I Don’t Earn Well from Medium. But I Do Get Something Else.
I bet you don't earn much from Medium.
I don't either. Despite being inundated with articles boasting 5 and 6 figure salaries from this platform, the vast majority of us are probably a few orders of magnitude short of such success.
I’ve been writing here on Medium for about 3 months, give or take. I’ve published about 50 articles in that time covering a much wider range of topics than I have any right to be discussing, and through that work I have achieved lofty earnings of about $1 per day.
Not exactly life-changing wealth.
Do I wish that number was larger? Of course I do. Do I think I deserve more money than I’m getting? Probably not, no.
Medium is the nicest boss in the world. We can write about whatever we want and freely publish it in the Partner Program even if all major publications passed on the piece. Think about that. 30 editors can have turned down an article and Medium still lets us publish it and earn from it.
That’s like all managers on every level of your company telling you your idea isn't good enough, and then the CEO letting you launch it anyway with a bonus check to boot.
Frankly, that's fairytale stuff.
The beauty of this platform is that the value of your work is not dictated by an editor or a boss, but by the audience that it reaches. Unlike print journalism, where work goes through about 3 gatekeepers before it hits the page, the only thing standing in our way as Medium writers is that little green ‘publish’ button in the top right of our screens.
In a way, this makes things harder. It's easy to figure out what one or two individual people like in an article and then play to those preferences. It's slightly harder to do that with 100 million Medium readers. Finding that golden formula is a task of Nobel prize-worthy complexity, if such formulae even exist, which is doubtful.
Thankfully, success is rarely a case of getting everyone on-side. Usually, a select few will do just fine, providing a solid foundation on which to build. Though there are plenty of articles out there discussing how many followers or readers make up that perfect foundation, I would argue that the specific number is largely irrelevant.
The best possible foundation for any endeavour is, more often than not, a community. Size, here, is of little concern. Engagement and support are the bread and butter of the newcomer. Through the discovery of a community, however small, a writer can gain experience, advice and, that most precious and elusive of things, confidence.
Writing is an inherently personal act, which opens up writers to acute attacks of second-guessing and crippling self-doubt. With these demons perched stubbornly upon your shoulders, the act of putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) becomes significantly and unnecessarily harder. It becomes far more likely that fatigue will take the place of action, and drive will give way to reticence.
A small but supportive community can help combat these ills and, thankfully, Medium is already set up for community spirit.
When I started writing on this platform, the majority of my articles were published on Prism and Pen, an LGBTQ+ publication that I was immediately drawn to. Over the last few months, I have been lucky enough to become part of a small community, many members of which are from that publication, who engage with my work and encourage me to think harder and write better. I have spoken with the editor James Finn, who graciously answered some of my newcomer questions, and have built working relationships with other medium writers to, I hope, our mutual benefit.
It is that community which broke through my obsession with Medium as a platform from which to earn money. Instead, I began to see this corner of the internet as a place where real people, with real lives and real thoughts, come to share their work with the world. This is a place to practice, debate, and improve. The money, for the most part, is a secondary benefit.
In the short while I have been writing on this platform, by far the greatest and most value gains I have made are in experience and education. We can’t expect to win the game before we’ve learned how to play it, and in the case of writing on Medium, the way to learn is very much to do.
Just like any other writer, I hope to make my fortune with words on the page, that hasn't changed. What has changed is my appreciation for how we can get to that point and the foundations we need under us to help raise us to such lofty heights as we are prone to aiming for. The groundwork that has to be done, the learning curve and the early hurdles, are more than mere inconveniences that stand in the way of riches and reward. The things we learn and the people we meet in those early stages of our careers are just as important as the first viral article and the hundred thousand followers.
Truth be told, I'm not convinced it’s possible to achieve the latter without the former. Perhaps there are those more talented than I who can strike gold on the first try, but I, for one, am not amoung them, and I’m ok with that.
I might be taking a long way round to success, but I’m gaining plenty along the way.