Today’s post is not for everyone. Here’s who it is NOT for: 

  1. If you are a PhD student who needs to be fully focused on your PhD program, this email is not for you. Not yet.
  2. If entrepreneurship is NOT YOUR THING this email is also not for you.
  3. If you are reading this so that you can go tell someone that “that Black girl on the internet with big glasses, and an accent I cannot place for the life of me, believes in hustle culture,” then this email is also not for you.

Still reading? 

Okay, then here goes: 

If you have a PhD, you can start a side business.

“Between all the work I have to do, my kids, and sleep, what time do you expect me to run a side business, G?”

I am right there with you. But hear me out for a second.

A few weeks ago, another PhD shared with me about how she struggled for 2 years to find a job.


The story ended well, and now that PhD is happily doing work she loves but the ride was bumpy to say the least.

In sharing my sentiments around that story on LinkedIn, this comment from Dr. Seema Patel warmed my heart. 

Seema took what was an otherwise abysmal job search process and is trying to make sense of it by taking back some of that financial control through writing on Medium.

And that part about restoring her dignity and confidence? That part got me!!!!

Here’s my point for today:

I think PhDs and academics are well-equipped to start ventures that help us meet (at least some of) our financial goals.

We are problem-solvers.

We have created knowledge where knowledge did not exist before.

And many of us know the basic tenets of educating an audience.

This is what entrepreneurs do.

I know not every one of us is cut out to be a full-time entrepreneur.

But…I’m a HUGE fan of academics building financial buffers for themselves.

When I was a post-doc, I started a freelance writing side business that made around $1200/month while I was still working.

I grew that to roughly $3000/month when I was unemployed for almost two years. 

That is not much for where I live – California – but it was better than zero.

And it also became the foundation for my career in medical communications.

(I got enough questions about freelance writing that I wrote a short book about it in 2020. You can find it here. And yes, it can still be a good source of income in spite of AI.)

Apart from freelance writing, 4 other income streams I recommend for academics are:

  • Online course creation – Turning your knowledge into cash has been a profitable business model for the last century. And I think the best people to take advantage of this model should be PhDs.
  • Tutoring – Families could pay you well to help their wards do well in specific subjects. Way back in the day, I used a platform called Wyzant to find tutoring clients.
  • Selling templates – Do you have a “templatized” process others may find helpful? You could sell that template. I’ve bought and used other people’s customizable Notion and Excel templates for various aspects of my life.
  • Content creation – This might not bring in income directly but can be a good platform for visibility to make an income. Creating my YouTube channel, for instance, has allowed me to get paid in various ways. I’m no Mr. Beast…but even my small channel is worth it.

Will you become a millionaire doing any of these things? 

I cannot predict that. 

Should you go out and start a side business?

It’s up to you.

If you do, can it help you in ways you never imagined? 

From experience, I say a wholehearted YES. 

Thoughts? Concerns? Disagreements?

Comment below and let me know.

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