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July 14, 2020

FAQs for future Toptalers

The answer to some of the popular questions I get as a Toptaler

This is not an official FAQ from Toptal. It’s all based on my personal experience. Take it with a grain of salt; my opinions might not apply for every case.

Once I get accepted, how long does it take to get a job?

It depends on factors like your specialty, experience, time availability, and timezone. In general, for a web developer with +3 years of experience looking for full-time or part-time, I’d say you can get a gig in 2-3 weeks.

Can I make a living working in Toptal?

Yes. I’ve been working (as talent) at Toptal for quite a few years now and it’s been pretty stable. For 18 months I had a contract for 50 hrs/week paid at a very good hourly rate. I married, traveled and lived well.

What kind of jobs can I get at Toptal?

There are certainly more jobs for web development (both for backend and frontend) than anything else. Clients are normally looking for experts, expect to be treated as such. Jobs are mostly full-time and part-time.

How can I prepare for the interview?

Assuming you’re a developer, you basically need English proficiency and fluency solving algorithms. It also helps to have a minimum of 2-3 years of experience. I wrote a free eBook to help you.

How much does Toptal pay?

You can set your own rate. However, it’s unlikely for a client to pay you $100 USD/hour, unless you’re very special. I’m under NDA so I can’t disclose my rate but Toptal shows some average numbers here and here.

Should I learn X language to get into Toptal?

You’re good if you know some of the popular languages and frameworks. They have clients looking for C#, Drupal, Python, JavaScript, Java, React, SQL, Angular, iOS, Android, etc. Stick to whatever you’re good at.

Do they only offer short-term freelancing gigs?

No. I worked with a client full-time for 18 months until I decided to part ways. Full-time and part-time jobs are normally expected to last between 6-24 months.

Do they pay vacations?

None of that. You work for one hour, they pay you one hour. You might get special treatment if you have a very good relationship with your client. The norm is to pause your engagement once you go on vacation.

Do they pay health, retirement plan, or any other benefits?

No. As a freelance, you need to take care of that yourself.

As for taxes, do they deduct something from your wage?

No. Once you get in, you sign a form where you confirm you’ll be paying taxes in your country. You will then report your earnings as an independent contractor in your country.

I don’t have much experience, can I still get accepted?

I don’t recommend applying if you don’t have at least 2-3 years of experience. It’ll be a disservice for you, the client, and Toptal. Don’t rush. Enjoy being a junior but train like you’re an expert.

I’m not good at algorithms, can I pass the interview?

No. You won’t make it too far in the process if you’re not fluent in solving algorithms. Check out my free eBook to prepare. Then start solving easy-level algorithms in Leetcode, Hackerrank, or Interview Cake.

How difficult it is to pass the interview?

I have referred well over 190 people. Only 3 of them have passed. Now, this is not to scare you. The process is not difficult per se, it just needs a good amount of preparation.

Are there any challenging or interesting projects at all?

I’d say 90% of the projects are very challenging. I’ve worked on hard things I didn’t know I was capable of like web 3D graphics, service workers manual tuning, CICD setup from scratch, you name it.

Do you have to compete with fellow Toptalers to get jobs?

Yes. Toptal recruiters find a handful of Toptalers to fulfill a position. Then the client interviews all of the Toptalers and picks whoever they want. There are plenty of projects for everybody, though.

I’m afraid to quit my job for Toptal. Is it stable enough?

There’s no need to quit your job. First, pass the interviews. Then, pick up an hourly or part-time job. Once you feel ready to take the plunge, do it. If Toptal doesn’t work out, there are some more platforms to work on.

I’ve heard Indians or Africans never make it. Is that true?

That can’t be more misleading. I myself have interacted with very impressive developers from all over the world in Toptal including, of course, people from India and Africa.

I currently make $100 USD/hr. Can I make more than that in Toptal?

You’re better off doing your thing. You won’t probably get that much in Toptal but maybe, if you’re very special (99th percentile), you can get very close.

#### Is it hard to change your rate?

You can change your rate whenever you want. That is, you still need to go through an uncomfortable conversation with your recruiter. Stay firm and ask for what you deserve.

Do you need to stick to a work schedule?

Most likely not. It depends on the client. Just make sure to set clear expectations with the client and be responsible. Join any mandatory call and then manage the rest of your time as you please.

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I'm Carlos Roso. I'm a Software Engineer at Meta. Former SDE at Amazon. Ex digital nomad at Toptal and Crossover. In love with open source and design.

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