How to Start a Blog on Medium and Should You?

19 min read

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How to start a blog on Medium, and should you?

[Note: Medium’s earning model was just changed (starting November 2019) and this post is in need of an update! However, I will need to wait a month or two before I can gather enough data to write more on this new model. For now, just know that unlike calculating how much money a writer earns based on the number of claps a writer receives in a certain piece, from other paid Medium members, the new earning model will now take into account how long a reader (who is a paid Medium member) spends time reading the piece. The post below still has some general good practices when it comes to writing on Medium, so feel free to give it a read, however, do come back in a month or two for an updated post with the new earning model implemented. Peace!]

How many freakin’ blogs does a blogger need???

Well… depends.

I have two blogs. Do I need both? Nope. Do I want both? Yep!

The first one is, of course, this very blog–The Side Blogger.

And the other one is on Medium.

Before I go into details, what the Heck is Medium?

Well, Medium is an online publication with social-media like features — as in, other Medium members can follow you and clap (similar to liking) on your content.

Instead of short posts, you write lengthy articles, referred to as “stories”. You also have the opportunity to lock your stories behind a metered paywall and make money depending on how other [paid] Medium members engage with your stories.

I have very different objectives when it comes to blogging on these two platforms. When asked about having two blogs, generally my advice tends to be, “not until you’ve had some success with your one blog, and you’re absolutely sure that having a second blog won’t take away from the success of the first one.” This is purely based on the fact that blogging is time-consuming. Writing quality articles take time unless you’re a seasoned and full-time writer.

Even for full-time bloggers, getting a brand new blog off the ground to a point where you start seeing full-time money can be a LOT of hard work. Chances are, most people do not have that kind of time.

And yet, why do I blog on both TSB and Medium even though I’m only a part-time blogger?

The answer is that I have different goals and objectives for these two platforms.

I see The Side Blogger as a machine for making a legit side-income with the potential to make a full-time income in a couple of years. From the outside, it’s a simple strategy–I help myself by helping others and hope that my hard work will pay off. This strategy then branches off to smaller, more manageable plans that are easy to measure and quantify. I incorporate affiliate marketing strategies, I sell courses, I sell templates, and I hope that if and when my readers are pleased, they will purchase from me and/or invest in themselves by investing in me. On my part, this requires as much strategizing and planning, as do hard work, honesty, generosity, authenticity, and a genuine willingness to be helpful to my readers.

When it comes to Medium, however, I’m a much more selfish writer.

What do I mean?

Well, don’t get me wrong, I love making money from my writing as much as the next blogger. But at the same time, I treat Medium as a place to unload. I do not confine myself to a niche, as I do here on TSB. Here, almost all of my content is razor-focused on helping fellow bloggers. On Medium, however, I share more. Sometimes I write about my ideas and take on the current political climate, sometimes I write about race and gender issues, sometimes I share personal opinions and anecdotes.

Basically, anything and everything I wish to write about. It helps me unwind, and explore areas I do not otherwise do on this blog.

That said, it’s not like I forget about the platform. Every proprietary platform (as opposed to a personal WordPress blog which you own) comes with its rules and practices that a writer has to abide by and can benefit from. While I take my liberties as far as topics are concerned, I still play by Medium’s rules to maximize the impact my stories may have, in terms of reaching the maximum number of audience, as well as make as much money as possible.

And seeing how I have been writing on Medium for over a year now (almost as long as I’ve been blogging here on TSB), I feel that I am qualified to talk to you about Medium, point out the critical differences between your WordPress blog and Medium blog, and how to start a Medium blog, followed by some good practices to maximize your impact on this platform.


The Differences between a WordPress Blog and a Medium Blog

A personal blog such as this one, the kind that you self-host on WordPress, for example, is something you fashion yourself. You decide the rules for your blog. You decide who can write on your blog. You determine the look and feel, you do your own branding, you choose your topics; basically, you’re the boss.

Of course, there are good practices (which is what I talk about here on TSB most of the times), but essentially, it’s still your own space. Just like owning a house, you decide what goes on in your home, you choose how to furnish it, you decide how often you clean it, etc.

Medium is different. It is a unique blogging platform that is very much like social media platforms, but with long-form content, along with the opportunity to make money from your posts–commonly referred to as “stories”–based on Medium paid member interactions on your stories. I’ll go over this more in detail shortly, but for now, I just want you to understand that just like social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter allows only its members to interact on its content, Medium also has a similar structure.

Please note that from here on forth, the terms “article,” “story,” or “post” are one and the same. 

Again, this is a bit more complicated than that, but I will explain the similarities and the differences more in detail soon.

Going back to the main difference, with your WordPress blog, you decide the rules of the game, but with Medium, you play by their rules.

Below I will point out some other significant differences in these two platforms:

[Related: How to Start a WordPress Blog with SiteGround Hosting]

One of the Differences is in the Potential to Make Money

Medium is for writers, or for those who love writing.

And while blogging anywhere requires that you enjoy writing to a certain degree, I must point out that, even if you happen to be a so-so writer, you still have the potential to make quite a large sum of money with a personal blog on WordPress than with Medium.

The reason being, with your blog on WordPress, you can diversify how you make money. You can do things like affiliate marketing, you can write sponsored posts in exchange for money from companies and brands, you can run ads, you can sell products right on your blogging platform, and much more!

With Medium, your main commodity is your writing. The quality, the quantity, as well as the content of your writing, play a big part. Also, Medium doesn’t like it when you sell. So, no affiliate marketing or sponsored posts are allowed. And of course, no ads!

How Much Money Can a Medium Writer Make?

As a paid Medium member (will talk more about membership tiers soon), I get an email from Medium each month with stats from the previous month, things like, what was the maximum amount earned by a writer, the maximum amount earned with a single story, the percentage of Medium writers who made money, and the percentage of Medium writers who made over $100.

Here are the stats for August 2019:

Medium stats for August 2019

As you can see, only 57% of writers made money. And as you can also see, only 7.4% of them made over $100. So, an overwhelming number of writers made less than $100 on Medium.

But, look at the maximum amount made by one single writer. It’s 19K! That’s a lot of money. However, I also have to point out that it’s not a given. This maximum amount earned varies significantly from month to month. Some months this amount is 8 or 9K. A little more on some others. If I were to guess, I’d say on average, this number is more around 12 – 15K.

From what I hear from other Medium writers, to make that kind of money, you have to write a LOT. Basically, one of the top earners on Medium, Shannon Ashley, once shared that she writes every day and often publishes more than one story per day. That’s a lot of writing, and not just any writing… high-quality writing! I guarantee that if you spent that kind of time writing and as much on your WordPress blog, you’d make 19 or 20K with your personal blog in no time, and possibly much more!

To give an example, I write on TSB on average about once a week. I’m only a part-time blogger and spend no more than 10-15 hours per week on this blog as of yet. In August, I sold around 1.7K worth of products (affiliate products, my list-building course,  and templates from my blog shop).

So, while 19K seems like a lot, considering only one person made that amount, and only a little over 7% of writers made anything over just a hundred bucks, I say that you have a better chance of making that kind of money from a traditional WordPress blog than from writing on Medium.

This is a good time to break down how Medium writers make money.

How Medium Writers Make Money

You see, Medium, like I mentioned earlier, is like a social media platform with long-form content. You have to have an account to write on this platform, and most readers are also members of this platform, and likely, fellow writers.

To make money from your stories, you will need to lock your story behind a paywall. Once you do that, your story becomes eligible to make money. The amount you make is based on how many paid Medium members engage with your story, primarily through their applause. (Instead of “like,” readers on Medium “clap,” and a reader can clap anywhere between 1 and 50 times.) The more the paid members interact with your stories, the more money you make.

Let’s look at the membership system now. You have two membership tiers. A free membership, and a paid membership. The paid membership is $5 per month.

The difference between the free and the paid memberships are these:

  • A free member can only have access to up to 3 stories on Medium that are locked behind a paywall. They can, however, read as many open (not locked behind a paywall) stories as they want.
  • A free member’s claps do not count towards making money for the writers (I’ll explain why shortly).
Zulie Rane has 3.2K claps for one of her recent stories.
Zulie Rane has 3.2k claps in one of her recent stories! Which likely means a lot of $$$

Now, here’s the thing. The money a writer makes comes from that $5 that a paid member pays Medium. Medium keeps a small cut, but most of this money is then distributed to writers whose work the paid members have enjoyed. And then, based on engagement, and as stated previously, mostly based on the number of claps, the money gets distributed. So, to summarize, the money that a writer can make depends on these factors:

  1. Whether the story is locked behind a paywall. Only the stories locked behind a paywall will be eligible to make money.
  2. The number of paid members who interact and engage with a story that is locked behind the paywall.
  3. The number of claps a writer gets on the eligible stories.

So, if you love to read and you want to help a writer whose work you’ve enjoyed, you should probably sign up for the paid account on Medium that costs only as much as a Starbucks latte.

Another Main Difference is in the Content Itself

Traditional blogging requires you to focus on a niche. It’s also helpful when you solve a problem for your readers. Unless of course, you’re a lifestyle blogger. Rules are a little different for that, but usually, even lifestyle bloggers tend to focus on specific topics or categories only.

Medium is very different in that respect. The readers on this platform are actually people who love to do just that — Read! They are not necessarily looking for a solution to a specific problem. They’re here to read about other people’s opinions, their stories, to connect and feel a shared sense of community and purpose. You will read about all kinds of things here. About politics, about hard-to-talk-about subjects like race and religion, and much more.

To give you an example, I follow a writer on Medium who simultaneously write about US politics and policies, and also about polyamorous relationships. Talk about versatility there!

Another writer, one I mentioned previously, Shannon Ashley, writes about anything and everything. Her topics range from writing, sex, body positivity, humor, motherhood, and much more. Sometimes she legit just talks about how she is feeling on a particular day, and that’s it. And guess what? Those are some of her best writing! As I said, she is one of the top earners on Medium, and she has a TON of followers!

A personal anecdote from Shannon Ashley that received over 2.8K claps.
Here’s a personal essay/anecdote from Shannon Ashley that received over 2.8K claps!

Try and do that on a personal WordPress blog… it’d likely go nowhere! Unless you already have an army of followers that you can tap into.

The reason is that, with your personal blog, you have to promote your content. It’s hard to promote something like, for example, Why I’m Mad As Hell At My Mother Today. (That’s a hypothetical title, but would totally work on Medium!)

Actually, thinking about it now, it may work! For example, if I saw something like this on Pinterest, I’d click on it just out of sheer curiosity!

Oh well, the thing about Medium is that you already have a reader base who’s hanging around looking for content just like that! So, it makes sense to write about powerful personal essays and opinions and get your stories in front of a large number of crowd. Well, not from day-1. Just like anything else, you’ll need to put in a lot of work first. Write a lot, get followers, etc. But I’ll talk more about that soon.

Yet Another key Difference is in How You Promote Your Medium Stories

We already know of a few avenues to promote our personal blogs. Pinterest, for example, and/or social media. You also consider SEO when writing on your traditional blog. I’d say that you probably have to spend just as much time promoting a post on your personal blog, as you did writing the post itself. I’d argue and say that you’ll have to promote more than you write!

With Medium, you don’t really need to worry much about that.

I mean, I’m not saying that you cannot promote, but that you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I know tons of writers on Medium who do jack shit once they publish their posts. And yet, they get thousands of claps on their stories.

How you ask?

Well, that’s my next section.

How do Writers Start Blogging and Making Money on Medium?

One type of article I love to read on Medium is how to be successful on Medium 😉

So, here’s what I’ve learned.

To be successful on Medium, you need to write a LOT. As I was saying earlier, Shannon Ashley published at least once a day, often more! Some other Medium writers who are among the top earners on this platform have suggested the same. The Medium game is really all about writing.

Before I go more into the details of all the how-to, let me outline the Medium process first.

  • You create an account on Medium and sign up for the paid plan (optional).
  • You join the Medium partner program. By joining the Medium Partner Program, you’ll be eligible to lock your articles behind the metered paywall, and start making money.
  • You write an article on Medium, and then you publish. You can either publish as is, or you can submit the draft of your article to a publication. More on publications later.
  • When you publish, you can choose up to 5 tags. Tags are important. That’s how Medium shows relevant content to readers who’re looking for content similar to what you’re written. For example, if you write a story on self-improvement, Medium is more likely to show your story to those who like reading articles on that topic. I, along with many Medium gurus suggest that you use all 5 tags.
  • When you publish, there’s a checkbox–it’s checked by default–that says your story is going to be locked behind a paywall. If you do not wish to make money from your story, you can uncheck this box.
  • After you publish, if it is locked behind the paywall, your story automatically gets cued for Medium editors to review and see if it can be added to any of Medium’s native topics. It’s called “curation.” Typically, stories that get curated get more exposure. Medium tends to show these stories more often to readers who it thinks may be interested in the post. The curation process is entirely manual. As in, an actual person goes through each and every article on Medium that’s submitted behind the paywall. Like I said, Medium rewards well written, quality content.
  • When readers find your article, they read it if they’re interested, and then if they like it, they clap. And behind the scenes, these claps translate into money per some mysterious algorithm. An earning period is from one Sunday to the next. And the weekly earnings are posted on your Medium dashboard every Wednesday, for the previous earning period.
  • You get paid once a month, at the end of the last earning period.

Now, let’s go through each of them, one by one.

Create Your Medium Account

And preferably sign up for the paid account because really, if you want to blog on Medium and make money from it, you’ll have to read what others are doing on this platform. Three free articles per month won’t cut it (remember, you can have access to three metered articles per month with a free account.) Also, the $5 per month goes into compensating other writers on Medium. If you want to make money, it only makes sense that you contribute too. It’s only fair. Also, come on, it’s only $5.

I’m not going to go into the details of how to create an account because it’s pretty self-explanatory. You go to Medium, enter your name, email address, etc., and create an account. Once that’s done, you’ll see an “Upgrade’ button next to your profile picture on the top of the page. Just click on that, add your payment information and voila!

Join the Medium Partner Program

You need to do this step to make money from your stories. It’s simple and takes a few minutes. Click on your profile image, and locate “Medium Partner Program” from the dropdown, click on it. In the next page, scroll down to the button that says, “Join the Medium Partner Program.” Agree to the terms, and then follow the prompts to set up your payment method.

Please note that Medium processes all its payments via Stripe. If you’re in a country where you don’t have access to Stripe, unfortunately, you can’t enjoy the Medium Partner Program benefits. You can still be a part of the platform, and read and write, but you won’t be able to make money from it.

After you fill out payment information, you may be asked to fill out your taxpayer information. Finish all the necessary paperwork and boom! You’re done! Now you can write on Medium and start making money!

You have to join the Medium Partner Program in order to start making money.

Write and Publish a Story

To write an article, click on your profile image, and then choose “New Story.” This will open up a new story editor. Medium prefers a particular style.

Something like this:

A typical story on Medium
A story by one of my favorite Medium writers, Jessica Wildfire.

As you can see above, a story has a title, a subtitle, a featured image, and then the body part starts.

Medium comes with a lot of built-in formatting options. It’s pretty intuitive, and you should be able to figure out most of it on your own if you just play around with it a little. Here’s a video of some of the simple features:

As you can see in the video, Medium has a nifty feature. Unsplash (the free stock photo site) is integrated on Medium, so, when you click on the magnifying glass (after you click on the plus-sign to add a new element), you can search for photos with a keyword. When you pick a photo, it also automatically copies the attribution link.

But otherwise, as you can see, it’s pretty straight-forward.

When you publish, make sure to add appropriate tags, and also make sure that the checkbox to make your story eligible to earn money is checked. By default, it should be. In case you’re publishing an article that you do not want to make money from, you have to uncheck that box.

Finally, once everything is looking great, hit the “Publish” button.

To Publish On Your Account or on a Publication?

So, Medium has publications. Anyone can create one. Even you can create one. Some people use publications like blogs, some others publish on other people’s publication, and sometimes people choose to publish straight–without a publication.

The perks of joining a publication are that you can tap into the viewers of that publication. If you join a big one that has lots of visitors and followers, you can get these people to see your story too.

The bigger a publication, the harder it is to join.

Different publications have different rules for joining. When you start getting more active on Medium, you’ll begin to notice publications that you’ll like. Some publications only publish tech-related articles. Some publish fiction. Some others publish articles on writing.

When you join Medium, look around and try to find some publications you like and would want to be a part of. Check out their submission guidelines, and then reach out per instructions.

As a new writer, it may be difficult to get picked in the beginning. Don’t lose heart. You can still do pretty well even without publishing on publications. Focus on writing well so that your stories get noticed by editors and they get curated. More on it shortly.

To add your story to a publication, click on the three dots on top of the page, next to your profile photo (refer to the video above). This will give you the option to add your draft to a publication. Please note that to add your draft, you must already have been approved to be a writer of that publication. Once you add your draft, you can go ahead and use the Publish button to get to the next step. You can pick your tags here and then when you publish, instead of posting right away, it alerts the publication editor/owner that a new article has been submitted. At this point, your job is done. When your article is approved, it will be published by that publication’s editor.

Use All 5 Tags

Tags are important because that’s how Medium knows what your story is about. For example, if you write about sexuality and tag accordingly, your articles will be shown the those who read similar articles.

Always try and use all 5 tags. That way, you increase your chances of visibility. For example, if you’re writing on sexuality, other than “sexuality,” some other relevant tags may be “gender,” “feminism,” “equality,” “women,” “men,” “transgender,” and so on. Make sure they are relevant!

Before you publish your story, make sure to add all 5 tags, and also make sure the checkbox for making money is checked. by default it should already be.

The Curation Process

Once you have hit publish, your job is done.

Now the wait begins!

Well, once an article is published, it is live, but the curation process can take a few hours. Usually, if it isn’t curated, there’s that. But if it does get curated, then you’ll get a notification (shown next to your profile image.)

And in case you’ve forgotten, the process of curation is something that’s done by Medium editors. Every single story that’s locked behind a metered paywall is personally reviewed by an editor. If the editor likes your story, it gets “curated” in one of Medium’s topics.

Now, do not confuse tags with topics. Tags are used to distribute and show articles to the right audience. Topics are like categories, and the only way to be added to one of these topics is if a Medium editor personally adds your story to this topic.

Not all of your stories will get curated, and that’s OK. Just continue to improve your writing style, read a lot, check out stories that are in topics that you’d like to be curated on, and see how you can improve your articles to give them a better chance at being curated.

Also note that the curation process depends on factors you have no handle over. You may write a fantastic article, but it still may not get curated because the editor reviewing your article was in a bad mood…

Just stay patient and persevere!

The Payment

You can see how much you have made in a week each Wednesday. Each pay period is one Sunday to the next. But the amount of money you’ve earned is posted on Wednesdays. To see this information, click on your profile image and choose “Medium Partner Program.”

You get paid once a month, at the end of the last pay-period for that month, on Wednesdays.

As for how you make money… there are many theories, and none of us know any better than the other. What we do know for sure is that how much we earn has to do with how many claps you get from paid members of Medium. Also, note that each paid member contributes only $5 (likely less because Medium takes a small cut). So, if a reader tends to read a lot and applause a lot, you’ll probably make a very small amount from this one reader even if they gave you 50 claps–the maximum number of claps you can receive from one reader.

On the other hand, if a different reader doesn’t clap too generously, you may make more money from just one clap than you did from 50 claps from the other reader.

In my opinion, what matters is not so much how many claps you get from each reader, but more like, how many paid readers clap your story.

Tips on Making Money from Your Medium Stories

The general rule of thumb seems to be this set of things:

  • Write well.
  • Write a LOT. I’d suggest 3 or 4 stories per week at least. Most top earners publish daily!
  • Always pay attention to trends on Medium. Things that worked just 6 months ago do not work now. The platform is continually evolving, and the way to stay in the game is to be observant and adopt any changes necessary.
  • Try to get accepted into publications. I don’t know the validity of this, but in my personal experience, my stories seem to have a higher chance of getting curated when I publish on a prominent publication rather than stand-alone on my account.
  • The more followers you have, the higher the chances of making more money. Because not all of your stories will get curated. But even so, if you have a large following, chances are that your followers will still see your new story and will read and clap, and you’ll make money. Some people like to play the follow-for-follow game on Medium, and personally, I don’t think this works. Not on Medium or on any other social media platform. Just write well, and write often, and you’ll see your followers grow. I currently have around 950+ followers, and guess how many I follow? Only 87. But I follow these guys because I love their work, not because I want them to follow me back. My followers grew organically as I kept writing on this platform.

Do not be impatient. Medium is not a make-money-fast scheme. It usually takes time like any other blog and business or blog-business.

So, Should You Blog On Medium?

Here’s what I understand. A traditional blog requires a lot of work to get it off the ground. You have to promote a lot, implement all sorts of strategies to grow your blog that has nothing to do with writing.

If the idea behind starting a blog for you was to write a lot, then you may get frustrated with all the work you have to put into a traditional blog that’s just grinding and not writing.

If that’s the case, then Medium is perfect for you! Because on Medium, you already have a reader base, so, all you really need to do is write a lot of good stuff and then publish.

On the other hand, if you do not mind the promotions, the strategizing, the plannings, the maintenance, basically all that comes with a traditional, WordPress blog, then that’s what you should do. Because the rewards of a traditional blog are, in my opinion, much more! You can implement different strategies to make money, a process which I enjoy very much. You can also build a community around your blog, which you don’t on Medium.

On the other hand, on Medium, you have a chance to interact with other writers who are doing great things! Greater than perhaps yours. The opportunity to be on the same platform as these writers is an honor!

And if you’re like me, perhaps you start a traditional blog on a particular niche, but then also write on Medium occasionally to write about the other stuff that you cannot on your traditional blog.

Remember, you do not own Medium. On the other hand, you do own your WordPress blog. So, naturally, there’s a trade-off no matter which way you’re leaning.

But in any case, Medium is a legit platform and an excellent place to start writing on the side to make some disposable cash.

So, what do you think? Will you try writing on Medium? Or are you already a writer there? If so, how has your experience been so far? Let me know in the comments!

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Everything you need to know about starting a blog on the Medium platform, and whether or not you should!

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