Where to Find a Remote Developer: Upwork vs. Toptal vs. Epam vs. Coder Staffing
If you’re in need of remote development work, it’s hard to know where to start looking. There are a number of options that are often recommended, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.
In this article, we want to give you a single resource to compare Gig Marketplaces (Upwork), Vetted Freelance Networks (Toptal), Traditional Outsourcing (Epam), and Outstaffing (Coder Staffing). We’ll start by considering each of these across four key categories:
Full-Time vs. Project-Based
Cost per Month
Then, we’ll walk you through what to expect with each ones' revenue model before diving into the pros and cons of each service. At the end, you'll be able to make an educated decision on which works for your current needs.
Gig Marketplaces — i.e. Upwork, Fiverr, etc.
Average Developer Cost per Month
Out of all the options on this article, you’ve definitely heard of Gig Marketplaces such as Upwork or Fiverr. They’re massive freelancer networks where buyers (you) can find sellers (the developers) to complete a project. You have direct access to this vast network, and so can shop around to find the freelance developer that’d you’d want to start a conversation with.
The Gig Marketplace revenue model is based on the the number of hours worked. These developers are naturally inclined to increase those hours when they can.
While prices vary, they’re generally very low. This is because any developer can join them — you’ll naturally have a very large body of developers competing for work, and you can even open a project to have developers bid on it.
Also due to the open network, you can look through a developer’s past projects. In Upwork, for example, if you're able to dedicate more time to the hiring process you’ll find ratings from buyers and the number of hours they’ve spent on Upwork projects. This can give you some insight into their level of experience, though it will add to the time between starting your search and hiring a developer.
Unfortunately, there’s another good reason why your average cost will be so low on Gig Marketplaces: poor quality. If anyone can join, any developer of any skill level can bid. Even one with a history of work may not have a depth of expertise, and high ratings may have come from unskilled projects that won’t translate to what you need.
If the project isn’t done to your satisfaction after the developer submits it, you have a very messy process ahead of you. Gig Marketplaces like Upwork have no guarantee to protect you. You can submit a claim, but when you consider the size of the network and the number of projects and claims going back and forth at any one time, you realize that you’ll have to sit on that claim for a long time before you get any resolution. And during that whole time, you’ll need to start the process over again to find the right developer.
You also have to consider the time you’ll need to put in. You’re fully responsible for the ‘hiring’ process of finding the right developer. In our mind, this is one of the key reasons you’re looking to supplement your team with remote work: You don’t have time or the specific domain experience to sort through profiles or resumes and go through the full interview process.
Vetted Freelance Networks - i.e. Toptal
Average Developer Cost per Month
A step up from Gig Marketplaces, Vetted Freelance Networks place a series of filters in front of developers who want to join them. Toptal, for example, claims to represent only the ‘top talent’ — the top 3% in their fields. In general, however, you can consider the process somewhat similar: you join the network as a buyer, sort through developers (for Toptal, your options are provided by a recruiter), and choose the freelancer that you believe will best serve your project.
The Vetted Freelance Network revenue model is based on the number of months you contract the developer for. Compared to Gig Marketplaces, Vetted Freelance Networks are angling to get you to sign longer contracts to buy out the developer (at vastly inflated prices).
A key benefit of Vetted Freelance Networks is the increase in quality of work compared to Gig Marketplaces or more Traditional Outsourcing. While any developer can apply to join the network, they do screen applicants.
Additionally, at companies such as Toptal, you do have a contact working with you — you’re not entirely on your own. After you join, a recruiter will get in touch and you can talk about the project you need to complete or gap in your team that you’re looking to fill.
Higher costs. There’s no getting around that.
Toptal positions themselves as the premium freelancer network, and you should expect to see it reflected in their prices. With the recruitment system, there are no budget freelancers bidding to bring your costs down. In addition to the minimum deposit of $500 that you’re required to submit before hiring anyone, you should expect to pay anywhere from $10,000–15,000 a month for their work.
However, even these prices don't take into account what Vetted Freelance Networks try to push: contract buy-outs. At Toptal, you can buy out the developer for longer contract periods and the promise of dedicated work — at 6x the standard monthly cost.
Additionally, you’ll still be working with a network that any developer can apply to join — and Toptal posits that over 100,000 apply every year. While they attest that English skills are never an issue, it’s not a part of their specific series of tests.
Traditional Outsourcing — i.e. Epam
Average Developer Cost per Month
Outsourcing services are the model that every other type of business on this list is attempting to disrupt. The idea is relatively simple: you contact a company, put forth your project or ask for an entire team that you need to fill, and their remote developers work on it.
Outsourcing companies come in many shapes and sizes, such as the large and international Epam Systems.
The Traditional Outsourcing revenue model is based on increasing the number of months you contract for and increasing the scope of the work. Their ideal scenario is entirely replacing one or more departments at your business with their outsourced team to lock you into steady contracts and a dependence on their staff.
It’s a much simpler system. You don’t have to deal with a hiring or interview process. Again: You contact the company, they get the work done.
Related to this issue, it’s easy to scale work up or down. If you find you have more projects coming up, you get in touch with your one contact and they’ll put more developers on it.
High costs, low quality, lack of control, non-US based, and the lack of a dedicated developer.
There’s a reason the model is being disrupted. These outsourcing companies are in the business of making a profit — as any business is — and that will at many times mean finding the cheapest work to get your job done. This is a common scenario: you contract with a Russian outsourcing company who then hires an Indian developer who himself outsources part of his work to the Philippines. At no step do you have a dedicated developer you can get in touch with. Expect to pay upwards of $10,000 a month for what you need to get done, with little insight into what’s happening with your project. Additionally, there’s no guarantee of developer quality or English skills and our experience has told us that they're both often very low.
Another key factor to consider is that with Traditional Outsourcing, you won't be working with a US-based company. If something goes wrong with your project, you have little chance at getting your source code and no clear legal restitution. Do you start a lawsuit in the Russian, Indian, and Philippine courts? In nearly every case we've seen, your company's best case scenario would be to walk away with a partially-completed project and sunk costs.
Outstaffing — i.e. Coder Staffing
Average Developer Cost per Month
Dedicated Custom Professional
Outstaffing is an entirely different approach to the remote developer relationship. It combines elements of Vetted Freelance Networks and traditional staffing, like month-to-month contracts and access to top talent, but the developers only work for you.
Coder Staffing is one example of Outstaffing in practice. Think of the experience as similar to Toptal: you contact Coder Staffing, consult a dedicated recruiter, and get matched with talented developers to complete your project. There are, however, a few key differences: it’s a closed network, costs are more reasonable, and your developer is working 100% full time for your team during your operating hours.
The Outstaffing revenue model is based on cultivating a long-term relationship between you and your dedicated developer. By integrating into your systems, the goal is to maintain a contract through high-quality work and matching your company culture.
Unlike the other options in this article, Coder Staffing is the only company that provides developers that will solely be working for you. They’re full-time, not project-based. This means they work complete U.S. hours and are constantly in touch with you and your team. If you need updates on a project or want to talk through a piece of work, they’re online and available.
Coder Staffing developers are also high quality. It’s a proprietary developer network — our contacts on the ground have developed a one-to-one relationship with every developer in our system and have passed them through a 3-stage vetting process: a language skills interview, a technical interview, and finally an employer interview. We know the quality they can provide and understand exactly who to match to each unique project and company culture.
Coder Staffing is also the only company that tests for language skills and offers a 30-day money back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied with the work being done, just tell us.
While the costs are not as high as Toptal or Epam, you will be paying more with Coder Staffing than you would with Upwork. And, there’s no type of developer bidding process — it’s entirely a match-based service.
Additionally, the process is not instant. While on a Gig Marketplace you may be able to find a freelancer the same day as you sign up, Coder Staffing sees an average 10 days between first contact and staffing your matched and selected developer.
How to Choose
Ultimately, we see why companies choose each of these services. However, we believe Outstaffing firms such as Coder Staffing to be the best option for most businesses looking for remote developers. You get a white-glover service to match you with expert developers who fit your project, at a lower cost than other options, with the promise of full-time work.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Coder Staffing process or want to talk through your project and start getting matched with developers, contact us today.