CEO at Relevant

Upwork vs. Toptal vs. Arc: What’s Best for Hiring Developers in 2023?

December 22, 2022

If you’ve tried to hire before, you’ll agree that finding the right talent can be challenging. Just deciding where to search shapes a huge part of the challenge. One thing’s for sure, though: when local talent needs more knowledge and expertise for your project, there’s no better solution than hiring developers online.

The US workforce comprises 164.3 million people, and 70.4 million of them are freelancers. There’s no shortage of potential hires. You just have to be diligent and look in the right places.


Since freelancers represent a significant segment of the global economy, Toptal, Upwork, and Arc are the leading marketplaces for hiring them. Each platform has its peculiarities, advantages, and shortcomings. Which should you use to recruit tech experts for your project? Keep reading to find out more.

Introduction: what are Toptal, Upwork, and Arc?

Toptal vs Upwork vs Arc

Let’s start with some general information before diving into a detailed comparison between Toptal, Upwork, and Arc. What makes these platforms stand out?


“Toptal is an on-demand service for high-caliber talent. That’s what makes us different from other freelance marketplaces.”

Taso Du Val, CEO of Toptal

Toptal is a global network for hiring freelance developers, designers, finance experts, and product managers. It was founded in 2010 by Taso Du Val (former lead engineer at Fotolog), Adam D’Angelo (who’s also a CEO & Founder of Quora), and Andreessen Horowitz (a private venture capital firm in Silicon Valley).

As a value-driven marketplace, Toptal relies on a complex vetting process that only a chosen few can pass. Also, instead of combing through the platform looking for developers, you only need to communicate with Toptal consultants. Based on the criteria that fit your requirements, they will provide you with a list of fitting candidacies. 


“Most workers prioritize lifestyle over earnings. Therefore, professionals with the most in-demand skills will choose to freelance.”

Stephane K., CEO of Upwork

Upwork is an open freelancing platform that employs millions of developers, writers, designers, managers, analysts, translators, and other experts from all over the world. This marketplace dates back to 1998, when it was known as Elance-oDesk. But Upwork, as we know it today, was founded in 2015 by Stratis Karamanlakis and Odysseas Tsatalos.

You’ve probably heard about other general-purpose marketplaces similar to Upwork. Many of them have lower service fees than Upwork (in comparison, Upwork charges a 20% for the first $500 with a client, while Freelancer.com starts with 10%).

Nonetheless, this platform has no competition in scale: Upwork has the largest freelancing community, with over 5 million clients and 12 million registered freelancers.


“Arc is an all-in-one platform that helps you hire world-class remote engineers and teams effortlessly. Our mission is to make remote hiring easier and empower more people to do work that matters from anywhere.”

Weiting L., CEO & Founder of Arc

Arc (or Arc. dev) is a niche platform for online mentorship and freelance developers. Formerly known as CodementorX, Arc was founded in 2014 by an entrepreneur Weiting Liu.

Arc is quite similar to Toptal requirements in its approach to vetting. It has an even lower pass rate. It’s a handy platform if you need help with acquiring freelance developers.

On top of that, contractors on the website can assist you in recruiting full-time employees.

Toptal review: pros and cons

Potential hires on Toptal must undergo a strict screening process before applying for work. The vetting takes up to five weeks to complete. During that time, Toptal experts test applicants’ technical expertise, communication skills, professionalism, and integrity. As a result, only 3% of developers pass the screening.

By the way, it’s not uncommon to stumble upon a negative Toptal review for hiring developers on the Web. Many of these reviews are complaints from freelancers who failed to pass the screening process.

Do you have no time to vet every potential hire? Don’t worry! Toptal will provide an expert to learn about your needs, business goals, and required skills. After that, Toptal will shortlist several developers so you can interview them and pick the right talent.

But note that Toptal’s hiring system isn’t perfect. Even though you will work with vetted developers, there’s no guarantee you’ll find an ideal candidate. Toptal does, however, offer a two-week trial period (the platform will only bill you if you are satisfied with the results).


  • Payment options: hourly rate, part-time, and full-time employment
  • Payment methods: credit card, PayPal, ABA routing, and bank wires
  • Pay rates: Toptal average hourly rates – $60-$180 for developers
Toptal review: pros and cons


  • Five-step screening process. Toptal accepts less than 3% of potential developers based on their communicative and technical skills.
  • Polished hiring process. Toptal contractors find and shortlist developers for you.
  • Fast talent matching. You can get a professional developer in less than 24 hours.
  • No-risk trial. Toptal offers a free two-week trial to make sure your engagement with a developer is successful


  • Higher rates. Top talents demand more money.
  • Limited talent pool. Severe vetting means you will access a smaller pool of developers compared to platforms like Upwork.
  • An initial fee. You must put down a $500 deposit before using this service. Toptal will automatically apply this deposit to your first invoice after you hire a developer. 

Upwork review: pros and cons

The hiring processes in Upwork and Toptal (and Arc, for that matter) are fundamentally different. With the Upwork hiring process, you won’t find experts who’ll shortlist candidates for you. Instead, you’ll have to create projects, receive bids from freelancers, or do the searching yourself.

Moreover, there’s no vetting process for developers on Upwork. Anyone can register as a freelancer and start working. Nonetheless, the platform has a well-thought-out rating system to help filter out the right talents.

You should consider value when comparing Toptal to Upwork. You’ll have an easier time finding professionals on Toptal because only the most skilled developers can pass the screening process. However, charges tend to be much higher compared to Upwork freelancers.

Speaking of value, Upwork is the “golden mean” of open freelancer marketplaces. Upwork alternatives exist for hiring freelance developers with engineers who charge even less for their work (Freelancer.com and Fiverr come to mind). But, as you guessed it, lower pay rates mean lower quality. Many companies use Upwork to hire software developers for low-end projects that don’t require diverse skills. Moreover, it’s a good place to find quality hires if you’re willing to invest your time in the vetting process.


  • Bidding system. Developers bid on your projects and offer their prices.
  • Payment options: fixed price (with or without milestones) and hourly rate
  • Three premium plans: Plus, Business, and Enterprise (monthly fees range from $49.99 to $849, and even more for enterprise-level subscription)
  • Payment methods: credit card and PayPal
  • $15-$90 hourly rate for developers
Upwork review: pros and cons


  • Huge marketplace. Upwork has the broadest talent pool in the freelancing industry.
  • Wide pricing range. A bidding system makes sure you can find developers for any budget.
  • Small fees. You pay only a 3% processing fee to use the platform. Posting a job on Upwork is free of charge.
  • In-depth review system. Upwork automatically generates weekly reports. You can analyze and review the recordings of progress made on your projects.
  • Unified dashboard. Search for talents, vet potential hires, review work, communicate, and pay using the Upwork web interface or desktop application.
  • Rating system. You can compare freelancers based on their ratings and success rate. Furthermore, you can read other customers’ feedback.
  • Industry-leading payment security infrastructure. Upwork has an advanced payment protection mechanism that ensures you pay only for the work done.
  • Dispute requisition services. The finished result doesn’t meet your demands? File a dispute, and Upwork may exempt you from paying.


  • Freelancing Wild West. The recruitment process features a lot of trial and error because the platform lacks a vetting system.
  • Enormous fees for freelancers. Upwork has a 20% revenue fee for freelancers. That drives many quality developers away from the platform.
  • Communication difficulties are quite common. Not all freelance developers are fluent in English.
  • Useful features are locked behind a paywall. Features such as a no-risk trial period and ticket and email support are available only for Upwork Plus, Business, and Enterprise plans.

Arc review: pros and cons

Arc’s main focus is not freelancing services but software consulting and online mentoring. Still, we consider Arc one of the best Toptal alternatives for hiring developers.

Both these platforms share a similar approach to hiring. You’ll discuss your requirements with a consultant who will shortlist several developers. Afterward, you get to personally interview them to find the one that matches your team or project.

Comparing Toptal vs. Arc in terms of vetting, Arc turns out to be even more merciless: only 1% of the applicants can pass its six-step screening process.

You’ll get to negotiate the payment and other terms with a potential hire. On the other hand, given the exclusiveness of this platform, you shouldn’t expect low pay rates. Moreover, if you decide to hire a dev for a full-time job, you’ll have to pay an additional fee.


  • Payment options: hourly rate, retainer model (reserve a developer for a certain number of hours per week), and a full-time contract
  • Payment methods: credit card, AHC, and wire transfer
  • $60-$150 hourly rate for developers
Arc review: pros and cons


  • Vetted talents. Arc features a six-step screening process with a 1.1% pass rate.
  • English fluency. All developers are required to be fluent in English as a part of the vetting.
  • Fast hiring. It usually takes 24-72 hours to hire a skilled dev. Consultants can help you find the most appropriate remote employees.
  • No prepayment. You don’t need to deposit payments to search for developers.
  • Additional services. Arc provides such services as long-term mentorship for developers, one-on-one live help, and code review.
  • Engagement managers. This platform offers dedicated managers that can address your ongoing concerns after hiring.
  • Tracking tools. Review the work done on your project using Arc’s dashboard, which integrates with Toggl.
  • Free trials. Arc offers a two-week trial for hourly and retainer payment models and a three-month risk-free period for full-time hires. If you’re dissatisfied — Arc won’t charge you and will find another developer.


  • Expensive services. Developers on this platform charge about as much as on Toptal.
  • Small talent pool. Arc has fewer developers than Toptal because of the complicated screening process.
  • Extra payment for full-time contracts. You must pay a hefty fee if you recruit full-time employees from Arc (after the three-month trial).

Let’s sum things up.

FeaturesPayment options: hourly rate, part-time, and full-time employment
Payment methods
Credit card
U.S. bank transfers
Bank wire
Bidding system. Developers bid on your projects and offer their prices.
Payment options: fixed price (with or without milestones) and hourly rate
Three premium plans: Plus, Business, and Enterprise
Payment methods: credit card and PayPal
Payment options: hourly rate,
retainer model
(reserve a developer for a certain number of hours per week),
and a full-time contract
Payment methods: credit card, AHC, and wire transfer
ProsPolished hiring process
Fast talent matching
No-risk trial
Huge marketplace. 
Wide pricing range. 
Small fees.
In-depth review system.
Unified dashboard. 
Rating system.
Industry-leading payment security infrastructure. 
Dispute requisition services.
Vetted talents. 
English fluency. 
Fast hiring.
No prepayment. 
Additional services. 
Engagement managers.
Tracking tools. 
Free trials.
ConsHigher rates
Limited talent pool
An initial fee
Freelancing Wild West. 
Enormous fees for freelancers.
Communication difficulties are quite common.
Useful features are locked behind a paywall.
Expensive services.
Small talent pool.
Extra payment for full-time contracts.
Average hourly rate$40-$180$15-$90$60-$150
Typical projectLong-term and specialized projectsShort-term projects and tasksLong-term projects
VettingFive-step screening processVet yourself based on an in-depth review and feedback systemComprehensive, with only 2.3% of developers passing
SpecialtiesHigh-class developers, project managers, and finance expertsDevelopers, designers, and engineers of all qualities and of all ratesElite developers and engineers with niche skills
BudgetRequires 12-15K monthly budgetNo minimum budgetOne-time fee based on the candidate’s annual salary only when you decide to
Guarantee14-day risk-free trial. Only billed if you’re satisfiedNo-risk trial period. Work with talent first before decided proceed3-month trial period and quality guarantee

What makes each service stand out?

Many platforms for hiring freelance developers are driven by price instead of value, especially if we’re talking about Upwork. Successful projects require good talent, and talent comes with a price that most clients on Upwork remain unwilling to pay.

Does that make Arc or Toptal better than Upwork? Toptal and Arc have a strict screening process, making them more fitting for scaling your in-house team. Upwork, on the other hand, is great for hiring freelance developers for small projects and coding tasks. Some companies use it for recruiting promising engineers, although the vetting is entirely on them.

That said, these platforms won’t be of much help for complex projects if you’ve never managed a remote team. To improve your project’s success rate, you need an outsourcing vendor to supervise it throughout its life cycle.

Another thing to add to the Upwork vs. Toptal vs. Arc debate

There’s one downside to Toptal, Upwork, and Arc you don’t often hear about. We’re talking about the lack of managerial oversight.

Imagine you’ve finally found skilled software developers using one of the platforms we mentioned. You hire them, invite them to Slack, and assign them tasks. A few weeks pass, and it’s time for a project update. Some developers deliver results on time, while others miss the deadline or deliver sub-par code that requires rewriting. It would be best to organize code reviews and revisions, but you are already a few weeks behind schedule.

Why does this happen? Because no matter how ingenious your employees are, the project management responsibilities lie on you. And it’s not easy if you’re not used to managing & hiring remote developers.

That’s the main problem with the marketplaces that serve for hiring freelance developers. You can’t be sure your hires will work well as a team without the right managemental approach. On top of that, even if you get a refund, you’ll never get your time back. And time is precious.

Hire Remote Software Developers at Relevant

Do you value your time as much as your money? You can avoid these challenges by hiring a reputable outsourcing company like Relevant, with a self-contained team of the best and brightest developers, architects, project managers, and scrum masters.

End-to-end development

If you want to gather a development team from scratch quickly, rely on Relevant. We can assemble a skilled team of vetted developers and project managers for you, providing the best-in-class talent for building software from scratch. We put our applicants through various evaluation stages to ensure they have the necessary skills, knowledge, and competencies.

Team augmentation

If you are striving to scale your in-house team is welcome to consider IT team augmentation services. Following this tactic, you get additional tech talent working remotely with your in-house programmers. Relevant experts can help you choose candidates with hands-on experience working as augmented units, ensuring seamless onboarding and collaboration. To discover candidates, request their CVs.

Dedicated team

A dedicated team can contain any number of employees you need. They compensate for any lack of talents you may have and become a part of your team for a certain period with ongoing legal and technical support and assistance with operations and infrastructure. On top of that, our developers charge less than top freelancers on Toptal, Upwork, or Arc.

We put our candidates through multiple evaluation stages to ensure they have high-grade coding talent, technical expertise, and communication skills. So, if you’re looking for a value-driven alternative to freelancing platforms, reach us to learn how to boost your development capacity effectively.

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CEO at Relevant
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