I want to begin with this compelling statistic: Nearly 40% of Americans performed freelance or had a side hustle in 2022. That's up nearly 10% from 2021, and a third of them make freelance their full-time work. Among millennials, the statistics continued to rise to 50%.
Increasingly, individuals are finding innovative ways to earn supplemental incomes and monetize their passions. Some are diving into these ventures as hobbies, while others are carving out lucrative careers solely from what used to be their "side hustle." The landscape is ever evolving, with side hustles not only serving as income generators but also platforms for exploring passions and skills beyond one's primary profession. A side hustle, in essence, is something you do "on the side," designed to supplement your primary income.
Wait, I know what you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with physicians?”
The Hustle As a Physician
Let's face it, medicine as we know is changing. The old way of life as a physician no longer holds. The traditional path seemed straightforward: work hard, go to school, start a practice, garner the respect and admiration of your community, feel perpetually self-fulfilled, and look forward to a bright and secure financial future.
However, with the increasing burden of student loan debt, decreasing reimbursements, the commercialization of medicine, a rising litigious environment, and physician burnout, the golden days of medicine are unfortunately behind us.
In the past, I've heard advice stating that the best way to earn a living as a physician is to "just be a doctor." Such advice typically comes from older physicians who knew only one way of doing things and luckily it worked for them. But does it work for doctors today?
My own father serves as the perfect example. He saw my efforts on other ventures as a “distraction” until he himself was told by hospital administration that he was being replaced by a younger surgeon willing to accept half his salary. Then he realized that times were truly changing and having a hedge wasn’t optional, it was necessary.
I even heard recently from a physician friend working for a large health care organization that their pension terms might be changing. Many worked for less than market value for years for this guaranteed pension. If the pension gets cut, get ready: The fallout will be massive.
There's power in having choices. Achieving financial freedom and determining how and when you want to practice medicine is truly empowering. In fact, I’ve seen that when physicians are in this situation of abundance, rather than leaving medicine, they continue to practice and serve from a place of contribution and passion. As a patient, isn’t that the type of physician you would want taking care of you?
One of the advantages of being a doctor is that it enables you to pursue certain side hustles without the financial constraints others may face. Given our decent incomes, I often wonder why more of us don't give it a try.
Sure, you might risk some time, energy, and money, but you'll still have a job and the means to take care of your family. In the worst-case scenario, you'll probably just end up in the same place you started. But the best-case scenario offers a life of freedom and choice – and isn't that worth the risk?
A question I get quite often is this: How do you choose the right side hustle? From telemedicine to medical writing, teaching, being an expert witness, real estate investing, and even entrepreneurship, the options are diverse. The challenge is to identify what resonates with you and aligns with your skills and interests.
The First Side Hustle Doesn't Have to Be Perfect
Think back to when you were coming out of training. There was so much pressure to find and choose the right job. In fact, the truth is that most people don’t stay at their first. It’s a stepping stone; they gain experience, they learn what’s important, they further define their passions, life happens, and they land a hopefully better position in the future. I feel it’s the same with side hustles.
Unfortunately, too many physicians are stuck in "analysis paralysis" when choosing a side hustle, so absorbed in predicting every outcome that they fail to launch anything. Remember, you don't have to perfect everything from the start. Take the leap, start something, learn from the process, and evolve.
Identify Your Motivation and Establish Tangible Goals
You may have heard of the concept of “Finding Your Why” from motivational speakers like Simon Sinek or Tony Robbins. The idea is that you start your journey by defining WHY you want to pursue something (side hustle in this case), and this will help propel you in the right direction.
Your "why" is the driving force behind your side hustle. Are you aiming to travel more, get rid of debt, better provide for your family, or perhaps carve out more time with your loved ones? Are you wanting to pull back on your work hours in medicine? Or are you planning to retire early? Defining your why is crucial, as it sets the direction for your side hustle.
Next, establish specific, time-bound goals. How much additional income are you targeting per month? And when do you expect to reach these milestones? Always tie your goals to your why.
Self-Assess Your Interests and Strengths
Many physicians are so focused on their medical careers that they lose touch with their other interests and skills. Take time to understand what you enjoy and what you're good at. What would you be doing if money wasn't a concern? This self-awareness is vital as it determines the type of side hustle you'll enjoy and thrive in.
Consider undertaking a personality test like the 16 Personalities to better understand your strengths and areas of improvement. Do an honest assessment of what you’re interested in, good at, and identify the areas for personal growth.
Consider Your Time Availability
Carefully examine your schedule. This exercise will guide you in choosing a side hustle that fits into your current lifestyle and work schedule. When can you realistically dedicate time to your side hustle? Remember, your side hustle should complement your main job, not overwhelm you. Are you ready to wake up an hour earlier or dedicate some evening hours after the kids are asleep?
Determine What Side Hustle Is Best For You
Now that you've defined your goals and understood your passions and time constraints, it's time to explore available side hustle options. Check out this list of side hustles commonly pursued by physicians to gain insight into what might work for you.
From paid surveys to building a business or even real estate investment, the list is endless. Remember, your choice should align with your goals, interests, and available time.
Grow Your Knowledge and Expertise in Your Side Hustle
Knowledge is power. Once you have a rough idea of what you want to venture into, invest in learning more about it. Look for relevant blogs, books, or courses that can help you understand your chosen side hustle better.
Remember, investing in knowledge pays the best interest. Don't be afraid to spend a bit of money on a quality course, conference, or membership group. We all know that time is money, so it’s worth it to invest to accelerate your learning and minimize your chances of making big mistakes. Join free communities like Passive Income Docs Facebook Group to grow your knowledge and network. The return on investment will be worth it.
Find A Mentor
Finally, seek guidance from those already successful in your prospective side hustle. A mentor can provide invaluable advice, insights, and shortcuts to help you avoid common pitfalls.
However, be respectful of their time. Aim to bring something valuable to the table in return for their mentorship. If necessary, consider paying for professional coaching or mentorship. After all, we've all been through internships, and know the value of learning in the trenches.
The Impact of Physician Side Hustles
In the changing landscape of health care, embracing a side hustle is not merely about supplementing income. It's about self-discovery, personal growth, and gaining financial autonomy. By leveraging your discipline and commitment to learning, you are ideally positioned to delve into side hustles. These ventures can offer an antidote to rising student loan debt, decreasing reimbursements, and the escalating concerns of physician burnout, enabling physicians to practice medicine out of passion, not necessity.
There’s already a huge community of physicians pursuing other ventures. Let’s find ways to support each other, not tear each other down. Together, I believe we can revolutionize health care by taking care of physicians first.
Do you have a side hustle? Share in the comments.
Peter Kim, MD is the founder of Passive Income MD and is host The Physician Real Estate & Entrepreneurship Conference [PIMDCON] created by doctors for doctors to acquire the knowledge, skills, and network to achieve financial freedom through real estate investing, entrepreneurship, side hustles and passive income strategies.
Animation by Jennifer Bogartz