A growing trend for doctors seems to be getting a side hustle. According to a 2021 Medscape article, nearly four in ten doctors have one.
David I. Beran, DO, an emergency physician and writer, says:
“I have seen physicians pursue side gigs more and more in recent years. Sometimes they are clinical jobs (like moonlighting), sometimes they’re not clinical but medical (like file review or expert witnessing), and sometimes they’re neither (business, investing, real estate, etc.).”
While adding an income stream is the driving factor for starting a side hustle, many physicians said they wanted to make more money by doing something that gave them freedom and autonomy, fit with their interests, and helped combat burnout.
COVID-19 challenges in the past two years saw physicians’ income drop due to job loss, reduced hours, or reduced patient volume. The Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2021 found that this influenced many to pursue a side hustle during the pandemic.
And it seems to have paid off. Physicians earned an average of $25,300 from their side gig in 12 months. Most physicians expect their earnings to grow as the economy recovers, and they hope to earn an average of $35,400 annually in the near term.
Some people aim to turn a side hustle into a primary source of income so they can retire from medicine and do something they enjoy a lot more. Others are merely looking for ways to express their creativity and make extra money on their days off.
Side Hustles for Physicians
Setting aside simply working extra hours to make more money, side hustles can be divided into three categories: medical, medically focused, or non-medical. The dream is to create income with little or no effort — which is why passive income is the holy grail of the business world.
The reality is that very little work is truly “passive.” In almost every case, it takes a lot of work to get to a place where income will simply roll in. But, if you are willing to do the work, here is the ultimate list of side hustles for physicians.
Medical Side Hustles:
- Medical surveys
- Industry reviews for new drugs/processes
- Review insurance claims
- Expert witness
- Pharmaceutical research
Medically-Focused Side Hustles:
- Social media
- Online coaching
Non-Medical Side Hustles:
- Real estate
Medical Side Hustles
These six side hustles are not clinical but are medical. Several can be done from home, on your own schedule — ultimately flexible.
Thanks to technology (and the pandemic), doctors in certain specialties can see patients remotely. Many doctors do this either as a primary job or as part-time work. The most common specialties seem to be psychiatrists (seeing patients via webcam) and radiologists, although the pandemic has hugely expanded the use of telemedicine across all specialties.
Telemedicine will become increasingly more common as time goes on. The efficiencies that come into play when patients don’t need an office visit mean that doctors can see more patients throughout the day with shorter wait times.
If your regular schedule includes a day off or you have a free evening or weekend, you could earn extra income by seeing patients remotely and from the comfort of your home. While licensing can be tricky if you are treating patients in multiple states, if you are contracting through a company that acts as a liaison between patients and providers, they should help with all of that.
Research companies will pay good money to get a physician’s input in a survey. Anywhere from $25-50 for a 5-10 minute online survey to several hundred dollars for a more extensive one. Some are phone interviews, but many are online and can be done anytime.
The topics can be wide-ranging, covering new medications, devices, treatments, and insurance-related questions, among others. There are companies you can register with that will send you an email when surveys become available.
While you probably can’t make this a full-time job, it can be a good way to make some extra money on the side while you would otherwise be watching TV during the evening/weekend or if you have some downtime between cases.
Industry Reviews For New Drugs/Processes
Before investing in a new drug or medical process, investors often want to speak with a medical professional to understand how a new drug/process works.
The drug company contracts physicians to speak with potential investors and answer their questions. They’re paid by the hour, which typically ends up being 150% of a clinical hour rate.
While it’s interesting work as you will learn about a new industry and how new drugs, devices, etc., actually make it into hospitals and clinics, it’s not regular work, and you probably won’t make a full-time income.
Review Insurance Claims
Insurance companies often have independent physicians review insurance claims. This practice is common for cases that need pre-authorization. For example, sometimes, a doctor bills insurance for a procedure, and the insurance company suspects the case to be elective rather than medically necessary.
If an insurance decision is appealed, they’ll need an independent party to review it. Some companies contract physicians to do these case reviews. You can connect with one of those companies, and they will send you cases that need to be reviewed.
Often the cases come in randomly, and the companies expect a quick turnaround time. There are typically a lot of chart notes and records accompanying them, so it can be somewhat time-consuming. That said, it can be a good side hustle for doctors to earn extra money.
Being an expert witness can be quite lucrative and is one of the best side hustles for doctors. Attorneys need to consult with physicians when a case involves a medical issue and may even call a doctor to the stand as an expert witness to give their professional opinion on a particular case in front of a jury.
With this type of work, you can set the rate you charge. For example, you could set a flat retainer fee or charge hourly with a minimum number of hours. If you have to clear your schedule for a day to appear in court, rates can be upwards of $10,000 for the day, depending on your specialty.
The time commitment to be an expert witness can be extensive, so depending on your regular job, it may not be feasible. Doctors in private practice, who have the most control over their schedule, typically do the majority of medical expert witness work.
Doing research for a drug company can be well-paid and interesting, as long as you feel the research is being conducted ethically. You may need to travel, but the company covers the expenses, and the actual training and work pay about 150% of a standard clinical hour.
Drug companies need physicians to do histories and physical examinations for things like converting prescription drugs to OTC or proving that generics are equivalent to brand names.
Part of the work involves diagnosing conditions in patients that were pertinent to the drugs being studied. No treatment is provided, just information recorded.
Medically-Focused Side Hustles
This next set of side hustles are medically-focused but aren’t directly within the medical system.
Medical publications need physicians to write articles for them. It is more authentic when a doctor writes about a medical issue than when a journalist does. And it may not necessarily be for a widely read publication or publicly available at all.
Pharma companies also need someone to write the copy for the marketing brochures they distribute to physicians or to write a summary for a new drug coming on to the market.
Beyond writing for journals and health-related companies, writing a book can be a great side hustle. Physicians and doctors not only have the knowledge and experience it takes to write about the medical industry, but they also come with built-in credibility. This expertise gives them a distinct advantage in magazine article writing and book publishing.
All of us have been to medical conferences and listened to other doctors present on various topics. Many of those doctors are paid to speak at those conferences. If you’re an expert on a particular subject, you could travel around teaching others now that organizations are starting to plan in-person conferences again.
In addition to the conference circuit, you could be a guest lecturer at a university or medical school. You can make good money by giving informative and entertaining presentations on the subject.
This option is probably the most fun yet least likely to be lucrative of all the side hustles for doctors. You have total control over the content you create and can decide how much time and energy you want to put into it. Plus, there are zero barriers to entry.
It’s relatively easy to start a website and blog online. Podcasts are even easier — you record your voice and publish it to the various podcast channels from one central application for free.
It takes a particular personality, but some physicians make more money blogging or vlogging than practicing medicine. If you commit yourself to publishing content regularly and build a base of followers, you can earn some real money on the side, and it could potentially open up other doors for you.
With stress and anxiety levels higher than ever, coaching can be a great side hustle to help your patients learn new ways to lower stress and build skills for self-care.
Physician coaching can be a specialized niche within online coaching. It supports and trains physicians to improve clinical and practice management, leadership, and better interpersonal communication skills.
Former physicians are uniquely suited to this coaching as they’ve “been there, done that.” There are many types of coaching training programs available to get you ready to become certified in coaching for your patients or your peers.
The experience a physician has developed throughout their work can be an invaluable foundation to start a side hustle as a physician innovator. In addition, their experiences help them understand the difference between the capabilities of technology (can it be done?) and unmet clinical needs (should we do it?)
Physician innovators develop solutions to the medical system’s problems and challenges. They are primarily involved in redesigning patient care delivery that can help improve outcomes while cutting costs.
Non-Medical Side Hustles
While there are unlimited ways to make extra income, the two most common side hustles for doctors are investing and real estate.
Investing money is the classic method of generating passive income. However, to make a significant amount of revenue, you’ll have to invest a significant amount of money. More money makes more money. Buying and holding dividend-paying stocks will generate passive income and takes virtually no effort on your part.
From CDs to stocks and bonds to peer-to-peer lending, there are many ways to invest your savings and generate extra income. It’s not much of a “hustle,” but it’s certainly a way to make money on the side of your day job.
Check out this article on investing basics for physicians from Physician on Fire.
This option is probably the number one side hustle doctors gravitate to that does not correlate with their medical degree. Real estate, if done well, is a great way to make a passive income.
Like many things in life, real estate has its pros and cons. The benefits are well known. You can potentially generate passive rental income (making money while you sleep). The value of the property may appreciate over time. You own an asset that can be used as collateral for financing other business ventures. Finally, you can pass it on to future generations.
Real estate crowdfunding is a more passive income stream for doctors than individual rental properties and requires less money upfront. If you want to purchase a rental house or an apartment complex, you will typically need at least a 25% down payment. Not all doctors have that lying around. Real estate crowdfunding has become a popular way to invest in rental properties with as little as $5,000.
Finding Your Side Hustle
The great thing about having a side hustle is that you don’t have to give up your vocation as a physician. But, please don’t, because the world needs more compassionate, knowledgeable, and helpful doctors now than ever.
But I’m all in favor of having a side hustle that gives you more income, lets you have more control of your time and effort, and especially if it fills up your bucket of joy.
Let me know what type of side hustle interests you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and chat about ways you can reach all your goals — professional as well as personal.