This is the story of my moonlighting journey for the past five years. It included a lot of hustling to find more shifts, a manageable workload, and better paying jobs. How much can you make moonlighting as a physician in training? In the past five years, I went from making a few thousand dollars a year to breaking six figures. I will not specify exactly where I found my moonlighting jobs as I do not want to unduly advertise a particular moonlighting company. If you wish to learn specific details, feel free to contact me directly. There are many resources out there, and you can easily find one that suits you if you search for it.
My first moonlighting job
I first started moonlighting at the beginning of my second year of residency. At that time, everybody I talked to was only moonlighting at one location, which was the only internal moonlighting available as far as I know. The only moonlighting available for residents are usually internal positions. Thus, I really had no choice but this one.
At the time, I felt that the pay was amazing, ranging from $60-$75 per hour. The workload for the $60/hr shift was often so low that it almost felt like I was stealing. I was naïve back then. Once I started doing more research and thinking logically about what a hospitalist makes as a salary, I soon realized we were drastically underpaid for what we were doing. The only reason they could get away with it is because we were still in training and had no other choice. This was true supply and demand at work (demand was high and thus pay was low). I felt restricted by having only one moonlighting job available to me.
Limitations of one moonlighting job
When you sign up for a moonlighting job, you will find that the amount you can work a certain job might be limited by the following:
- The type of shifts offered are usually of the same type. For example, they may offer just weekend daytime shifts, only night shifts, or only certain days of the week.
- If the particular job is in demand, you may have a hard time getting as many shifts as you would like that would fit your schedule.
- Your regular job's work schedule may be too busy to allow as much moonlighting as you would like.
Back to the story...
Despite my feelings of being underpaid, I escalated my moonlighting frequency as much as I could over the next two years. It helped that my wife was very busy as well with work. Because this was the only moonlighting available to residents, it was very popular and very difficult to get many shifts. I was quite aware of a ceiling for the number of shifts I could get per month (usually a maximum of four). This was reflected in the fact that my income did not change much from 2013 to 2014. I knew I needed to diversify in order to get as many shifts as I wanted. Over the course of the next two years, the workload gradually increased for these particular shifts as the patient population got sicker. The pay rate increased to $85-$100, which I assumed was because of the workload. Despite the raise, the pay rate still did not seem commensurate with the amount of work required, so I felt this was another reason to find other job opportunities. The risk of burnout was very real.
Once I started fellowship, I was board eligible in internal medicine, and soon thereafter board certified. I sought out external opportunities as soon as my regular job's workload lightened up. I knew of one opportunity for in-house night coverage from prior coworkers, but I also sent out my resume to national moonlighting firms to look for jobs within my area. I was fortunate enough to find another opportunity that was posted as a weekend work job, but happened to have moonlighters taking night calls from home already. They were willing to add me to that rotation as well! With these two extra jobs, and three types of shifts between the two, I could easily maximize my free time with moonlighting! That was in 2015, and from that point on my productivity skyrocketed. One type of shift came to an end but, because I was diversified, it had no major effect on my strategy. I negotiated my pay twice for one job which increased my hourly rate at that job by nearly 50%.
How I responded to the three limitations
By diversifying, I had 5 different shift types available to me for scheduling. Three offered night time in-house coverage only. One was an at-home night time telemedicine call. The last one was a weekend only day time in-house coverage. The only time slot I did not have shifts for was weekday day time coverage. That was fine since I still carried a day job. Many of the night time coverage shifts were quite popular, and so having three different ones available to me offered a lot of options. The night time telemedicine one could be done no matter what else I was doing. In one of my most productive months, my schedule looked like this:
I blocked out the names of the hospitals to maintain confidentiality. The night shifts were all 7pm - 7am while the weekend shifts on 9/24 and 9/25 were 7am - 7pm. Don't worry, it's not as scary as it looks. Many of those "Nights" are telemedicine where I just take phone calls. In this particular month, I made an extra $13,260 on top of my regular salary. Not bad for just one month! As you can see from the color-coded shifts, I only selected three of the shift types available to me. I declined to schedule the other two because they were not as optimal for me based on the strategies I described in selecting moonlighting jobs.
My side hustle makes more than my regular job!
If you have read up to this point, thank you! And I know you must be dying to know how much I made with all this moonlighting, so I will show it to you in this beautiful chart below:
By diversifying my moonlighting options and increasing my pay rate, I was able to make a huge leap from $21,720 to $75,730. Negotiating a better pay rate and working even harder helped me break six figures and make $126,720! If I can do it, then you can do it too! If you think you are too busy, then might I remind you that I did a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care. Those ICU hours are no joke!
Ready to get started on your own moonlighting journey? Let me know and leave a comment below!