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What If Physician Side Gigs Just Make You Want to Be a Doctor?

Side gigs as a doctor are all the rage now. And to be honest, I may be somewhat responsible.

After all, I use numerous doctor side gigs to create extra streams of income, boost my overall income, and diversify from clinical medicine. And I talk a lot about them. I even think that most doctors should at least give physician side gigs a try.

But, are they the end all, be all? Of course not! And some doctors may find that side endeavors just don’t do it for them.

doctor side gigs
No side hustle for these guys…

This post is to say and explain that it is okay for you, as a doctor, to not pursue any side gigs!

But first, why have physician side gigs blown up anyway?

Well, it’s actually a pretty straight forward story when you think about it.

  • Clinical medicine has seen a shift towards an employment model (despite other models like PC-employment lite)
  • As a result, medicine has seen autonomy and job satisfaction decrease
  • Meanwhile, moral injury and burnout are increasing
  • And to top it off, physician compensation is falling

Add that all up and it makes sense that the outcome is doctors looking for additional streams of income to supplement or supplant their income from clinical medicine.

And the good thing is that opportunities abound…

As doctors, we are highly educated in an area of expertise that is highly sought after by other industries and people in general.

Further, as doctors, we have an excellent work ethic and understand how to “make things happen.” Thus, we excel even in areas outside of medicine when we educate ourselves and pursue them.

The list of available opportunities for doctor side gigs are therefore numerous, including:

As well as chart review, writing, coaching, and more like these!

So, in the end, a demand arose in the form of doctors looking for extra income or a way “out,” and the supply was right there to meet it.

No wonder everyone is talking about side gigs now!

So, what’s the problem?

Seems like it’s all good, right?

Well, yes. It would. As long as the means always align well with the goal. Remember, for any endeavor we undertake, whether that is clinical medicine or a side gig, we need a strong “why.”

Without the “why,” we don’t go into that endeavor with a clear picture of what we want out of it – our goals. And that’s when we can find ourselves running on a hamster wheel feeling like there is no way to get off. In fact, this is pretty much analogous to how a lot of doctors found themselves burning out in clinical medicine in the beginning.

And that’s why it’s not surprising that I’ve found a lot of doctors who left – either partially or completely – clinical medicine for doctor side gigs only to find themselves burned out from the exact side gigs meant to free them from burnout.

And that’s really unfortunate.

In my mind…

… doctor side gigs are not endeavors to complicate your life or to further take time away from your family. Many doctors get squirmy initially thinking about a side gig because they don’t want to spend more of their time. But, in fact, when done right, they do the exact opposite.

The important thing when deciding to pursue a side gig is to establish the long term goals. My side gigs will allow me to practice medicine on my own terms, because I want to, not because I have to. They will give me MORE time with my family and for my personal well being as they turn into passive income.

So, in the end, this is my long-winded way of saying that I believe that side gigs can be great for doctors…when they are well-aligned with their goals or big “why.”

But when not aligned, they spell disaster…or at least nuisance.

And the only way you can know if side gigs fit you is to try them…

That’s why I encourage pretty much all doctors to give a side gig a shot. Even if it’s just filling out some paid medical surveys like these.

If you like it, keep going. That will likely open more opportunities for consulting and things like that.

If it doesn’t fit you, you can always try something else like expert witness work or maybe even something completely outside of medicine like real estate investing. You could even start a blog like mine!

Ultimately, you will begin to see what you like and what you don’t like. And you won’t like everything. For instance, I used to do 1:1 coaching with other doctors. I found it really rewarding but ultimately it just didn’t fit me 100%. So I let it go. That’s okay.

But you won’t ever know until you try it.

(And no, pursuing a side gig does not mean you are selling out as a doctor. I used to think that. But I finally rejected the notion. My side gigs fulfill me in ways that clinical medicine doesn’t. And they promote my financial well-being which ultimately makes me a better doctor!)

But what if you try side gigs and realize you just want to be a doctor?

I say that’s great!

I know lots of doctors who tried side gigs, didn’t feel they were a fit, and just kept maintaining or growing their clinical practice. And that’s fantastic. In fact, feedback is generally that trying side gigs made them realize that they actually liked clinical medicine more than they thought.

And who wouldn’t! When done right, clinical medicine is a ton of fun. It’s rewarding and fulfilling. Even if you do side gigs and don’t like them and your current doctor gig stinks, this is a great motivator to go find a better clinical situation!

The world needs great doctors.

And remember, there are lots of ways to increase your compensation clinically so you can still pursue those!

Or let’s say it’s really the worst case scenario

You don’t like side gigs. And you really are just done (DONE) with clinical medicine. Like you want out.

But again, you hate side gigs too.

Well, clinical medicine still pays really well. Certainly better than starting rates for most site gigs (it takes time to build up to replace physician income). So, use your clinical job for its income and save and invest that income wisely like this so you can retire or ease off sooner!

You can even use this calculator to figure out how much you need for a nest egg to retire on your own terms.

The bottom line

No doctor needs side gigs in order to gain financial well-being or financial freedom. But they can help along the path.

So, if they fit with your goals and plan, great.

If not, that’s okay too.

My only recommendation is that you put yourself out there and try some to see if you like ’em or not!

And lastly, if you find yourself looking for an all-encompassing but easily relatable resource to find your path to financial freedom, check out my best-selling book, Money Matters in Medicine or my course, Graduating to Success!

What do you think? Do you like physician side gigs? Have you tried them? What did you like or dislike? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

    2 thoughts on “What If Physician Side Gigs Just Make You Want to Be a Doctor?”

    1. Great article. Most of us enjoy what we do or we would not have chosen this path. The system has created friction. It’s always been my hope that physician side gigs would simply decrease physician financial stress, allowing them to eliminate some of the “annoying” parts of the business of medicine. This could create a happier doctor who can spend more time with patients and utilize their training the way it was meant to be used. An army of happy doctors could have a profound effect on our healthcare system. Thanks, Jordan!


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