How to balance a side hustle with a full-time job

Jul 9, 2018

Is your full-time job holding you back from starting a side hustle? Don’t let it! Many healthcare professionals simultaneously do both – and excel at both. Striking a balance early on in a side gig can be essential in taking your hustle to the point that it could be your main source of income. Here are 5 tips on how to balance a side hustle with a full time job.

Commit yourself to your full-time job and own your responsibilities

This one is key. There’s no room for slacking at your full-time job as a result of all the effort and energy you’re putting into your side hustle. Before you get serious about your side hustle, recommit yourself to your full-time.

This may be tough. After all, for many physicians, the whole concept of a side hustle is appealing because they don’t like their full-time job or are bored with it.

Try these steps:

  1. Read your job description.
  2. Write down all the projects you’re involved in, and what your role is in each. Brainstorm ways that you can contribute even more or assist the team in other ways.
  3. Determine your goals for your current full-time job. Some especially organized employers require employees do this regularly. If that’s the case, you may already be set. Otherwise, do this as though it was a requirement.
  4. Ask for a formal review. Use this to make sure you’re on the same page as your boss and discuss opportunities or areas for improvement that you can focus on.

Establish ground rules for yourself for use of your time and energy when you’re at work. These will depend on personal factors as well as your job responsibilities and the company’s culture.

A few things to consider:

  • Will you read and respond to email related to your side hustle while at work?
  • Will you use breaks to make phone calls related to your side hustle?
  • Do you have the necessary equipment that you won’t be tempted to use your employer’s supplies or equipment for your side hustle?
  • Will your side hustle be free of competing interests?

When you’re at work, take ownership of your responsibilities. Do more than the bare minimum.

Choose a side hustle with flexibility

A side hustle with flexibility makes balancing it with a full-time job far easier. Most physicians have work schedules that can be intense and unforgiving. If this is true of your side work in addition to your regular work, you set yourself up for exhaustion.

Look for flexibility in terms of:

  • How much work you do every week
  • When you do the work
  • Where you can do the work

With wiggle room in each of these areas, you can be maximally productive in using the free time you have – whenever it is and wherever you are.

At one point when I had a full-time job, I was considering some work on the side at an outpatient clinic 45 minutes from my home. I almost committed to a weekly shift at the clinic every week. The extra income would have been swell, but I’m so glad I didn’t move forward with this! I would have dreaded clinic days.

Unfortunately, for physicians, more flexibility often means lower compensation. For example, telemedicine work may require that you be available in a HIPAA-safe safe during a certain time period on a scheduled day. The compensation for this can be a pretty high hourly or per-encounter rate. Freelance writing work, on the other hand, tends to come with a deadline and a set of requirements. And that’s it. You decide when and where to do the writing. You can stop taking new projects for while if things start to get busy at your regular job. But you’ll probably make less than you would by dedicating the same amount of your time to telemedicine.

You need to determine what amount of flexibility you require, given your personal situation.

Accept delayed gratification

This goes hand in hand with flexibility. For most doctors, it’s not hard to come across an opportunity for hourly clinical work as a contractor with decent pay. This is run-of-the-mill moonlighting. You put in an hour, and they pay you an hour. It’s a great way to earn some extra cash.

But it’s tough when you already have a full-time job.

By accepting delayed gratification (read: delayed income) in your side hustle, you’ll save mental energy for your full-time job. It’s helpful to have a project that you can put on the back burner if things get busy at work or you have a looming deadline.

One of the best ways to take advantage of delayed gratification in a side hustle is by starting your own business. Not only will you have a ton of schedule flexibility to work around your full-time, the financial reward can be very high if you’re successful.

Figure out your “power hour”

Determine when you’re most productive throughout the day and set aside blocks within that time to work on your side hustle. This is your power hour (or your power half-hour, etc). We all have a time of day when we’re most focused and mentally sharp. Be sure you’re not wasting this time by watching TV or doing other unproductive activities.

For me, my power hour is first thing in the morning. I can roll out of bed and do “thinking work” immediately. It’s the best side hustle time for me. The difference in what I can accomplish in one hour before breakfast versus after dinner is remarkable.

For the longest time I would put off working on my side hustle until all my other obligations were out of the way. I would finish my regular work, clean the house, pay the bills, cook dinner, and answer my emails before I felt that I’d earned some time to work on my side projects. But this way, I hardly ever got around to my side hustle.

When a full-time job prevents you from making your side hustle a priority, you can at least give it priority during a small chunk of the day. Once you’ve determined when your power hour is, clear that time of obligations and distractions when you’re working on your side project.

Have trouble fitting in a power hour on weekdays along with your full-time job? Try power half-hours or longer power “chunks” when you take days off.

Never watch a movie on an airplane

When I’m traveling, I try to make an airplane to-do list of various hustle-related tasks that I can work on in the air, such as writing blog posts. Otherwise, I know I’ll put the time to waste by watching a movie or reading a magazine. I take advantage of the fact that I have a few hours in which I can’t go anywhere, don’t have internet access, and have very few distractions (Plus, I’m literally being waited on by flight attendants.)

See if this works for you. Not so much? Or you don’t travel often? No problem. Consider working on your side hustle during your child’s music lesson, whenever you’re in a waiting room, or during commercials while watching TV, for example.

Use your free time wisely. It’s common for people to have more free time than they think they do. They just aren’t making use of the shorts bursts of free time that arise or the unpredictable nature of when it arises.

To make the most of free time anywhere, any time:

  • Carry a bare-bones mobile office, such as a tablet and a small Bluetooth keyboard, so that you’re ready when the opportunity presents itself.
  • Keep a to-do list of side hustle tasks that you can work on when you have a free moment.
  • Buy equipment that helps you be more productive, like a good headset.
  • Store all your documents in the cloud so you can access them from any device.
  • Take a few minutes each evening to review your schedule for the next day in order to plan for how you’ll use down time.

Need some ideas for a side hustle? Check out our articles on medical writing, becoming a lab director, and easy-entry businesses for physicians.

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