There are many business opportunities for doctors to consider, from private practice to healthcare products to completely non-medical businesses.

The best opportunity for you, as an individual, will of course vary with your personal expertise and available resources such as time and money.

In this article, I break down different opportunities based on how ‘open’ or ‘closed’ they might be for your average doctor. Then we’ll take a look at how to gauge what is the right medical or non-medical business choice for you.

Already know what business you’d like to build? Check out how to quickly validate your idea here.

Types of business opportunities for doctors

Open opportunities are relatively easy to find and begin selling in. A perfect example of this would be consulting for businesses or private individuals.

We consider consulting ‘open’ because a doctor can provide this service without any equipment, physical premises or any other physical aspect of business. Many can also consult using the medical expertise they already know, e.g. private consulting for athletes or group antenatal care for expectant mothers.

Closed opportunities are more difficult to find. They may be closed because they require a high level of insight in a particular field to take advantage of the opportunity, e.g. medical device invention.

Opportunities are also ‘closed’ if they require significant overhead, whether time, money or knowledge. Examples include understanding product design, corporate level sales experience or understanding of copyright law. These things bring with them a time and money cost as well, further raising the barrier to entry. 

Medical and Non-Medical business opportunities

Clinicians enter business for a wide variety of reasons but many seek a creative outlet that modern medicine doesn’t allow for.

Naturally this means some doctors move outside of the medical field when they spot an opportunity that resonates with them.

This is a double edged sword.

Building a business outside of medicine or the wider healthcare field in most cases means you lose your competitive (or ‘unfair’) advantage.

Choosing your own path

In the Medical MBA one alumni started an international coffee import/export business! 

Creating a business like this means you are not able to leverage the majority of your knowledge and skills you have built up in your clinical life.

While not a contraindication, it does mean more hard work, learning new skills and breaking into new areas of expertise. 

Of course, the benefit is that you grow an endeavour that is rewarding in its own right and gives you a mental break from the world of medicine.

Open business opportunities for doctors

Businesses are on a spectrum from open to closed, with individual factors being harder for some to account for than others.

Knowledge based businesses are the ‘best’ and most open opportunities for doctors to quickly get up and running.

Examples include:

  • B2B consulting    (Consulting for businesses)
  • B2C consulting    (Consulting individuals)
  • Group coaching
  • Live events
  • Podcasts
  • Online courses
  • Books/eBooks
  • Blogs

There are of course, many other low overhead, ‘open’ business opportunities. These options however do not leverage, or only utilise a fraction of a doctor’s knowledge, expertise or experience.

This means they have a low barrier to entry for everyone – leading to a crowded market that is hard to be seen in. Typically they fall into the very broad ‘make money online’ category.

Examples include:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Content creation (distinct from copywriting which is a professional skill)
  • Amazon FBA 
  • Dropshipping
  • Arbitrage

Closed business opportunities for doctors

This first set of examples below can all be built and launched while utilising your medical knowledge – giving you a USP and edge over the competition. They require significant investment of time and money that make them much more difficult to run successfully with a full time (or even part time) clinical career.

Examples include:

  • SaaS (Software as a Service)
  • Medical devices
  • Non-medical service provision
  • Any business requiring substantial external investment
  • B2B products

As a result of being time poor, entrepreneurial clinicians tend towards open opportunities. 

But not all that glitters is gold.

The below examples seem ‘open’ but to be successful require significant investment of time (months – years) that would preclude most full time clinicians from engaging with them.

  • Being an ‘influencer’ – this spawned on Instagram but professional influencers now exist on that platform, as well as Linkedin and others.
  • Running a YouTube channel
  • eCommerce

That being said, you can find exceptions to this rule:

  • Ali Abdaal is the most well known, running a YouTube channel with millions of followers, although he is now no longer practising medicine.
  • The UKs first crypto eCommerce platform was built by an NHS Foundation doctor.
  • Linkedin carries a number of doctor’s accounts with follower numbers suggesting they are at ‘influencer’ level rather than simply connecting with those in their industry.

So why pursue closed opportunities at all?

This is where you need to reflect on your own ambitions and available resources.

The more open, the less time and other investments are required. However, the low barrier to entry means more competition and less revenue.

The more closed, the more of your free time will be eaten up, along with money, mental and physical health. The venture becomes more of a career choice which has consequences for your clinical aspirations.

However, the sky really is the limit boh in terms of your financial remuneration but also the positive impact your product or service can have. 

Ikigai: Why are you looking for business opportunities?

Exploring a passion?

Seeking extra income?

Need to reduce clinical exposure?

Want to have more time and financial freedom?

Everyone comes to business with a different ‘Why’.

Knowing and understanding your Why will allow you to make intelligent, (somewhat) evidence-based decisions on the business journey that lies ahead of you.

If you’re still not sure what your ‘Why’ is, the japanese concept of Ikigai (生き甲斐, lit. ‘a reason for being’) can help you find your way.

Rather than merely thinking about what only you want to gain from business (which is usually a recipe for disaster), Ikigai makes you think about what you can best offer, what others will be willing to pay you for and what the wider world needs solving.

The benefit is that this method of thinking supports the provider’s wellbeing and mental health, as well as promoting excellence for consumers of your product and service.

Below is the official concept of Ikigai from the Japanese government website.

business opportunities for doctors ikigai

You can read more about Ikigai and how it could help foster a positive work and business ethic here.

The best (safest) way to get started in business

Simply put, the higher your debt to a business venture, the higher the risk.

Debt comes in many forms: financial, temporal, increased stress, lost opportunity cost for other projects.

Essentially, slow to build, expensive and highly intense business ventures pose the most risk.

While the culture of trying to build the next ‘unicorn’ is still thriving, it’s important to realise that there are much safer options out there. These safe options do not have to represent your final business, but can serve as a useful platform to iterate through ideas and offerings.

This is not an exhaustive list, but to maximise safety I recommend:

  1. Serving a niche you already know very well
  2. Selling an information based product for minimal overhead
  3. Connecting with your first clients/customers through your personal network
  4. If (3) is not appropriate, manually outreaching 1-1 to your desired clients
  5. Decline outside investment until the concept is proven
  6. Avoid paid ads until business revenue supports them

The right mindset for business

Whatever your reasons might be for entering business, businesses exist for one reason only:

To solve a problem or pain point for a target market.

This will naturally co-exist with your personal business desires. 

But thinking of your customer’s or client’s needs must be the driving force behind your business for success.

By focusing on need, you keep your business on track as it grows and evolves.

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