And I still remember when I was a newbie on this platform.

Shannon Ashley
Apr 25 · 7 min read

On April 25, 2018, I began writing on Medium with the MPP. I had known about the Medium Partner Program for maybe 6 months, but I didn’t get on board until I was desperate to make writing work for me.

I pretty much knew I loved writing (and anything creative) since grade school, but I’d never understood how to have a creative career. And frankly, I never believed my writing was good enough to earn any money.

That feeling meant that I never seriously looked at what I needed to do to earn a living as a writer… not until I became a single mom in 2014.

Having a baby without a partner, home, or career is an incredibly “make or break” experience. I knew I would either use my circumstances to make my life better, or I would stay stuck. Stuck in poverty, stuck in hopelessness, etc.

My preparation was working on social media.

Being a writer on your own is pretty hard. I wound up signing on to write for a friend’s social media management startup when my daughter was about 8 months old.

I was so grateful for that job because it gave me the opportunity to work as a writer from home and get back on my feet! However, there were plenty of downsides too.

Being a contract worker in the gig economy isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. I could spend a couple hours on a blog post, but the flat rate pay was soon reduced to just $10 after they initially paid out $25.

The company claimed they were adjusting the pay down to industry standards, and ultimately, I worked very hard to reach between $2,200 and $2,800 a month. All gross income, of course, with no benefits like healthcare.

Even so, I expected to stay with the company for years to come because it allowed me to write from home, and I didn’t believe I had the chops to write anywhere else.

In the end, I lasted less than 4 years there.

My desperation made me dream a new dream.

In the fall of 2017, I sensed something was up with the company I worked for. They weren’t giving me new clients like usual, and my manager’s sister was suddenly hired. Her workload grew faster than anyone else’s in the history of the company.

Nobody seemed willing to give me honest answers and I watched my income fall.

By the end of February, it was an incredibly hostile work environment. Clients were taken away from me and I was accused of doing things I hadn’t even done. Like posting competitor links on a client’s Facebook page.

I tried talking to my friend and her husband about my status at their company. Nobody seemed to understand why I was so stressed to watch my income fall while somebody else took on more clients.

I still remember crying every night in bed and waking up wanting to die, because I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent or utilities. Making less than $1,200 a month was frightening when my rent was $725 and my utilities were typically over $300.

The only way I knew how to quit having panic attacks was to tell myself that something better was bound to happen because I was going to use my shitty situation to improve my life.

I decided to get serious about my own writing.

Writing for other people can be awesome. But in my case, it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was too dependent upon other people to feel magnanimous and give me work, and it left me feeling like I was supposed to be lucky for anything I got.

Even if it didn’t pay the bills.

In March 2018, I decided to pursue my own writing career. I started with a Wordpress blog which, let’s be honest, was probably my 20th blog since my teenage years. I didn’t know how to monetize a blog though, so I thought I was going to write short stories and publish ebooks on Amazon.

Yeah, I was ready for a terrible struggle.

But I kept hearing about Medium, so I thought it might be worth trying out for myself.

Just a few days before I began writing on Medium, I posted this on Facebook:

It's crazy to see my thoughts about writing even 1 year ago.

Last year, on April 25th, I began moving blog posts over to Medium. And then on my 4th day on Medium, I wrote this story on a whim about processing my abusive childhood:

Medium chose to feature it last May, and although my first payout from the MPP wasn’t much more than a dollar for a week of work, my first full month of earnings paid my rent.

In my second full month on Medium, those earnings went down and didn’t pay much more than half my rent. I figured that if I was serious about making a living on Medium, I had to be willing to put in the work and not worry about it.

I started publishing twice a day on most days, and kept believing that all I really had to do was keep going until people knew my name and wanted to support my work.

It’s been a helluva year.

Honestly, I didn’t really feel like failure was an option, and I didn’t care if I had to work harder than anybody else here. Over the past year, I’ve had months where I wrote 60+ stories and earning $1,400 made it a good month. Back in December, I only published 22 stories, but I earned over $5K. That was a great month.

Of course, engagement matters.

My best weeks have earned nearly $2,500, which is more than I used to make most months with my old job. These days, my slower weeks might earn more like $1,600. Maybe lower.

There’s a certain amount of flexibility and acceptance I have to hold onto so I don’t go crazy worrying about the things I can’t control.

But back in December, I actually quit my job in social media marketing, and I haven’t regretted it yet.

That doesn’t mean I don’t know this work is going to be something of a roller coaster. I just ride with it and do the best I can.

I don’t know what’s ahead and I’m okay with that.

For now, I only write on Medium and I don’t have a grand master plan. I hope to eventually get to a point where I’m writing whatever I want to write and earning enough money to not worry about things like taxes and healthcare or anything else my daughter needs.

I look at my work on Medium as many different things. I’m building an audience and getting my name out there. I’m pretty much training on the job and hopefully becoming a better writer in the process.

There probably are a few books in me, and I hope to gain more ground writing about issues like obesity and lipedema.

I’m open to anything that allows me to keep writing and growing as a writer, and that’s an exciting place to be. I value the freedom of such open dreams.

I’m grateful to Medium, Ev Williams, and all of my new friends.

There aren’t a lot of avenues for single moms to get ahead. Especially for moms like myself who have issues with autism, mental health, and more.

I came to Medium with the hope to more easily pay my rent while working on my own writing career, and in one year it’s all gone better than I ever could have imagined. It’s paving the way for a new life.

Of course, I cringe whenever I think about tagging the fellow Medium peeps who have made this year so amazing because I know it’s impossible for me to mention them all.

But one of the best things about this year has been making new friends who are working on their own writing careers. People like Shaunta Grimes, who is already a published author and now a true blue friend.

Judy McLain, whom I consider an amazing writer and genuine long distance friend.

Fellow single mom friends like Jun Wu and Cheney Meaghan who are also transforming their own lives.

There’s Deb Knobelman, PhD who has just wrapped up her own incredible first year with the MPP.

And then there are constant encouragers like Michael Thompson, Sam McKenzie Jr., Michael K. Spencer, Scott Gilman, Adam, Diabetic Cyborg and Brian Pennie who all inspire me more than they know.

Writer friends like Darcy Reeder and Sandra Ebejer who spoke up for me when I felt most alone in my writer’s journey.

Writers like Kris Gage, Ayodeji Awosika, John Gorman, Tom Kuegler and Niklas Göke who inspire me to dream about reaching a wider audience every day.

Jessica Wildfire’s work inspires me like crazy to hone my voice and find a lesson in even the worst shit.

Emily Kate, Zach J. Payne, and Your Fat Friend make me feel like I can open up about my struggles with lipedema and body image.

And there are countless others who make me feel welcome writing about issues that can be scary to talk about: James Finn, Tom Chizek, Alex Moody, Luke Rowley, Tesia Blake, Kitty Hannah Eden, Selma, Kamga Tchassa, Emma Austin, Eric S Burdon, Estacious, Gillian Sisley, Glenna Gill, Iva Ursano… and again, far too many people to thank in a single story.

I also can’t remember all of your usernames correctly, apparently.

But at the end of the day, it’s the commitment to quality writing and the positive attitudes among everybody here that makes Medium such a special place.

Every writer (and reader) is on a different path, but I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that we really are in this thing together. So thank you. I hope I can help you as much as you have helped me too.


Med Matters

Stories about all things Medium from an all-in Top Writer.

    Shannon Ashley

    Written by

    Single mama, fulltime writer, exvangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer. http://www.patreon.com/shannonashley

    Med Matters

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