Side gigs can help us to not only pay off debt and build financial stability, but also to find more joy in our lives and in our practice of medicine.
Most of us would probably agree that we are living in a world full of uncertainties at the moment. There are no longer any ‘jobs for life’ and the Covid pandemic has led many of us to reassess our lives, and to find the courage to redefine the ways in which we are willing to exchange our time for money. We’ve really been digging down into what we think will make us happy, and getting creative to find ways to make that vision a reality. Physicians and other healthcare professionals are by no means immune to this reset.
The image of the side gig has come a long way from just being something that students and young people do to get by. Many healthcare professionals are leveraging the side gig economy to earn themselves more freedom – in terms of both time and money.
There are several reasons why side gigs can be a great option for healthcare professionals:
- Benefits for our Clinical Careers
Side gigs that align with our expertise can be hugely beneficial to our clinical careers, for where we are in our professional journeys at that moment, and as we move through our careers, potentially opening up more options and increasing our negotiating power.
Side gigs that use our clinical expertise would include expert witness consulting, utilization review, medical editing and medical writing.
- Increased Lifestyle Choices
Having a side gig can provide us with the freedom to make more choices about how we live – how much time we spend with our families, whether we work full-time at our clinical jobs, or the location where we live, for example. If we have income from somewhere other than our clinical careers, we can potentially negotiate from a more powerful place when it comes to our clinical roles than we could if we relied solely on the income of our clinical careers.
This is what we commonly hear referred to as having multiple streams of income, and why that can be useful. When we have multiple streams of income, we rely less on each individual source of income, which decreases our stress levels if one source is in jeopardy. While it gives us the confidence to negotiate our clinical salary, since we are not 100% dependent on it, it also gives us the ability to do our clinical work because we find purpose and joy in it aside from the income. With multiple streams of income, we get to make choices to do the clinical work that is most meaningful to each of us, with less regard to the pay scale.
- A Change in Circumstances
Many people dream of moving to another country. In the US, we frequently move between states, especially as medical professionals. As a healthcare professional, working in another country – or even another state – requires licensing and credentialing that can take many months. In most cases, we wait to physically move until that licensing process is completed. But what if you want to relocate earlier, while licensing and credentialing are pending? What if you want to travel between jobs? The income from a side gig could make a huge impact in this situation, allowing us to pay the bills and increasing our options.
How To Choose The Right Side Gig
A great place to start is for each of us to think about what we want our life to look like. Ideally, we want to design our perfect lifestyle, and then build our side gig around it, as opposed to choosing a side gig and then making do with the life we end up with. Some useful questions to ask ourselves include:
- Are we spending as much time with our family as we would like?
- When we are with our family, are we really present?
- Would we like to retire early?
- Would we like to be geographically free?
- Would we like a creative outlet?
- Would we like to see fewer patients, but still be involved in medicine?
- Are we looking for something to help us prevent burnout?
The next thing to think about is our ideal audience. This will have a huge bearing on what we offer and our success. If we’re passionate about helping low-income, single-parent families navigate their way through the world of health insurance, for example, there’s little point in creating a course that will require a high time commitment from them with a high price tag.
Thinking about what we enjoy doing or would like to try, and what we already have skills in, may help us determine the right side gig for us. Maybe we like face-to-face interaction. Perhaps we are bilingual, or enjoy writing. Perhaps we’re good at explaining things in simple, clear language.
Once we have all of these answers, it’s a great idea to talk to friends and colleagues about their side gigs, join Facebook groups, and listen to relevant podcasts. The perfect side gig for us is out there, waiting to be discovered!
How To Make It Work for Us
The most important thing is not to wait until we hate our job and want to leave. If we do that, we are putting ourselves in a position of weakness, desperate to leave but feeling that there’s no viable financial alternative. We may then rush into a side gig without carrying out due diligence, and when it doesn’t quickly yield the results we want, we will become disheartened. It’s much better to start with an attitude of openness and discovery, take time to build our audience or look for the right organizations to work with, for example – making sure they are right for us.
Remember that whatever you choose is not set in stone; if you don’t enjoy it or it’s not working for you, try something else.
You should also have a good support system in place in order to free up time when getting started. This might involve outsourcing, having a personal assistant or VA (virtual assistant), or maybe a housekeeper. This will free up some of your time, so that you can do whatever you need to to make a success of your side gig.
What Side Gig Options Are There For Physicians And Healthcare Professionals?
The great news answer to that is: All the side gigs plus. Furthermore, as healthcare professionals, we are uniquely equipped to use some areas of the side gig economy to really make a difference to the world. Here are just a few of the side gigs that we could become involved in:
- Social media
During the Covid pandemic, healthcare professionals like “Dr.BeachGem10” used social media very successfully to dispel some of the myths that were circulating about the virus.
*Note: Financial success in this field does not happen overnight. It takes time to build credibility and trust. The people who are most successful with social media side gigs seem to be those who show their honesty and vulnerability.
If you have a side business, a podcast can be a good way to build your audience.
A great way to switch off from the stresses of work and explore an interest could be to create a podcast relating to a non-medical subject. There are also many healthcare professionals who have podcasts addressing topics related to medicine in some way.
Make no mistake, this is also not a way to instant riches! However, it is a great way to meet interesting people relevant to something we care about, and to build a network and a reputation as an expert in our chosen field. We can learn so much from a diverse community when we have a podcast, opening up a whole new world of opportunities.
Having a podcast can ultimately lead to more choices and negotiating power in our clinical careers, and as the audience grows, there are ways to monetize a podcast, for example, through advertising.
*Note: Bear in mind that there is a fairly significant financial outlay when starting a podcast, and a long road to creating an income from it.
- Real Estate
This is probably the most passive of the options we are discussing today, and so it really does enable you to continue with your healthcare role full-time, if you choose to do so, but at the same time, it will potentially allow you the financial freedom to cut back on your clinical hours if that’s what you would like to do.
Always take personalized financial advice before you embark on real estate investing. Also, it’s a good idea to talk to experts who are investing in real estate. Learn everything you can from them – the pros and the cons.
There are various strategies available to make real estate investing work well as a source of additional income, and it’s crucial that we find the one that is the best fit in relation to our current situation and our small, medium and long-term goals.
If you would like to stay within the medical world and use your clinical expertise with your side hustle, here are some options:
- Utilization Management
Organizations that require utilization managers include hospitals and insurance companies. This is a very flexible job, which can be carried out either onsite or remotely, and is a suitable option for medical professionals from any specialty.
- Medical Science Liaison
This involves working for the pharmacological industry. The beauty of this side gig is that it’s based on our medical and scientific background, which means it’s a really good one to consider as a physician side gig if you’re not currently licensed or haven’t completed residency.
- Medical Writing
There are many routes into medical writing. Some people write for publications, some work as editors, some write their own blogs. If you have your own blog, you can potentially monetize that through advertising, selling products, or affiliate marketing.
Tips For Getting Started on a Side Gig
- Be consistent. If the side gig involves social media, we should be posting valuable content on a frequent and regular basis. If the side gig is a blog, same deal.
- Use analytics. This also relates to side gigs in the social media world. The data the apps provide will help us to understand what’s working, what the audience’s pain points are, and so on.
- We shouldn’t compare our performance to that of others. We are all at different stages. Make comparisons to yourself and notice your own progress.
- Stand out – as a famous film probably didn’t once say, “Niche is the word.”
Embarking on a side gig could help us to not only pay off debt and build financial stability, but also to find more joy in our lives and in our practice of medicine. A carefully chosen side gig has the potential to improve our lives, open our minds to options that would have previously been closed to us, and expand our network of professional relationships and friendships, while accelerating a path toward financial freedom.