My experience with TopTal


First Impression

I heard of TopTal and CrossOver few months ago when I was talking to my friends at iHouse Co-working Space (101 Dao Tan street, Hanoi, Vietnam). Both of them, that are famous and difficult to join in, attracted my attention to level up my expertise and reputation.


CrossOver

The CrossOver, from the first glance, is a company having a bunch of projects and wanna hire freelancers to work on. I, then, go to the available jobs page and see many projects with a great hour rate, a variety of techniques and languages. This is wonderful and applicable for me and my friends who are good at computer science in Hanoi city (where the rate is lower than Ho Chi Minh city and much lower than other cities in the world) but have no chance to be employed with a good rate and flexibility of time. 
I, firstly, start to do a research for the CrossOver in order to decide should I go for this way or not. The output came out with many good and bad news.

The good things are:

  • CrossOver does provide great jobs with high hour rate (compared to Hanoi rate)
  • 100% remote work, I get paid when I work, I can travel when I finish a project to take a break.
  • In order to get a job, a developer must pass a list of tests (including English test, problem-solving test, interview…). If I pass those tests, this means I am a qualified and potential developer (which is good for my reputation)

The bad things are:

Umm, this seems not good as I think.


Toptal

The TopTal has the similar business as the CrossOver, nevertheless, the TopTal is different at the way the company hire freelancers.

Firstly, TopTal does not show available jobs to non-member freelancers. In order to see them, developers have to be a Toptaler who must pass the 5-steps interview. This usually takes a month to finish a normal interview (including a 2-weeks test-project). This seems a bit longer than usual but it is worth.

Secondly, Toptal have a tech-blog, a community (freelancers network, events), a list of professional teams (technical editors team, content team, screening team) in order to help freelancers to improve their reputation, and a variety of things that developers have benefit of.

There are always two sides of a story, the Toptal is not an exception. Toptal network has pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Similar to the CrossOver, working as a freelancer at Toptal is great with high financial reward, flexibility of time, a variety of jobs and projects to fit with all developers.
  • Plus, Toptal has blog that allows freelancers to contribute to. This would help both of Toptal and freelancers to gain more reputation.
  • Community is another strong advantage of Toptal, as Toptal member, I can communicate, discuss, learn with other Toptalers in order to improve my skills and knowledge.

Cons:

  • There are too many Toptalers compared to projects, there is around only one project/10 developers. Therefore, a Toptaler has to compete with others to be the best fit for a project. Hence, if you are a new freelancer, you should not consider Toptal as a start.
  • A Toptaler cannot set his/her hour rate, he/she has to ask the #Recruiter in order to increase/decrease the rate. This is not normal but acceptable.

Decision and The Story

From what I have researched above, I decided to end up with the Toptal (the better network so far).

My new journey began on 23 May 2016. This took me around six weeks in order to join to the Toptal network (including waiting time).

The Toptal interview is intensive and extremely difficult in term of algorithm, time complexity and project testing.

The most difficult part is the Codility test(2), which most of freelancers fail (only 7% pass). This includes 3 challenges with difficulty increase.

My recommendation is trying to finish the first two challenges with 100% correct, and you only need to give suggestion/draft solution for the last one. Because, completing all three challenges in 90 mins is insane. Many people are able to do it but they all get hired with crazy high salary or big profit (stock share).

The rest is simpler and similar to what I have been doing for more than two years. This includes:

  • English Test (1): A simple discussion or talk with a friendly girl (in Philippines) about why I join to Toptal? What I have done before? This is like a chit chat.
  • Screening Test (3): Test my ability to solve problem on my computer with two small tasks. This is like what I do every day (got an issue to solve => think => make a general solution => utilise and perfect it).
  • Project Test (4): This is a big project in two weeks, I finished on time as a result of a Django project template that I made for myself when I was working for the StoryTree.
  • Project Review (5): This is again not that difficult, the reviewer did reviewed my code before. He only tested the website on my localhost. He found a bug in RESTFUL API and asked me to fix it in less than 10 mins. I fixed and it then worked perfectly.

I passed the Toptal Interview and got a “Welcome to Toptal” email with a bunch of documentation including: legal, terms and contract. It took me days to read all of them and understand all of the concepts.

I, then, took two days to complete my Toptal profile. Toptal has a great team of professional editors and recruiters, I am so grateful with their help in order to make a professional profile and be more confident at Toptal.


Ongoing

I have found many interesting jobs at Toptal, chasing them is difficult as passing the Toptal interview. All developers at Toptal are talented and experienced, I am a junior compared to them.

I, then, got my first interview after 3 weeks with 7 project applications. This is a good start and I am going to work more on learning stuff, publishing more blogs and engaging on Python Community in order to improve my reputation.

I am ready for greater challenges. I am coming to you…