How I Made 1722$ On Medium Last Month
One of the most important things I have learnt from being a freelancer is that it doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself, to be coy about money matters. Exchanging information with others gives us more power to make smart financial and entrepreneurial decisions, to demand more money from potential clients and not waste time on work that will ultimately not be worth it. That’s why, after having my best month ever on Medium, I wanted to share a few of the tips and techniques I learned from it. Because I am a barefoot flower wearing hippy, and so I can happily gush about how we are all in this together.
First, a breakdown of my earnings: I made a total of 1722$ for a total of ten published stories in the month of March. This means I was earning around 80$ an hour for my work on Medium. Most of my earnings came from my freshly published stories, although around $200 came from stories published up to two years ago. About 1000$ of my total earnings came from one story: What is “Male Idiot Theory”? which went viral with 52 000 views. This piece isn’t my favorite, nor my most in-depth or best written. But it does make the reader curious, and is easily shareable on social media.
Going viral is the only way
This is the first thing I have learned about Medium: the only way to make big money is to have articles go viral. The algorithm doesn’t seem to be linear: if I get 10 times more views, I will earn more than 10 times as much. Whereas on the old version of the partner program, you could expect quite consistent earnings from your pieces, today it varies widely, from peanuts to thousands of dollars.
So how to go viral? This is a tricky question. I do have an inkling about the sort of articles likely to go viral: they are often newsy, they have a catchy title that makes people curious, they are easily shareable, they are a little provocative or thought-provoking. If you tick all of those boxes, your article will generally do well. But there is a big step between doing well and going viral, and I feel like the latter happens randomly. There is a big chunk of luck involved.
Persistence is key
Until you find the magic formula to make every article go viral — which can happen, once you have built your following, Medium is very much a numbers game. You can’t be sure when you will go viral, so you have to put pieces out there that have a good shot at being successful, and then let the internet do its thing. Part of the game is knowing that some articles will get you 10$, some will get you 300$, and then for some unknown reason, an article will get you $2000. It’s a numbers game.
Be Yourself — This is where your plus-value comes from
What can you bring to Medium? This is the most important thing to ask yourself when deciding what you want to write about. The wonderful thing about this platform is that there are no gatekeepers. While mainstream media remains dominated by straight, white men, Medium is a place where people from all walks of life can make their voices heard, and your unique life experience is what will attract people to your articles. This doesn’t mean that women should only write about women’s issues, or that black people should only write about racism, but that being yourself is always the best bet on Medium. People will be attracted to genuine writing, to personal stories, or to articles about those things that really interest you. Your plus-value is your personality and your life experience. Follow that, and your readers will find you.
Medium helps your business, even if you aren’t raking in the money
I know not everyone has time to do unpaid work, we are all so busy hustling, and yet if you have the opportunity to do so, it is worth investing time in Medium even when you aren’t making big money. Because Medium will contribute to your business in other ways. It is a great part of your marketing strategy as a freelance writer, a place where you can showcase your work and your voice. You can use Medium pieces as writing samples when pitching to other jobs. You can define your brand, develop your audience and find your 1000 true fans. You can hone your voice and improve your writing, with an audience that is generally very kind and responsive.
4 Small Changes to Make Right Away
With these simple steps, you will earn more next month.
1. Spend as much time on your title as you do on your entire article.
I know, this is an annoying one. I hate writing titles and like many writers, I used to not put much effort into headlines, thinking that if the rest of the article was good this wouldn’t matter. But it matters more than practically anything. Think of it this way: those 50 words will be read far more times than the other 1500 words of your piece, so it makes sense that you would spend as much time working on the title as on the rest.
A good title makes the reader curious and want to know more, without feeling like click-bait. It is concise but not vague — you need to tell a story not just invoke a theme. Picture your article shared on social media with its title: is it something you would click on if your friends shared it? This is what you should aim for. You will get better at titles as time goes on, but a good way to start is by setting yourself a timer for an hour, and force yourself to spend that entire time brainstorming titles.
2. Credit your pictures!
If you’re not already doing this, it will make a big change to your curation rates. Medium never distributes articles when it isn’t sure about the image’s copyright. So pick open-source pictures (from Unsplash or Pixabay, for example) and use their tools to credit their photographer’s. It’s creator etiquette, and will help you get your articles curated.
3. Make your articles skimmable
The way we read on the internet is very different from how we read books. We skim read, we look at subtitles and bullet points, and if we are interested, we read deeper. Breaking your articles up into easily manageable paragraphs (although preferably not the Medium classic one-line paragraph) and using subheadings, will increase viewers’ reading time, and prevent people from bookmarking your article and forgetting about it.
4. Find a news hook
While evergreen content used to be what worked on Medium, I’m increasingly finding that my articles with a news hook do better. Keep an eye on current affairs that interest you, and when something sparks an idea, write about it.
I hope these tips can help you on your Medium journey!