To summarize the concept, Medium is like a blog-slash-social media platform. If WordPress and Twitter had a baby that could pay you for writing, that would be Medium.
I came to Medium in September of 2018 with zero professional writing background — just a desire to write about my cats. In the three years since, I’ve made over $70K writing on Medium in the last three years. $40K of that is from the last 12 months alone! To average it out, that means I’m getting paid about $3.4K per month to write on Medium.
Beyond the royalty payments from Medium, I have also used it as a vehicle to grow and build a six-figure blogging business. Today, I have my own website, YouTube channel, and freelance writing business.
In my long Medium career, I’ve had times when I was publishing once or even twice(!) per day, and months when I didn’t write at all. Nowadays, I write 800-1500 word articles on Medium about twice per week. I have 32k followers and get between 80K-200K views on my Medium blog per month.
If that sounds appealing to you, read on.
What is Medium?
Medium is a blogging platform where anyone can start reading and writing. It’s free to start writing with a Medium account. Anyone can start writing on Medium for free. Writers can lock their content behind a paywall (available to read for paid Medium subscribers only,) or keep it free for all to read.
Who Should Consider Writing on Medium
There will be people who read the introduction above and think Medium is a get-rich-quick platform. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to make money writing on Medium, the most crucial requirement is that you love writing.
Anyone can go viral on Medium. You can get tons of views writing about cats, self-help, your life stories, and more. But only if you’re genuinely in this because you love writing, not just because you think it’s a quick way to earn some money easily.
No one topic is better than another. One writer will be able to find a broad niche focusing on relationships, like Sira Mas. Another, like Ashley Richmond, will find her audience enjoys her writing on health and fitness. I personally have found my audience loves my business and entrepreneurship posts. As long as you’re able to find a way to introduce value for the reader in your stories, you’ll find an audience for whatever it is you want to write about.
The only requirement is that you need to be able to publish with some frequency. For beginners, if you’re happy to grow slowly and steadily, I recommend a minimum of once per week. However, the more you write, the better. You’ll be able to practice your skills, learn what topics you love writing in, and what your audience responds best to. (A quick note: as a rule, quality is more important than quantity. Churning out lousy content will not get you far. Writing a lot as a practice, with an active aim to improve, is not the same as cranking out listicles.)
You’ll also need an experimental mindset. On Medium, it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. One day you’ll get accepted by your dream publication, and the next day you’ll be rejected from a small publication. You’ll have a story get 200 views, then you’ll have one that gets two views. If you want to succeed in the long term, you need the ability to look at your performance analytically.
Things A New Medium Writer Should Keep in Mind
As you begin writing on Medium, you should expect three things: hard work, an incredible community, and an unbelievably rewarding journey.
Let’s tackle that first one. On Medium, as I warned above, you should be ready to put in a lot of work. You might go viral early on, but it’s far more likely that you’ll slowly build an audience. There’s an element of luck, but not much. I find that writers who blame their performance on the algorithm are the ones least capable of putting in the hours to learn what performs well and what their audience simply doesn’t want from them anymore.
Along the way, you’ll also find a great community. Writers are amazing people who help each other grow. In fact, I found my writing feet with a Medium Facebook group. The one I recommend to newbies nowadays is the Medium Writing Academy, run by my friend Sinem. These are great for getting feedback on your work, tips on navigating Medium, and even a follower or two you can count on.
Finally, you can definitely expect a rewarding journey. You might not know where Medium will take you — I had no idea it would lead to me setting up my own freelance and ghostwriting business(!) — but you’ll learn a ton along the way. There are ups and downs like any journey. But at the end of the day, you’re writing on a great platform, improving your writing skills, and getting paid to do it.
A Quick Guide to Setting up Medium
Now let’s get into the actual meat of the article. By now, you should be crystal clear on whether Medium is the blogging place for you. Let’s talk about how to get it all set up. The initial process is self-explanatory. All you have to do is follow the prompts to sign up for Medium with a new account. The things that you really need to pay attention are these:
Decide if you’re going to write under your own name or a pen name
Writing can make you vulnerable! Sometimes, you just don’t want your employers, family members, or acquaintances to know what you write about.
I write under a pen name because it lets me keep a shield between my writing and real life. It also means I control my branding. I am the only Zulie Rane blogging, whereas my real name is very common. Decide now if you want a pen name, and if so, what you want it to be.
Now you can set up an email. I recommend creating a new Gmail account — whether you write under your own name or a pen name — just so you can keep all your Medium stuff in one place. Gmail also makes it super easy to log in and create an account with Medium.
Now go to Medium.com and create your account and profile. The four things you need to worry about right now are your picture, your bio, your name, and your handle.
Your profile picture should be crisp and clear and unique
On Medium, you’re writing primarily on a platform that doesn’t belong to you. If you want readers to know and remember you, your profile picture is super important to help differentiate you from Medium — the platform — and the other writers on it. If you’re really precious about your identity, you can do a cartoon version of yourself (like Your Fat Friend), or a stock image, or a picture of yourself from the back, or holding something in front of your face.
Keep your bio simple
What interests you? What are your qualifications? What’s a fun fact about you? And where do you want potential readers to go? For example, I say that I am a content creator and a cat mom, and I send people to sign up for my newsletter. If you have a social media profile, you can send them there.
Pay attention to the name and handle
Your name is listed as the author of your stories, so just your first and last name (or pen name). Your handle is the @ where people can tag you. It will also be part of your Medium URL. Just make sure it matches up with your profile name (real name or pen name) so people can easily find your work and tag you if need be.
Optional but highly recommended: become a paid Medium member
Becoming a paid Medium member [referral link] means you have to pay $5 per month to read unlimited articles. You don’t have to, but it makes it much easier to earn money on Medium. By reading and commenting on an unlimited number of stories, you’ll be able to build relationships with your readers and other writers on the platform, which will be really helpful to grow your own presence on the platform.
You’ll also be able to conduct a lot of market research. On Medium, I read for entertainment and also to understand what readers are finding engaging. Many of my viral stories are written after I read another popular story and got inspired about the topic or an angle I could use to engage my readers.
Finally, it means you get to support other writers like you who deserve to be paid for their writing work. It’s nice to be nice!
How to Start Making Money on Medium
Now comes the juicy part that everyone loves to hear about: making money on Medium. There are two ways to do it: through the partner program, and through the referral program.
The Medium Partner Program
The best way to make a lot of money on Medium is by joining Medium’s Partner Program, called the MPP. The only caveat is that in order to apply for the partner program, you’ll need to have at least 100 followers. But worry not, because that’s what I’ll be talking about in the next section.
Once you’ve joined the partner program, every time a paying Medium member reads one of your stories, you earn a small portion of their membership fee depending on how long they spend reading your story and how many other stories they read that month. It sounds simple, but in fact, quite difficult to accomplish. In short, you’ll need to write a lot of quality content that people would want to read. For example, write stories that have:
- exceptional headlines, so people click
- engaging intros, so they stay
- gripping flow, so they read to the bottom
I’ve created a LOT of resources on those subjects. Here’s my video on how to write highly clickable titles. Here’s my video on how to plumb the tag pages for ideas on what to write. Here’s my video on how to write engaging stories. Here’s my video to help you understand which topics earn you the most money since it’s different for everyone!
The cool thing that is you keep getting paid as long as you get views. Frequently, I’ll see a story I wrote weeks or even months ago get a surprising jump in earnings. As new readers join the platform, most of my stories continue earning pennies or dollars each month, which adds up fast.
Medium Referral Program
The second way to earn money is very new: the referral system. When someone chooses to become a Medium member by using your referral link, you get 50% of their monthly Medium membership fee for as long as they’re a paying member. This is small, but I expect it to grow. I’ve been adding the referral link at the end of my stories for the past month. Right now, I have about 20 referrals, making me roughly $45 per month.
The main thing to remember is that it’s a long game. The longer you write, the more of a tail you’ll get. The longer you write, the bigger and more committed audience you’ll build. The longer you write, the better you’ll understand the platform, your audience, and how you can write stories that drive views and referrals.
How to Get Your First 100 Followers
To join the Medium Partner Program, you need 100 followers. They do this to weed out anyone who isn’t serious about building their audience. There are three strategies to help you get there as fast as possible.
Join a few publications
Hold up, you say! What’s a publication?
On Medium, when you publish an article, it will go to your profile, but you can also submit drafts to publications. These publications are themed collections of articles organized by an editor, usually just a regular writer on Medium. For example, Creatures is a publication about animals run by Darby Days. If you are accepted at a publication, it can mean potentially thousands of eyes on your work, even if you have zero followers. Here’s an example of what I mean: I created a brand new account with no followers and experimented with publishing just on my profile, and submitting a draft to Books Are Our Superpower. After I published in BAOS, I got 10 followers!
I recommend finding publications by browsing tag pages. Go to a tag you like by adding it to the URL of Medium. For example, Medium.com/tag/writing pulls up all the stories tagged in writing. You can then filter to see the most popular by time frame. There, you can find a suitable publication that has an active and engaged audience.
Publications are SO critical for building an audience on Medium, especially as a beginner. I created a comprehensive course that covers everything you need to know about finding publications, getting accepted by them, building relationships with editors, and even creating your own publication.
Write stories that get curated
This is something pretty unique to Medium, so bear with me as I explain.
Essentially, Medium wants to show high-quality content to readers, so it runs most stories through a process it calls curation or distribution. If your story gets curated, it means it will be shown to readers who are interested in the topic in which it was curated, but who may not necessarily follow you. Think of it as a quality control system. You can see whether your story was chosen for distribution by going to your stats page (medium.com/me/stats) and selecting “details” on any individual story. There, you’ll see “chosen for further distribution” or nothing at all.
They don’t do this for new writers easily, so you will have to write a lot of quality content before you start getting picked up for curation review. However, if you can publish your stories in a reputable publication, then you have a better chance of getting curated, even if you’re a brand new writer. Medium outsourced a lot of its curation to publications. For example, Books Are Our Superpower has curation powers for the “Books” topic. If you get published by BAOS, BAOS themselves will curate your story.
The best way to find out which publications have “auto-curation” is by reviewing the tag pages I linked above. If one publication is dominating that tag, it’s a good sign. Also, once you publish with that publication, if you go to your story stats page and see that it was instantly curated upon being published, then that means the publication has auto-curation powers.
This is a good way to get followers because even if someone doesn’t follow you or the pub, they might follow the topic you get curated into.
Follow authors on Medium and comment on their work
This is a little faster than writing, going for publications, and aiming for curation. Find authors you like, follow them, and leave a comment. If they like your work, they might follow you back.
You can also do follow-for-follow threads on various Facebook groups. I don’t recommend it because it’s not super sustainable and remember, followers don’t earn you money; reads do. But still, it can get you over that particular requirement of having 100 followers so you can join the partner program.
These three methods, when used together, are a great way to get to your 100 follower requirement and start earning money on Medium.
Other Benefits of Writing on Medium Aside from Making Money
Maybe you’re not in it for the money! If you’re not that concerned with an income on Medium, there are still tons of benefits to writing on Medium.
You can use Medium to host your writing portfolio for free. You can use it to gain freelance clients — here’s my video where I interviewed one of my clients who found me on Medium and then hired me. Here’s my follow-up workshop where I taught other writers how to do the same.
It’s also a good way to promote anything else you have or do, such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook page, maybe your own business. Jotform founder Aytekin Tank uses Medium as a lead generator for his business, and he does it shockingly well.
It’s a fantastic way to grow your newsletter, which is a prerequisite for anyone who wants to build an online business. About 85% of my newsletter subscribers come from my Medium profile.
Frequently Asked Questions about Medium
I'm not based in the US. Can I still write and make money on Medium?
Anyone can create an account on Medium for free and start writing. However, unfortunately, Medium Partner Program — which is the main way of making money on Medium — is available to only a selected number of countries. To learn whether your country is eligible or not, please refer to the Medium Partner Program guidelines.
Can I write fiction and poetry on Medium?
Of course! You can write fiction, non-fiction, poetry, opinions, whatever have you. Medium has room for all kinds of writers! Even some cartoonists and photographers!
I only write for fun. Do I have to be on a weekly or monthly publishing schedule?
No, but if you want to make money from Medium, then you must publish quality content frequently. Especially so if you're new on the platform. That said, if money is not an issue, then you can publish at your convenience. Also, Medium Partner Program requires you to publish at least one story within a six-month period (as of writing this), FYI.
Who owns the articles I publish on Medium?
You do. You have full ownership over your content.
Can I republish my blog posts from my website on Medium, or vice versa?
Yes. In fact, Medium has a nifty syndication tool that allows you to import your blog post from certain other platforms (for example, you can easily import one of your WordPress blog posts on Medium.)
Medium can open doors for things that you can’t even imagine yet. When I started, I thought I’d be writing about my cats. Instead, I ended up starting a YouTube channel, a freelance writing business, and my own blog. If nothing else, I’ve found Medium to be a wonderful place to simply write. I can’t possibly predict what it could do for you, but I’m excited to find out!
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