You have to join the best.
I am at a peculiar stage in my professional life. About a year and a half ago, I founded adMind, with a long-time friend. Our initial goal was to create a technology so disruptive, so mind-blowing, so earth-shatteringly awesome that the digital marketing world would be taken by storm and bow at our feet begging for mercy... or something like that on the molecular level. Over the last couple years we have made some serious strides. I don't think we'll ever be the ever-so-rare unicorn of an Uber or a Facebook, but we don't want that either. As a mentor said, "the pie is pretty big, even a sliver would be more than you can eat."
That said, we have prototypes of a couple of software products and we are working on proving traction and viability. In adMind's near future, we'll narrow down the field and pitch investors to help us pour gas on the fire. You might be thinking, so far this doesn't sound too "peculiar". This sounds like any other optimistic, early-stage startup working on the bootstrapping method. What is peculiar though, is what my days look like. I find myself making sales calls and waiting for responses trying to get in front of influential movers-and-shakers and doing less of what I love: coding. That has lead me to wonder, how can I stay fresh, make some money while I'm at it, but not distract from the future of adMind. That lead me to look for contract development networks. The benefits are two-faceted: keep up my chops and connections in the industry, and evaluate a talent source for adMind to leverage in the near future.
Most of the communities seem to accept anyone from any walk of life that decided a keyboard was all it took to code. At adMind, we've used some of them before, and our experience has been, you get what you pay for. In all the searching, I stumbled across Toptal. Their rates looked to be a bit more expensive, but they claim to have the cream of the crop (the top 3% by their tag line). And based on our experience, a little more expensive is what we need.
That's when I thought, "How undercover-boss of an approach would it be to go thru the process myself?" So that is what I am doing. I have the time and need to stay fresh and connected, and I think I have the skill.
I'm applying to be in the Toptal Web Engineers Group. If I make the cut, I can monetize some of my "dormant assets" and get a feel for the culture from the freelancer's side. And if I don't, well, at least I will know where to go to get better programmers than me!