How I Got Over 1,000,000 Views In My First Year On Medium
I’m sick of most advice about Medium.
I started 2020 as a complete beginner and read a ton of bad advice that I was too inexperienced to ignore. Despite what people say, top writer tags claps, and read ratios are noise and don’t mean anything so stop chasing them. While we are at it, stop beating yourself up about writing every day, I averaged 1.5 articles per week.
Out of the 78 articles I wrote in 2020, 67% have at least 1000 views, 17% over 10,000 views, and 6% over 100,000. When I strip out my first few months where I had no idea what I was doing, those ratios increase significantly. I am also the co-editor of Entrepreneur’s Handbook, one of the largest publications on Medium with 187k followers.
Most importantly, Medium has opened up a whole new world to me and I’ve made incredible friends all over the globe.
I certainly don’t know everything but I’m not a one-hit-wonder or a no-hit-wonder. My success is recent so I can relate to the confusion of new writers. It’s difficult to know who to trust when there’s so much poor advice out there.
I’ll share insights from my journey and while you can’t just replicate it, I hope it inspires you to believe you can make it.
First, be a reader
I read for 6 months on Medium before even considering writing my first article. This was purely for fun as a consumer but I was studying subconsciously. I knew as a reader what formats and headlines captured my attention.
I became a fan of publications like Better Marketing because the stories entertained me not because I was profit-driven. This dramatically shortened my learning curve because I already understood Medium by the time my fingers started smashing the keyboard.
Reading elsewhere and thinking you understand what Medium readers want is like watching Hollywood films and thinking you can direct a Bollywood film. Don’t rush into writing because you saw Bob made $5, do it when you at least understand the basics.
Become an editor and be edited
I got lucky early on and one of my articles went viral but it took me 4 months to have another article take off. I exhausted what I could learn from reading articles and this got me to an “ok” level. Yet the difference between “ok” and “good” is vast (though the difference between “good” and “great” is much larger).
I started joining Facebook groups and found people were asking basic questions. I’d strongly advise you to read up yourself first and be self-sufficient before asking everyone else for help. Medium has its own guides and search function, use them. Even though I was a novice myself I found I could answer a lot of the queries and built up a rapport with the community.
I became a moderator of Medium Dreamers and started giving feedback to other writers. This helped my writing immeasurably as I realized what mistakes other people were making and started avoiding them in my own work. I made relationships with other writers who were happy to guide me.
You don’t need to become a moderator or publication editor to practice this. Go to a publication you like and look at the stories that didn’t do well and see if you can spot ways to improve them. Other people are much more willing to help you if you’ve shown the ability to help yourself.
Don’t feel entitled to other people’s attention
None of us have a fundamental right for anyone to read our articles. None of us. Readers don’t owe us anything, we owe them the precious minutes of their life they spend with our ideas.
I started with an attitude of a few hundred views a month would be amazing but then my expectations skyrocketed. The delusions of grandeur arrived in style but I started seeing results again once I shifted back to a beginner’s mind.
I was rejected a lot by editors early on and would whinge about other articles they let in. I was wrong. It’s like watching gymnastics at the Olympics without the commentary and void of any knowledge about gymnastics. Could you pick the winners? It’s obvious if someone falls over but who has a clue between the Cheng and the Produnova?
People send me messages on social media about how they have an urgent request and they need my time. Weirdly it’s about how to make more money on Medium not how to save a life. They are promptly blocked.
Every time I connected with a writer I admired, they already knew who I was and this should be your aim. Engage with people and help them out without any expectations. I know it’s hard to believe but writers have entire lives outside of Medium and making you money isn’t their biggest priority. Being respectful is underrated.
If you don’t have ideas, don’t write
The question I am most baffled by is when people ask me for ideas to write about. Why exactly are you trying to write if you have nothing to say?
Keep track of all the ideas you have throughout the day. I easily have over 100 headlines I want to write about and this keeps growing. I cut ideas off the list all the time as they seem way less exciting than when I originally came up with them. Yet the list never stops growing. When you’re curious about the world, you can never run out of ideas.
Too many people write about topics that they have no credibility or interest in because they think it will do well. Ask yourself, would you want to read a story by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about? Save people from torture. The internet is full of junk already so don’t add to it.
You won’t mistake any of my work as being crafted from the hands of Shakespeare but I try to add a twist to everything I put out there. I look at multiple sides of the argument before coming up with my take. Any listicle I write has at least 2 or 3 extra points that didn’t make the final draft because they weren’t as strong.
If you’re always writing the article that excites you most out of over 100 headlines you have, it’s far more likely to be valuable.
Now I could dive into specific writing techniques to make your writing more engaging but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the stuff above mastered. Try to fix the high-level attitudes first and then worry about the more marginal techniques.
- Read, read then read some more.
- Engage with others once you’ve learned everything you can self-teach.
- Earn people’s attention, don’t expect it.
- Only write if you have value to add.
This might sound a little tough love and it’s intentional. I want to snap you out of following all the misinformation out there. I’ve teamed up with 3 of the top writers in 2020 (Michael Thompson, Sinem Gunel, and Zulie Rane) to bring you premium advice including monthly roundtables. Take in quality inputs and you’re sure to improve your outputs.