What is the Trust Economy?

What is the Trust Economy?

The Trust Economy is replacing the gig economy, because the gig economy has failed independent workers.

The Trust Economy is a labor market which, like the gig economy, is characterized by freelance work instead of employment, but unlike the gig economy, is governed by a new set of rules which are more humane and equitable. These new rules empower independent workers to take ownership and control of their reputation, their network, and ultimately, of their own independent career. The Trust Economy is built on these principles:

  • People—not platforms—own their reputation data and their network of contacts
  • We can work together freely without middlemen
  • The highest relationship is the service relationship between worker and client, not between middleman and client

In the Trust Economy, workers own their reputation data and their professional network and are free to work directly with anyone they want.

Trust and Service

The core of business relationships, and of service relationships, has always been trust. Humans use all sorts of tools—from raw intuition to social signaling to communication platforms—to determine if others are trustworthy and to establish our own trustworthiness.

But, over the past 15 years or so, a massive segment of our population has been deprived of their right to establish trust. The gig worker and freelancer population in America is about 60 million people. If you also count the people who buy services from these freelancers, well over half of the country is engaged in the gig economy. What many freelancers know, and what many buyers do not realize, is that the rules of this game are rigged against all of us.

As service buyers, we appreciate the convenience the gig economy has brought us. It's easy to get a ride or hire a designer. And as service providers, freelancers appreciate the new opportunities to earn money as either a supplement to their other earnings or as the primary means of making money.

Unquestionably, the biggest winners have been the marketplaces themselves, who make money by depriving us of our right to build trust with each other and establish long-term service relationships directly, without a middleman. They all use pretty much the same business model: take a cut of the transaction and keep workers' reputation data locked inside their walls to prevent buyers and sellers from transacting directly, lest the marketplace loses its revenue stream.

This business model made more sense in the very early days of the gig economy when it was a novel idea to use a website or app to find and temporarily work with a stranger. But the service economy has continued barreling down the path toward a place where more and more independent workers, and service buyers (individuals and businesses alike), overwhelmingly prefer to transact services in this manner. Long ago we stopped considering independent work a novelty, and today many of us consistently buy services from freelancers.

In this new reality, the marketplace business model is not sustainable. We're beginning to see the foreshocks of a much larger seismic shift that's coming soon. Foreshocks like the extreme dissatisfaction that workers have with gig economy marketplaces and apps, California’s attempts to change worker classification laws, and more recently, independent worker protests, walkouts and strikes.

That seismic shift is taking us to the Trust Economy, and it's going to completely redefine the entire service economy.

The Trust Economy takes us from closed service marketplaces to an open labor market.


In the gig economy, marketplaces are closed: they own each worker's reputation data and workers are not free to take that reputation elsewhere, to use it however they want.

In the Trust Economy, workers own their reputation data and are empowered to use it however they want: perhaps most importantly, in service of growing their independent career.


In the gig economy, marketplaces also control each worker's professional network: if a driver completes 1,000 rideshare rides, they don't have 1,000 clients they can go back to. They have 0 clients and must return to the marketplace if they want more.

In the Trust Economy, workers own their professional network, which they build by doing great work and proving their trustworthiness. Their professional network becomes a valuable asset, cushioning them from risks and enabling them to do amazing new things (like move to a new city and immediately start getting work from second-degree connections).


In the gig economy, marketplaces prohibit workers from working directly with a client they originally met via the marketplace. The technical terms for this behavior are circumvention or disintermediation, and marketplaces absolutely hate it. They do everything they possibly can to prevent it, from prohibiting it in their Terms of Service, instilling fear in freelancers, instilling fear in service buyers, building features that discourage it, and in some cases, even putting a price on it (for example, Upwork recently changed this penalty from $3,000 to a maximum of $50,000, and it’s now prohibited for client and freelancer to even communicate outside of Upwork before a hire is made).

In the Trust Economy, we can discover each other and work together directly, without middlemen. Will all middlemen disappear? No. Many provide valuable services to the buyer (things like offloading liability, decreasing time spent searching for workers, handling back office tasks like payments, etc.), and the ones who survive will be the ones who amplify this additional value. But in the Trust Economy, we will finally have an alternative to middlemen, and the existence of an alternative will have a positive impact on how middlemen operate.

The Trust Economy is Here, Now

At Jolly, our team is working hard to equip freelancers—and the people who hire them—with the tools and connections they need to thrive in the Trust Economy.

It starts with open search, so freelancers can be discovered directly instead of through marketplaces or on-demand apps. Jolly offers the world's only open, public freelancer search engine, where it's easy to find freelancers by name, skill and location.

Underpinning the Jolly freelancer toolset is a profile or “digital resume” for freelancers to showcase their skills and experience. We've also built social connections, so freelancers can connect with colleagues and past employers and get written recommendations.

Also, we're constantly working to improve our tools for finding organizations that hire freelancers, and for finding specific gigs and work opportunities.

These tools help freelancers build their reputation independently, apart from third-party labor marketplaces or on-demand apps. Now, it’s even possible for freelancers to add their reputation from these third-party marketplaces and apps directly on their Jolly profile.

And last, we've enabled direct communication and hiring, right from the freelancer profile. So anyone who finds a worker on Jolly can contact them directly, and hire them. No markup. No middleman.

What's Next?

Most people believe the future of work looks roughly like it looks today: lots of big, dominant labor marketplaces and on-demand apps, specializing in different niches. To us, that looks like a closed and dark future.

We believe the future of work is open and bright—and that future is on Jolly. We hope you join us in building the Trust Economy at JollyHQ.com!