Physician side hustles and side gigs are all the rage! However, many do not understand on why these type of gigs are often not ideal for entrepreneurial doctors.
We cut to the chase in this episode to see why only securing side gigs that will reward you after you leave, are the best ones to have when seeking work-life balance and becoming your own boss.
Hey guys, it’s Dr. Mike Woo-Ming, welcome to another edition of BootstrapMD. This is the podcast for a physician entrepreneurs, and you may not be aware of, but we have a Facebook group with over 1400 of your colleagues that you can join us on BootstrapMD, And I’m happy to put that into the show notes. I know for the last few months, actually few years, one very popular topic is pursuing physician side gigs or physician side hustles. And as someone who left corporate medicine back in 2004, I never would thought there would be a day where we would have some of the biggest topics, biggest discussions on doing something besides the regular physician job, it was almost taboo back in the days.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s great. I love other doctors pursuing other interests, other activities, other things that really give them joy and happiness and bring in additional streams of income. However, I do think it’s actually lost its focus somewhat on discussing side gigs. Now, the definition that I’m using on side gigs is a side job in addition to your main job, which is mostly your physician job, and there are many reasons why people pursue this. I’m not talking about replacing your job. Most people who are looking to do other activities outside of being a doctor, it’s usually a clinical activity, whether you’re being burnt out working with patients or dealing with insurances, or dealing with hospital rules and regulations, whatever that may be. But just because you are doing something different or nonclinical does not necessarily mean you’re going to be happier, it doesn’t necessarily mean the grass is going to be greener on the other side.
And I can’t say it’s a hundred percent, but most likely, this side income, the side job that you’re going to be getting is not going to be the same as what you would as a medical doctor. You have to understand you most likely will take a drop in income, it may not always be consistent. But I’m not talking about replacing your job to do nonclinical activities. I’m talking about a side gig, a side job in addition to the income that you’re making. So this discussion is not for those who have a job as a physician, a clinical job, and are looking for a nonclinical job to replace it with, and this is not what I’m talking about.
If you have aspirations to do more in utilization management or become an expert witness and want to pursue that, and think that’s what you want to do for the rest of your life, then more power to you. But most likely, if you’re listening or watching this podcast, you do want to become your own boss, you do want to become a physician entrepreneur and you have the aspirations to do that. So this talk is for you. So if you’re someone looking for a more financial freedom to capture that mythical work-life balance, unless that side gig, really does pay you more than what you’re currently making, you should only focus on side gigs that will help you develop revenue generating assets. And actually at the end of this talk, I’ll give you some questions you can ask yourself and how to determine if that side gig does exactly that, help you produce revenue generation assets.
Now I know what some of you might be saying, “That all sounds good, but it’s not always about the money, Mike. I’m looking to work as a yoga teacher, part-time, I’m not getting paid a lot, but it gives me more time for myself. It clears my mind and I enjoy it.” And that’s great, but that yoga teacher job is not going to lead to more financial freedom if it’s not helping you decrease the amount of hours that you’re working in your current job and leading to something else. Now, if you said, “Hey, I’m doing kind of a yoga teacher job and I want to open a yoga studio.” Well, now that’s more of a business. So in my definition, your yoga teacher job is more of a hobby than an actual job. I know it sounds harsh, but we’re here as entrepreneurs. We’re here to learn more about financial freedom.
And we’re going to go over these revenue generation assets and what those are all about in just a moment, but to get a better understanding, I want to go over the concept of money and how physicians deal with money. And I know that can be an uncomfortable subject, but recently I had been on the internet and I wanted to see what young pre-med people think about medical life or becoming a physician. And we all say we want to become physicians because we want to help people, that’s the typical, stereotypical answer you put on a personal statement or for your entrance into medical school, but a lot of people do look at money and how much they make.
And I was looking at the Student Doctor Network Forum, which is probably the biggest pre-med online forum out there. And it wouldn’t surprise you that a majority of the discussion is about money and, “How much can I make as a family doctor?” “How much can I make as a cardiologist?” etc. There’s a big emphasis, a big concern about is, what is my hourly rate? And for many doctors, this hourly rate is used as a way of just comparing people. And somehow, the intrinsic worth is built into this hourly rate. Let me give you an example.
So every year, they publish the average salary that [inaudible 00:07:31] in a specialty make. You’ll have generally, obviously primary care doctors below, specialist at the top. But does that mean that, let’s say a cosmetic surgeon, are they four to five times more valuable than a pediatrician? Don’t answer that. Of course not. It’s because that’s what society believes that that person is worth. So the cosmetic surgeon might be able to charge thousands of dollars for procedures and make a lot more money than a pediatrician who may not be able to charge these types of amounts, but it has nothing to do with their value, but many doctors have their self-worth wrapped up into their hourly rate. And it’s not just a physician thing, it’s a society thing, but you shouldn’t take your hourly rate as a reason of what you are worth. It’s simply an indication of what someone else is willing to pay you, what society is willing to pay you for that.
So let’s say I’m a family doctor and I work in the outpatient setting. However, I might be able to work twice as much as a hospitalist in the hospital. However, even more than that, if I decide to work, let’s say in a prison, they pay one of the highest salaries for primary care doctors. Does that mean that the salary that I would make as a jail doctor, because I’m making twice as much as an outpatient doctor, do I have twice as much value? Of course not, it’s silly, right? But we have this belief that the more money that we make per hour is somehow better. And too many doctors get caught up in this hourly rate. And the ones that do are substituting time for dollars and not realizing that they can make income besides the actual activities that they’re making, the ones who are not obsessed with that understand the importance of multiple streams of income, but it’s silly.
I’ll give you another example, did you know, you can get a tattoo artist in New York city, they charge $500 an hour. LeBron James, he just signed with the Lakers a few years ago, he makes $586,860 per hour. Does that mean a tattoo artist is worth more than a cardiac surgeon? Does that mean LeBron James is worth 10,000 more times than an emergency room doctor? You guys, if you follow sports, there’s a name you may be familiar with, his name is Gregory Polanco. He plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh Pirates, in that shortened season because of COVID, they were the worst team in the Major League Baseball. Gregory Polanco was arguably the worst player on that team. He was at bat 157 times, he got 24 hits. So a 153 average, meaning out of 10 times, he failed.
Some considered it the worst season for a Pittsburgh Pirate in over a hundred years, Greg Polanco made $7 million last year, $3,365 per hour. Just another example of that you got paid at an hourly rate doesn’t mean that you are worth more, but we all have this salary mindset that we need to get out of our heads. So in our lifetime, research has showed that we work as an average, 90,000 hours in our lifetime. And if you’re a doctor who has graduated, actual work time that you have available as a doctor is probably around 70,000, 75,000. How do you want to spend that time? Is it trying to go after the highest hourly rate that you can? I would argue not.
What you need to start doing is to stop looking for side gigs, and instead looking for side income, or as I mentioned, income or side gigs that will help you develop revenue generating assets. You want to create something that will help you develop revenue for a lifetime. So what are revenue generating assets? Are these entrepreneurs owning their own business, whether it be a brick and mortar business, an online business, it can also be creating online courses, creating books, creating content, paid content that pays you monthly. It could be investments, real estate, stocks, developing royalties, all examples of revenue generating assets.
So what are some side gigs that can develop into revenue generating assets? Well, let’s say you want to own your own business. Let’s say you want to own your own med spa. Well, one side gig could be become a medical director for another person’s medical spa. That way, you’re not only learning about the trade, learning about this area, you’ll have the best education that money can buy. You’ll know what’s working, what’s not working, you’ll have an insider look, and that best thing about it is you’re also getting paid for it.
Let’s say you want to sell more books. You want to develop books or become a book writer, or a book publisher. Well, you could take writing gigs on freelance sites, such as Upwork, where you’ll actually learn to pursue this even further, see if you even like it. Those are the skills that’ll pay you off for a lifetime, and those are the side gigs that I want you to start pursuing. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be financial or transactional. I worked as a volunteer writer at an online medical journal that was pretty prominent, and I was really just doing it for exposure and increasing my networking. And it actually led to more higher paid gigs because the editor left and went to some other place that was pretty influential, and then he remembered me and I was chosen for a pretty big writing deal, biggest one that I had.
And so it always doesn’t have to present itself as you’re always going to get paid for it. Can you get exposure and will that lead to more revenue generating assets now and into the future? And so to me, it really doesn’t matter how much you actually might be making per hour, as long as it’s leading to generating some types of revenue assets. So there’s a lot of jobs out there where they’re looking for people to create more health content. A lot of times right now, a lot of video that they need to do.
So where a website just needs more online health content, and you being doctor, you’ll probably be at the top of their choosing and you might not get paid a lot of money to do that, but doing that, will that give you more experience and maybe the courage to create your own course? And let’s say you learn about creating more content, you get comfortable with the video, you learn how to create courses, and now you’ve developed your own course and you launch your own course. And let’s say you sell that course for $100, okay? And just coincidentally, maybe you make a hundred dollars an hour as a doctor, and you’re trying to reduce the amount of hours.
Well, you sell one course a month, you’re going to have the ability to reduce one hour of working for someone else, of working in your medical job, or you keep your current working hours as a physician, and now that extra hundred bucks covers your water bill, or let’s say you sell five copies or $500, now you don’t have to worry about your car payments, or maybe you’re lucky and you sell 10 courses a month, you put some marketing into it and that’s an extra thousand dollars. Now maybe let’s say that’s how much you have to pay for your medical student loan. And now you have the peace of mind to have that covered. That’s the importance of learning skills that will help you develop revenue generating assets.
So when it comes to deciding if you’re going to do a side gig, there’s really only a couple of questions you need to ask. First off, do you need to do it? Or are you doing it just so you can do something else? Because I know some people who get certifications and get master’s degrees, just because it occupies their time, but it’s not helping them develop financial freedom. And the second question is, is what I’ve touched talked about is, is a side gig going to help me develop more time, more money and more enjoyment in the future? Is it developing more revenue generating assets that will build me an income and keep me sustainable for a lifetime? But whatever you do guys, once you find that side gig, don’t just sit around and think about it, that’s not going to help, it only works if you keep moving forward.