Can emphasizing trustworthiness nudge people to earn extra income?

Experiment Type
Field Experiment
Find additional employment, Increase income
Increase earnings
Focus Areas
Marketing & messaging
Behavioral Concepts
Framing Trust
Partner Type
Irrational Labs

What Happened

It didn't work. Emails emphasizing forms of trustworthiness did not significantly increase the number of applications or people applying to a job opportunity through a user platform. However, we cannot say how these interventions performed relative to not receiving an email at all.

Lessons Learned

Email interventions emphasizing forms of trustworthiness does not seem to be sufficient in increasing the number of applications or people applying to a job opportunity through a user platform.


For a little less than half of individuals (44%) currently working in the gig economy, the money they earn through gig work represents their primary source of income. Steady helps gig workers to maximize their earnings in a number of different ways, one of which is by connecting them to new opportunities.

Steady developed Deals (later renamed Income Boosters) as a way to share the earnings that employers and other affiliate partners pay for conversions with Steady users. This provides users with even more short-term earnings (in addition to job wages), and Steady believes that revenue sharing will ultimately drive user engagement and user acquisition.

To increase the usage of these revenue sharing programs, Steady partnered with Common Cents Lab (CCL) to leverage and test behavioral interventions.

Key Insights

Certainly, the added financial incentives would encourage some people to make use of the Deals. However, some people may see them as “too good to be true.” Thus, in designing how to best present these programs to users, Steady and CCL weighed how to frame the programs in a way that would maximize trustworthiness.

  • One way to present the programs is to highlight fairness and reciprocity. Previous research has found that trust is built when a person or organization establishes that they are willing to sacrifice their own personal interests for the best interests of another.

  • Another potential way to increase trustworthiness would be to illustrate the mutual incentive alignment between Steady and its users. Steady benefits as users apply to Deals and earn money and shares those benefits which further benefit the user.


CCL and Steady used these two concepts to develop two similar but distinct coordination-type framings for how to deliver Steady’s Deals. We then tested them against one another to determine which would be more effective in terms of user uptake.

Approximately 10,000 unique and active Steady users received an email that described the Deals in one of two ways. These two conditions feature the same handshake graphic and only vary the text associated with the graphic.


We found that both conditions performed equally well and there was no statistically significant difference in terms of the number of average Deal Applications initiated per user. Nor did we find any statistically significant differences between the two conditions in terms of the percentage of people initiating at least one Deals application. Additionally, we found no statistically significant differences between the two conditions in terms of email click-through rate.

We did find that those who opened the emails applied to on average one additional Deal (~2.5/person) than those who didn’t (~1.5/person). This could be either attributable to the email campaign or selection effects.