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April 23, 2020

This is how much you can really make in the top remote working platforms (100k)

Discover what you can make at Toptal, Crossover, BairesDev and some other top remote working marketplaces

It was then when I heard her voice over the phone: Are you okay with us paying you 3x more than what you currently make? I obliged.

The next two paragraphs are verbose introductions. If you want to consume this article in 30 seconds just go through the headlines.

Before diving in, let me give you some personal context. I live in a South American third-world country. The minimum wage here is roughly 250USD and the average wage for a developer with 2-6 years of experience is roughly 1500USD/month. This means that something like 4k/month is a lot over here. Put on top that most currencies in the third world are heavily devalued against the USD. I know this is good cash for anyone in India, Africa, Central America, or even in Central/West Europe, so this might give you hope, too.

Also, just to clarify, I’m all in for pursuing a fulfilling life and working on what makes you happy, even if you’re making cents. I myself work for free just for the fun of it. But, like any other person on this planet, I want money. Getting 4x or 5x of what I need allows me to invest, save, and help those in need. It also allows me to go navigate these COVID hard times with peace, spending time writing helpful content for you. Money is what you want it to be. For me it’s freedom and mental sanity.

Let’s jump right in.


TL;DR: 30k - 200k. Very likely to get 60k-80k/year.

You’re going to read a lot of crap about Crossover online. I, on the other hand, can’t be more thankful for this company. Sure they tracked my keystrokes and took screenshots of my work for 2 years (I’ll talk about that in another post). But, all in all, I was able to land a 60k/year contract with very few years of experience (not even close to a senior). This is not bragging, all the salaries are public on their website. Some people have asked me if the salaries are legit because it looks too shady. Well, they’re not. I genuinely worked with managers making 200k from the comfort of their home. I reported to a Senior VP who was making 800k/year, right from his home desk. I myself hired 100k developers.

I remember I applied back then to a well-renowned YC company in my country. I built an Angular app to land a job as a frontend developer and got an offer of 1300USD/month. I rejected it and I applied to Crossover for the Software Architect position. It was a much stricter process but I got the good news some weeks later. It was then when I heard her voice over the phone: Are you okay with us paying you 3x more than what you currently make? I obliged.

I worked for 2 years at Crossover and a lot happened during this time. I got promoted a few times and managed to save a good pile of cash. I was featured on their site, you can read my story if you want.

Please, keep in mind, this is not to brag a damn here. 60-80k might not be a lot for you in your country or at this point in your career. But I know there are a lot of talented peers out there working for pennies where they could be making it big, with just a bit of research. Also, if I was a junior, I’d even take the 30k contract eyes closed. That’s 2.5k/month net which would put me in the 90% percentile countrywide. Sounds ridiculous but it’s true for a lot of folks.


TL;DR: I’m under NDA, can’t disclose rates. But you can make mid-six-figures over the years.

It’s well known within the Toptal network that you can’t disclose your hourly rate so “nobody does it”. I respect my NDA so I’m not disclosing anything, either. Go read this post in their blog and you’ll get a good idea of what you can expect. Let me quote them: “we’ll examine top freelancing tips from high-earning freelancers within the Toptal network: individuals who have accumulated high six-figure or million-dollar earnings over five or six years”. You do the math.

Can you make bank working on Toptal? Yes, but here’s the catch: It’s very, very tough to get in. I have referred over 130 people - only 3 of them made it in. The screening is tough and then, when you’re within the marketplace, you need to interview with clients and beat your Toptal fellows to land jobs.

This is the big one, you may think. The one that makes you the big bucks. I think that’s not completely true if you take a closer look. I’ve known peers who have had a hard time getting jobs when they get in. Also, most of the jobs are initially part-time or hourly, so landing a stable full-time job is no easy feat, but indeed doable.

You set your own rate. It’s an open market with a somehow restrictive government: they let the invisible hand (the market) decide what customers are willing to pay and what devs should charge, but you’ll normally find it very cumbersome to ask for a raise. It’s a necessary business inconvenience, totally understandable. Do you want to charge 100usd/hour? cool, do it, but you should really have top credentials to convince a client to pay for that.

Myth debunked: I don’t know why but I’ve received dozens of messages like “I’ve heard Indians are no good fit for Toptal” or “I’ve seen women have a hard time getting in”. It’s a big No! I myself have talked to great devs from India in Toptal. I’ve known super talented women in Toptal working on Machine Learning and full-stack web dev. There’s no bias and you can make it too.

Other options

TL;DR: For sure +50k. On average 70k. +100k doable with good experience.

I have only worked for Crossover and Toptal but I’ve received multiple offers from some other top remote platforms. Let me quickly go over them. Again, I hate to talk about myself but it’s the only way I know to bring awareness of this topic to my fellow devs seeking global opportunities out there.


TL;DR: 50k - 70k. Very likely to get 60k.

I get a phone call from them every other month. When I say I’m not taking any jobs at the moment they tend to outgrow whatever number I give them. I’ve tried with 60k and 80k and they’re always willing to offer the same, if not more. This is normally a good alternative for Spanish speakers.


TL;DR: 50k - 70k. Very likely to get 60k.

The interview process was somehow tricky. I had to complete an online coding test (multiple selections on easy and hard web dev questions and one algorithm on arrays). Then I had to work on a home assignment and finally passed a technical screening. I got a 75USD gift card in Amazon for clearing the interview (can’t complain). I can’t recall the exact number but I tried like 60-80k in the interview and they were willing to negotiate. This is a good option too.


TL;DR: 70k - 90k.

This one is interesting. They vet applicants not by a rigorous interview but by accepting invitation-only applicants. I got an invitation from the founder, passed an easy behavioral interview, and then I was in. I’m on their Slack but have never taken any job. As per my experience and their clients, I would expect somewhere between 70k - +100k.


TL;DR: Easily +100k.

I think this is the most promising one money wise. I got an invitation to apply but never finished the process. It’s very standard, though. You’ll go over an algorithm and system design interview. It’s founded by Google and Facebook engineers so you can expect a whiteboard interview, just like the ones you hate. All in all, clearing the process should take you no more than 2-3 months of preparation. I would totally expect compensation to be between 90k - 120k/year. All of this working remotely.

Are you willing to put in the sweat?

If you have relatively good English speaking skills, I dare to say you’re 3 months away from landing a high paying job in any of these platforms. I’m writing a FREE guide with a lot of tips and tricks to pass the interviews at these places. If you’re curious, you can sign up on the waitlist here and be the first to get it.

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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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