Why is there not a premium equivalent of Elance or oDesk? They offer access to not-very-good programmers at rock bottom prices, but there should be a market also for world class programmers, at mid-range prices.

There are 3 notable premium talent equivalents to Elance/oDesk (Upwork)

1. TopTal (Hire Freelance Software Developers from the Top 3%)

TopTal has an acceptance rate of 3%, or approximately 1,500 out of 50,000 applicants. Their screening process is unmatched. They make an applicant jump through several hoops, including testing, paired programming, etc. They’ve made sure their system cannot be hacked. TopTal has a 98% matching success rate of project to developer. They don’t manage the project, but if you need management, they can match you with a developer that has management experience.

2. ScalablePath (Our Story | Scalable Path)

ScalablePath has a similar approach, and they’ve curated a network of over 1,000 top developers. Their primary focus is the Americas so that they can work in the same timezone. The biggest difference with ScalablePath is that they don’t just match you with a developer. They focus on building an agile process around your project, then they assign an experienced project leader to ensure its success. They make it optional for you to work with a project leader or you can go it on your own, but they are there to ensure your success.

3. Crew (Handpicked Freelance Web Design & Web Developers)

Like ScalablePath and TopTal, Crew also curates talent as well as vets the project. Crew ensures that the project exceeds end to end by assigning a project owner. Crew handpicks talent for your project in under 48 hours. They’ve some noteworthy clients including Adii Pienaar (WooThemes) and EventBrite. As Mikael said below, they make sure to pick only the best projects, as the best projects attract the best talent.

The trust factor keeps coming up in the answers in this thread. Trust is critical.

Vetting Talent on Elance-oDesk / Upwork

Also, I agree with Rachel that it’s not always about the platform, it’s about the vetting process. With some patience, you can vet out the right developers.

1. Understand that you need to be very clear about the project (great projects, and project leaders, attract better talent)
2. Be very clear about the scope and expectations
3. Assign a (paid) short term
project to vet their work
4. Have an expert do a code review.
You can find someone
to do a code review on http://AirPair.com (see an example: An Online PHP Code Review Changed My Company’s Direction)

You may have to weed through hundreds of developers, but with time, and building a relationship of trust, and doing code reviews, you can get there.

Some ways to avoid the bad developer freelancers nightmare on sites like Elance / oDesk (Upwork)
3 Common Freelance Hiring Nightmares – And How to Avoid Them

The reasons TopTal, ScalablePath, and Crew exist are to help you with the hours and hours of vetting (and you may not even know what you’re looking for!) and to provide you with the best talent right away. Rates are higher, but you’ll pay less in the long run to work with pre-vetted talent and experienced leaders.

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