365 days ago, I embarked on my writing journey here on Medium.
It’s been a rocky road — with a lot of ups and downs. Allow me to share my stats and lessons with you now.
A Medium Writer’s Year in Numbers
First, the stats — since people here seem driven by tangible offerings.
$733.07 total for 11 months participating in Medium Partnership Program
Obviously, I need to change something to make a living on Medium. I was barely able to pay my internet bill with my MPP earnings.
Now that you know all my numbers, you can decide if I’m worthy of imparting lessons to you. Here are four I’ve learned from writing on this platform.
1) Write a Couple of Stellar Pieces
You make most of your money from a few articles that do really well.
The numbers you see above were primarily the result of one article taking off. One article. It happened to be the second article I posted while participating in the MPP. Call it beginners luck. I didn’t realize it was a big deal at the time. Despite my best efforts, this second MPP article is still the closest I’ve gotten to a “viral” piece.
This one article alone has garnered 12,200 views and 150 hours of Member read time to pay me the total of (drumroll…) $448.16.
Only $448 for 150 hours of people’s time!
For perspective, 150 hours is only 10 shy of a month working 40-hour workweeks. That’s as if someone read my one article — nonstop — for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for almost 4 weeks. Imagine that!
Of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, there were thousands of people who read my article for a few minutes here and there. I only use this example to highlight the absurdity of that payout ratio.
Can I continually pen articles each month that gain that much attention? Do 12,000 people consistently care about what I have to say?
No, they don’t. (I’m not Tim Denning, nor do I ever want to be.) All this leads me to my next lesson.
2) Give the People What They Want to Get the $$$
You cannot write whatever you want and expect to make money.
Ah, the cardinal truth of Medium — spoken over and over since the beginning of the Medium-verse.
I hate to admit this since I have fought against it for an entire year.
The harsh reality? Most people do not care to read about my original ideas or personal stories. And they likely don’t care about yours, either. They are stuck in a web of listicles, sex, money, and relationships.
That’s fair. I get it. There’s a reason why the saying “Sex sells” exists. And it probably always will. I don’t like it, but I get it.
If you are not already a well-known writer or if readers cannot see an immediate personal gain (read: financial gain, arousal, relationship advice, sex advice, business-related advice, writing advice), then the majority of them will not care to read what you wrote.
I love to write think pieces. You know, pieces of writing that make people think about life in a different way. I write for a particular reason: to give voice to new ideas about society.
It’s taken me a year to let reality sink in. Although my ideas have value and deserve expression, they will not make enough money on Medium.
The truth hurts. Particularly for an optimist like me.
3) The Ability to Pivot is Invaluable
Change is inevitable, and the ability to pivot is probably more valuable than your writing skills.
If you’re going to hack it on Medium, you have to keep track of the changes — and they’re happening every time you catch your breath from the last adjustment.
These are a few of Medium’s changes in my one year of writing:
- the entire curation process
- all writer profile page lay-outs
- the distribution of articles across the homepage
- and now, the eventual death of Medium-owned/operated publications
Welcome to how Medium works.
I recognized pretty early on that I wasn’t going to do well here because I’m stubborn. Not only do I want to write think pieces, but I also like to stick with a flow that works for me.
Being stubborn, like me, is not really serving anyone. It would be better for everyone if I could learn how to go with the flow more. I’m trying, I promise.
If you want to be successful, you will have to pivot more than I did.
That means, if your writing is not being consistently read, then change something: the publication you submit to, your title/headline, your subject matter, the length of your story — something needs to change.
Find ways to modify your writing to get those views you pine after. For now, I remain relatively stubborn even in the wake of my newfound acceptance.
4) Relationships Matter
Money only matters most in life — until it doesn’t.
All writers come to Medium with the hopes of making money. I think it’s safe to say most writers would be overjoyed to receive compensation for their hard work and time spent on their craft.
I was no different when I came to Medium. It’s my dream to write what I want to write, have people read it, and collect a living wage.
As you can see from my stats above, that did not happen.
So, what gives?
Why am I still here?
Why do I still care enough to keep writing, keep reading, and continue engaging?
Because I understand money at its core: it is simply part of a system that glorifies it. We all need money to live — or do we?
No. We need food, shelter, clothing, warmth, and comfort to live.
(Oh, and the internet — it is 2021, after all.)
The way to obtain these things in our current system is by using money.
But underneath this system of money is the alternative currency of relationships. Relationships provide value that money cannot: appreciation, connection, depth of experience, emotion, laughter, affection, community.
I have experienced this alternate currency exchange through writing and reading this past year on Medium. My outlook on life is more rich and open because of the Medium writers who pour out their hearts and souls. My understanding of the world is deeper.
In short, the platform gave me the breadth of human experience during difficult and isolated times.
Will I Continue Writing For Another Year?
After careful evaluation, we can see that I naively came to Medium thinking I could write whatever I wanted to write and make money. In reality, I barely made enough to pay my internet bill. But I have stayed for other reasons.
The best reason for Medium’s existence — and the reason I am still here — is that it provides a public outlet for anyone’s voice.
Yes, it sucks that most of us barely make any money.
Sure, it’s unfair that Medium mirrors a lot of the White male-based oppressive capitalist U.S. system in which it’s embedded.
Yet still, with all of that, we cannot deny that this platform allows us to speak our truths into the world. There is power in not having to mince one’s words (as long as one is not concerned about making serious cash).
There is power in speaking one’s truth.
Even if no one immediately reads or responds.
That is why I will continue to write on this platform.
I may not make financial ends meet by sharing my authentic ideas, but at least I have a place to connect, to learn, to share, to express, and to speak my truth — while others have that same opportunity.
It’s hard to put a price tag on that kind of freedom.
Thanks for reading! Continue on for one of my “think” pieces.