My Quintessential Article About Earning Money on Medium
Everyone else is doing it. I’m not generally one to hop on band wagons, but maybe in this case I will make an exception. It seems every other day I find another new Medium article written about “the way to make money” or “the one real method that works” for generating income on this website. Allow me to burst all the bubbles.
I’m still relatively new to the platform of course, so perhaps I am way off base. But I’ve been actively writing and producing what I hope is quality content for Medium for about a year now. Initially I wasn’t too concerned with generating any return on the investment, I just was happy to have found a welcoming platform for my work.
Primarily, I published poetry here at first. Generally speaking, although there is no shortage of poetry being written on Medium, if you expect a poem to ever earn you serious cash, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The most views any of my poetry has ever gotten was in the neighborhood of 3,000, and I didn’t earn more than a few cents for it, because those views were not Medium members.
This is disappointing, because poetry is my passion, and I do consider myself to be quite capable of writing some decent poems. It is my understanding that when Medium made changes to how they paid writers, doing away with pay per clap and focusing on “reading time” as their main criteria for earnings generation, it severely hurt the short form writer’s capability to get rewarded compensation for things such as poetry. Too bad.
So, lesson number one for making money on Medium: don’t be a poet. If any poets on the website actually generate a lot of income for their poetry now, I’d be happy to hear about it. One possible caveat to this would be if a poet successfully earned a large readership on the platform, and then was able to generate book sales from their earned audience. But I would consider this to also be an extreme rarity.
However, once I learned that some writers on the website were capable of earning a sustainable revenue stream, I became interested in seeing what the possibilities were. I joined some facebook groups and learned the ropes a bit, and became friends with several veterans of the site who pointed me toward publications to submit work to and how to get curated more often. I was shocked to learn that the really popular writers on the site were earning monthly payments in the six digit realm. This really blew my mind.
I took some folks’ advice and joined some publications. I then started writing a lot about some of my other passions, including freedom of speech, religion, and politics. It did not take long for me to realize the amazing capability of what a viral hit on an article could do for my bank account. However, I also learned a valuable lesson, in that just because an article goes viral, it does not in any way guarantee you a return.
My first truly viral article was one I wrote debunking the myths of a conspiracy theory video that was making the rounds on social media. It was about the Plandemic movie, and its “doctor” Judy Mikovits. This article went into the stratosphere in terms of views, most of which were sourced from Google searches, and viral spread on social media. In one day it went over 60,000 views. I have yet to see any other article of mine beat this record, but I am sure there are people out there who do it on a consistent basis. To date, the article has over 136k hits. I was expecting to make some good money on this, as anyone would, right? Wrong.
Since the majority of the views of my article were EXTERNAL views, I was not getting paid at all. For any of those. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. None. Medium only pays you for the INTERNAL views, and more importantly, the internal READS. The only exception to this is, I believe, if you get an external viewer to sign up for membership, which earns you a little bonus as a writer.
Look at the numbers on that article. Only 2,100 of them were from Medium members. As such, even though this article went massively viral for me, I barely cleared a hundred bucks for it. Still, it was this article that got me my first $100 month for Medium content, and it really showcased the potential of what could be done.
I asked around about what I could have done differently for this piece, and learned from some stupid mistakes. When I wrote it, I made dumb errors, such as I put my title in all caps, and I did not put captions on my photos. These things get you auto-disqualified from curation. And that is the biggest lesson I learned here. Curation (now called simply distribution) is nearly essential to earning views within the platform.
Therefore, lesson number two: try to get curated. Follow the curation guidelines. Produce quality content. This only increases your odds of success.
The next viral article I had on Medium was one I wrote about censorship within the modern poetry community, and how it impacted the most prestigious literary magazine in the country (maybe the world) in that it caused the Editor in Chief of the magazine to lose his job. I use viral here very loosely, as this article earned in the neighborhood of 15,000 views. Again it was mostly external, so it cemented the lessons of the first viral hit, in that I earned less than 8o bucks for that piece.
It was once I started focusing mainly on political articles that I began to hit my stride. Like most Americans, I have been forced to follow the political antics of the nation’s leadership, more out of horror and necessity for personal safety and knowledge than anything else, but within this need I found a passion for wanting to instill in others how much change is needed for the country. Once I started writing a lot on this subject, I found I was getting curated more often than not, earning more followers, and slowly gaining ground in reader stats.
My third major article hit showcased for me exactly how much potential income a person could make on Medium if they were dedicated to swinging for the fences, and willing to put the effort in. In September I wrote the article What if Trump Wins? about the upcoming election. That article took off and WAS curated, so the majority of the views were internal. For two months, this article generated some major returns for me. It earned me over $1000 dollars, and gave me a first $1000 earning month. This was one article. Imagine if somehow you produced content in which you had multiple articles hitting these kind of numbers at the same time? This is where the true potential lies.
My third lesson is then: keep producing quality content that will compound over time with accrued earnings. To do this your articles have to have long legs, meaning people will keep coming back to them. They have to be ageless. Politics is probably not the best subject to try and achieve this with, but also, politics is a subject that is a revolving door of endless content potential. Political content is by default dated, and will lose its value over time. This is why many Medium writers seem to focus on creating listicles, or other “default” content such as “relationship” pieces, or “self-help” pieces. If that type of content gets a viral upswing, it could potentially go much further for you.
I say you must keep producing content, because even if you are capable of consistently writing quality articles and publishing on a routine basis, there is no guarantee of reward. For instance, I have probably written somewhere around 100 political articles since tackling that subject, and only three of them have become popular. Writing for Medium is therefore a kind of numbers game. The more you participate in the game, the more likely you are to catch the lucky break.
The most recent “viral” article I wrote was another political piece about Trump, and about his challenging of the election results. I wrote it in November, and even though it was “distributed” it took it two weeks to somehow hit a viral wave. In one day it spiked to over 6,000 views, and racked up hundreds of hours of reading time.
I earned a good chunk of change for that article, but it didn’t have longevity, and quickly bottomed out, unlike what happened with the other one about Trump. This goes to show just how inconsistent the results can be, and why trying to rely on viral article revenue can be a gamble.
So, what are the key takeaways here? I’m not sure. I’m still learning. One thing is clear though, there is a heck of a lot of potential for making money on this platform. There just doesn’t seem to be, to me at least, any tried and true method of success. It’s mostly an indiscernible combination of talent, determination, consistency, and LUCK. Anyone who has earned enough stripes here to maintain a dependable income stream is truly the luckiest of the lucky.
All a writer can do, is write the best articles or pieces that they know how to write, and just keep plugging away, waiting for those magic moments when somehow an audience appreciates it, and wants to show it to someone else.