What If Side Gigs Just Remind You How Much You Love Medicine?
Side gigs for doctors are all the rage now. And I like to think I’m 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 believe most doctors should at least give 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.
The purpose of this post is to say that it is okay for you, as a doctor, to not pursue any side gigs!
But first, let’s address why physician side gigs have blown up. 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 up and it’s clear why doctors are looking for streams of income to supplement their clinical medicine income. The good thing is that opportunities abound…
As doctors, we have an area of expertise that is frequently sought after by other industries and people in general. Furthermore, 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.
The list of possible side gigs for doctors abound:
- Medical surveys
- Real estate investing
- Expert witness
- Chart review, writing, coaching, and more like these!
So, the demand — doctors looking for extra income or a way “out” — increased 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 be all good…if the means always aligned 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.
That’s why it’s not surprising that I’ve found a lot of doctors who left clinical medicine — either partially or completely — for 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 take more time away from your family or other interests. Many doctors get squirmy initially thinking about a side gig because they don’t want to spend more of their time working. But, when done right, they do the exact opposite.
The important thing when deciding to pursue a side gig is to establish long-term goals. My side gigs allow me to practice medicine on my own terms — because I want to, not because I have to. They 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 your 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. 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 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 many doctors who tried side gigs, didn’t feel they were a fit, and just kept maintaining or growing their clinical practice instead. In fact, the feedback I hear 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 take on 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 a lot of ways to increase your clinical compensation, so you can always work toward that!
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 them or not!
Jordan Frey, MD, is a plastic surgeon at Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, New York, and founder of The Prudent Plastic Surgeon.
Looking to improve your financial well-being? Check out Frey’s online course, Graduating to Success, a comprehensive and interactive 12-module course that helps doctors achieve personal, professional, and financial success during and after their transition from trainee to attending. Or read his best-selling book, Money Matters in Medicine.