I’ve Earned $26,822.86 Writing on Medium in the Last Seven Months. Here’s How.

By Shaunta Grimes
I’ve been writing on Medium.com since May 2017. When I started, writers didn’t get paid. The biggest draw was that there were readers there. Instead of posting into the void, people actually read and responded to my work.

Big fun! And since the bulk of my income has always come from my email list, having readers is important to me. So I started using Medium for my blogging.

It worked for me, even before they implemented their partnership program in 2018, which allows writers to get paid.

When the partnership program started, I put some of my work behind the paywall. For those stories, when readers who pay $5 per month to be Medium members read my posts and respond to them by tapping a ‘hands’ icon to clap for them, I get a tiny percentage of their monthly membership fee. 

For the first several months, my paychecks from Medium were in the $300 to $500 range. Nice, but not life changing. Definitely better than nothing for work I was doing anyway. 

But in November 2018, I had a conversation with a friend that changed everything. She told me that she was earning $500 a week on Medium. Until that day, I had no idea that it was possible to make that amount of money. 

Okay, I thought. If she can do it, so can I. 

Here’s what I made in November 2018:

We moved across the country that month and I wrote no new posts at all, so it was a good control month. That was pay from residual earnings off of old posts. 

This was my pay in January 2019:

Much better. But it took one more month of concentrated effort though, to really hit my stride. 

In February, 2019, my pay looked like this:

And I’ve earned between $3000 and $5000 a month every month since then. 

Here’s how I did it:

I post every single day. 

I’ve posted at least once t a day on Medium every day in 2019. Most days I write twice a day. I spend about twenty hours a week working on Medium. If I want to take a day off, I write more the day before and pre-schedule a post.

I have a very specific method for making sure that I don’t run out of things to write about. But the most important thing is that I treat writing like a job. I show up to work. I don’t expect to earn $50,000 or so a year without putting in a lot of effort. 

In other words, this isn’t passive income. It’s very active. 

Last month I was paid for reads on almost 400 stories, which means that cultivating a body of work on the platform is very important.

I learned how to write for Medium.

The key to breaking through on Medium is curation

Medium has curators who go through thousands of posts a day and choose those that fit their guidelines to share with their readers. If your post doesn’t fit those guidelines, it is only shared with your own followers. It’s never shared with any of Medium’s considerable audience.

Think of Medium like a magazine. They charge their readers and they want to provide a certain experience. If your post fits within that goal, they’ll include it in their distribution. If not, they won’t. 

Medium won’t curate posts with click bait titles. They won’t curate posts with uncited photos. They won’t curate posts that aren’t professionally written. They won’t curate posts that read like they’re part of a series or that have affiliate links or ads or blatant calls to action. Follow their rules and they’ll help you get eyes on your work.

Because I use Medium the way I’d use a website, sometimes I write something that I know they won’t curate. I have more than 22,000 followers and more than 15,000 people on my email list. I can afford to do that. When I write something that’s not curated, I know that it’s very similar to writing something on a self-hosted website. I have to drive traffic to it myself and use SEO in the hopes that Google will help me out. 

If you’re new to Medium and you have no followers or few followers, being curated is the only way that you’ll get any help from Medium with readers. Learn how to write for Medium’s specifications, the way you would for any editor or publication.

I started my own publications.

Within Medium’s larger site, there are smaller publications. Anyone can start one. They’re like websites within a website. A publication allows you to build a niche and gather followers for a specific topic.

These followers are important because Medium gives you a way to reach out to them. You can write them a ‘letter.’ The letter feature allows you to send an email to your publication’s followers to let them know you’ve published a new post, send a newsletter, or contact them about anything else you’d like.

It’s not quite as good as an email list, because you don’t own it. But it’s considerably better than your personal followers on Medium, whom you can’t reach out to at all.

My Every Day Novelist publication has about 4,500 followers. About 2,800 of them have opted into letters from me. When I send one, about 30 percent open the email and my click through rate is about 10 percent.

I own three publications. 

When you first start writing on Medium, becoming a writer for a larger publication allows you to get some exposure and start to build an audience. I highly recommend that you start your own publication as soon as possible, though. Those followers are important.

I focus on the things that matter most.

My post’s title, subtitle, and feature picture make or break my income on any given day. 

Writers are able to tag their posts, but those tags have very little effect right now. They used to mean more, when Medium distributed every post to people who followed tags–but now they only distribute posts that they curate.

Medium traffic isn’t driven by search, the way that Google traffic is. Medium serves readers up posts that an algorithm believes they’ll be most interested in. What the reader sees is the title, the subtitle, and the feature picture. That’s what they have to go by, before they click to read.

Titles need to be clear and concise, compelling without being clickbait. They need to entice the reader to want to know more. 

Subtitles can be more clever. They can indicate the tone of the post or the author’s voice, often they give a taste of the post itself.

And the photo needs to be appealing. 

When a post falls flat, it’s often because I’ve given it a bad title. If I delete the whole thing  and republish it with a better title, it will often do better. 

I experiment. A lot.

Medium is a beast with a lot of moving parts, most of which are only about half transparent to the writer.

Since I don’t own any part of the platform, I don’t get to know almost anything about what’s going on behind the scenes. Things are changing all the time. Lately, Medium has shifted from independent publications, for instance, to publications that they own. Their front page is dominated by writers that are writing for Medium instead of just on Medium.

So, I’m experimenting with sending pitches to some of those publications. I don’t know if I’ll like it. I kind of like not having an editor and writing whatever I want. But I also don’t want to miss the boat and get left behind.

I’m experimenting right now with a daily post for my own followers, even though I know that Medium won’t curate a series like that. I want to know if the daily post will drive traffic to my curated posts. 

I’m experimenting with writing in larger publications again, which is something I haven’t done at all this year. And with different kinds of photographs (Would photos of men instead of women on my posts about productivity bring more readers? I want to know.)

The most important things to remember.

Be patient and be consistent. Octavia Butler said that habit is persistence in practice and I believe that’s true. 

You’ll need to build your following on Medium. You’ll need to take the time to learn how to write so that they’ll curate your posts and distribute them to their readers. You’ll need to build a body of work. All of that takes time and effort.

Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA. If you’d like more help learning how to blog on Medium, you can sign up for her free Anti-Blogging for Creatives course here.


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