To start off, here’s an interesting statistic: more than 35% of the United States workforce are now freelancers or independent contractors and that number is only rising. To take it a step further, according to CNN Money, over 44 million Americans have a side hustle of some sort.
It seems that more and more people are incorporating ways of earning supplemental incomes and monetizing their passions. Some do it as a hobby, while others are earning a decent living solely from what used to be their “side hustle.” Honestly, this blog is a side hustle for me, one born out of passion, but nonetheless, it provides a nice income.
A side hustle, put simply, is something you do on “the side,” with the idea that it will provide some income to complement your primary income.
In fact, more and more physicians are starting their own side hustles and earning passive income. So many physicians I talk to mention the need for one. In fact, we talk about this daily in our facebook group, Passive Income Docs, and I highlight physicians examples in my True Doctor Stories series, like Dr. Edna Ma and Dr. Buck Parker.
Why and Is It Worth It?
Let’s face it, medicine as we know is changing. The old paradigm and expectation of what life is like as a physician is no longer relevant. It used to be simple: work hard, go to school, start a practice, have the respect and admiration of your community, constantly feel self-fulfilled, and have an extremely bright financial future.
But with increasing student loan debt, decreasing reimbursements, the business of medicine, increasing litigious environment, and physician burnout, the old days are gone.
I’ve been told in the past that the best way to earn a living as a physician is to “just be a doctor.” But advice like this usually comes from older physicians who only knew one way. My own father is the perfect example. He thought it was foolish to spend my efforts on other ventures until he himself one day was told by hospital administration that he was going to be replaced by a younger surgeon who was willing to take half his salary.
There is power in having choices. Achieving financial freedom and deciding how and when you want to practice medicine is truly empowering. In fact, it hasn’t made me race for the door out of medicine. Rather, it’s made me embrace my position. It's allowed me to practice out of passion and not out of necessity.
What's also nice about being a doctor is that it has allowed me to pursue certain side hustles without the pressures and financial constraints others have. While we're making decent incomes, I almost wonder why wouldn't everyone try?
Worst case, yes, you might have risked some time, energy, and some money, but you'll still have a job and the means to take care of your family. You'll probably just end up in the same place you started. But in the best case is a life of financial freedom, and isn't that worth the risk?
Choosing Your Side Hustle
A question I get often is this: how do you choose the right side hustle? Well, to get right to it, here are some tips I have.
Don’t Always Think the First One Needs To Be a Home Run
Think back to when you were coming out of training. There was so much pressure to find 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.
However, I believe that most physicians put so much pressure on their chosen side hustle to be perfect and life-changing, that they often don't even get started. Some refer to this as “analysis paralysis” where one sits there and tries to figure out every outcome, and in doing so, never actually gets started.
For example, I talked to a former resident of mine a few years back and he talked about wanting to get started in real estate. We went over the different options and based on his goals, time availability, and willingness it seemed that turnkey investing seemed like a good place to start.
However, he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to do it all on his own. Or should he invest in syndications? Which one was going to end up with the perfect pathway leading to financial freedom? My suggestion was to choose one and launch.
Turns out, he was so concerned about all the different scenarios and outcomes that three years have since passed and nothing’s changed. He’s still contemplating what would be the best course of action. Don't let that be you.
Define Your “Why” and Your Goals
You may have heard of the concept of “Finding Your Why” from motivational speakers like Simon Sinek or Tony Robbins. Just YouTube them if you're interested in hearing what they have to say. But 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.
So, why are you thinking about pursuing a side hustle? Do you want to work less and travel more? Is it to help pay off some of your mountainous debt? Is it so you can provide better things for your family? Is it because you want more time freedom to spend with your loved ones?
Once you've started with the WHY you can reverse engineer and figure out what goals you need to meet to practically get you there.
Are you looking to supplement your income by $5k a month, $10k a month, $20k a month? In how many years would you like that to come about? 5, 10, 15 years?
Find your why and set real, time-bound goals.
Get to Know Yourself
This one might sound a little silly but many of us have never really taken the time to lay it all out on the table and figure out who we are and what we're into. We've been so focused on this one path throughout our medical education and training.
So, you need to really figure it out – what are your interests, what are your skills? If money wasn't an option, what would you be doing? Well, money is important though, so what does it make sense to do? Write them down.
Remember those old personality tests, like Myers-Briggs? Well, my friends who are high-end consultants actually use tests for all their new hires. They’re constantly trying to assess their strengths so they can double down on them and get help for their weaknesses. I think it's worthwhile for people who are pursuing side hustles to take them as well. I like 16 Personalities.
So do an honest assessment of what you’re interested in and good at.
Think About How Much Time You Have
Take a look at your schedule. When can you carve out time to work on it? Could you wake up an hour earlier? Do you have time after the kids are asleep or at school? Do you have downtime on call or between patients where you could pursue something? Or do you really have no time and need to find a totally passive side hustle?
Many physicians I know say they need that downtime to veg out, to watch Netflix. I get it, but that’s precious time. The funny thing is when I talk to physicians who take extra time for their side hustles, they say it actually invigorates them. Using different parts of your brain is stimulating. How many of you feel more tired after you’ve been sitting on the couch for hours?
Figure out how many hours a day or week you're willing to commit and that can help you determine what side hustle might make sense.
Find Out What Side Hustles Are Out There
Now that you have your goals well defined, it’s time to figure out what vehicles are out there to get you where you want to be.
This list of physician side hustles is one place to start. See if anything piques your interest and falls in line with your goals and time constraints. It's obviously not a full list of everything you could possibly do, but it is a list of ones I know that physicians have actually pursued.
Maybe you just want to make a few hundred bucks here and there while you’re standing in line or between cases. Then doing paid surveys might be good for you. Maybe you want to scale and build something, change the world, and have huge income potential. Then it sounds like you may want to create some sort of business.
Whatever the case, see what you can imagine yourself doing and write those down as well.
Invest in Your Education
Once you figure out which areas you might want to work in, invest in education. Find blogs on the topics, find books, find courses. Don’t be afraid to shell out a little cash to invest in these things. For example, if you’re interested in telemedicine, you may want to look at this course to get started. People scoff at spending $29.99 on a book, or $1500 on a weekend conference or course.
However, I think of it as an investment. I’ve spent money on these things and they’ve paid back huge dividends. We've spent countless multiples of that amount to make it this far in our careers (>$200k for most of you out there), so of all people, we should know that we have to invest and learn in order to grow.
Lastly, find people in the space who are doing what you hope to do. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them–but be mindful of their time. The best students are the ones who are willing to jump in there, learn, and figure out what value they can bring to the table.
That’s what an internship is (we’ve all been through it). We spent hours and days in the trenches, but that was the best way to learn. Sometimes it even makes sense to pay for that mentorship or coaching.
Just Do It
Let’s face it, we have to evolve with the times. When you don’t, that’s when people crumble and fail. Fear of failure often stops people from starting, but again, you have to realize that it’s the fear of inaction that should worry you the most.
Opportunities are out there. One of my favorite podcasts is How I Built This. It’s the stories of entrepreneurs and how they got started, like the founders of Instagram, Airbnb, and Lyft. The vast majority of them didn’t have a profound background and pedigree in business. Often, the most successful are ones that see problems or opportunities and aren’t afraid to take a leap of faith and start.
So experiment, try, evolve. That is the key to success and finding your side hustle. If you haven’t already jumped in, make this upcoming year the one where you get started.
Any other tips for finding a side hustle?