I'm inclined to say this is how it works across the whole writing world and not just across Medium. That if you want to make a whole lot of cash as a writer, then you've also got to be willing to barely scrape by.
Of course, I've only made a lot of money on Medium, but today I'm letting you in on a certain kind of pep talk that I have given myself since day 1 (April 25, 2018).
This is going to be hard.
Nobody needs to downplay how hard it is to write for a living with no guarantee of a decent paycheck. It's hard at the beginning and it never gets any easier. If anything, you simply get better at taking bigger risks.
And hoping for the best.
You're going to need buckets of hope.
Hope is going to be more effective than planning. You need a lot of hope to tell yourself that maybe you can reach your dreams. Hope that says if so-and-so can do it, then so can I.
If you're hopeful, it's that much easier to stay in the game.
You've got to play the game.
If you want to make real money on Medium, you've also got to learn how to use Medium to your best advantage. That means you've got to do your research. And you've got to pay attention to what works and what doesn't.
Of course, this is all going to be individual to you. The goal isn't to copy anybody else here. The goal isn't to be the next king or queen of Medium. If you want to make a lot of money on Medium, you've really got to figure out how and where you can shine.
Remember this is a long game.
I've said it before and will say it again. Success on Medium is a long game endeavor. One thing that really helps most of the top earners here? We've each accumulated a playbook of stories that have been curated and continue to pick up traction here and there.
Never underestimate the power of a slow burning story. Those suckers can pick up steam when you least expect it, and as you gain more followers.
That's partly why it pays off to keep writing here and just build up that portfolio of stories.
Accept that some stories might make a lot and some stories will make a little.
Unless your story gains unusual traction, most newcomers will not make much money on their early stories. It's going to take time to average even $10 to $20 per piece.
The more you show up and build your audience, the bigger those numbers can grow. But I personally find it valuable to remember where I came from.
When I was new to Medium, making more than $10 on a story was a big deal. And although most of my stories now do much better, I'm still not immune to my own stragglers and flops.
They happen and I don't think I'm too good for them to happen either.
I chalk it up to a lot of things--a few missteps on my part or maybe a case of bad timing. Whatever the reason, it's going to happen and it's going to be alright.
Figure out how to be okay with the slumps.
When I first got started on Medium, I made myself a deal. I had to be alright with the fact that some months would be better than others. In fact, some months might suck.
Maybe this is just me, but I can't function well when I'm freaking out about my income. But writing on Medium comes with zero guarantees, so, I had to mentally prepare myself for the possibility that the well might dry up.
Not to mention the fact that life happens. You or I could get sick or face some sort of catastrophe that prevents us from writing as much as usual. Our pay might suffer because we need to write less or our engagement goes down.
Accept that some things are out of your hands.
To a certain extent, I have no control over my success on Medium. I control how much I show up, how much I market, and what I write. I can't control how many readers Medium shows my work to.
And I can't control whether or not readers relate to my work and like it enough to clap. It would be nice to draw up some formulas for engagement but I don't believe readers are all that predictable, do you?
There are so many different ways for multiple readers to interpret one piece of writing. I don't believe we can ever really know what best moves our readers. But we can learn how to pay better attention.
Here's how I look at making money on Medium:
I'm determined to do my best and see where it takes me. My best months have hit nearly $10K while my worst months haven't collected a thousand dollars. My journey has been a fortunate one because I've pretty much always surpassed $100, but I've also hit this mission with everything I have.
And yet, making money isn't everything on Medium.
Writing here has given me confidence, purpose, and clarity I never had before. The truth is that even if I hadn't done so well financially on the platform, I'd still be trying to make it work.
That's because I believe in my writing and my purpose for writing on Medium. I still believe that better days lie ahead.
But everything I do on this platform is guided by this idea that I have to be able to handle a tiny payout as well as a big one.
Because I don't believe that a down month or poor season will be the end of me. And I don't believe it will be the end of you either.