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9 Perks of Being a Side Hustle Business Owner

By Jimmy Turner, MD
The Physician Philosopher

When I started this journey to become a side hustle business owner of The Physician Philosopher, I remember Kristen and I sitting on our hand-me-down couch in our 1200 square foot starter home.  Kristen is an educator, and likes alliteration.  I am both a physician and a prior philosophy major. Hence, we decided on The Physician Philosopher.  Tough to spell, but also hard to forget.

Some short time later, The Physician Philosopher LLC was also born.  From the beginning I’ve treated this blog like a business, including obtaining an Employee Identification Number and opening a separate banking account from the beginning.  I funded that account with ~$5,000 and promised to never put additional money in after that point.

To this day, I’ve kept that promise as the site became more successful and became something much more. Yet, when we were creating the name to what would become my major side hustle, I never imagined all of the benefits that I would find in becoming a business owner of a side hustle.

Humble Beginnings

In the first year this blog existed, we didn’t make much on this site. For the first 12 to 15 months, I plugged away at creating three original blog posts each week.  It took 10-20 hours of work per week, and for what? To break even.  The site made enough money to pay for a trip to FinCon 2018, and to pay for the cost of running the website.  That was about it.

Then, 2019 came around, and that would be the year that would turn the tide.  The Physician Philosopher’s Guide to Personal Finance was published.  The Physician Philosopher joined the WCI Network, and with each passing month page views and email subscribers increased.

Through this journey, I’ve learned a lot as the owner of The Physician Philosopher LLC.  Some of the things I’ve learned have been expected, while others have been a complete surprise.

Here are 9 benefits of being a side hustle business owner!

1. Captain of Your Own Ship

It has become a major goal to get as much time off from my main job as possible.  This concept of using financial success to leverage more time off is called Partial FIRE.

You’d think that I would use Partial FIRE to get more downtime, or to play golf every day… but what I do in reality is spend at least 80% of that time working on my business.  Why would I work harder as a side hustle business owner with the time that I get off?

Because I LOVE it.  It rarely feels like work.

I get to do what I am passionate about – improving financial literacy in the medical community so other doctors can combat their burnout and resentment, too.  I currently help accomplish this through a three-part system, which includes the blog, the Money Meets Medicine podcast, and through my academic initatives (including the Financial Literacy And Resilience Education, i.e. FLARE program).

While I pursue these projects in my free-time, I get to set my own schedule.  A typical day looks like this:

  • Wake up and drink hot tea in the morning, bring my two oldest kids to school. Pray with them in the car before we walk in.
  • Go home and work out.
  • Then, I start cranking out work on the blog, podcast, or my financial curriculum.
  • I take a break in the afternoon to do something fun.
  • Get a bit more work done, and then pick the kids up from school.
  • I cook dinner while my kids jump on the trampoline, and have it ready by the time my wife gets home.

You know why I get to have that picturesque day pretty frequently?  Because I am a business owner, and get to design my day however I feel like on my off days.

2. Writing Off Business Expenses

Having a side hustle isn’t all about being able to design your own day, though.  It also comes with very specific tax benefits.  I write off all sorts of stuff that I previously couldn’t when I was receiving W-2 income alone as a physician employee.

I could write an entire post on the things I write off through my business.  To avoid making this post too long, here are some highlights:

  • Flight and Hotel costs to conferences (e.g. FinCon, WCI Con, etc).  This means my family gets to stay for free when they come with me, though we do have to pay for their flights.
  • Electronic costs (laptop, an awesome new printer, and new podcasting equipment).
  • Internet costs required to improve our internet speed (podcasting requires this).
  • Outsourcing work to my amazing virtual assistant.
  • Buying free books for my medical students as an advertising cost.

All of this gets deducted as business expenses from money the business has earned.  This is a pretty cool part of having being a business owner of a side hustle.

3. Additional Tax-Advantaged Space

At this point, The Physician Philosopher LLC easily earns more than I did in my last year as a resident, and will approach (or break) making six-figures in 2020.

While this sounds fun, I do have to give a portion to the other TTP business owners.  So, I don’t get to keep all of that.

What I will probably consider doing in 2020 is opening an individual 401K (a.k.a. solo 401K).  Inside of this account, you can put roughly 20% (i.e. 25% minus self-employment tax) of what your business earns as the “employer” contrbution.  This will allow me to put away another $10,000-$15,000 in tax-advantaged space in 2020.

A couple of notes to make about this:

  • If you own a 403B at your W-2 employee, you can still place the same 20% into the account, but the maximum amount you can place into the account is limited to $37,500 (instead of $57,000 for those that have a 401K at their W-2 job).
  • An individual 401K is preferable to a SEP-IRA, becuase a SEP-IRA is not a good idea for those who are performing a Backdoor Roth IRA.  The SEP-IRA will count against you when the pro-rata calculation is performed.

4. A Faster Route to Hybrid FI

Possible the biggest benefit of owning a side hustle is that it provides an alternative source of income, which is important if you are pursuing a hybrid model of FI.

See, I want to save enough money to be financially independent in the traditional sense (e.g. 25 x your annual expenses).  However, for every $40,000 of alternative annual income I can produce, that is like having $1 million in an IRA.

Why?  Because of that 25x rule I alluded to above.

According to the 25x rule, you need to have 25x your annual expenses to become financially independent at a typical retirement age.  This means, if you spend $40,000 per year, you need $1 million to be able to withdrawal 4% in retirement.

Thus, as my side hustle gets more and more productive, this means I am becoming more and more financially independent from my job as a physician.

Further reading: Some would argue – and I would agree – that 4% may not be a true safe withdrawal rate.  It is likely closer to 3.25 – 3.5%. If you want to read more about that, check out this awesome guest post on safe withdrawal rates

5. Learning How to Negotiate

People don’t trip and fall and coincenditally land on your blog or podcast.  In fact, much of the time that you spend as a blogger or podcaster is spent on helping your target audience find you.  It is part of being a business owner.

Another part of being a business owner is knowing your value. Once you’ve established what that value is, it then becomes your responsibility to go out and to find people who want to interact with your audience.  Then, you get to leverage the relationship you’ve built to negotiate a good business deal that will be both productive for your audience, for the business, and for the affiliate or sponsor of the site.

The hard part is that very few of us were taught how to negotiate in medical school or residency.  In fact, this is one reason I encourage all of you to get someone to review your contracts before signing them! We weren’t trained to do that ourselves, and signing a contract without a review can be a grave mistake.  You can find my (short) list of recommended contract reviewers here.

Thus, being a business owner was my first experience in learning this skill.  Having my side hustle forced me to learn this necessary skill.

The funny thing is that it is helped me in other areas of my life, too.

6. Setting Your Own Vision

Not only do you get to be the captain of the ship when it comes to creating your schedule.  You also get to create the vision.

As a business owner, this is a major perk.  I don’t have to ask someone else’s permission – who may or may not have the right perspective – if my dream is worth pursuing.  My readers and listeners get to determine that.  Not my boss.  Why? Because I am the boss of my own company.

My vision is to someday see a personal finance curriculum instituted at every single medical school in this country.  As part of that, I would spend time journeying to other schools to help them set up a program that would work for them.  I’d continue my work on the blog and the podcast helping to foster financial literacy there, too.

7. Building a Brand

Another concept that we aren’t taught in training is that you have a brand.  And that brand is you.  Don’t believe me?  Go type your name into a search engine and hit “enter”.

This produces search engine results.

Those results might include patient reviews, your website, your employer’s page where you are listed.  It might also include images from your time as a collegiate athlete, news articles that contain your name, or even your social media profiles.

Being a business owner has taught me that your brand matters.  Patients look this information up, and so do your colleagues.  In fact, one of the SRNA’s that I work with found my site in between the 15-minutes when I introduced myself, and I came to check on the room.

She simply googled “Jimmy Turner MD” and this is what Google populated:

James Turner MD

If, instead, you search for “The Physician Philosopher,” this is what you might see:

The point is that you have a brand, whether you want it or not. Make sure that your brand reflects what you want others to see!  One way to control this best is to create a business that has an online presence where you can dictate search engine results!

8. Paying Your Kid (IRA for Kids!)

The last perk I’ll mention is that you can use your business income to pay your kids for jobs. This must be real work associated with your business, but they can – in turn – use this money to fund an IRA for themselves.

For example, I could use my kids as models on this site and pay them typical and customary model fees. I’ve never done that, because I don’t want to plaster their faces all over the internet.

I have, however, used their voices.

For example, if you listen to the last 30 seconds of any of the Money Meets Medicine podcasts, you will hear my oldest kid provide our disclaimer.  She provided us a service in doing this, and listeners really like it.  So, she is getting paid for that, and it will go into an IRA.

You can check out her disclaimer by skipping to the last 30 seconds of this Money Meets Medicine podcast below:

9.  Increased Charitable Giving

Charitable giving is an important goal for my family and me.  We tithe 10% from our base salary and try to give additional charitable givings to other organizations we believe in, too.

This additional giving comes from bonuses and any additional income I earn from my side hustle as a business owner.  In fact, it is part of The Physician Philosopher’s charitable mission to give to others.  So far this site has given to several charitable organizations including, the personal finance curriculum at Wake so that I can give back to the students at my alma mater.

This is probably my favorite benefit of being a business owner, and one that you can experience if you decide to start a side hustle of your own, too.

Take Home: Side Hustle Business Owner Perks

Being a business owner of a side hustle comes with some major benefits and perks.  Some of these are lessons learned while others are very real and tangible benefits.

While you may sit on your own couch and create a name for your business  – hopefully, something that is easier to pronounce than The Physician Philosopher – you will likely experience many of the same benefits mentioned above.

Do you own your own business?  What are some of the biggest benefits you’ve noted?  Leave a comment below about how awesome it is to have your own side hustle.

TPP

3 Comments

  1. Venkata

    Hi Dr. Turner,
    First of all Thank you for the everything you do. I have read your book and it was great. I have quick question.
    I have a full time job which withholds my income tax and Social security / Medicare tax and get W2 from them.
    I am going to start some locums work on the side starting this year and trying to educate myself as to how to deal with paying taxes.
    On reading more about it, my options are estimating and paying taxes quarterly which seems very confusing( 1040 ES form, paying at quarterly deadlines etc)
    The other option I came across even on IRS side gig work ( https://www.irs.gov/businesses/gig-economy-tax-center) is that if you already have a full time job to increase withholding at current full time job via updating W4 form.
    Reading from your post looks like you are in the same situation. Can you shed light on what will be the best option for me with regards to tax situation.
    I dont work with any tax professional and use turbotax to file my taxes yrly.
    I want to do this myself and want to keep things simple.
    I am also planning on investing some of this side gig work income into solo 401k in addition to my full time work 401 k. I see I can place 25% net profit from side gig or roughly 20% after self employment tax.
    I already am going to meet the social security requirement through my work. I only thing I have to pay is Medicare tax is 2.9% ( employer+ employee portion for side gig ) and 0.9% additional Medicare tax (employee only). The brokerage company told if you are getting 1099 you can contribute only 20%. Can you please clear confusion as to how much percentage I can place in solo 401k. I know my total limit including full time work ( me and employer) and solo 401k contributions should be 57 k total for this year.
    Also on reading your article, where you mention about paying kids. My wife is going to help me out with book keeping for all the expenses. She is not employed. Trying to understand how this works. I was told I have to pay her salary. Do I have to give a W2 for her. Can I claim the amount I pay her as work related expenses. Does she pay self employment taxes on it. Can she open IRA. How does it work with tax situation. Looks more complicated. Can you educate me more about this topic.

    Again thank you for help.

    Reply
    • ThePhysicianPhilosopher

      Lots to unpack here.

      1) I increase my withholdings at my W-2 to make up for money I earn on the side. You can do this by adjusting your W-4. Your goal is to make sure you are in the “safe harbor” by doing one of two things. First, you can try to do the math and get within 90% of what you end up owing. I don’t love this, becuase the numbers from side gigs can shift a lot. The second option is to plan to pay 110% in taxes of what you paid the year prior. If you do either of these things, the IRS won’t give you a hard time. You can easily do this by making sure your W-2 income is taxed appropriately. This is all “Federal” tax, obviously.

      2) So, the solo 401K contribution stuff gets harry, but this is how I understand it. For sole proprietors and single member LLC’s (Assuming you have maxed out your employee contribution at your employer) you cannot max out another employee contribution in your solo 401K. This means you can only put the employer portion into your side gig solo 401K. This is calculated as approximately 20% of your earned income (it works out to be 25% x (1/2 of Self Employment Tax). You can read more about it here on page 23 of this IRS document: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p560.pdf

      3) Paying your a family member is pretty straight forward if you are a sole proprietor or have a family business with a spouse. Paying a spouse or a kid from a partnership (my situation) is more complicated, it seems. Read more here: https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/family-help

      Reply
  2. Sylvie

    Starting a side hustle is a lot of work at first. Definitely worth it, though! It’s nice to be able to spend time with family.

    Reply

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