How I made my first $1,000 on Medium
with story stats and details
Last week marked a milestone for me on Medium: I’ve officially been paid out more than $1,000 for my Medium posts through the Partner Program. While $1,000 isn’t a living, I never intended to make a single dollar off my posts, so the financial reward has been a pleasant bonus!
Since I stumbled into this, I figured others looking to make a few extra bucks writing on Medium may find this story helpful. If you want the deets without the narrative — you can scroll down to the colorful table which lists all of my published stories, their stats, and how much I’ve been paid for each. If you’re along for the ride, here’s the story of my experience on Medium.
My first ever blog post was in May 2016 on a Wordpress domain, announcing that I was quitting my job to travel for a few months. I continued to blog throughout my trip, and learned that I really enjoyed writing. Posting publicly brought additional pressure to make sure that everything I wrote was thought through and well-written, at the risk of otherwise looking dumb to my friends and family who were reading along.
When I returned in the fall of 2016, I decided that I wanted to keep blogging about topics that interested me. I switched from Wordpress to Medium, mostly because the design and UI seemed more modern. In the fall of 2016, I wrote three articles on Medium. They all went basically unnoticed, and after the third article, I was tired of posting links to my posts on my social media accounts. I didn’t want to be that annoying person begging my friends to “look at me!!!”
So I stopped.
I didn’t post again for over a year and a half. Then, in May 2018, I wrote another post. It similarly got little to no attention, but it did remind me how much I enjoyed the process of writing. So I continued writing about topics that interested me — technology, media, careers, identity, and philosophy.
While widespread readership wasn’t my primary goal, I chose to keep all of my posts outside of the Medium paywall, thinking that this would expose my posts to the largest potential audience — not just those who happened to be Medium members.
I submitted everything I wrote to publications that had open submissions like The Startup, The Ascent, and Hackernoon. After many attempts, I had articles published in all three! Being published in these publications drew more views than usual — my final post of 2018, “25 Things that Won’t Exist in 25 Years,” quickly became the most read article I had ever written, garnering more than 5,000 views in 3 days.
Still, by the end of 2018, I had published 13 articles on Medium, been accepted in three decent sized publications, and had earned exactly $0.
Then I got an email.
In January 2019, I received and email from a Medium editor saying that she’d like to “Feature” a post I had written four months prior, Figuring Out Who You Are. The post, which was about my thoughts on Identity, had been written hastily in a couple of hours in August 2018. Now, four months later, Medium wanted to pay me at least $100 for it? Sure!
Once it was copyedited, stylized, and featured, I saw my “stats” take off like never before. Thousands of people read the article, hundreds “clapped” for it, and many commented about how much they enjoyed the piece.
Since this was in January, I decided to set a goal to post one article per week in 2019. Spoiler alert: I failed. However, I did write much more frequently than I previously had, and ended up posting 15 articles between January and May 2019. I decided to put all of these posts behind Medium’s paywall, now aware of how great the platform is at circulating my writing to complete strangers.
Then in May, I got another email.
OneZero, Medium’s in-house technology-focused publication asked if they could pay me a $250 minimum guarantee for another article that I had already written and posted. Again — sure! Is Interactive Storytelling the Future of Media? quickly became my most read and “clapped for” article to date.
Now that I have ~800 followers and a few articles with thousands of “claps,” it’s easier to get in front of readers and pitch publications. Last month I reached back out to OneZero with another article, The TV Subscriptions You’ll Need to Watch Your Favorite TV Shows, before I even published it. They offered another $250 minimum guarantee to feature it in OneZero. Sure!
While I’ve technically been writing on Medium for almost three years, I hadn’t earned a single dollar until 9 months ago. In 2019, I decided to write more frequently, put every post in the partner program, and rely on Medium’s curators and recommendation engine for distribution, instead of promoting all of my work on my personal Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn. So far, these strategies have paid off!
So without further ado — here’s a list of all of my Medium articles in chronological order as originally posted, along with how much I’ve been paid for each through the Medium Partner Program.
As you can see, there’s a power law to earning money on Medium. Four articles have contributed the vast majority of my earnings ($1,242.83 / $1442.07), while the other 30 have earned a few bucks at best. This can be frustrating — articles that I spent hours writing and thought were high-quality often turn out to be total duds. Oh well.
Medium is not completely transparent about their algorithm for paying writers, except for saying it’s based on “engagement.” It seems the algorithm is complex and likely also involves time spent by readers and the number of viewers who become paying members to read a post. My earnings per view, read, fan, and clap have little consistency, but in this small sample size average out to $0.02 / view, $0.05 / read, $0.66 / fan, and $0.14 / clap.
Why the Medium Partner Program is so great for writers
I continue to be amazed at how well Medium circulates and distributes content from nobodies like me to readers around the world. If I still had a blog on Wordpress, the only way anyone would see it is if I sent it to them, or promoted it to my connections on social media. It was simply unexpected to have so many complete strangers reading, “clapping” for, and commenting on articles that I had written thanks to Medium.
When you publish articles through the program, a team of curators reads every post and recommends the highest quality articles to be featured in different topics. This, in turn, puts your articles in front of readers who follow those topics or have liked similar content, acting as an accelerant to viewership.
Without any effort on the writer’ end (besides actually writing), Medium curates and distributes content to relevant readers, effectively finding and building an audience for amateur and professional writers alike.
Advice for making money on Medium
I want to preface this final section with a warning that there’s no new or novel advice here — if you’ve read any advice articles on how to make money on Medium, you’ve seen this all before.
- Write about what interests you. Everything I’ve written has been of personal interest to me. I think it’s tough to mimic other writers or their styles, or write about popular topics that you have no interest in. Writing about your interests guarantees a certain level of quality — if you are entertained, informed, or satisfied by the final product of your work, others will be too.
- Post often but have low expectations. Medium’s recommendation engine surfaces other articles you’ve written to new readers. Having a new post increases the readership of your previous posts. But, don’t expect every article that you write to be seen by thousands and earn you hundreds of dollars. The truth is, the reception for most of your posts will probably be underwhelming, while a small percentage are breakout successes. Welcome to the media industry!
- Early on, submit your posts to topic-relevant publications that have open submissions. Once you have a significant number of followers, publications you’ve written for previously have diminishing returns. I’ve decided to post nearly everything on my own publication (The Raabit Hole), unless another publication (like OneZero) is willing to pay me a minimum guarantee. This way, readers will be recommended more of my content after reading my articles:
- Put everything that you write in the partner program! Regardless if you’re just starting from scratch or already have a Medium presence, putting all of your content in the partner program means that Medium editors will read and curate your posts, potentially selecting them to be featured in different topics or publications.
That’s it. Write what you’re interested in; write often; find your audience; and utilize the magic of the Medium Partner Program. If you do these things, you may one day be pleasantly surprised by the extra spending cash automatically deposited in your bank account!