbie or don’t want to waste time on Toptal’s application process, we recommend Upwork. The competition is fierce, but there are great opportunities for entry-level work.

If you are a freelance pro, Toptal is a great option for you. Since it is more costly, you can expect employers who are ready to hire quality workers at a fair rate.

Start Your Freelancing Career

Now that we’ve discussed the differences between Upwork vs. Toptal, you are ready to pursue or further your freelance career. It’s an exciting career and offers you a great amount of flexibility in your schedule.

Consider your experience level and the amount of time you are willing to dedicate to finding freelance jobs. Then, make your decision.

For more great resources, classes, and general information for freelancers, visit our blog.

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to read our blog! If you found this useful please be sure to share it with your network! If you have any questions about our program be sure to contact us. Thanks again and happy freelancing!

School For Freelancers Community