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Coaching: An Increasingly Popular Physician Side Hustle

With physician burnout on the rise, both the desire for physician side gigs as well as the demand for executive coaching or peer to peer career and life coaching amongst physicians has increased. Perhaps not surprisingly, this opened up the opportunity for physicians who enjoy helping their colleagues navigate life in medicine to develop side gigs or even main gigs as physician coaches. Over the years, the number of physician coaches has increased dramatically, and with this trend, there has been an increase in specialization of these coaches to focus on specific niches. If you’re considering pursuing this pathway, we hope this article will provide you with some insight on how to get started building your side gig as a physician coach.

Highlights of physician coaching as a side hustle

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What is a physician coach?

Put simply, we will refer to physician coaches as coaches that are physicians. A physician coach doesn’t have to only have physicians as clients, but many physician coaches do choose to make their target audience physicians given that they have a unique understanding of the physician experience, and much of their network is made up of physicians, so from a branding standpoint, this may be easiest. There are also physician coaches that want to help patients navigate issues such as health, fitness, nutrition, chronic disease, lactation, and sleep, and there are sometimes specific pathways involved with each of these.

Physician coaches are involved in many realms, depending on their area of niche expertise. In their role as coaches, they will guide clients either individually or in group coaching outlets. Depending on the subject matter, this may involve some teaching, but the primary role of coaching is actually to help your clients with their mindset and getting them closer to their desired goals in that realm. Physician coaches will help their clients figure out what it is they want and establish a plan for how to make progress to achieving those goals. Of course, every coach or coaching program is different, but this tends to be the overall goal.

If you are considering becoming a physician coach, it will be helpful to try being coached yourself and see if it resonates with you. 

What areas do physicians choose to coach in?

You can literally pick any realm that you feel you have expertise in as your niche for physician coaching. Our biggest advice is to choose something that you're passionate about and knowledgeable about, not just because it's the 'in' thing.  Trends come and go, and you have to love what you're doing, because it's that passion that will make people gravitate towards your services.

Some examples we have seen in our communities are:

Areas for physician coaching

How much can you make as a physician coach?

As you may expect, there is a wide range of how much physician coaches make, from just a little bonus money to millions of dollars a year. From what we’ve seen, most physician coaches charge between $250-$500/hour, although in demand coaches may certainly charge more. As physician coaches have higher opportunity costs than many other coaches out there, the compensation asked for by most physicians tends to be higher on average than coaches who are not physicians.

There is also the opportunity to scale your physician coaching business with avenues that are not linear time for money hourly rate arrangements. This includes hosting conferences, putting together courses where a component of the course is virtual and evergreen, or offering group coaching programs where your time invested in coaching can be sold to many people simultaneously. Depending on your brand, you may also be able to augment that income with speaking engagements, publishing a book, creating a podcast, or through brand partnerships in your role as an influencer.

Learn more about course creation.

Learn more about podcasting.

Learn more about being a physician influencer.

Do I need a special certification or course to become a physician coach?

This is a largely unregulated field, so in most cases, the answer is that you don’t need any specific expertise. To some extent, as a physician, you likely already have many coaching skills as you have been used to helping your patients navigate issues daily, and education and mentorship are such a large part of the physician educational and professional pathway through residency, fellowship, and even into your career.

Many physician coaches would contend that coaching is a special skill set that requires training your mind to think differently and ask the right questions, such that your clients will get maximal insight, results, and impact. Also, in order to successfully market yourself amongst an increasing number of physician coaches, having a formal certification may help give you some credibility.

If you plan on getting a certification, understand that this is usually a significant commitment of both time and money, so you should understand what your goals are in going through a coaching certification. There are lots of coaching training programs out there, of varying popularity and approaches. Your goal is to find a program with leaders that resonate with you and your style, and a curriculum that interests you and also fits your schedule. If you know of coaches whose style you enjoy, it would be beneficial to ask them where they got their certification. Some popular ones include the Life Coach School by Brooke Castillo, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and other leadership certifications that may not be formal coaching programs, but offer relevant skill sets.

How do I get physician clients for my coaching services or coaching programs?

Your ability to be a successful coach is going to a large extent depend on your ability to get the word out about your services and for others to trust enough that you can help them that they will get out their wallet and pay you for your guidance and advice. This will often require building a brand around the topic that you want to coach about, and marketing yourself and your services accordingly.

There are many ways that you can do this. One is to be active on social media and post regular thought leadership and content about your area of expertise. Some people will choose to have a blog or podcast, collaborate with other people or companies in their field by writing guest articles or blog posts or appearing on their podcasts or YouTube channels, or write books or speak at conferences on related topics. Choose what feels right for you, and don’t be afraid to try different things.

Learn more about building a brand.

Is there liability associated with me being a physician?

Make sure you figure out what your liabilities are, and address them.  This may include some or all of the following (and maybe other things!): a corporate structure such as an LLC, disclosure/disclaimer statements, and liability insurance.

If anything that you are coaching on crosses boundaries with your role as a physician, you’ll want to work with a lawyer to ensure that your coaching clients or any material or content that you produce has adequate disclaimers that state that you are not functioning in your role as a physician, that your role with your clients is not a physician-patient relationship, and that you are not providing individualized medical advice. This is particularly important if you are creating content or giving advice about issues like weight loss, psychiatric issues, or lifestyle changes.

Disclaimers:. We do not provide individualized advice and are not formal financial, legal, or otherwise licensed professionals. You should consult these parties as appropriate and do your own due diligence before making decisions based on this page.

Some other tips for becoming a physician coach from physician coaches on our communities

  • Screen your clients, and establish expectations.  You want clients who you can deliver results to, and whose goals align with your own.  You want to make sure that you can provide value, and should spend the time figuring out what they want to get out of the relationship.  Make sure that they don't have unrealistic goals for what you are able to provide.  Happy clients bring more clients - unhappy clients can damage your reputation.  

  • Use a contract, and when possible, try to get paid upfront.  A good contract is key to documenting expectations.  Coaching relationships can become rather involved.  Also, because many of these payments are from person to person, you are relying on someone that you don't know to pay you once you deliver your services - given that you have already delivered the service and you can't take back knowledge once given, getting paid before makes a lot of sense. 

Additional resources

Learn more about related topics to help you build a side gig of physician coaching:

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