At first, it may seem strange that “physician” and “side gig” are even used in the same sentence. After all, the average physician in the United States is already working more than a 40 hour work week and struggling with issues related to work-life balance. As someone who talks about physician burnout and as the founder of the Physician Side Gigs Facebook group, I’ve been asked many times how adding yet another thing to the physician’s plate could possibly be a good idea.
And yet, I’m a strong believer that physicians should have additional revenue streams and pursue other interests. Why?
The monetary benefits
1. The obvious one: extra money. This one speaks for itself.
2. Tax benefits. Since most physicians are W-2 employees, they don’t get a lot of the tax benefits that small businesses or 1099 workers receive. Side gigs allow access to additional retirement plans and tax deductions.
3. Establishing passive revenue streams. I’m always surprised by how little we as physicians think about passive revenue streams. We’re groomed to work 60+ hour work weeks, but our training doesn’t include lessons on how to make the most of our incomes once we finally start making a higher salary. It’s a skillset that many don’t have time to develop, but even simple investments or partnerships can create significant side income streams, some of which require minimal work once set up. It’s my hope that the Facebook group and this site will help connect people with these opportunities.
The non-monetary benefits
For me, my writing and speaking have never been about the money. Sure, the monetary benefits are wonderful, but more so than that, I love the benefits that have come along with pursuing my other passions. These include:
1. Creating job flexibility and financial security. Having the ability to generate money outside of your day job gives you more flexibility to seek job options that are in line with the life you are trying to create. When I talk to physicians about burnout, there’s often a feeling that people are stuck – worried about paying off student debt, unable to find part-time options, etc. Having an additional income stream (or many) takes off some of the pressure to stay in a situation that may not be ideal. It may helps to protect you financially in the event that you can’t practice clinical medicine anymore or have an unexpected break in employment.
2. Expanding my network of physicians. I’ve met so many interesting people through these pursuits. Whether they are other like-minded physicians pursuing side ventures or physicians that have reached out to me because they’ve seen something I’ve written or saw me speak, I’ve made lots of new friends and connections. This has incredible value – I’ve been able to help people on both ends of the job search, had interactions that have helped me in my own personal and professional life, and have found exciting opportunities that I never would have otherwise had access to. I’m a strong believer that the more people you know, the more effective you can be in all of your pursuits and the more opportunities arise.
3. Having something in my life that is my own — done on my terms. With all the demands that come along with clinical medicine as well as those that come with parenting, I was really craving something that was uniquely me. I’ve always enjoyed networking, mentoring, writing, and of course, talking. While jobs and children come with relatively stringent deadlines, hours, and expectations, I can pursue my side gigs during pockets of free time, and can ramp up or down my pursuits depending on how busy things are in the rest of my life.
4. Having an outlet to process my life in a fulfilling way. Because of the nature of my side gig (writing and speaking about life in medicine), I’ve actually found it really helpful personally to talk about the aspects of medicine that aren’t conventionally discussed amongst physicians. It’s also been wonderful to have these conversations with people who are facing the same challenges with work-life balance, the changing healthcare landscape, and other issues related to life in medicine. I love being able to use my voice in the field to help others find happiness in medicine or to bring publicity to issues that I’d like to see generate more discussion.
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