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Ask HN: Where can I find remote or quality oriented freelancing work?
255 points by s1k3s on Sept 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 100 comments
I'm currently working 40h/week as a backend php developer and I think I can put an extra 20 hours every week to increase my earnings. However, I struggle finding remote work or above the average freelancing projects. Basically I don't want to waste my time on sites like freelancer.com where I have to compete against many low-quality programmers who place low bids just to win projects and then they mess them up.

Where could I find jobs like these?

Here's something you can do:

1. Go to https://trends.builtwith.com/websitelist/PHP to see websites that use PHP

2. Focus on smaller to mid-size companies (large corporations likely have the tech team and contractors to cover almost of their needs)

3. (Optional) Search for each company on Linkedin and add managers with relevant roles (VIP of sales, project manager, marketing manager, etc.). The goal is to familiarize them with your name so they're more likely to open your email (step 5).

4. Find the email format of these companies with https://hunter.io/.

5. Reach out to the most senior person with a relevant role at each company with a personalized 1-on-1 email.

The key here is to review their website and business and share 2-3 ideas of what you can them build or fix (if there are any glaring issues or vulnerabilities). They may not necessarily use your ideas but the goal is stand out and help them understand how they can put your programming skills to use. Here's a template you can reference: https://artofemails.com/new-clients#developer

There are a lot of businesses out there whose teams don't have the capacity to build everything so they would be keen to have a reliable freelance programmer help them bring some features or projects out of backlog.

I happen to run a small company with a website built in PHP and I get several generic emails every couple of days from random individuals and fly-by-night "SEO consultancies", claiming that they "found issues on my website", "could help optimize website", "get us reach top Google positions" etc.

Most of this is auto-generated junk based on some keyword scrapping, but given the volume of it, I don't think it's possible to be taken seriously in that niche anymore.

I also get several "personalized emails" per week peddling software developers for hire, management trainings, factories in China, real estate investment opportunities and countless other junk, so I wouldn't count on that channel either. Anything that looks like a cold email goes straight to trash simply due to the volume of it.

IMO, a much better strategy would be to publish articles showing your expertise (i.e. comparing similar technologies, or sharing step-by-step instructions on accomplishing some familiar task), while mentioning that you do consulting in that area. People usually don't mind if you share them on Reddit/Linkedin/Twitter/HN and that can get a you a much better traction than cold-mailing people.

I'm in a very similar boat to you, I think I've deleted three messages this morning...

But it would still be possible to get my attention. The average message is something along the lines of Hi {name}. I was at your site {domain} and had some ideas. [the same copy every single person gets]

If instead someone emailed me something that showed that they not only knew what domain they were mailing but understood what our product offered and how maybe they could help I'd probably keep reading. For me that might look like:


Hey Paul,

I love what you've built with WonderProxy, this GeoIP testing niche you've carved out is super interesting, I wish I'd known about it years ago! We had this horrible integration that refused to load in Germany but worked perfectly in our office, debugging over Remote Desktop at 3am still haunts my dreams.

Anyways i'm actually wondering if there's a way we can work together. I'm a senior PHP developer and I've got a lot of experience building OKTA integrations. It looks like you've started offering SAML, but let me tell you OKTA is like the secret sauce to get loved by IT departments. Your team is likely capable of building this in-house, but why spend tens or hundreds of hours learning the ins and outs of this stuff when I can build it in half the time with a quarter of the bugs :).

let me know if you're interested


I'm not saying I'd hire that gal/guy, but if it was something I wanted we would at least have a conversation. I'd optimize for quality messages to qualified companies, rather than quantity anything.

Kudos for "quarter of the bugs" and not "no bugs", seems like a great and honest developer.

But how will the small businesses you are targeting find your article?

> 5. Reach out to the most senior person with a relevant role at each company with a personalized 1-on-1 email.

So, spam them, basically?

I'm not even "the most senior person" and I get tons of e-mails along these lines all the time. I am the asshole mail server admin who blacklists each one of them and submits their spam messages, though. At the least, I can prevent their messages from making it through to other people.

If you work for a SaaS company your CEO, your Head of Sales, your VP of Business Development are "spamming" other companies too in order to put food on your table. Read the history of famous startups and what tactics they used to get their first customers. "Naaaah they are just selling services and we're making the world a better place", right?

And my advice to other freelancers: This is why you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever contact a tech person first if you want to offer your services to a company. Go to business people and decision makers. Avoid gatekeepers.

I completely agree, but often, the gatekeepers and decision makers end up being the same person. For example, it looks like if I were selling managed-email-servers-as-a-service, jlgaddis would be the person I want to talk to.

It's a numbers game. I used Craigslist last year to find freelance jobs. I talked to about 40 potential clients in a month. Out of those, 30 were a no from me right off the bat (wanted to hire cheap developers, etc) and out of the last 10, I was able to setup a contract with 2.

Here are two things that have helped me:

1) Answer the ad within an hour of it being posted. This may be tough if you have a full time job. My response rate when up 100% when I did this.

2) Give them your phone number and offer to talk on the phone. Email generally doesn't work that well to sell yourself, especially now with all of the low-wage competition.

3) get good at selling yourself. They need to know why they should hire you over a $5/hour developer from overseas. Some don't care and only want to pay peanuts.

Freelancer.com is horrible. I used it a few times and got a few potential clients..but most expect things like a turnkey Facebook clone for $100.

Freelancer is also horrible on the client side fwiw.

As someone who ran a consultancy for several years, no one wants your last 20 hours. I think you'd do yourself a favor looking for more rewarding employment if you are feeling underpaid.

Yeah, I don't like telling people that they are asking the wrong question. But my experience says that if you are finding you have spare cycles in your job, you could probably be getting a much larger salary at a higher-end job. Depending what you are making now, you might double your compensation. Check levels.fyi.

What's holding potential customers back the most? The quality of the work, implying you are already exhausted after your current job? Or the fact that 20hrs is often not enough time for a meaningful contribution in a development team and you have to spend time to catch up every week?

Courious to know what your experience is and if a price conscious buyer would be willing to accept the trade-offs.

working with freelancers that have full time jobs almost always means that that freelance work is lower priority to their main job and will be first to be neglected if things get busy. Freelancers/consultants that do it full time value their good reputation to continue getting clients and work.

It’s all about communication and setting expectations. If client is expecting quick delivery with low chance of disruption and you have a full time job maybe this consultant shouldn’t take the job. Or at minimum tell client they are juggling multiple priorities at the moment and say that they’ve built in a buffer into the ETA but it could still be a risk. And that you’ll communicate frequently with any deviation to your ETA.

Not every client needs delivery at breakneck speed.

Hey there, here are my suggestions for you:

Sign up to AngelList and search their jobs. Besides normal jobs, many startups looking for remote contract developers post there.

AngelList also lets you search by technology category, whether it's contract or not. I don't think they let you search if it's part time or not on the website.

Next, I would join Developer focused Slack channels. Some of these have #jobs channels that post positions from time to time.

Here's an article I wrote that lists some of those out: https://medium.com/hackernoon/developer-slack-channels-remot...

Finally, there are also Facebook Groups as well where some companies and individuals go in and post freelance jobs.

Again, an article I wrote that lists some good Facebook groups for remote work: https://medium.com/hackernoon/facebook-groups-remote-job-fre...

Shameless Plug: How do I know a bunch of these places? I run RemoteLeads, a lead generation service focused on remote freelance development work. If you're interested check us out at https://remoteleads.io/

I hope the above links help and let me know if you have any extra questions. Email in my bio. Happy to help!

- Derick

Looks like a great site!

One typo I noticed: on pro page (https://remoteleads.io/upgrade), in 6x leads paragraph, "about" is misspelled

"That's abotu 10x less competition per lead according to our analytics."

Hey, thank you for the feedback. Fixed! :)

Something I find unclear about your pricing. It says it is not a subscription, but then implies you pay once to get a single list. So it is not a subscription, but you pay each time you want the list? Or do you pay once and then receive each new list in the future?

Thank you for your question. Yes, you're right it's a one time payment.

Depending on the plan you choose, you'll get approximately 35 ~ 55 leads between 30 - 40 days.

After you receive that amount of leads the paid plan comes to an end.

I set it up this way because if developers are following the application instructions that come with each lead then they'll be landing a freelance position within 30 to 40 days. Most times it's less, but that's the median when talking to customers.

And, if you want to use the service again 2 months later then you're not paying for the time you don't need it.

Let me know if I can answer any further questions, and I'll make sure to update my FAQs as well to make things more clear.

- Derick

This is maybe going to be an unpopular suggestion, but I think certain technologies are going to more commonly be associated with race-to-the-bottom markets, and I think PHP is one of those. It might make sense in investing in studying some more niche and higher-barrier-to-entry languages.

What languages do you suggest? Does Javascript have the same association with "race-to-the-bottom markets"? Having used Symfony and Laravel I don't understand why PHP has such a bad rep except that it's on the easier side so any language that makes things simple would suffer the same fate (attracting inexperienced developers (hello Javascript, Ruby, Python)). Both PHP and Javascript have many language specific issues so I'd say they're on equal footing.

I think PHP is still good. It definitely seems lower in priority for most companies remote or local than it used to be by far but it isn't going away or anything. Niche languages depend on a lot of factors. And debatable on what is still niche but I think Elixir, Scala, Go and Rust are a group to look at. My personal choice has been Elixir and that has worked out great. Lots of remote jobs too with it. A fellow made a post recently about how to find remote jobs in it https://blog.lelonek.me/how-to-find-an-elixir-job-db4c836890

I intentionally didn’t suggest any, because I didn’t want this to turn into a language shootout, or for me to sound like a fanboy of the particular languages I prefer. It’s the same reason why I avoided levelling criticisms at PHP. And yes, I do think JavaScript has the same market supply issue.

If you haven’t done much other than PHP and JavaScript, I’d suggest going through the Seven Languages in Seven Weeks book, and also doing a bit of market analysis; see who’s hiring for which languages.

I personally don't find PHP attractive at all, but in recent months I've been very surprised to meet some devs who are making absolute bank with it (including WordPress devs). I think success as a freelancer depends a lot on being a good salesman, delivering value to your client, and being efficient. Whether the end product (eg, a WP installation) is "quality" in terms of software engineering might be highly debatable... I can totally understand why a Scala dev wouldn't want to touch PHP projects with a 10-meter pole, but that doesn't mean that you can't be highly successful with it.

Personally, I can code in a few languages but I build mostly in JS. I understand why some engineers would not want to work with it and I'm not personally offended by that, but I think ES6+ can provide a great dev experience. And while there's certainly a lot of crappy jobs in the space, there also seems to be really interesting work to be found around Node / React / Vue etc.

WP is such a dumpster fire it's unlikely that PHP skills are going to become obsolete any time soon.

From a freelance/consultancy niche it's almost ideal. Demand is high, and employers/clients are likely to have relatively simple requirements (i.e. a brochure/catalog site with a bit of a backend, not a huge industrial db that needs to run at planetary scale backed by a devops machine.)

It's not a personal interest but it seems to work well for people who can stand out from the pack, even a little.

Yea agree, that’s what I’ve learnt in the last few months after years of thinking “this shit can’t be profitable”.

I freelance and agree that you will command higher rates with another language or speciality. Yes PHP is widely used and can get the job done just like a lot of other languages. However, I worry clients do not appreciate a professional PHP developer the same way they do a python or javascript developer.

My recipe for being a successful freelancer is to write clean, tested, maintainable code, PLUS specialize in some kind of niche. I mean specialize like crazy. I feel that employers like to hire polygot programmer employees because they envision them doing different things over a long period of time. But clients hire freelancers for very specific purposes and they only care about the immediate need right in front of them.

For example, my speciality is improving existing web applications written in python with Django or Flask frameworks. I can talk all day about monitoring errors in production, reducing response times, adding features, or improving app reliability, etc. But if someone asks me to support data science, build a new app from scratch, or an alexa skill, I decline.

You can definitely do well with Javascript, but again, I would be really good at one framework, such as Angular or React. Then I would focus that skill on a particular industry.

Clojure seems niche enough.

Only if going for wordpress jobs anything else php related pay is comparable to other languages.

It's true higher up the food chain as well. For some reason companies assume they can pay 20% less for a Laravel/Symfony contractor/employee than the Rails, Django or Node.js equivalent. I really don't get it.

I would recommend strongly against freelancing. Instead, try and join up with a remote team. YouTeam.com might be relevant.

Find a team where you are a specialist, you'll earn a higher hourly rate and probably have a lot less stress.

Try to pair up with a few different groups until you find one that you love, then stick with that one.

Source: I did a lot of freelancing in the 2000's before joining up with a larger consultancy and the latter earned me probably 3x hourly rate, the projects were more interesting for bigger companies, and the coworkers became friends for life.

Did you post the right url? YouTeam.com is a French website.

Dammit, it's like they have a different word for everything.

Think he meant: https://youteam.io/

Whoops! Dot io

So you are currently employed full time? One of the biggest advantages of freelancing would seem to be the flexibility of working hours and the amount of work you take.

(Of course, as a freelancer you are running a small business, which may or may not be something you enjoy).

This was years ago.

> One of the biggest advantages of freelancing would seem to be the flexibility of working hours and the amount of work you take.

Agreed. You have to find the right shop. Basically you are looking for a smallish consultancy (probably 10 - 40 people) that has a steady stream of clients but variable workload and needs people that can come on and off projects on demand. San Francisco had a lot of these types of places in the 2000's. Probably rarer in other places, but I imagine a decade later with the improvement in remote work technologies there might be a lot of these globally now.

I don’t think this will work for individuals?

From the site: “Who can apply?

- 50+ people on the company’s team;”

Also, "Teams of engineers you see come from top outsourcing agencies of Eastern Europe and Latin America, known for employing top quality local talent and offering much lower rates than those in the US or UK."

Show up to PHP meetups in your area if you're near a largish metro. Go for beers afterward, meet the people, mention what you are doing. Keep doing this and wait and you'll likely start getting work coming your way that has a completely different category of client than you'd see on some sort of marketplace.

Meetups depend largely on geographic location. If you are already in a large city this is good advice. If you are anywhere with a population of sub 500k then people looking for help is few and far between. Also for every one that does show up and has money to pay ten show up saying how they have a "great idea" but no money or skills and why won't anybody work for 2% equity?

This... every meetup I attend has people looking for help

Do the low bid programmers really mess them up? I mean it's comforting to think I'm miles ahead in quality than people from those places but honestly I'm not sure. I figure there have to be some decent programmers better than myself who will gladly work for half the money

Better programmers maybe. In terms of finding someone at half the price that communicates at a high level and cares enough to investigate past what is precisely assigned and understand the business case, I am not so sure.

Sign up on moonlightwork.com. It’s a great community for this exact sort of thing.

The advice here sucks. Don’t give up on this idea. I make my living freelancing and a fair portion of that income is from Moonlight.

I joined moonlightwork early on. Never have landed a job through it, or any other freelancing site (so I suppose I can't say whether it's any better or worse than the rest).

At various points throughout my career, I've fantasized about quitting Full time work and freelancing. I gave up on the idea after a few potential clients wanted me to work for peanuts.

Close as I got was a few short-lived negotiations where I refused to work for pay similar to what I made as a teenager bagging groceries.

Maybe I should start a lawncare business? It would be more lucrative than freelance software engineering, and at least it ought to be immune to offshoring.

Just emailed you - but happy to provide some advice! It takes skills beyond code, such as positioning, writing, and sales to successfully close freelance gigs. We're averaging a little over $100/hr on Moonlight gigs.

Freelancing is a numbers game - you need to have a funnel of work in order to keep a stable income. We try to screen out bad clients as much as possible on Moonlight, but you'll run into them and need to know when to just say no. It's the same challenges most small businesses have anywhere in the world.

Finally, if you want to get philosophical, Gresham's Law in economics is really illustrated here - "bad money drives out good". Basically, the people who are trying to pay below-market are constantly looking for workers. People who pay fair wages are not having turnover, so not hiring as often. It's just something to keep in mind - that the cross-section of people looking to hire does not accurately represent the transactions of the overall industry.

Thanks for using Moonlight!

If anybody is considering using it - email me (philip@moonlightwork.com) and I'm happy to provide positioning advice on your profile.

We launched a feature this year called Broadcasts where you can share what kind of work you want, then we'll match you to hiring managers. The goal is to decrease the number of applications you need to do!


Stripe is not available in my country yet. Is there any other ways I can apply?

We are looking at alternative solutions. But, at this point, Stripe will probably add new countries faster than we can add a new payment processor.

Some developers have set up contracting entities in Estonia or the USA to get access to Stripe, too.

Where are you based?

Seconding this ^^ only had awesome experiences here. Feel free to reach out if you've got any questions.

Thanks for the support! Let us know if you have any feedback.

I have a suggestion which might be something of interest to you -- I work part-time at a company that specializes in conducting remote technical interviews as a service. It pays pretty well ($100 USD per 90-minute interview) -- the work is very flexible and you set your own hours. It might be a good option for you if you're interested in putting in a few extra hours each week, and it also might be a great fit in the sense that you don't have to spend time hunting down projects and instead can just schedule a few extra hours in your availability calendar when you want more work.

Although it's not a traditional software development job, I've found it to be a welcome change of pace to have a job that is separate from the stress of maintaining a codebase or crafting software all day which I find can be pretty draining.

If this is the kind of thing you (or anyone else reading this) might be interested in, send me an email and I would be happy to talk further about it! My email address is in my profile.

TweetJobs was posted in HN the other day - https://tweetjobs.dev

A good portion of the jobs are freelance/remote and pretty up to date.

I started with Upwork 10+ years ago (when they were still oDesk) and I never looked back. Best decision ever of my life. I can afford to enjoy my projects, while doing what I love, and I never have the feeling of work, but of playing.

The problem with Upwork is initial drawing of clients to build a profile with a good score. Once you did that, you're in the clear. Just like in any other places, there are plenty of bad programmers and plenty of bad customers, and once you identify their style of language you can easily avoid them. Also I insist of always talking to my clients, we use writing as only a mean to an end, not to create endless chats. This way they can asses my English as well. Oh, and I work for only US, Australia or Canada clients. Rest of the countries are a no go for me, most of bad customers are from there.

to OP: AMA regarding, I'll be happy to reply

I know people hate on Upwork/Freelancer but they are a good platform but you have to look at it like starting your career again.

Start with low prices. Turn over projects and you'll find regular work and be able to put up prices.

You can't expect to step in at a high rate as an unknown. Also stay on the platform. They do take their cut but look at it like advertising. If you build up volume and quality reviews there is loads of reasonable paying work there.

The difference between Upwork and Freelancer is the same difference between Comcast and FANG. One is universally hated the other just partially

> I'm currently working 40h/week as a backend PHP developer and I think I can put an extra 20 hours every week to increase my earnings. However, I struggle to find remote work or above the average freelancing projects.

Freelance is all about branding, word of mouth and selling your self. Maybe give blogging a shot and keep looking.

Shameless Plug: I was a PHP/Node developer. now I am trying to switching to go or elixir/erlang. I am already super comfortable with go. due to the fact, I have been using it since 2013 on hobby projects. As of now, I am working On a rest API using Clojure and react for frontend.

Here is more information about me: https://ooooak.github.io/

Github: https://github.com/ooooak/

What made you want to switch languages?

Looking for better alternatives on the backend. I really like PHP. I have used it heavily so there is not much I am gonna learn from PHP. Elixir seems like good choices for a few reasons. easy access to the OTP and a good ecosystem (when compared to Clojure).

I will suggest you could try putting information in your HN profile regarding what you can offer and what you looking for, plus participating on the first of the month in "Freelancer -- Seeking Freelancer" on this site.

I hear over and over that freelancers doing work they like with good conditions get most of their work via word of mouth. That seems to be about finding a few good clients and having an established relationship with them and them referring you to other people.

I've pursued this before and I came to the conclusion that the only reasonable way to do it is to hire a virtual assistant to help you look for projects. It's just become too much of a numbers game. I personally hire people from Latin America and recommend it if you're in North America for time zone compatibility. If you're in Europe probably somewhere in Asia is better for time zone reasons.

I've been using upwork.com for a few months now and I'm getting regular projects as a mobile developer. Interesting ones too, sometimes to patch up an existing project, sometimes to start a new one. It took roughly a month though until the first clients started responding to my applications. Create a sexy profile and be patient.

I can vouch for upwork. The initial warmup phase can be a little rough, but if you use it consistently it's really good. I've probably billed 20-30k in work on there part-time.

At what hourly rate?

Aren't you competing for price @ upwork?, that aspect doesn't seem very attractive to me. Are you happy with your hourly rate?

If other freelancers are messing up projects on those sites, I would see that as an opportunity to enter the market with a quality service, if the customer needs the quality. If it’s a race to the bottom and you want no part of it, you could start a side business selling something unrelated to programming.

I have found most of my work via old employers. I’m currently working full time at one place and part time for the previous place. Establishing a track record is hard, but if you have worked at a place before and done excellent work then it is orders of magnitude easier to make this work.

PHP dev here, I never found anything that paid well enough on a "marketplace" site to bother investing time in.

My advice is to get networking, if you can get into the ears of enough people you will stumble upon someone who needs help AND may pay you a decent rate. I would have never found my "after 5" gig had it not been for a recommendation from a previous co-worker.

I've been working with After5.io for a few months and it has been great so far. After joining I basically jump to a JIRA board at my leisure and pull work to do.

I've also stumbled across https://www.turtle.dev/ which seems like a similar idea but I have no knowledge of the product.

gitcoin.co I made $15k+ on there pretty easily before boring of web development and moving on to other things. One advantage is nearly all of it will be open source and show on your github profile.

> I made $15k+ on there pretty easily

How did that translate into the hourly rate in your case?

~$100/hr, definitely there were some outliers, like a $500 issue that took 30 minutes, and others that got stuck in code review for weeks and took up a disproportionate amount of time.

We don't have any direct insight into contract vs. full time, but you can find remote php jobs: https://www.phpjobs.app/remote-php-jobs.

You can also search for contract and more than likely most of those jobs are actually contract jobs: https://www.phpjobs.app/search?search=contract

Here's some actionable advice (hope it helps):

- Join Toptal (https://toptal.com) or similar sites. I've found their criteria of getting developers on board to be quite hard. Brush up your skills. You'll end up getting good projects overall. The upside is huge. People generally don't bid too low.

- Start by cold emailing executives at small-medium tier startups. You can find those companies on Crunchbase (https://www.crunchbase.com/) and AngelList(https://angel.co). Find engineering manager or a C-team executive (CTO, CEO) on Linkedin and message them (or cold email). Tell them how you can add value to their engineering team instead of just asking if you can get a project. All depends on your ability to write a well-crafted email.

- Build relationships. I've freelanced before and can vouch that finding good clients is HARD. Keep a healthy relationship with the ones who hired you before, ask them for referral, etc.

- Write a useful blog and convert clients from there. Assume it to be your sales funnel if you will. - Tweet, connect with people virtually. Be genuinely nice. Many people I know got their "big break" in freelancing via Twitter.

- If you have Wordpress skills, you can go so far with managing instances for people who don't know a thing. I know people earning $3K a month pretty easily by invoicing a handful of bloggers. Again, cold email is your friend.

My parting advice would be to not look for freelance projects. They're a waste of time. Instead, just look for high paying remote PHP jobs. You'll work much less and earn a lot more. I was skeptical at first but YES remote companies pay well too. Go to DailyRemote (https://dailyremote.com) and filter jobs by $70k+. Start applying to those positions. Also, remote companies that are not actively hiring would be interested in a good candidate if you just tell them that you're looking out. Tell them why they need to have you on the team. Most of them would be happy to accommodate.

Hope it helps. Good luck!

Been working on a project to help people find high-impact jobs tackling problems they care about (ie. climate change, healthcare, etc), and we'll have filters for part-time and remote when we launch next month: https://www.splashwithdolphin.com.

Full disclosure - I work at Toptal and have been for over 3 years. Now that’s out of the way, I would like to encourage you to check out Toptal.com . Our entire purpose is to connect talented freelancers with companies looking for serious work. That way you, as a freelancer can focus on engaging in quality projects.

Let’s face it, you are already busy with a 40h/week job and you don’t need to be burdened with additional clerical tasks associated with freelancing. We will take care of the billing and pay you directly. We want to make sure that you are successful as a freelancer in our network, so we will help set you up for success.

I'm currently hiring remote full time PHP developers for my saas Agency analytics ... Blake[dot]Acheson[at]agencyanalytics[dot]com if interested

> who place low bids just to win projects and then they mess them up.

Go to their past projects and offer a high price to fix the mess

Definitely www.remotemore.com/candidates

in my experience, upwork is the least spammy site compared to freelancer, fiverr, and guru

I suggest you look at Toptal.

I applied at Toptal recently, but withdrew my application when I heard about how the CEO is hoarding equity that was promised to investors and the co-founder. Now they are suing the co-founder as well (and disputing that he is actually a co-founder). (He seems to be within his legal rights, but ethics is another matter entirely.) https://www.theinformation.com/articles/at-booming-toptal-no...

I'd suggest looking at Facet (facetdev.com) or Arc.dev as alternatives.

Humiliating machine disguised as a freelance platform

I thought that too while looking over their "screening process", but now I'm really curious to see how hard it is to get in. Did you go through it?

I started it once when I was super under-utilized in my day job and was looking at ways to stay stimulated.

I figured I'd start out getting approved as being able to do useful work in a particular CMS in a particular language (Where I expected the acceptance criteria to be low (and the size/complexity of engagements to be low) -- customize a listing of content, build a custom form, customize how content is themed, etc...

After typical screener quiz etc. and a Skype interview, there was a take home challenge that resembled "build a minimalist custom ERP with <such and such acceptance criteria> and <such and such custom business logic> shoehorned inside of WordPress" , probably a good 20 hours of work minimum if you were using an MVC framework with decent developer experience, let alone trying to bang it together inside a CMS without much support infrastructure for such things.

I declined to complete the challenge.

I might have had better results going straight for a language + framework actually suited to creating custom apps, but it didn't give me a great impression.

I had the same experience with the take home project applying as a Python/Django dev. I would have normally billed around $2k for what they wanted for a throwaway test.

I also declined.

I declined to complete the step where interviewer was about to watch me coding online almost the same quiz they gave me on the previous step. I have just rebelled inside and said "no thanks" almost automatically.

I have felt myself like inside some stupid adult movie.

Several weeks later I have found a freelance gig (which later turned to be almost 2y job) and the business owner told me he have approached Toptal before me and was shocked by their attitude, fees and especially by something around $50k coder take-away fee. Definitely not freelancing.

I'm seeing that dysfunction pattern in a lot of industries. Irrelevant middle-man creating a lot of drama and fees to justify their existence when they can be easily bumped out of the way digitally....

I did, it was the default coding challenge you find in other companies, with a take home project for the last project. There's 4 steps, which can be time consuming.

I'm seeing that dysfunction pattern in a lot of industries. Irrelevant middle-man creating a lot of drama and fees to justify their existence when they can be easily bumped out of the way digitally....


I'd suggest going with Toptal.

You'd join an elite network of the world’s top talent, connecting the best and brightest in business, design, and technology.

This will give you a chance to work top organizations from anywhere in the world, on your terms. All Toptal clients are thoroughly vetted. Only those with the budget, skill, and intent to hire make the cut. You get paid on time, every time as Toptal handles all billing and invoicing directly with clients, letting you fully focus on your engagements.

I'm sure you'll appreciate that since you have a full time job and don't want to waste your time going through action races to the bottom, competing against armies of coders.

However, Toptal has a very rigorous screening process to identify the best. Toptal looks for great problem solvers with passion and drive — the types of people they want to work with (and learn from) themselves.

(Full disclaimer: I've been with Toptal for over 6 years now, and our mission, from day 1, is to enable great talent work on great projects through our platform.)

I'd say there's nothing wrong with working under TopTal, but it's not without risk. If you piss off TopTal, you'll get the axe and your income will go to zero overnight. Don't forget to consider that. If you take the path of building a freelance business from scratch, you'll be able to spread your risk among many clients.

Toptal is full of BS on their screening process. I am a freelancer on Upwork for 10+ years now (at that time they were oDesk) and a few years ago I applied at Toptal, out of curiosity. The experience of the screening process where they asked to do free work on a project, disguised as a throwaway test, except the specifics of the test was too much inline with those of a ongoing project made me decline it. Also I mentioned I was already a successful freelancer of Upwork and gave them my profile there to see for themselves meant nothing to them. My impression is they use their screening process to get projects done.

As for you, good for you that you made it there, but it's definitely not a freelancing platform.

That's factually incorrect, but I am sorry that you've found it bothersome.

I don't see how you being part of a different platform, makes any difference to them.

It's like saying "Hey, I interviewed at Facebook - so everyone has to immediately hire me".

It is a freelancing platform and there are thousands of freelancers in their community, I'd suggest attending one of their events where you could meet & greet them, and talk about their experiences. As far as I can tell, they find it valuable to be part of it, so much that they dedicate their own time to spread the news, and work on Toptal's recognition.

The process is very similar to the interview processes at companies like Google, Facebook, Palantir etc.

Yeah, you're expected to do a project, as did every individual that made it through the screening process.

I really don't see how, with so many years of experience, you could possibly claim that they have hundreds of people (weekly) complete their clients projects? For free?

And,they've done it for years? Seems ludicrous to me mate.

Their screening process is to make sure that creme de la creme is hired, right? Me, as a successful freelancer with verifiable track means I am already that. So is like saying "hey, I worked at Facebook, not just simply interviewed, and here is a verifiable record that I did good work there, so let's skip the BS, shall we?". That was my point with them giving them my Upwork profile

That still doesn't make a lot of sense.

So, you're essentially saying that the next time you apply to join a company (say Google), you should not go through whatever interview process they have because you worked at Facebook, and they should take your word for it? So you should not be going through whatever tests they subject their applicants?

Not take my word for it, do you even understand what giving a link to your profile on Upwork means? You can see what they worked on, how much they charged for and most importantly what was the feedback the client did. And I am not talking about jobs with 200/300 USD range pay, I am talking about jobs with thousand of hours and tens of thousand of dollars as payment with more then six months of continuous commitment to them AND at the end of those jobs my clients praised me while giving me 5 stars. That's what I meant with verifiable track.

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