What It’s Like To Be All-In On Medium

From somebody who makes their living here.

Shannon Ashley
Feb 26 · 6 min read
Image by pixel2013 on Pixabay

My Medium journey began on April 25, and it’s been a pretty amazing experience so far. My first full month on the platform paid my rent in a time when I was afraid I would lose my apartment.

And although my second month on Medium dipped and covered half the rent, every month thereafter has paid my rent and then some.

Back in December, I wound up quitting my job of 4 years to go “all-in” on Medium. God, that was scary. It still is scary, but I’ve yet to regret it even though I am definitely grappling with some of the “downsides of success.”

Mostly the fear of sudden and complete failure along with a pretty intense case of imposter syndrome.

Aside from being a writer, I am also a single mom (no fat child support check here), so it’s important to me that I make the most of the opportunity here at Medium. Some days go better than others. And some months go better than others too.

This is a good month.

But considering how I had no idea what to expect back in April, I am pretty proud of my progress here. Next to motherhood, I count it as the best thing I’ve ever done in all of my adult years.

Honestly, though, it's also really weird

And I don't mean kinda weird or just a little funny, as in haha funny. Nope, making a living here is super duper weird. It's bringing out new and conflicting emotions that are on par with the new and conflicting emotions of parenthood.

It's like I never knew I had so many hangups about money because growing up, we never had any. And as an adult, making money always meant just getting by.

Now I have to think about crazy things like maintaining a savings account. My daughter had a growth spurt, so I ordered her new shoes. As in more than one pair. Didn't even think about it. Didn't check my balance. I just did it.

And then I started thinking... should I get new shoes? I mean, it's been a couple years and I love shoes. But since I have chronic plantar fasciitis in both feet, I have to wear sturdy ones pretty much at all times. It doesn't help that I wear an odd size--10-1/2--which many shoemakers don't even make.

Choosing new shoes is about as complicated as finding pants for my lipedema legs.

And there's the whole weird line of questioning running through my mind. Do I deserve new shoes? What kind of shoes? Are those too expensive? Yeah, those are too expensive.

I'm not even sure I deserve to be making money as it is. (Imposter alert!) And besides, it could all end tomorrow.

Hey, like I said, it's been really weird.

Inquiring minds want to know how I’ve become successful on Medium

Recently, I wrote about my early errors here, and a couple of people like Darcy Reeder and Rob Rangel wanted to know how I went from hundreds of followers to thousands of them with the stats to go along with that jump.

Then, Dave Schools asked why I think my voice/stories have resonated so effectively, and I had to give some thought to the answer.

The truth is I’m not entirely sure.

I don’t actually feel very successful every day on Medium. Since this is for all intents and purposes, my job, I publish a ton. Some stories still fall flat or miss the mark.

I still make stupid mistakes and swypos.

Last night, I realized there’s a top writer here who blocked me when she didn’t approve of my word choice in a story and she couldn’t convince me to take down my story. Sometimes shit gets weird around here, guys.

I still can’t read comments without also wearing a cringe half the time because they’re occasionally so rough. I'm soft.

And I even turned off private messaging to avoid some of the negativity coming my way.

So in all honesty, I feel a bit like a phony compared to folks like Michael Thompson, Jonathan Greene, and Tom Kuegler who all talk about building relationships here. Because I’m still shy and awkward AF about people.

Even here.

It’s as if my solitary, single mom life has seriously stunted my social skills. It's certainly eaten up my time.

Well, shit.

How (I think) I’ve become successful on Medium despite being the queen of awkwardness

Here’s what I told Dave in my clunky, on-the-fly conversational style:

Lol. That’s a good question and I can’t be certain. I went into this not knowing what to expect, but I did decide to give it my all.

I think I have lucked out in a sense because I decided what kind of writer I wanted to be before I began publishing on Medium. And it just happened to work out that the honest and transparent stuff does work well on Medium.

There's a lot that's popular on Medium which I will never excel at... like productivity stories. But I like to use my writing as a voice to say the things I might not ordinarily feel I can say out loud in my daily life. Medium provides a platform for me to easily focus on telling those stories.

I suppose people do resonate with the whole wild abandon I try to give my writing because so many people feel more or less restricted from being as honest as they want to be in their writing. ? Maybe? Lol

And here’s my answer for Darcy and Rob:

Having a Member Feature in May and July definitely helped my stats grow to about 1,500 fans a month. From like 40 in my first week. And frequent curation beginning in September really helped my numbers grow to 11,000 fans and over 250K views a month.

I’ve seen the largest increases in fans and followers with continuous curation.

But I don’t know exactly how much being “featured” helped me versus simply showing up and doing the work. I suspect it’s a combination of luck and perseverance. I have seen a few writers who have been featured more often than me but they’ve got smaller followings.

This month, I had a featured story that didn’t really go far, but it wasn’t heavily promoted by Medium either. It hasn’t spent any time at the top of the home page, and now it’s been moved into the Medium collection, Can We Talk?

To be fair, I suspected the story would be featured, and I think it would have performed better with greater distribution. But I also think there are other stories of mine which would have done better as features.

It’s all pretty damn precarious

Most of my eggs are all in one basket for a few reasons right now. It’s easy. It’s working. I’m really terrible at juggling multiple things. I just want to write whatever I want to write. I’m naive about the writing world.

It’s certainly not lost on me that Medium could sink any day, and that once I do the work and write the story, I’m at the mercy or curators and algorithms.

It’s all true.

But in most every job, we are all at the mercy of someone or something. I’ve learned how quickly a seemingly good job freelancing can go south dealing with poor management.

No matter what you do for a living, things change, and I don’t believe that anything is completely secure.

So I’m taking my chances on Medium as long as I enjoy what I do and it keeps paying the rent. At the same time, I am s-l-o-w-l-y building up my email list and newsletter. Slowly working on Patreon.

And it’s all weird--I still feel guilty about asking for any kind of support. I still don't like to "sell" my work.

What I wish everyone could understand on Medium

We are all on our own paths here, and there are unlimited ways to success. There are countless definitions of success too.

I wish that more people here would open up their definition of success to include the unexpected rather than trying to recreate another writer’s trajectory.

If showing up and doing the work is the first step, then not giving up is the second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on. And the thing that gets us through it all is our acceptance that success may take a course we never even imagined.

Of course, even a little bit of success might feel pretty damn weird, but that comes with the territory.

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

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

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