I’ve been writing on Medium for less than a year, but in that short timeframe, the Partner Program has changed my life. Going into this endeavor, I was a broke single mom living paycheck to (shrinking) paycheck. As my freelancing gig with a social media marketing agency became increasingly rocky, they slashed my workload, and I was no longer able to pay for our basic bills.
Desperate times, but less desperate measures?
Around this time last year, I was stressed about money as I planned my daughter’s 4th birthday. My income dipped low enough that I had to apply for food stamps (SNAP), and I contemplated moving in with a friend in Knoxville to ease the burden of market-rate rent.
SNAP never came through because the office kept saying they hadn't received my verification paperwork. After mailing the papers three times, I gave up and decided to take a different path.
My life last year was a frightening one, and I only hopped onto Medium with the hopes to eventually make up for my lost income as the social media agency cut my clients.
At this point in my story, I feel like it’s important to stress how hopeless I was. I had no reason to believe that writing on Medium would be a successful venture for me because I had accrued practically nothing but failure for most of my life. I couldn’t even imagine what a win might feel like.
I didn’t know if writing on Medium would work, but I was positive that it was the easiest way for me to even try to earn money without leaving the house.
I didn’t have all my shit together (and I still don't).
My mental health has been a challenge my entire adult life, but the pressure of raising a child alone and having “no village” has pressed upon me since pregnancy and I’ve battled chronic suicidal thoughts.
Around this time last year, I began thinking my daughter--and everyone--would be better off without me. I thought an awful lot about how I might kill myself. I thought a lot about how to make it all okay for my daughter if I was gone.
The only reason I didn’t end my life last year was that I couldn’t come to terms with what that would do to my daughter. She is loved, but her closest relationship is with me. No matter how much I believed that she might be better off without me, I couldn’t get away from the fact that ending my life could ruin hers if she wound up blaming herself for my choices.
So I told myself that I had to use all the fear and stress for something good. I decided that if I couldn’t get the clients I needed, I was going to use my time to get myself out of my mess.
I decided to not just write, but to seriously become a writer.
My decision to write for a living wasn’t some spur of the moment thing. I was already working as a writer in social media marketing. During my pregnancy and my daughter's infancy, I told everyone that I wanted to be a writer. And I had always been interested in writing since childhood.
The problem was that I didn’t know how to monetize my writing, and I didn’t believe my writing was any good.
Back in 2015, my freelancing gig took me out of poverty when I was a new and single mom, but last year, I discovered that it offered zero growth. The harder I worked to create $1.25 social media posts and $10 blogs, the more my creativity and skills suffered.
Typos, er, swypos became a problem. Walking on eggshells with management was an even bigger issue. A year ago today, one of the managers accused me of linking to competitors for an olive oil client.
My editor and I went over that account with a fine tooth comb, but neither of us could find any instance of such an enormous faux pas. In fact, we continued to get stellar reviews from that client. So we both asked management to show us where such an error had been made.
Despite our repeated inquiries, nobody ever offered any proof that I had done what they said. Yet, management told me I couldn’t have any new clients until my work improved after that supposed error.
It became a miserable work environment where I was constantly in fear of getting into trouble. I saw coworkers make enormous errors but continue to get new clients, while I was routinely chastised for any perceived mistake. Whether it happened or not.
And what made it all so much worse was that my “friend,” who owned the business with her husband, accused me of creating drama and conspiracies when I tried to get answers.
I wasn’t the only person seeing how they treated me. Or the way they turned a blind eye to clear nepotism when I had my clients taken away and given to a manager's sister who suddenly needed work.
It was one of the scariest and most painful experiences of my life because I wasn’t in a position to just “find a new job.” I didn’t have the transportation or the necessary childcare to land one.
It felt like a deep betrayal to be accused of things I didn’t do, to get berated for human errors as others got away with far worse, and then to be told that I was unprofessional when I brought up the fact that I couldn’t raise my daughter on $900 a month.
To be blunt? A year ago, I hated my life.
All in all, it took me about 6 months from first learning about Medium to get financially desperate enough to even try writing to earn some cash. I can’t say exactly why... except that my freelancing work drained me so much. And I didn't have any confidence in my writing abilities.
What's the word for loving to write, but not being any good at it? That's what I thought I was. A hack.
I was a single mom whose life had gone nowhere. I was essentially a recluse--and not by choice, but by circumstance. Who would want to read anything I wrote? What would I even have to say?
Desperation might be a writer's best friend.
I still remember sitting in bed last April, writing TMI stories about my life and childhood. About having lipedema and weighing close to 400 pounds. It felt scary. It felt embarrassing.
But it was pretty damn cathartic too.
Eventually, I was throwing practically all of my thoughts against the wall to see what might stick. It was fascinating to see how other people related to my stories.
I celebrated my early wins.
When I first got started on Medium, I had it in my head that I would write a lot about parenting and mental health. And those were the first two topics where I earned "top writer" status.
Within 10 days of writing on Medium, I had earned a top writer status and the editors emailed me to say they wanted to feature my story, A Different Kind of Abuse. At that point, I felt that no matter what happened, I was on the right path.
It was eerie, but I took a ton of pride in every single win on Medium. A lot of people say that "top writer" doesn't mean much. But to me, earning a spot among the top 50 writers for any given topic was a big deal.
And sure, there was always somebody ahead of me--someone with more claps, more fans, more followers, better stories, and fewer typos--but I decided early on that I wouldn't let that stop me.
So I didn't. And I didn't let the success of other writers keep me from celebrating my wins. If anything, I let their success inspire me. I decided that we are all on our own paths, and seeing another writer prosper would only be good for everyone.
Consistency has been a huge part of my journey.
Personally, I love writing whatever the hell I want. It energizes me, feels good for my soul, and I simply enjoy it. Even when the writing is going tough. Even when I am dead dog tired and sick of staring at my tablet, I still want to write.
For that, I count myself lucky. My love of writing carries me through most of my exhaustion, and I do get pretty damn tired. This summer I averaged 62 pieces a month, but I kept believing that if I wrote that often, I'd be bound to make a name for myself with the right kind of readers here.
Some people have a lot of fear about publishing often because they think it will make readers sick of their work. But I think the only way that can happen is if you write about issues you don't genuinely care about, or if your writing never gets better. And perhaps, if you're never vulnerable.
You don't have to be the best to have success.
For what it's worth, I know I'm not the greatest writer on Medium. I'm alright with that. I am honing my voice to be the writer that only I can be, and it's exciting to see readers respond to my work.
There are writers here who can make good money writing much less frequently than me. For some folks, every story they publish is well-received by hundreds or even thousands of readers. My growth has been different from any viral superstar, but I've still seen plenty of improvement.
My Medium journey began on April 25 at zero. Zero followers, zero readers, zero fans. Zero name recognition. But I tackled writing on Medium more seriously than anything else in my life, and was lucky to see some early success by having a Member Feature right off the bat.
The first week, I earned less than 2 bucks. The second week saw more than $500, but $200 of that came from the editors as a bonus on two stories they liked.
By September, I had a second Member Feature under my belt, several more top writer statuses, and I noticed several of my stories were getting distributed in multiple topics. My monthly fans and followers increased.
By December, I was pretty flabbergasted to average $1,000 a week. And by mid-December, I finally quit my freelancing gig and decided to go all-in on Medium.
I have yet to regret quitting my job, but I've been leaning pretty hard into writing on Medium since then. Every time I hit a new milestone, I aim to make it my new normal. Now that we're into March, I've been hitting the 500 fans mark more often. I want to make that my new standard.
You might have read how I earned over $8K on Medium last month, and I'm still a little bit in shock about that. But this week marks the fourth week in a row where I've earned over $2,000. Which means... if I keep writing and earning like this, I'm on track to get close to $10K.
In one month.
For a single mom with no assets, that's a huge deal. I'm on track to get professional driving lessons this spring, and buy a car before my daughter starts kindergarten this year.
It's absolutely mind-boggling.
And it's even kind of scary.
Here's what a $2,400 week looks like for me.
Back in the day, like last summer, it was a big deal to me when a story earned $40. Even $20 was something to get excited about when my social media work only paid $10 for a (boring to write) blog. My earnings looked like this:
For whatever reason, I had faith that the numbers would go up if I didn't quit. And surely, they did.
For me, a $2,400 week isn’t a few viral stories. It’s 12 screenshots of stories that start off like this:
And finish up like that:
I write basically every day, but I can't complain when one week earns more than what I used to make in an entire month.
Honestly, I can't hide how much this experience has reshaped my mindset and changed my outlook in life. Hey, I still don't have all my shit together, but I am a much more positive person.
I now believe in me.
And... I don't want to die anymore.
There are no big secrets to success on Medium.
Everybody wants to know how to make good money on Medium, but almost nobody wants to hear that it takes real work. My success on Medium has never been about generating passive income. I'm putting in the work here every single day.
In so many ways, it's a lot easier than my old job in social media. I get to write on the things I'm really passionate about. I get to write about anything. But I'm the one who has to make myself do the work, set my own deadlines, and figure out what works in the long run.
Maybe that's the biggest secret about success on Medium--we each have to figure out what works best for us, our readers, and our voice. Nobody can tell us how much to write, what to write about, and what will be most profitable here. There's a ton of trial and error.
Emphasis on try...
My best tips are so simple, they seem stupid.
Focus on writing often about the things that matter to you.
Hone a voice that feels natural for you.
Quit worrying about claps and other writers doing better than you.
Pay attention to your surroundings--like what works on the platform and what works best with your readers.
When all else fails, you've got to write.
And keep writing.
If you've made it this far...
I hope my story inspires you to go after your dreams. Will I earn $100K this year doing something I love? Only time will tell, but it seems pretty damn likely assuming there are no major changes to the Medium Partner Program, and assuming too many people don't get sick of me here. Ahem...
But I've been working on this dream for nearly a year, and so far, I've survived every change Medium has made. I keep seeing growth.
Last month I took on 1,300 more followers. This month it's nearly 2,000. My stats keep growing and I don't intend to quit.
I hope you don't quit either. The reality is that your willingness to try and not give up is everything. You might be where I was last year. You might think you have nothing to offer anyone.
But what if you're wrong?
I was wrong, and now I'm so glad I tried anyway. I never could have guessed that I'd be looking at $10K months in less than a year. Which really goes to show that you don't know what you can do if you never try.