I initially heard about Toptal 2 years ago, but I never really considered joining because as a freelancer, I just didn’t see the need to have to take an interview, due to the fact that I felt I only really needed to prove my skills and deliver a competent solution after the initial questions and clarifications have been answered on a particular job.
To provide some context, I have been freelancing on Freelancer.com and Upwork for more than 13 years, and it has been worthwhile, simply due to the amount of experience gained from working for various people in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia. However, the high quality projects are few and far between, and as I have grown older, I have gradually realised that I can no longer afford the luxury of having to spend a lot of time sifting through the chaff.
I am also active on Topcoder, where the projects are very interesting and your code will be used by high profile clients including NASA, IBM or Paypal, but the long wait time to get paid is discouraging. It takes about 7 to 15 days for a project to close (5 to 7 days to build a solution, 2 to 3 days for a code review to select a winner, a few more days for final fixes, project closure and client approval), after which you receive a payment if you win first or second place prize. You are not able to withdraw the payment until it gets released, which adds an additional wait time of 30 days. Essentially, that is about 37 to 45 days from the start of a project until you are able to receive your compensation.
There is the compromise of getting a full-time job, but that would mean giving up quite a number of freedoms including a very flexible schedule and the ability to travel at will, amongst others. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it does work for some people, but I appreciate being able to spend more time with my family since I can choose when I want to work.
Having various opportunities available is never a bad thing for a freelancer, and one of the best skills you can have is the ability to adapt and evolve. Today, I have decided to join the Toptal web engineering community. Do I have what it takes to pass their rigorous screening process and join the top 3%? I may not have the answer to that question at this point, but I am fairly confident. So, challenge accepted!