Mar 15, 2024

How to build a website like Toptal

Toptal is an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project managers in the world. Discover the steps to create your own elite freelance platform akin to Toptal.

Introduction: Why build a website like Toptal

Toptal's success as an online marketplace can be attributed to its unique approach to connecting businesses with top-tier freelance talent. Unlike traditional job boards or freelance platforms, Toptal emphasizes quality over quantity by rigorously vetting its freelancers, ensuring that only the top 3% of applicants, who excel in their respective fields, are admitted into the network. This high standard has attracted a clientele that includes startups, businesses, and even Fortune 500 companies looking for the best talent without the overhead of hiring full-time employees. Toptal's model offers flexibility and efficiency to both freelancers and employers, facilitating seamless integration of freelancers into projects with minimal onboarding time. The platform's success is further bolstered by its focus on high-demand sectors such as software development, design, finance, and project management, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of the gig economy by meeting the evolving needs of the digital workplace.

How does a website like Toptal work?

For buyers, Toptal offers a streamlined process to access top-tier freelance talent. By submitting project requirements, buyers are matched with pre-vetted professionals in fields like software development, design, and finance. This ensures high-quality outcomes without the hassle of extensive searches or vetting, making it an efficient solution for project needs.

For sellers, Toptal operates as a premium freelancing platform that connects top-tier professionals with businesses. Sellers undergo a rigorous screening process to showcase their expertise. Once accepted, they gain access to high-quality projects, allowing them to work with leading companies while maintaining flexibility and commanding competitive rates for their services.

What is Toptal's business model?

Toptal operates as an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project managers in the world. Its business model is centered around connecting highly skilled freelance professionals with companies seeking top-tier talent for their projects. Unlike traditional job boards or freelancing platforms, Toptal emphasizes quality and exclusivity by rigorously vetting its freelancers to ensure only the top 3% of applicants are accepted into the network. Companies seeking to hire freelancers through Toptal are provided with a personalized matching service, where Toptal's industry experts match them with freelancers who best fit their project requirements. This high-touch approach ensures a high success rate for project matches. Toptal generates revenue by charging clients for the freelance services provided, which includes a markup on the freelancers' rates. This model allows Toptal to offer premium services and support to both its clients and freelancers, setting it apart from other online marketplaces by focusing on quality and a seamless hiring experience.

Toptal, an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project managers in the world, generates revenue by acting as a mediator between highly skilled freelancers and companies in need of their expertise. The platform meticulously vets freelancers to ensure only the top 3% of talent is admitted, guaranteeing high-quality work for its clients. Toptal makes money by charging clients for the services provided by freelancers. This is typically done through a markup on the freelancers' rates or by charging clients a service fee. The exact financial model can vary, including hourly rates, part-time, or full-time engagement fees, but the essence of Toptal's revenue generation lies in the difference between what it pays its freelancers and what it charges its clients. This model allows Toptal to maintain a high standard of quality in its talent pool while providing a seamless and reliable service for businesses in need of top-tier freelance professionals.

Key features of Toptal

The most important functionality of a marketplace like Toptal, which specializes in connecting businesses with freelance talent in the fields of software development, design, finance, and project management, is its rigorous vetting process. This process is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Quality Assurance: Toptal prides itself on offering top-tier talent. Their vetting process ensures that only the top 3% of applicants, who excel in their respective fields, are accepted into the network. This high standard maintains the marketplace's reputation for quality and reliability.

  2. Matching Precision: The vetting process is not just about filtering out the best; it's also about understanding the strengths, weaknesses, and specializations of each freelancer. This detailed understanding allows Toptal to more accurately match freelancers with projects that suit their skills and experience, leading to better outcomes for both clients and freelancers.

  3. Trust and Security: For businesses, hiring freelancers involves a degree of risk, particularly regarding the quality of work and reliability. The thorough vetting process at Toptal mitigates these risks, providing clients with a sense of security and trust in the platform and its freelancers.

  4. Efficiency: By ensuring that only highly skilled professionals are available on the platform, Toptal reduces the time and resources clients must spend searching for and vetting potential hires themselves. This efficiency is particularly valuable for projects with tight deadlines or specialized requirements.

  5. Community and Standards: The vetting process also serves to build a community of highly skilled professionals who are committed to maintaining high standards of work. This community aspect can lead to ongoing professional development, networking opportunities, and a competitive but supportive environment.

In summary, the most important functionality of a marketplace like Toptal is its ability to ensure quality through a rigorous vetting process, which in turn builds trust, ensures high-quality matches between freelancers and projects, and maintains the platform's reputation as a source of top-tier talent.

Building a platform like Toptal, which connects top-tier freelancers with clients, involves significant investment in web development, design, security, and operations. The cost can vary widely based on the project's scope, features, and the development team's location. A basic MVP (Minimum Viable Product) could start around $50,000 to $100,000, considering essential features like user registration, profile management, project bidding, and payment processing. However, for a full-fledged platform with advanced functionalities such as AI-driven matchmaking, robust security measures, and a seamless user interface, costs could escalate to $250,000 or more. Ongoing maintenance and marketing expenses would add to the initial development costs.

How to create a successful alternative to Toptal

Identify a niche market within the freelance industry that is underserved by Toptal, such as a specific technology, industry, or type of project.

Conduct market research to understand the needs, preferences, and pain points of both freelancers and clients within this niche.

Develop a unique value proposition that addresses these needs and sets your platform apart from Toptal and other competitors.

Create a user-friendly website and mobile app that facilitate easy navigation, project management, and communication between freelancers and clients.

Implement a rigorous vetting process for freelancers to ensure high-quality talent, focusing on the specific skills and experience relevant to your niche.

Offer competitive pricing for clients while ensuring fair compensation for freelancers to attract the best talent and maintain their loyalty.

Develop a strong brand identity and marketing strategy to build awareness and credibility in your target market.

Leverage social media, content marketing, and SEO to drive traffic to your platform and engage with your target audience.

Provide exceptional customer service to both freelancers and clients, including dispute resolution and support for project management.

Foster a community among your users through forums, events, and networking opportunities to build loyalty and encourage word-of-mouth referrals.

Continuously gather feedback from users and adapt your platform and services to better meet their evolving needs.

Explore partnerships with educational institutions, industry associations, and other organizations to expand your network and offer additional value to your users.

Stay informed about trends and advancements in your niche market and the broader freelance industry to continually innovate and improve your platform.

Successful Toptal competitors

  1. Upwork: Upwork is a broader platform compared to Toptal, offering a wide range of freelancers from entry-level to experts across various industries, including writing, design, IT, and legal services. Unlike Toptal, which focuses on connecting businesses with the top 3% of freelance talent in software development, design, and finance, Upwork allows clients to post jobs and receive bids from freelancers, providing a more diverse pricing structure. Upwork's broader approach makes it more accessible but can require more effort from clients to find the right match for high-quality, specialized projects.

  2. Fiverr: Fiverr positions itself as a more accessible and versatile marketplace than Toptal, catering to businesses of all sizes looking for freelance services in digital marketing, writing, graphic design, and more. Unlike Toptal's rigorous vetting process aimed at ensuring only the top-tier professionals are listed, Fiverr allows freelancers to create gigs at various price points, making it easier for startups and small businesses to find services within their budget. However, the quality and experience level of freelancers on Fiverr can vary widely, which means businesses may need to spend more time vetting candidates for complex, high-stakes projects.

  3. is one of the largest freelance marketplaces, offering a wide array of services similar to Upwork but with a competitive bidding system that can drive prices down. Unlike Toptal, which prides itself on a selective process to ensure quality, provides access to a vast pool of talent worldwide, including professionals and beginners, making it a go-to for businesses with a tight budget. The platform's emphasis on a bidding system can be beneficial for cost savings but may require more diligence from clients to ensure the freelancers' quality and reliability.

  4. Guru: Guru offers a flexible and professional environment that caters to a wide range of freelancers and employers, similar to Upwork but with a focus on providing a more curated experience. It differentiates itself from Toptal by offering SafePay payment protection and promoting a lower fee structure, which can be attractive to both freelancers and employers. While Guru strives to maintain a high-quality pool of freelancers, its vetting process is not as stringent as Toptal's, making it a more budget-friendly option with a potentially broader talent pool, albeit with varying levels of expertise.

  5. LinkedIn ProFinder: LinkedIn ProFinder leverages LinkedIn's extensive professional network to connect businesses with freelance professionals, focusing on areas such as coaching, marketing, and writing. Unlike Toptal, which is highly specialized in tech, design, and finance, ProFinder offers a broader range of services by tapping into the vast LinkedIn network, making it ideal for clients looking for professionals in less technical fields. ProFinder's reliance on LinkedIn's established professional profiles for vetting provides a different approach to quality assurance, offering a more direct insight into a freelancer's background and network but without the specialized vetting process that characterizes Toptal.

Options to develop a website similar to Toptal

Creating a Toptal-style online marketplace from the ground up is a significant, costly endeavor. However, nowadays, there are numerous methods to construct a marketplace that don't necessitate a large budget.

The choice you should make depends on:

  • The functionalities you believe your marketplace requires
  • Your technical abilities (or abilities present in your team)
  • Your financial plan
  • The time you have available.

The various methods to create a marketplace include:

  • Utilizing WordPress and plugins
  • Constructing atop open-source software
  • Employing a mix of no-code instruments
  • Utilizing a specialized no-code marketplace SaaS solution
  • Developing atop an API-based marketplace SaaS solution

Besides your limitations in terms of abilities and financial plan, you should also consider the pace of learning. Launching your Toptal-style platform swiftly means you begin to understand your audience rapidly. These insights assist you in crafting the type of platform that users prefer over any other existing solution.

Sharetribe’s marketplace software is designed with this iterative learning approach in mind.

Initially, we assist you in launching a platform akin to Toptal in one day without any programming. The construction phase is complimentary forever, and all the essential functionality is pre-configured.

After you’ve launched, you discover what sorts of extra features and functionality your platform needs to cater to your audience. You might wish to alter the design and workflow entirely, incorporate numerous third-party services, or develop a mobile application. With Sharetribe, you can effortlessly custom-code all these modifications and much more, either on your own or with assistance from our Expert partners.

At Sharetribe, we’ve been crafting marketplaces for over a decade. Our knowledge and proficiency are at your service through our content resources, which you can access and utilize regardless of how you decide to construct your platform.

Best of fortune with your Toptal-style venture!

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