How I Went From Making Pennies on Medium to Over $100/Week
No hacks, just honest work.
When I first started writing on Medium, I didn’t even know about the Medium Partner Program. I had no plans to make money here. My goal was to rebrand myself as a feminist writer, so I convinced a local women’s organization to let me run their blog. They didn’t have a blog yet, so I created one for them. Medium seemed like the best way to get their articles out to a wider audience. The seamless integration with their Wordpress website made it a no-brainer.
That’s how I found myself writing on Medium.
When I finally discovered the Partner Program and learned that I could actually make money doing what I was already doing, I was obviously thrilled. I decided to donate any money I made from writing back to the women’s organization — win/win.
When my first payout arrived, I was too embarrassed to even submit the donation: I had made a mere $2.19.
In the months three months that followed, I didn’t even break five dollars. One month, I made only $0.35.
Now, four months later, I’m making over $100 every week. This month, I made $412.36.
In the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about how to succeed on Medium. There are no hacks or get rich quick schemes here, but if you’re willing to put in the work there are clear paths to success. Although there are changes coming to how the Medium Partner Program calculates payouts, I still believe these tips will be helpful for new writers.
Publish every day
On September 20th, I made the decision to write an article every day for five days straight. I wanted to see how it would impact my stats, and I was curious if I could manage it. Now, one month later, I’ve written or published a post every day for 33 days. If you look at the timing on my payout summary above, it’s clear that this is the single biggest contributor to my success.
If this seems daunting to you, I challenge you to try it for a short period of time — commit to writing every day for five days and see how it feels. You may just find momentum and stick with it.
Create quality content
The push to publish daily should not come at the expense of the quality of your work. Not every article has to be a reported piece with multiple sources and interviews, but every article should be polished and bring value to your readers. Don’t write trash just to meet your quota. It won’t work.
Medium curators will judge a post based on its quality (in addition to other factors). You should always aim to have your posts curated and, despite the ongoing writer debate on if curation matters, I think everyone can agree that it doesn’t hurt to have Medium distribute your content more widely.
In this article, I outlined my formula to ensure most of my posts are curated:
How I Achieved an 80% Medium Curation Rate In September
Follow the rules, format well, and cite your sources
With the new changes to the payment system, reading time is going to be prioritized over claps. This makes the quality of your content even more important.
Find and build your audience
Even if your articles are curated regularly, you can’t count on Medium to do all your marketing for you. Sure, curation helps, but there are people all across the world wide web who may be interested in hearing your ideas — find them and bring your content to them where they are!
For example, my articles tend to appeal to feminists on the more radical side. Because of this, I share my posts on places where I know I can find those people: Twitter, feminist subreddits, and some other more niche radfem community forums.
Once you’ve found your audience, make sure you can stay in touch with them. Building a following both on and off Medium is important. Followers here tell Medium who to distribute your content to, but followers on other platforms are an eager audience to whom you can distribute directly.
Start an email list before you think you’re ready. Even if you only have 30 subscribers, those are 30 people who want to hear from you! Don’t deny them the chance.
Submit to publications
This can be scary (and annoying if you’re impatient like me), but is often worth it. I’m currently a writer for 15 publications — including some of the big ones, like Human Parts, P.S. I Love You, and The Startup. Being published in a large publication can help you reach a wider audience, especially when you’re just starting out.
In-house Medium publications (and a couple of others) pay for commissioned pieces. These publications tend to be harder to get into, but it’s not impossible. Be sure you read the pitching guidelines for the publication you are interested in carefully and don’t be discouraged if your first pitch (or five) are rejected.
If you plan to write a lot about one topic, consider starting your own publication. My publication, 4W, launched just last month and already has 131 followers. This is a tiny fraction of the followers of some of the large publications, but it is 131 dedicated readers who love my work and engage with it at a higher rate than most.
Don’t give up
I know. This is cliche advice. But, as writers, we face a lot of rejection — so I figure someone may need to hear it.
Success on Medium is all about putting in the work, learning, growing, and adapting. A positive attitude and the willingness to keep at it will carry you a long way.
I’ve had articles that I put my heart and soul into completely flop. I’ve tried to game the system and create “viral” content, only to have a totally different post (that I didn’t even think was that good) blow my stats out of the water. As predictable as some things can be here, you never really know what will strike a nerve.
I’ve also had people reach out to me after reading an article that only got 75 views to connect and work together in the future.
I’ve faced public backlash for some of my more controversial work, but I’ve also been invited to work with one of my favorite feminist authors.
Money is great. It puts a roof over my head, feeds my cat, pays my student loans, and keeps the wifi on. But on the days that stats seem low, readers aren’t turning up, or your audience isn’t responding how you expected — remember that you can get other things out of this experience. Use those connections and opportunities to propel you forward, and don’t give up.
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