Side Hustles on Rise and SMBs Optimistic as Economic Turbulence Continues, DigitalOcean Report Finds

Survey reveals increased pursuit in additional income streams among workers, and optimistic outlook among small business owners

DigitalOcean Holdings, Inc., the cloud for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and startups, announced the findings of its bi-annual Currents report, a proprietary analysis of trends among digital SMBs, their outlook, engagement with today’s newest technologies, and the challenges they’re facing.

“The idea that the SMB community consists mostly of ‘mom-and-pop’ shops on Main Street is an antiquated understanding of the role SMBs play in our modern economy”

The role and makeup of the modern-day SMB have been changing for years. This, in large part because of tech workers and entrepreneurs looking to build businesses outside of a traditional 9-to-5, increased adoption of emerging technologies like AI, and the economic realities of the last few years. These changes have pushed creative entrepreneurs to turn ideas into side hustles, side hustles into small businesses, and small businesses into scaling startups.

“The idea that the SMB community consists mostly of ‘mom-and-pop’ shops on Main Street is an antiquated understanding of the role SMBs play in our modern economy,” said Yancey Spruill, CEO of DigitalOcean. “At DigitalOcean, we recognize that digital-driven SMBs are emerging in every industry and from all corners of the globe. Creative people are turning ideas into full-fledged businesses every day despite the economic challenges, in large part to the ease of use of and economic efficiency of cloud computing. These entrepreneurs remain optimistic and hopeful about their future, and we share in their optimism.”

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Key findings of the DigitalOcean Currents report include:

  • Side hustles are becoming small businesses. The mindset around additional income streams is shifting. 52% of respondents say they have embarked on side hustles outside their primary income source. The goal for a majority of these businesses is to stay small, but scale to a point where it can become the owner’s primary income. Findings also confirm that those laid off are more likely to have a side job.
  • Modern-day SMBs are doing better than we think. Despite economic uncertainty, SMBs feel largely optimistic about their businesses’ trajectory and growth opportunities outside their primary employment. 61% of SMBs say they feel positive about their potential outlook a year from now.
  • SMBs are embracing the testing grounds of AI and ChatGPT. 61% of SMBs expect AI usage to increase in the next year, and younger groups are more likely to incorporate AI into regular tasks. While 70% have used ChatGPT in some capacity, it’s still in the early testing stages with only 9% of companies having policies in place regarding the usage of ChatGPT.
  • Software developers have become more critical to SMBs. Developer demand and shortages continue across industries. However, software developers – the most common role within the developer community – are trending towards SMBs versus the big tech companies that have traditionally been the most coveted, with 51% of tech-focused SMBs looking to hire software developers.

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