By Dr. Peter Kim of Passive Income MD, WCI Network Partner
In recent years, there has been a growing trend of physicians turning to side hustles to supplement their income. This trend is not surprising, given the financial and career challenges that many doctors face today. The world of medicine is changing, and it is impacting how physicians choose to practice medicine.
Several years ago when I decided to start a business while working as an attending physician, I remember a conversation I had with my father. I still remember what he said:
“You're a doctor. Focus on being a doctor. Why would you ever want to do something else besides being a physician?”
My father was a physician who grew up in a different era and practiced medicine in the '80s, a time that many consider the golden age of medicine for various reasons. However, he acknowledges times have changed significantly since then. In fact, he's not entirely sure he would have pursued medicine again if he had to go through it in today's environment. He admits that in the last decade, the medical field has experienced more changes than in the previous 40 years.
The traditional pathway for physicians used to be crystal clear: study hard and focus on the right things, and you'll be rewarded later in life. Unfortunately, these rules no longer seem to apply. High student loan debt, a decrease in autonomy, the corporatization of medicine, the influence of private equity and hospitals, and changes in reimbursements and insurance have affected the field of medicine. While technology, politics, and regulations have also affected other professions, doctors have felt the impact more significantly. The truth is, physicians can no longer practice and thrive in the same way previous generations did.
As a result, many doctors are seeking alternative solutions to supplement their income and achieve more flexibility and freedom. Physicians are natural problem-solvers, and we're applying this same approach to our professional lives. We understand that there must be a different way to achieve our goals, and we're exploring alternative paths to reach them.
In the upcoming sections, let’s explore some reasons behind the question, “Why are physicians turning to side hustles?”
#1 Financial Challenges
One of the primary reasons physicians are turning to side hustles is the need for extra income. The lives of physicians today are not the same as they used to be, and dealing with rising student loan costs, decreasing salaries, and decreasing reimbursements can lead to increased financial stress. For many physicians, a side hustle provides a way to earn extra income without sacrificing their primary medical practice.
As physicians, we often experience delayed gratification, and by the time we graduate and become attending physicians, many of our peers have already settled financially and started building their net worth. However, we're just getting started, and we may need that extra income to achieve our financial goals.
To supplement their income, many physicians are using their skill sets and interests to explore alternative income streams. Some are starting businesses or picking up case reviews, becoming expert witnesses, doing medical surveys, or becoming consultants to leverage their medical degrees and create extra income. Others are investing in real estate or pursuing other ventures outside of medicine.
When physicians don't have to rely solely on their primary medical practice for income, it provides a sense of relief, and it can allow for a more enjoyable life in medicine. A side hustle can be an excellent way for physicians to earn extra income while still maintaining their primary medical practice. With careful planning and hard work, a side hustle can provide a path to financial security and personal fulfillment.
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#2 Creative Outlet
The second reason many physicians are turning to side hustles is to scratch their creative itch. Many people look at doctors as one-dimensional people who are focused solely on medicine, but many have talents and interests outside of medicine. By taking those outside interests, hobbies, or skills and talents and making extra income from them, physicians can experience a sense of fulfillment and joy that they may not get from medicine alone. By taking those outside interests, hobbies, skills, or talents outside of medicine, you can provide life balance while creating a little extra income from it.
Some physicians are artists, writers, or musicians who take these creative outlets and talents that they have to create extra income. Others see their side hustle as therapy and a way to express themselves in ways that medicine does not allow.
Physicians are doing really creative things: artists, writing, music, or even coding have provided fun ways to create extra income. It opens them up to use a different side of the brain. Many have found it to be therapeutic and life-giving, and the sole reason they're doing a side hustle is for that creative outlet.
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The third reason many physicians are turning to side hustles is for portfolio diversification. Gone are the days when physicians relied solely on their medical job for income. With the changing landscape of healthcare, there is no guarantee that a physician's job will remain stable or that they will continue to earn the same amount of money throughout their career. The corporatization of medicine has resulted in businesses and private equity firms taking over medical practices, which can lead to significant changes to job terms, unexpected pay cuts, and even job loss.
Building up that extra income stream means not relying on medicine 100%, providing powerful financial security.
Creating a side hustle can provide physicians with financial security and peace of mind. By having an additional source of income, they can weather unexpected changes in their job or industry. This diversification can also provide physicians with more flexibility in their lives. If they want to work part-time or change the way they practice medicine, having that extra income can make those choices possible.
#4 Work-Life Balance
Finally, some physicians are turning to side hustles to plan their exit. Burnout is a real issue for many physicians today, with up to 50% experiencing signs and symptoms of burnout on a daily basis.
That's where side hustles come in. Physicians can establish a sense of financial stability that allows them to take control of their lives when they create additional streams of income outside of practicing medicine. Flexibility doesn't necessarily mean that doctors will leave medicine entirely. But with a reduction in workload or a change in their practice, doctors could align with their passions and interests.
When physicians have the ability to work on their own terms, it will have a profound impact on how they view their medical profession. By reconnecting with the passion that drove them to pursue medicine, physicians can rediscover the sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes with helping others and, thus, create work-life balance and reduce the risk of burnout.
If you are a physician who is feeling the effects of burnout, financial stress, or a lack of creative outlets, consider starting a side hustle. Take the time to explore your interests and talents outside of medicine, and think about how you can use those skills to create additional income streams. With the right mindset, resources, and support, you can build a successful side hustle that not only helps you achieve your financial goals but also provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
To get started, check out the List of Physician Side Hustles on Passive Income MD, and join the Passive Income Docs community to connect with other physicians who are exploring alternative income streams.
Building a side hustle takes time, effort, and dedication. A lot of great things have happened to me, and I'm still constantly learning. But a lot of that has to do with the side hustles that eventually became the main hustles and main businesses.
It's funny now when I talk to my father. He comes back and asks me constantly, “How are those businesses doing?” It's awesome to see it all come full circle.
Have you thought about creating a side hustle? If you already have one, what do you do? Has it helped you financially and/or emotionally? Comment below!