Has finding remote work changed?

Some 12 years ago, my best friend and I set out on a mission to build a company that would offer premium linux system administration services and support to companies around the world. We were young, enthusiastic, with sharp skills and solid experience, the industry was blooming, and we just needed clients. We knew that our location (Serbia) could be an issue, but also we knew about websites that are connecting clients and engineers (elance, rentacoder.. and so on). Each of us has worked with few such clients in the past on short-term contracts, we knew how much money was in play, and success seemed inevitable.

Few months later, we declared failure. After numerous bids, we could not get a single project to work on remotely, even though we were sure that we’re in top 5% when it comes to knowledge and quality of work. Main reason for our failure were the sub-optimal platforms we were using to find work. Each freelancer could put on his/her profile whatever they want. Nobody could verify it and there was no screening of any sort. Employers would select bidders by lowest price and previous success score on the platform, making it almost impossible for newcomers to get any real work. Another issue was finding projects on those lists that are actually worth working on. Categorization was awful. When you filtered by “linux administration”, you would get results ranging from “homework help for $2” to “robot machine that does surgery on humans and runs on linux, for $1500+”. It took hours to filter through those offerings.

Anyway, we figured it wasn’t worth spending time and waiting for Santa to visit, and we just moved on with our lives, finding regular (and less payed) jobs. Since then, we’ve all had much success which I’m happy for, but the experience with finding remote work, left a bitter taste in me.

Fast forward 12 years, 6-7 months ago, I’m at the office and got a senior Rails developer visiting and looking for gig. As I’m interviewing him and listening on his previous work experience, he starts talking about TopTal and projects he worked on through them. As I haven’t heard of them yet, I asked him what TopTal is. He quickly explains: “They help us freelancers find remote work that pays well. Regular projects that are cool and worth working on.”. I almost immediately wanted to check it out, but then he continued, “you just have to be selected and invited as a top talent”. I sighed. Later on I checked the website, and I was sure it’s just another “elance”, that tries to attract freelancers by exclusivity (aka how facebook started).

Last Sunday, I’m at the bar with my friends from early days, having beers and telling “war stories of geeks”. We’re all successful now, but still we regret that we didn’t make major success when the opportunity for us was there. That night when I got home, I took another look at TopTal. I searched “toptal linux”, went to their page and there was a pleasant surprise! From their page: “marketplace for top Linux developers, engineers, programmers, coders, architects, and consultants. Top companies and start-ups choose Toptal Linux freelancers for their mission critical software projects.”, accompanied by a respectful list of companies. Isn’t that EXACTLY what we all want? Needless to say, I went on and submitted my resume.

Oh, resume? Not really. It’s just a small piece of many questions they asked me. And I must say, those were REAL questions and I actually wanted to be asked 12 years ago. How cool is that?

Anyone had experience working with them?

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