I've been professionally employed for a very long time and I was self-employed before then. Life has changed significantly for me, having come to the US from the small college town of Roorkee and my hometown of Jamshedpur.
Over the past few years, I've been knee deep in technology at Google and now recently at LinkedIn. One of the things that I've missed in both these jobs is the freedom of execution that's inherently present when you pick up work of your own volition.
There's a lot to be said about companies and the infrastructure they provide and there's a lot more to be said about the problems they abstract away. When working for a large firm, you just don't have to deal with the nitty gritty and some skills go to rust. But every single time I've had the opportunity to pick up a project or a hobby outside of work, I've been amazed at the rapid pace of change out in the marketplace: new frameworks, new technologies and new systems keep coming up and dying out. Systems inside companies are much slower to evolve.
So, to just get a quick pulse on the market, I've realized that there's really nothing better than finishing off a quick side project and grounding myself in the current state of the world. When looking at the freelancing marketplace, there were really 3 options of interest: Freelancer.com (too competitive, mixed bag of projects, lowest price wins), Upwork (good mix of jobs at various skill levels, top of the market projects are thin though) and Toptal (top of market, top pricing, pickier customers).
Amongst the 3 options, Toptal seems to suit my needs beautifully. They have a Software Programmers Group and Customers come there expecting to get great work and are willing to pay top dollar for it. That's exactly what I'm looking for. I'm going to be giving Toptal a try over the next few weeks and I'll see how it goes. Wish me luck!