Siddharth Bhat

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Freelancing - What have I gotten myself into?
Sep 9, 2015
4 minutes read

I’ve been studying for my exams pretty heavily over the past few days. So, I decided to take a break to do something completely different - I’ve wanted to freelance for a while, since it seemed like a really nice way to learn new things (and solve real-world problems), while sipping coffee at home in your pyjamas.

With this sufficiently rose-tinted picture in mind, I began scouting for websites. After all, how hard can it be to create a profile and get started? Turns out, the corner of the web that deals with all things “work” is stuck in 20th century, design and all.

What I found stunning was the honestly terrible interface of most of these websites. Freelancer seems to be a very highly rated website, but has more micro-transactions than a typical EA game.

Upwork seemed promising, until their website borked at a lot of interactions and gave me a nice (error: 0) that I’m still not sure how to interpret.

Both of these left me with a sour taste in my mouth, along with a couple of others I won’t bother mentioning here.


I was disappointed by the fact that none of the websites seemed to be a “by programmers, for programmers” sort of thing. Programming was something that was lumped in with design, creative writing, testing, what-have-you. This felt like a disservice to all of those fields.

I don’t think that I’m that hard to please. All I wanted was:

  • A clean, functional UI
  • Feel like it’s programmers first
  • Ask for programming experience, maybe a field to fill up open source contributions

I had half-resigned myself to the fact that what I was looking for was simply a pipe-dream. You really start to question yourself when you hit Google’s next page button, and still don’t find “the one” you’re looking for.

The saving grace - Toptal

A lucky stumble upon a Quora link about freelancing pointed me to Toptal.

Holy crap do they know what they were doing.

The website is clean and functional. They have an honest-to-god interview process. The took a resume, fields of interest, programming experience, Github username, as well as sample code (I’ll be honest, this pushed me from lukewarm to in-love territory).

I filled up their application form. Their next step is the problem solving and interview rounds, which I’m totally looking forward to. This seems to be a tech startup that knows what they’re doing, for both customers and and developers.

All in all, I’m excited about the opportunity to work on challenging and interesting projects, thanks to Toptal. It looks like they’re succeeding where most others have failed - make freelancing for developers a painless experience.

They seem promising with what I’ve seen of them so far, and I hope that the experience continues to be great. If this works out, It’ll make me a happy person.

I do believe they need to look into their search engine optimisation though. They didn’t come up when I made a generic “freelance programming” search on Google. Of course, my location (India) could have something to do with that. I’d still look into it if I were them.

Full Disclosure

Toptal asks people to, quote,

Write a blog post to get priority access.

That was part of the reason why I wrote this. The other part was legitimately wanting to whine about the sorry state of affairs that I encountered with the freelancing scene in general.

While my blog post might seem fanboy-ish, it’s purely honest opinion. I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far from Toptal, So I decided I might as well chronicle my foray into the scene. After all, I might look back at this blog post 5 years later and laugh. I know I certainly do so with my diaries. Only time will tell!

Keep the fingers crossed for me!


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