Freelancing At The Top(tal) Of The Heap

The best thing about being a part-time freelancer in the web programming world is that you can keep your skills sharp in technologies outside of what you use at work while bringing in some extra cash on the side. I already have a great day job working for Peapod, a groundbreaking e-commerce grocery company where I get to find new ways to make its new AngularJS site more useful and where the team is so great that I wouldn't want to leave just to drum up a higher paycheck. But since I want to bring in more cash (who doesn't?), and I want to increase my exposure to other technologies, part-time freelancing seems like a great choice. But there is a down side.

There are tons of freelance sites out there that try to help developers and companies make connections that fit, but that's just the problem. Within each of these sites there are so many jobs and developers to sift through, that too much time is spent filtering options instead of building great apps. The answer I found to this problem is a highly selective middleman named Toptal.

Toptal cuts through the clutter of freelancing in three important ways:

  1. They have the most selective screening process out there

    • On average, only 3% of developers pass their screening process each month. Companies like that because they know no matter who they end up working with, if they got them through Toptal, they're going to be good. And for software engineers like me, that's music to my ears. I know that all I have to do is prove I've got the skills, and then magically most of the other developers I'm competing with are gone.
  2. They only work with great companies like Airbnb

    • I don't have to worry about collecting payment being a hassle, or shady companies, or people who don't really know what they want. Because these companies have a reputation that Toptal has already approved, most of the headaches that pop up around freelance development are gone also. Poof! Now I can focus on what I do best, writing great code.constructor
  3. Most of the companies going through Toptal are looking for longer term commitments

    • These may range from a couple months to a year or more. Some of the companies have contract-to-hire in the back of their minds if you want that. This eliminates the other major frustration of freelance work, constantly looking for your next gig. If we were to compare it to the world of relationships, this isn't some kind of fling like a lot of freelance contracts, this is a steady relationship. It's not marriage, a salaried job, but it is a real relationship.

If you're the kind of developer avoiding contract work because you love coding more than looking for and managing clients, then Toptal is just the kind of marketplace that could make a side gig pleasurable for you. And that's why I'm joining the Toptal Web Programmer's Group.

Toptal screens heavily, so make sure you bring your A-game, but when you're in, your life will be dramatically simpler. You won't be competing with every developer out there , you'll be standing at the top of the hill right where great companies can see you clearly. You won't have to worry that dealing with those companies will be a hassle, and you can spend your time coding, not job hunting. What better way to get involved in fun new projects and bring in some cash while you're at it! I'm checking out Toptal, and maybe you should too.

Written on June 25, 2016