Written by: Corey Janoff
This post was originally published on November 19, 2019 and has since been revised and updated.
A common topic that has come up in recent years in the medical community is side hustles for doctors. What side hustles can physicians engage in to earn some extra cash? I love the term “side hustle,” because it sounds way better than “second job.” A doctor telling his friends about his side hustle sounds way cooler and more respectable than a doctor working two jobs to pay the bills. Also, many side hustles for doctors are freelance work and you can do them on your own terms. We will dive into some common physician side hustles today to give you some ideas of the possibilities. This list is by no means complete, as there are hundreds, if not thousands of things doctors could do outside of their regular job to earn income.
This is probably the number one side hustle doctors gravitate to that has zero correlation to their medical degree. As Americans, we have been conditioned to believe that real estate is a good way to make side income. And if done well, it definitely can be a nice source of passive income.
Like many things in life, real estate definitely 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 which can be used as collateral for financing other business ventures. You can pass it on to future generations.
There are no shortage of risks though. It has some significant up-front costs in many cases. Your money is tied up until you sell the property. Properties aren’t guaranteed to make money. If a lot of maintenance and repairs are needed over time, the costs could exceed the revenues. If you have some bad tenants, the headaches may not be worth it. Sometimes you are simply unlucky.
The biggest downside is it takes time. If you are financing a property, most of the revenue in the early years will go towards paying down the loan. It typically isn’t until the loan is paid off that you really start to realize positive cash flow.
That all being said, if done prudently, real estate can be a great way to earn extra income.
Thanks to technology, doctors in certain specialties can see patients remotely. I know a number of doctors that do this either as a primary job or part-time on the side. The most common specialties I see engage in this are psychiatrists and radiologists, although the pandemic greatly expanded the use of telemedicine across all specialties. Psychiatrists can see patients via webcam. No need for an office with a couch anymore. Radiologists can read medical images from anywhere (even other countries).
If you have an off-day as part of your regular schedule, you could fill that off day with telemedicine patients and earn extra income. Maybe you decide you want to work on weekends. When you can “see” patients from the comfort of your own home, you can be pretty flexible with your work hours.
Licensing can be tricky if you are treating patients in multiple states. If you are contracting through a company who acts as a liaison between patients and providers, they should help with all of that.
I would speculate that telemedicine will become increasingly more common as time goes on. Heck, all industries are transforming as a result of technology. Financial advisors used to only work with a local client base and all of their meetings were done face-to-face. Today, I have clients all over the country and most of my local clients prefer to meet virtually online rather than come into the office.
Research companies will pay a lot of 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 in the form of a phone interview, but many are online and can be done at any time.
The topics can be wide-ranging, covering new medications, devices, treatments, insurance-related questions, among others. There are companies you can register with and you will get an email when surveys become available.
You probably can’t make this a full-time job, but 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 in-between cases.
Med-Legal / Expert Witness
This can be quite lucrative and is one of the best side hustles for doctors in my opinion. Attorneys need to consult with physicians when a case involves a medical issue. They 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.
The nice part about this work is you get to set the rate you charge. 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, depending on your specialty, it wouldn’t be crazy to charge $10,000 for the day.
If you’re a surgeon and do a handful of cases per day that collect a couple thousand dollars each, your gross collections are five figures per day. A $10,000 (or more) daily fee is very justifiable.
The attorneys often don’t bat an eye at what you might think is a high rate. I remember talking to one doctor who thought he was getting compensated handsomely by billing $300/hour. That’s more than what he made practicing medicine. When the case was finished, the attorney told him he should be charging more.
The time commitment can be extensive with this one, so depending on your regular job, it may not be feasible. Doctors in private practice, who have the most control over their schedule are typically the ones I see engaging in medical expert witness work.
Review Insurance Claims
Similar to the expert witness work, insurance companies often have independent physicians review insurance claims. This is common for cases that need pre-authorization. Sometimes a doctor will bill 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.
There are companies who 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 being said, it can be a good side hustle for doctors to earn some extra money.
Medical publications need physicians to write articles for them. It is more authentic when a doctor is writing about a medical issue, rather than a journalist. And it may not necessarily be for a widely read publication, or publicly available at all. You could be contracted by a pharmaceutical company to write a summary for a new drug they are coming out with.
Pharma companies need someone to write the copy for the marketing brochures they distribute to physicians. Who better to write that than a doctor in the specialty they are targeting? It takes one to know one, right?
I know one doctor who has written over 1,000 articles for online publications. There are a zillion websites covering every medical niche and they need doctors who can write.
I am sure all of you 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 have a deep expertise in a particular subject, you could travel around enlightening 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. Same idea, if you are an expert in a particular field, you can make some money by giving informative presentations on the subject.
This 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. There are zero barriers to entry. Anyone can start up a website blog and begin writing online. Podcasts are a piece of cake – you record your voice and publish it to the various podcast channels from one central application for free. We have all seen doctor YouTube, Instagram, etc. personalities.
Very few of these actually make any money. Yet, if you are interesting, funny, captivating, inspiring, etc., there is no limit to what you can accomplish online. There are some physicians who make more money blogging or vlogging than they do practicing medicine. However, you can probably count on one hand the ones who do.
If you commit yourself to publishing content regularly and build a base of followers, you can definitely earn some money on the side and it could potentially open up other doors for you. At the very least, you might get sponsored by a scrub company and get some free swag for your efforts.
And Many More
There are countless things people do to earn extra cash on the side. I talked to one doctor who really enjoys photography, especially photographing nature. He decided one day to start uploading his photos to a website that puts them on the front of greeting cards. People can order greeting cards with his photographs and he gets a percentage of the order total. He ends up earning a few hundred dollars a month from this! It’s not enough to allow him to quit his day job, but it’s more than enough to cover the costs of his photography hobby. New camera, lenses, tripods, SD cards, gas money, Photoshop subscription, etc.
Be creative! See if you can turn a hobby into some side money like Dr. Photographer above.
Some people have a goal of turning 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 eliminate boredom in an economical manner on their off days. Whatever your goals are, give it a whirl and see what comes of it.
If the income is decent, you could open up an Individual 401k and possibly even a Cash Balance plan to invest some of that money in a tax favorable manner.
Odds are, you won’t make much money right off the bat. But as you develop your skills, learn the market, and build a reputation, you never know what could come of your side hustle.