Here are a few things you’ve always known yet been too afraid to implement. In this short blog post you will find the need to diversify your income, and how you can start the process for yourself THIS WEEK. Yes, this week.
The most important lesson I learned during the pandemic was to diversify my income. For the first 3 years after dental school, I was still working just one job- a full time 4 day a week dental associateship. The only way I knew how to make more income, was to produce more dentistry at work or add days to my schedule. This would often just stress me out and led to burnout towards the end of 2019. Dentistry was not just physically exhausting; it became mentally exhausting too because I started counting the numbers in my head every day and placed artificial pressure on myself to produce more. The only way out of the cycle, known to me, was owning a practice.
I continued making the same mistake until I found myself in an associateship where the owner doc was often late in issuing my pay and miscalculate my production %. This same doctor eventually showed me the ugly side of the business of dentistry and forced me to 1. leave the associateship and 2. learn not to depend on dentistry for my income.
So, it begs the question, why should you diversify your income?
- You will no longer be a slave to one job, in your case- dentistry. You will no longer feel the pressure to run the production game.
- Diversifying your income has other advantages. It gives you the ability to network with more people, meet others and share your story. You can find clients and customers in all of these different settings instead of focusing on just the one. The more people you are able to meet with and learn from, the more expansive your network grows.
- You learn to leverage other skills. There are skills all of us have built over the years. These marketable skills are useful in many different professions, not just in dentistry. When you start driving income from skills outside of dentistry, it boosts your self-confidence. It does wonders to your self-esteem and personal fulfillment.
- It makes your weeks fun! You are no longer in a 9-5 rut, running the same routine 5 days a week. Your week is interesting because you are doing different things. Your mind is forced to learn and adapt to different pressures, this makes you nimbler to stressors. And it is a proven way to reduce degenerative disorders down the years.
- Start by taking the time to nurture your childhood dreams. Yes, you heard that right! If you start work at 9 every morning and need to leave the house by 8:30, start by waking up an hour earlier and write or daydream about what else you could be doing to lead a fulfilling life.
One of my childhood dreams was to write a book. I always loved reading and thought how wonderful it would be to see my name in print and have others read my work one-day. The thought always excited me, but I never entertained it. When I started writing my ‘morning pages’ daily about 3 years ago, I was able to reconnect to the dream of writing a book and 2 years later, published my first- Persevering, A Complete Guide to Applications, Schools and Work Opportunities for Foreign-Trained Dentists in the United States. The book was what I felt would be a resource for other internationally trained dentists like myself. I never had much guidance and mentorship when I was immigrating to the United States. I felt like my book would be that resource for others.
Needless to say, by keeping my publication costs very low (thanks to Laura Brenner for excellent recommendations of publishers), I was able to recover all of my costs and turn a nice profit. The book publication also opened doors to speaking opportunities at dental schools all over the world. For some opportunities, I am paid an honorarium, for others I am rewarded in followers to my Instagram handle, and subscribers to my website. In either case, it works well and has been a great way to advance my career.
2. Awards and grants. A common question I get from others interested in starting a side gig is ‘which course can I take to start my side gig? I am happy to be an unpaid intern and work hard.’
While it is great that you are willing to sacrifice income and time to learn a new skill, and that is often very important, I have come to learn that this is not the only way to do things. You can get paid to learn! About 2 years ago when I was going through my burnout in dentistry (I didn’t have Jessica Metcalfe coaching me through it at the time- I wish I did because the outcome would have been MUCH more different), I started looking around at other avenues of dentistry I might find fulfillment in. I became drawn to special care dentistry and realized the impact it could have on my career satisfaction.
After speaking to a few mentors, I came across the LEND fellowship at University of Washington, also my alma mater. I applied for and was successful in receiving a grant funding from the Arc of Washington to complete the fellowship and work on a leadership project that means something special to me. The funding made the decision to go back to school 1 day a week for a whole year, easy. The funding has also become a source of income for my second book- one that I am writing currently. The second book will be focused on clinical dentistry and training required to care for patients with special health care needs.
Applying for awards that provide you with a monetary prize is another way to gain extra funding to work towards projects. Many dentists use award money to work on books. Winning an award also adds leverage to your personal brand. Due to the awards I have won in the past, ADA 10 under 10, AGD 10 to watch and Howard Memorial Award (2 of which had a generous fund), I am approached on a regular basis for speaking opportunities and other paid gigs. As you can tell, one good thing leads to other good thing leads to other good things.
What can do you do today to improve and up-market your personal brand? Do you have a personal brand? A nice way to think about your personal brand (outside of being a dentist) is what can you and ONLY YOU create today to leave behind for future generations to enjoy?
For me, it has been writing, creating a community for new dentists to learn the business side of dentistry at the New Dentist Business Club (NDBC), and building healthcare tech products for my favorite people in the world- other health care providers, via my company, Samsotech.
NDBC started off just as a monthly gathering of friends in my apartment building. Our vision was to build our own practices one day and lean on each other for support. Three years later, the Club has become much more than that. It has received AGD PACE certification, has its own business bank account, is profitable, and provides a wonderful opportunity to meet new people in our small industry. While our nonprofit status dictates how we use incoming membership fees, it is nice to not be working for the Club for free. Gaining sponsorship for meetings and discounts from speakers on exciting products is an added bonus. Founding members usually receive more benefits from companies than regular members.
Lastly, how to get involved and succeed in tech?
My involvement in tech stems from my family. My parents started and run a very successful tech business in the UAE, which is where I am from. Their product line did not include healthcare up until recently. I joined them to help build their product-line for healthcare professionals. My involvement has done a lot for the company- because I offer unique insider knowledge and a network of contacts that was previously unknown to them. This is a value proposition only healthcare providers like us can bring to the table.
Since working on my LinkedIn profile and frequently posting and writing about tech, I am again approached on a regular basis by tech companies looking to hire their own medical/dental officers. If you are looking to venture in tech, start by first building your LinkedIn profile and thinking about what you would want to do in tech. What can only you offer to the tech industry? Are their issues within dentistry that need to be solved?
Remember that some of our most entrepreneurial colleagues founded practice management systems, multi-location study clubs, became editors for national magazines and established themselves as keynote speakers, early in their careers. Not every dentist is successful only by building a DSO. These are the same people that often get asked to become chief dental officers of the next big company.
That could be you too. You can start today.