Medium is a hard place to succeed.
It’s definitely not easy. But it is simple. And if you can follow these simple rules for success, you can see massive growth very quickly.
The problem is, most new writers will never spend enough time here to ever experience such growth. As Les Brown once said:
“Most people knock on the door of their dreams once, then run away before anyone has a chance to the open the door.But if you keep knocking, persistently and endlessly, eventually the door will open.”
If you want to be a successful Medium writer — earning thousands of dollars, getting thousands of subscribers, really making a difference with your work — there are a few things you need to know.
By Putting Out a First Draft, You’ve Already Done More Than 90% of Your Competition
There is a sharp drop-off rate for everything in life.
But if you can push through this dip, however — you can achieve truly extraordinary goals.
A while back, I took an online course on growing your business. Every day, each student (there were 900+ in my class) was required to leave a comment announcing they’d completed their daily assignment.
Day one had over 500+ people declare they had completed their assignment.
But just two weeks later, barely 50 people were completing their homework each day.
By week three, less than 10 people were still consistently finishing their assignments.
The work wasn’t hard, though it did require time to complete it. But less than 90% of the students didn’t even make it far enough to create their first draft.
If you can just complete and publish your first draft — of a business plan, an article, a podcast episode, a video training — you’re already ahead of 90% of the competition.
In Seth Godin’s book The Dip, he talks more about this. He wrote:
“The difference between a mediocre club player and a regional champion isn’t inborn talent — it’s the ability to push through the moments where it’s easier to quit.”
It’s easier to quit. It always will be. Don’t be fooled, there are times when you should quit. I used to work in telemarketing. I definitely needed to quit!
But when it comes to the truly important things in your life, you need to push through that drop-off. Most people don’t. But if you can do it, you can achieve truly extraordinary things.
I finished the business class in the top 10% just for completing the work! I’m probably around the top 1–2% because I went the extra mile.
A lot of people think success is complicated, some magical riddle only rich and famous people understand.
But as one of my favorite writers Jim Rohn once wrote, “There are no ‘new’ fundamentals. Truth is not new, it’s old. You’ve got to be a little suspicious of the guy who says, ‘Come over here, I want to show you my manufactured antiques!’ No, you can’t manufacture antiques.”
Success isn’t a mystery. It’s actually very simple. If you follow the proven guidelines of success, you’ll achieve success. That’s just how it works.
Be consistent. And just finish the work. Publish your first draft, and you’re already ahead of 90% of the competition!
Turn Your General Idea Into a Laser-Focused Idea
“If you confuse, you lose.” -old marketing parable
The first 4.5 years of my writing, I wrote about almost every topic I could think of.
Personal growth. Spirituality. Job-hunting. Sports. Music, politics, current events, social issues, movie reviews, food reviews, “personal thoughts about life.”
And no one read any of it.
It was garbage. But right around year 5, I realized I needed to focus my writing. Writing an inch deep and a mile wide wasn’t working. I needed to narrow my focus and start building momentum in a niche.
So I picked a topic (self-improvement) and put all my effort into it.
The first year, I went from 178 subscribers from 1,000 views/month to 35,000+ subscribers and 200,000+ views a month.
Things go well when you go deep instead of wide.
If you confuse your readers, they’ll instantly leave. This is why all these “secret-handshake” headlines about blockchains and investing and technology never really go anywhere. If your readers don’t know what you’re talking about, they’ll leave.
Kanye West once told a story about his first rap battle. As a young, up-and-coming rapper, he came into the performance with complex lyrics with dizzying rhyme schemes. He thought the crowd would love it.
Turns out, the crowd didn’t really understand what he was saying. His words were too hard to follow. He gave his heart out, but the audience didn’t connect.
His opponent’s turn came.
“Hey, my name is Chris, and let me tell you one thing, you smell like piss!” he yelled.
The crowd roared. They loved it.
Looking back, West couldn’t help but laugh about it. “That’s part of the reason my raps are so simple now!” he chuckled. “Just way more simplicity, just get to the point.”
Be simple, clear, concise, and help people in ways they understand. If you confuse them, you lose them.
Why Writing on Medium Is So Hard
Back in college, my friend was studying to be a doctor. Every medical student was required to take a mandatory chemistry class, 4x/week at 8:00 a.m. sharp. My friend told me it was called a weeder class — it was meant to weed out anyone who wasn’t committed.
Medium is one big weeder class. It’s hard to keep up, to be consistent, to keep working at it. Most writers will get weeded out.
Medium is supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone could do it.
Ironically, it’s also very simple to become successful here on Medium. Bestselling author Tim Ferriss once said, “It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre.” A lot of writers simply don’t believe they could ever make it big, so they do things that ensure this belief — they’re inconsistent and write mostly low-quality work.
You don’t have to end up like that.
You can pass this weeder class and move on to bigger and better things — a big following of loyal readers who love and support you.
It’s not easy. Weeder classes are supposed to be hard.
Being successful on Medium forces you to have high levels of consistency, creativity, and discipline. Otherwise, you’ll fail and stay in low-level behaviors with a very low chance of success.
By competing here — writing content that’s probably already being written about by talented writers — you’re competing in a high-level arena. The competition is fierce. If you can make it here, you can make it just about anywhere.
Most Writers Don’t Consistently Produce Quality Content
I’ve created a ton of writing tools — online courses, books, coaching packages, instruction manuals, training videos — and they all really boil down to a simple, 4-word phrase:
Consistently produce quality content.
I guarantee you: if you post every single day for a month, your writing will get better. Ray Bradbury, one of the most famous short-story authors of the 20th century, said he used to write a short a week for years. In his words:
“You can’t write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
When I finally got serious about writing, I posted 30 articles in 40 days. I got more views in that time than the previous year combined.
Most problems writers have comes from not posting enough. The usual response to this is that writers don’t know what to write about. Easy — anything. Just write.
Because when you write every day for 30 days, you quickly realize what excites you and what bores the hell out of you. I used to think I wanted to write about careers and job-hunting. But once I started consistently writing, and wrote a bunch of career-related advice at once, I realized I really didn’t care about it.
But it took me a few weeks of constantly writing about it to learn that.
What I’m really interested in is writing about personal growth and self-improvement. I can write all day about that. I’ve been doing that for years, and I’m still pumped to write more and more about it. It’s like I can’t get enough of it. I’m compelled to write. I have to. I’ve cancelled plans and missed fun events because I just couldn’t get away from the damn keyboard.
But you have to consistently write to get to that place. Don’t spend 4.5 years like I did screwing around. Just write consistently. It doesn’t matter about what. More will be revealed to you as you go.
There’s a sharp drop-off point for everything worthwhile in life. The same is true for success on Medium.
Most writers won’t push through that dip.
But if you can be consistent, publish good work, and solve your readers’ problems in relatable and helpful ways…there’s a good chance you’ll become very successful on Medium.
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