Diving into Toptal’s Talent Pool


There’s no shortage of organizations that match freelance talent to companies in the design and tech world. I’ve tried more than I can count on one hand; I’ve even paid upwards of hundreds of dollars for ‘exclusive’ memberships in hopes that they would provide the missing link I needed to take my career to the next step. They all claim they have the best talent. They all claim they have the best clients.

And ultimately they all just end up sending me public links to positions that maybe I have, or have not, found on my own already. No formal introductions. No personal relationship with anyone behind the scenes. Nothing to make me believe that they support me as a designer. Just, “Here’s a job our bot found that fits what you’re looking for, good luck!” I paid for this service? Yikes.

So why did I spend my time today, skipping over my daily regimen of coffee and ProductHunt, Mashable and FastCoDesign, to apply to the Toptal Freelance UI Designers Network?

Because I believe in numbers. I am one of the few designers out there that loves when my work can be driven by analytics. As we speak, I’m redesigning a company’s Contact Us page, and the first request I made was to see the Google Analytics on their existing page. I’m not here to throw things at the wall and see what sticks. I design with strategy, and intent.

So when I stumbled across Toptal, I won’t lie, at first I was stalking their Contact Us page to see if there was any strategy I could springboard off of. But I started to explore what this 3% statement that’s plastered all over their website means to them. It’s one thing to throw numbers out there, but it’s another to explicitly display their screening process and how they arrive at 3%. I won’t regurgitate it, but you can check out that screening process here, just below the fold.

Before applying, I read the through the process. And I will say, I am as humble as a designer can be. If someone asked me if I was in the top 3%… I would deny it, despite the fact that I am exceptionally confident in my abilities, I do consider myself successful, and I am stand by the work I’ve done. But, after looking at their screening funnel, I went through each step: Language & Personality, In-Depth Skill Review, Live Screening, Test Projects, Continued Excellence.

Okay. None of these steps seem intimidating to me. Maybe I am in the top 3%? I pride myself on exceptional communication and presentation skills. A client can be dead-set on a solution, and I can present them with data and justification on why my design approach is a better solution from an ROI perspective. I am immersed in every design blog, freelancing podcast, Twitter group, and UX e-book from the moment they come out. I speak with developers every day to understand what is and isn’t possible, how I can do my job to make the handoff to them seamless. And I do this all because I love my career, and I care about my clients.

No other organization I’ve worked with has had such rigorous screening and a requirement of continuous excellence, and no other organization has delivered on what they promised me. So, I’m going to give it a shot. I applied, and if I end up in the pool of Toptalers, I will be SO proud to say I was even considered for such a privilege. I’ll keep you posted and let you know if little ol’ me, makes it in the top three. How about you? Have you had any positive experiences with services that connect talent to companies? How did they work out for you?

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