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How to Gain 5,000 Medium Followers in Less Than A Month

You’re probably doing it wrong.


I started 2018 with the intention of growing my Medium followers to 10,000 by the end of the year. It took me less than seven weeks. In this post, I will walk you through how I did it, step by step.


Step #1: Fail Early

Get an impossibly boring work-from-home day job in the Summer of 2007. Decide you want to do something to kill all the dead time you spend procrastinating. Have someone you have an insatiable crush on tell you your Facebook statuses are clever, and that you should be a writer. Apply to write somewhere for free. Write them a cover letter telling them how much you hate other writers — make sure you drop a lot of eff-bombs. Have them hire you anyway … because they’re not paying you and why should they give a fuck. Write every day. Get promoted to managing editor because you’re the only person writing every day. Parlay that gig into a press credential to a mid-major college basketball game. Write a column that gets linked to by the Buffalo News. Volunteer to start that content farm’s beer blog. Run it like a Pitchfork parody where you review shitty beer. Send your beer reviews to craft breweries and beg them to send you experimental beer to try. Drink all those beers. Write about most of them. Wait for both websites you write for to fail and watch all your writing vanish from the fucking internet.


Step #2: Fail Harder

Wait for the only person who hired you before to hire you again. Again — for free. Manage a team of 20 mostly terrible writers. Write 3–6 posts per day, thinking eventually you’ll get paid. Move from Buffalo to Austin, because if you can be broke from anywhere, you might as well be broke somewhere that isn’t gray, cold and miserable. Run out of money. Pick up freelance work doing startup branding and web copywriting, because that’s basically what you’re already doing. Rejoice at your first $1,000 writing paycheck. Get laid off from your boring-as-fuck work-from-home day job where you had the freedom to write on the side. Get hired on by a soul-sucking tyrant to be his marketing director at a publishing company that’s run out of his garage. Suffer routine panic attacks and burn the fuck out from working 70 hours per week. Get fired from that job, and from the managing editor position that the job you write 3–6 posts for without ever receiving a dime, and the startup branding and web copywriting job in the same week — the week you’re out sick with pneumonia, no less. Stay unemployed for another six months, laying on the couch eating full large pizzas, crushing six-packs and popping Xanax like M&Ms. Rack up $55,000 in toxic payday loans, title loans and collections bills. Lose your health insurance. Get evicted.


Step #3: Lose All Hope And Dignity

Keep writing. Get hired on at a bullshit content farm —a clickbait cauldron of filth and bile and pop-up ads and auto-play videos — again, for free. Forget to write about bullshit assignments like “20 Hottest Female Volleyball Players” and concentrate your efforts talking about Flow Theory, or how sex shouldn’t be regarded as a trophy, conduct an in-depth interview with a rising sports personality, and get re-tweeted by Mark Cuban for the best take on First Take in the history of takes.


Step #4: Decide — despite all this and against your better judgment — that this is how you want to make your money.

Use your cobbled-together portfolio of all the mediocre writing you’ve done to apply to write pop-up ads at an in-house agency at a very large technology company. Have them tell you no. Do not accept “no” for an answer. Apply again. Get rejected again. Apply again. Get rejected again. Apply again: Get the job. On the day of orientation, get the car you fucking sleep in repossessed. Beg your long-distance girlfriend to rent you a Jeep. Go to work. Get out of work. Sleep in that Jeep in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Do that for three weeks. Panhandle for enough money to subsist on apples, bananas and bell peppers. Get your first paycheck. Rent a room at a crack-den Red Roof Inn for $35 per night. Do that for another seven weeks. Quit the shitty content farm.


Step #5: Keep Showing Up

Keep that job at the in-house agency at a very large technology company. Save up enough money to not be homeless. Write 30 headlines per day. Do it for two years. Get better at it through sheer repetition. Get a raise. Get a promotion. Write cooler shit. Win an Addy award. Do some big brand copywriting on a team while their writer is out on maternity leave. Knock it out of the park. Wait for them to want to hire you away from the team you’re on. Wait for a bidding war to break out. Switch teams for $6,000 less than your original team was offering. Get promoted again.


Step #6: Join Medium

Join Medium. Write about how shitty it was to be unemployed and homeless on Medium. Wait for it to get like 500 reads — by far the most you’ve ever gotten on anything — and unexpectedly get the attention of a couple prominent people. Use it to apply to write at a publication called The Cauldron. Get hired on — again, for free. Write this. Have the President of the company pass it around. Get props from ESPN personalities. Go on a couple of radio shows to talk about it.


Step #7: Get Really Fucking Lucky

Have the publication you write for enter into a publishing syndication agreement with Sports Illustrated, and — for whatever fucking reason — be one of the 20 writers they bring aboard with SI bylines. Get another substantial raise at your day job at the in-house agency at a very large technology company. Keep writing. Every day. Get tapped to literally write all of this. Find out a woman you know is trying to qualify for the Olympics in marathon. Write a profile piece on her. Catch the attention of some documentary makers, who use her story in the film. Keep writing. Every day. Use your branding “expertise” to start a referral-only side-hustle as a freelance brand copywriter. Work with East Coast pizza chains, real estate companies, event management firms, clothiers, nanotechnology firms and other creative agencies.


Step #8: Fail Hardest. Ruin Your Career. Drink yourself to death.

Write the worst tweets of all time. Get fired from the only publication that ever netted you any eyeballs at all. Retire from writing sports, but decide to write one last brutally fatalistic thing about music. Watch it get picked up by Huffington Post and The CBC. Spend the next six months posting nothing, drinking yourself into a black hole, and falling into a deep, dark depression. Come home one day to find your girlfriend moved all her shit out of your condo and left the key without saying goodbye.


Step #9: Write Your Feelings — even if (especially if) your feelings are mostly despair, anger, rage, darkness and apathy.

Chronicle the rise and fall of the love you just lost with a piece called “Everything Was Beautiful and All Of It Hurt.” Post it privately. Wait for someone to find it and beg you to post it so they can add it to their publication. Watch your follower count jump from 100 to 1,000. Decide maybe it’s time to write again. Stress over every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every transition, every title. Google “How To Gain Followers on Medium.” Take absolutely none of the advice because it’s all written by growth-hacking tech-startup bro-flakes gaming SEO algorithms for pageviews. Watch Thought Catalog reach out to you for posts. Hope one of them absolutely crushes it. Become an alcoholic. Write an unexpectedly popular piece about how that was a really bad idea. Travel from coast to coast collecting life experiences. Get your words from another post weaponized as an inspirational Instagram selfie caption by a young Brazilian woman you do not know, who probably thinks you’re a big deal. Remember that you are not, in fact, a big deal. Keep writing. Stay humble. Thank her for making your day. Post a screenshot for posterity.


Step #10: If At First You Don’t Succeed

Take all the posts no one read over your first decade of writing, reword them, remake them, remix them, and re-post them. One post, every day. Don’t promote any of them on social media. Stress more about the picture to put at the top than the words in the post. Watch all these new and improved essays nobody thought to read before all blow up at the same time in February 2018 — over a decade since you first started writing. Intersperse these re-posts with new original pieces. Get caught in an algorithm as the №1 trending writer on an app called “Pocket.” (Seriously, WTF is Pocket?) Stare with slack-jawed astonishment as your phone starts buzzing like a battery-powered sex toy party. Get more readers in a 25-day span than you have in your previous 10 years of writing combined. Watch your follower count grow at a rate of 1,000 new followers every five days.

Voila! 5,000 new followers in less than a month! You did it, you grand word-wrangling champion, you. Write a piece called “How To Gain Followers on Medium” to game SEO algorithms for page-views. Realize you’re still a nobody. Keep writing. Every day.


Moral of the Story: Overnight Successes Don’t Happen Overnight

Sweat. Cry. Sacrifice. Suck. Embrace it. Love what you do. Do what you love until people stop asking you to do it. Then, keep doing it anyway. Fail early. Fail often. Fail hard. Fail hardest. Fail. Fail. Fail. Be down and out. Be drunk. Be destitute. Be depressed. Achieve your dreams. Fall in love. Get your heart ripped out. Return better and wiser. Never stop improving. Tell comeback stories. Trust the process. Stop setting goals or giving a shit about success altogether. Be authentically you. Drop eff-bombs if you have to.

TL;DR

  1. Live a full life.
  2. Distill that full life into stories worth telling.
  3. Be prepared to write for nobody for as long as it takes.
  4. Keep living.
  5. Keep writing.
  6. Keep writing for so long that you can’t help but get marginally adequate at it.
  7. Conquer your nervous breakdowns.
  8. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Want to gain 5,000 followers on Medium in less than a month? Don’t “growth-hack” your way there. Be patient. Never stop improving. Never stop living. Embrace all that life has to offer — good or bad. Then, make it your story. And keep telling it — even if nobody’s listening. One day, 10,000 people will. And when that happens, stay humble. And keep writing. Every day.

And for those of you who have listened, or are listening, or one day will be … I wrote all that to tell you this: thank you.

I’ve spent the last 10+ years just trying to squeeze every last drop of the canon out. My work, in that regard, is done.

I’ve made invaluable friends here, and I read every single one of your comments — good and bad. Today, I’ll start responding to them. Today, we start building a community. Today, it’s time to get to know all of you: Ask me ANYTHING in the comments. I’ll answer you honestly.

Peace. Love. Cheers. And, again, thank you.

-John Gorman // 02.22.18


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