The Best Freelancer Websites for Finding Developers: Guru Vs TopTal Vs Upwork

In this post, we’ll provide a comparison of Toptal and Guru, the differences between Upwork, Guru, and TopTal, and the pros and cons of each. Now there are plenty of other freelance websites for finding developers, but we’re gonna go ahead and say it: Don’t use any of them. We’ll explain why below. We’ve also left ourselves off the list, because these are simply hiring platforms, whereas Indiez manages the freelance dev/design project from start to finish. Learn more about that here.

We chose to compare these three because in our experience, they provide exceptional design and development services, as far as freelance goes. So if you’re looking for the right platform for freelance developers, don’t waste your time on the others.

Note: At Indiez, we’ve given more than 4,000 interviews to hire remote freelance developers and designers for projects. We can spot a bad service when we see one, so you can trust us on this.

Let’s get to it, starting with a zoomed-out comparison of Guru and TopTal, and details about each section below.

Toptal Vs Guru

Now let’s take a closer look at each, starting with Guru.

Guru.com review, pricing, refunds, pros, and cons

If you’re familiar with Upwork, then you’ve got a headstart with Guru. They’re very similar.

However, whereas on Upwork your primary focus is to create an attractive job listing for freelancers to bid on, Guru lets you actively search for freelancers who may have the exact set of skills you’re looking for.

With Guru, you’ll pay a one-time amount that’s equal to 2.5% of the total project. So, if you pay $5,000 for an Minimum Viable Product, you’ll actually pay $5,125 -- the $125 going to Guru. They gotta pay the bills, too. You can make these payments through the mediums in the graph above. Moreover, if you pay with check or wire transfer, you’ll actually earn 3.5% cash back for offsetting the payment handling.

If you choose the cash option, you’ll be working with Guru’s on-site system called Safepay. You can think of this as a pre-loaded gift card, in which the funds are released to the developer or designer once the job is complete.

Guru.com’s refund policy is also interesting. While the 2.5% won’t be refunded, they’ll let you work with the freelancer, or “guru” as they call them, to negotiate a refund. You can do this on your own communication platform or through Guru’s on-site portal call the Workroom, which itself is quite a cool addition. Through Workroom, you can monitor alerts, tasks, discussions, shared files, status updates, payments, and more. For those who may be a little skeptical of freelancer developers, this is a great tool, as it provides constant contact, accountability, and security.

Other options on Guru.com

Guru has varying levels of membership, which come with different benefits. Its Enterprise package lets multiple users manage several freelancers and starts at just $6 per user per month, and goes up to $24 per user per month.

For an extra $30, businesses can also feature a job on the site, with the hopes of attracting the best, most-relevant talent.

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. If you’ve looked up reviews of the talent found on Guru.com, you’ve seen things like this:

As one reviewer on FitSmallBusiness pointed out, “Site is called Guru yet less than 5% of freelancers has skills above average amateur.”

And this seems to be a common complaint, from both the businesses who need freelancers and the freelancers looking for work. In the latter situation, freelancers have been frustrated when clients just away from a project without paying, as anecdotally evidenced below:

As full believers in freelance and remote work partnerships, we hate to see this, and hope Guru.com can address the concerns of scammers on both sides of their platform.

And that’s the fast sprint through Guru.com. Phew! Onto Toptal.

Toptal review, pricing, refunds, pros, and cons

Toptal is quickly emerging as the go-to place to find high-quality freelance developers among an enormous sea of freelance platforms. So high, in fact, that they claim to offer access to the top 3% of the world’s tech talent. We’ll explore that in a little.

Toptal is differentiating itself by making it easier for companies to find high-quality talent and lowering the risk of getting a poor digital product, nonpayment, or any other development fail -- a complaint that has plagued platforms like Upwork and Guru from the beginning. It does this through a thorough vetting process that includes an English language test, a skills test, and a personality assessment.

This added benefit is reflected in the cost, though. While TopTal doesn’t take a percentage cut, its freelancer rates are substantially higher. For a developer, expect to pay at least $60/hour if not upward of $100/hour, and the rates only go up from there.

Now let’s look at the refund policy. Technically, there isn’t one. When you sign up for a project, you’ll have a two-week window to decide if you’d like to keep working with the developer. If you choose yes, Toptal keeps your $500 deposit and applies it as a credit on your first invoice. Say no, and they’ll return it to you, and even pay the developer 50% of the specified amount. It’s actually a pretty sweet non-existent return policy.

But let’s get back to that claim of “top 3%.”

Anecdotes from developers have emerged on Quora and various review sites suggesting that the vetting process may be eliminating developers who are, in fact, perfect for a particular job. In a sense, it’s like they’re creating an exclusive club just to boast the prestige of being an exclusive club. In other words, perhaps only 3% of applicants are admitted, but the criteria may have nothing to do with what would make them a good fit for your business.

Is Upwork worth it?

And then there’s Upwork, currently the largest freelance platform available with 12 million freelancers and five million registered clients. We’ve included Upwork on this list because we’ve certainly used it ourselves for random tasks, and it would be hypocritical to tell you not to.

But as far as freelance developers go, you need to know what you’re getting into. It’s on the low end of the spectrum in terms of quality, and isn’t meant for long-term projects nor continued relationships. However, many of our startup clients built their first MVP on Upwork, and it worked out great for them. Just know you may need a more advanced strategy for growing your business than what a typical Upwork developer could give you.

What makes Indiez different?

Indiez isn’t a freelance marketplace, nor are we ourselves an outsourced IT company. We’re something new and different, which, we know, can be scary. But all of the world’s greatest advancements were also at one point new and different, and often scary.

We’ve already done the leg work of finding the best design and development teams in the world through a combination of brilliant freelancers and renowned agencies. We’ll listen to your idea for an app, website, or any other digital product, assemble the team that’s absolutely perfect for you, and manage the project end to end.

This means you can come to us with absolutely no technical knowledge -- only an idea. Then, we’ll do the techy part, speak the techy language, and manage the techy agencies or freelancers. That’s what we’re really good at.

Here’s another handy graph that shows the difference between Indiez and freelance marketplaces, or you can check out our page on this topic here:

So there you go! In summary, the biggest differences between Guru, Toptal, and Upwork are:

- Guru is a more affordable option, provides an experience you’re likely more familiar with than Toptal, and is aimed at all company sizes and stages. However, the company is still working through quality issues.

- Toptal offers stringently vetted freelance developers and designers for a higher price, targeting larger companies and enterprises.

- Upwork is great for smaller projects and budget-constrained MVPs, however it's missing key quality control features.

To learn more about how Indiez is different, or what we can do for you, start up a chat! We’re standing by to answer your questions.

Let's talk about how Indiez can help you build your business.