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Now is a great time to start a side gig

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There are so many alternative sources of income for doctors and medical professionals. It’s a great time to get started with a side hustle. Here are five reasons why, and how you can use them to your advantage.

Opportunities for side hustles are easy to come by

Flexible, freelance, and part-time opportunities abound. For physicians, some of the more common contracting and part-time positions I see advertised are:

One-off gigs are also prevalent, including:

For those interested in clinical hustling, many outpatient and inpatient centers need part-time or PRN providers. There are also a lot of locums assignments available, especially if you’re willing to travel or work atypical hours. Platforms such as Nomad are making it easier and more doctor-friendly to find assignments that are fitting for you.

There’s no need to flounder around trying to find the perfect side gig. There are enough opportunities that you can try out a few as you happen upon them, then take it from there.

None of the options above require you to start your own business or have your own product or service. If you have an idea for a business, though, it’s a great time for that, as well.. which brings me to the next point.

Running a small business from home has never been easier

The ubiquitousness of the internet makes it entirely doable to use your medical knowledge to offer services outside of a traditional healthcare delivery setting. An internet-based business, a consulting company, or an e-commerce business are all feasible side hustles for a physician who’s busy with a ‘regular’ job.

For someone new to entrepreneurship, the logistics of actually getting a business set up and running can admittedly be kind of confusing. You need to choose a type of business entity, follow your state requirements for establishing the business, and ensure you have solid documents in place such as the Articles of Organization and the Operating Agreement. It can take some time to figure this all out. But, for those who don’t have the time or interest, find a lawyer that offers a small business startup package. These can cost as little as about $1000 to make sure your dotting i’s and crossing t’s. You only need to do this part once.

After that it gets easier. Some basic office equipment and a solid internet connection can turn you into our own operations, marketing, and financial departments. As you grow your business, you can take steps to help make the income more passive than active.

Don’t let a lack of business acumen stop you from moving forward with a promising idea that can generate income for you on the side.

Knowledge is at an all-time high

Our understanding of science and our ability to advance it is increasing. Take a look at this graph showing number of scientific publications over time. The curve appears to be exponential. As a result, being an expert on a certain topic means you may be one of only a few experts in that area, and that your expertise is particularly valuable.

As physicians, we can capitalize on this. Our extensive training and the nature of our work often requires that we have a deep knowledge of certain subjects. Business owners, entrepreneurs, and investors are frequently in need of our opinions. Or they need our interpretation of data to assist them in their decisions.

Here are a few ways for physicians to use their knowledge as a side hustle:

  • Do phone consults with expert networks
  • Serve as a part-time CMO for a small health tech company
  • Beta-test apps, algorithms, and interfaces for health startups
  • Take surveys such as those with inCrowd or Sermo

It’s acceptable to NOT want to dedicate your life to the hospital

I’ve never worked in a traditional ‘doctor job’ seeing patients day in and day out. But nobody has ever told me that I’m a sellout or that all my training was a waste. The potential for this type of attack worries a lot of physicians who are considering leaving clinical medicine or cutting back on their hours. In reality, though, physicians are needed for nonclinical work. And their medical training is what allows them to do the work.

I believe that it’s becoming increasing accepted by the medical community for physicians to have interests, endeavors, and goals beyond the walls of their hospitals and clinics. And employers (even those in healthcare!) are coming to terms with their employees pursuing income sources outside of their full-time jobs.

So have your elevator pitch ready. Chances are that others will be enthusiastic about your ideas, rather than make you feel guilty about them.

Prestige and respect still apply to doctors

Regardless of how much things “aren’t like they used to be” in medicine, medicine continues to be a respected line of work. Yes, some work historically restricted to physicians is now performed by other types of clinicians. And yes, now more than ever, patients can educate themselves about their health and diseases and make informed decisions.

But being a doctor still comes with some amount of prestige and automatic respect that’s not found in most other professions.

In this vein, a lot of organizations who need clinical or medical expertise in their product development or service delivery continue to rely on physicians – even if they don’t need someone to officially practice medicine or perform work that requires a medical license. The degree is meaningful to them, and often to their customers, as well.

Prestige and respect make it simpler for us to hustle. They make it easier to justify the value of what we’re offering. They help to establish our importance within a company, a project, or an assignment.

Tips to find alternative sources of income for doctors

Those were five reasons why it’s a great time for physicians to have a side hustle. Now, how can you capitalize on these?

  1. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities
  2. Treat any money-making efforts as though they are a small business
  3. If you’re particularly interested in a certain topic, let others know and hone your expertise
  4. Expunge any concerns about wasting your medical training
  5. Use your clinical experience and medical knowledge to market yourself

5 thoughts on “Now is a great time to start a side gig”

  1. I am glad you are encouraging people to look beyond their primary job and give examples of side gigs.

    A lot of people are getting dissatisfied with their main job as the practice of medicine is becoming more clerical in nature. Side gigs typically are ventures that can spark passion back into your life and that is just as important as getting another source of income.

    For me blogging does this. I was getting burnt out in medicine and blogging gave me a spark in my life again and rejuvenated me. It takes a lot of work and the financial rewards are nothing compared to my main gig but I enjoy it more and that’s what counts.

    There will always be naysayers out there criticizing docs that reduce their clinical workload (there was a lot of negative comments directed at physician on FIRE when he had his lifestyle posted on Doximity for example). You have to just push those comments out of your head. You are doing this for you, not them.

    • “You are doing this for you.” – this is really important. It’s fine to listen to what other people have to say to help you think something through and make sure you’re considering an idea or problem from all the right angles. But ultimately you need to make a choice that is the best for your specific situation.

  2. I think you make excellent points. The hardest thing for me comes from understanding that whatever I side gig I take on must eventually make money. So where I struggle with entrepreneurship comes from developing a solid business plan which gives me a return on my investment. For now, I am looking for long-term success and willing to work past the difficult times of growing an audience. At some point, if I cannot monetize my efforts, then I may need to try something else. At least it is exciting and outside of medical practice. When should we quit if things are not working out?

    • That is an important question, and one I think about a lot. I’m not sure the answer. What I am sure about, though, is that we shouldn’t justify continuing a side gig simply because of the time, money, or effort that we’ve already put into it. For example, “I’ve already spent $5000 trying to this off the ground, so I better keep going,” – don’t have this mindset! Think about the future, not about the past. Those are sunk costs.

  3. I fully agree with xrayvsn about this. I found myself picking up my blogging and other side-business efforts after going through some burnout myself. It’s amazing how much nicer it is being able to work on your own terms!

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