Lessons Learned From A Month On Medium

August was my first month of actively publishing on the site and I learned a lot in the last 30 days

When I started out on Medium in April I made a list of 52 article ideas, with the intention of posting at least once a week. These article concepts were not time sensitive, and did little to engage with current affairs. My early stats were disappointing — I only got 120 page views, 72 reads and 90 claps in my first two months on the site after writing about my parents’ attitude to technology and the lessons I learned from my younger siblings.

Disillusioned at first, I stopped writing in favour of voraciously reading every story I could on Medium.

Write and publish as much as you can — but not at the expense of quality!

After spending hours reading articles from established Medium writers who earn a living from writing on the site, I realised very quickly that I needed to increase my output if I was to have any hope of success. Some of my favourite writers on Medium publish anywhere between once and three times a day!

I have a full-time job in Marketing so can’t really commit to more than a story a day, but I resolved to try and write at least that. Sometimes, on quieter Sundays I knew I would be able to produce more than one piece to schedule for busier days later in the week. I also commute to London for my part-time journalism course two days a week so I knew that I would have at least 6 hours in which I could definitely write.

Luckily I’m a fast typist and my work doesn’t require too much editing (although I do like to come back to every piece with a fresh pair of eyes), so I knew that roughly one piece a day was a realistic output for me without compromising on quality. But if your writing is prone to lots of errors you should definitely publish less, and edit more.

Write content across a wide range of topics

Another lesson I learned while reading articles from some of my favourite veteran Medium writers is that it’s important to be a generalist: this means writing about anything and everything that you are remotely interested in.

The unique tonal combination of objectivity and subjectivity on Medium means that you don’t have to be an expert to share your views on a topic, which is exactly why I’ve weighed in with my opinions about a number of subjects, from parenting to privacy, from social media to sexuality!

As a writer, I feel most comfortable writing about technology and journalism, particularly the way social media is informing the way we consume and produce news.

It’s not about you — it’s about the readers!

But at the same time, I know this content doesn’t float everyone’s boat — I’ve had enough conversations with friends to realise that sometimes people just want to talk about their day rather than debate abstract hypothetical situations in which robots could rule the world, or unpick the very real phenomenon of social media undermining democracy.

This is why I resolved to write articles that will appeal to the average Joe, in addition to articles about technology, journalism and media.

Curation is great, but it’s not everything

I’ve now written 30 articles on Medium, and have dramatically increased my output from the singular articles I wrote in both April and May earlier this year. The last month has been a fairly steep learning curve; I’ve gone from having only 3 out of my first 10 articles distributed in topics to getting curated 9 times out of 10 for my most recent work.

I’ve been curated in Relationships, Self, Writing, Media, Politics, Privacy, Social Media, World, Family, Parenting, LGBTQIA+, Sexuality, Film, Business, TV, Culture, Music, Media, Gaming, Women and Equality. If that doesn’t say generalist, I don’t know what does!

Publications can give new writers a boost

Looking at my stats, I can see what went well and which stories flopped somewhat. My highest performing story in terms of reads was a piece about being an active reader that was published by The Writing Cooperative — a story which earned over 25% of my total monthly earnings to date. This supports the idea that publications can help emerging writers immensely, even if they aren’t Medium’s own in-house publications.

My technology pieces got curated by the publications The Startup and Data Driven Investor, and got generally more claps than stories published in my newly established publications, Love, Factually; The Write Thing and Lightbulb Moment. Tech/media stories make up 40% of my top five earners this month.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Read ratio is more important than other stats if you care about your writing over money

But the read and fan ratio is higher on my personal essay stories. My highest read ratio is on a piece I wrote about being sexually assaulted (88%), followed by a story about how the internet helped me come to terms with my sexuality (65%). Generally my technology pieces only have about a 40–45% read ratio, and fewer fans.

These stats are encouraging because they tell me that people find my first-person writing interesting; and indeed I’ve had lots of lovely comments expressing support. They’re mid-rankers when it comes to my earnings for this month, accruing a couple of dollars each. This suggests to me that ‘This Happened To Me’ readers might engage a lot with content, but their claps are worth less as they read more widely and applaud more generously.

You can’t predict how much a clap will equate to

Because of the wide variation in how much each reader’s clap is worth (it depends on how many claps they give you, and how many other stories they have clapped for that month), it’s only by looking at statistics across the board that I was anywhere close to predicting how well my stories would do earnings wise.

Based on my first week stats I set myself the goal of earning $40 on Medium this month.

Over the course of the last 30 days I have learned to avoid obsessing over my stats page, checking it once in the morning and once at the end of the day. Trying not to read too much into the stats has been hard, but I’ve chosen to focus on writing content that I feel personally invested in. That’s the only way I’m ever going to come close to the ideal 100% read ratio and standing ovation of 50 claps from hundreds of devoted readers.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone

Medium is not a newsroom — there are no editors breathing down our necks demanding to know why our latest piece flopped. It’s therefore the perfect platform for experimenting.

I’ve never shared short stories with others before, but I published one on Medium this month. It didn’t get distributed in topics, and it only earned me $0.07 but at the same time it was exciting putting my work out there for others to interact with. I’m sure I will experiment more with fiction and poetry in the months to come.

This is all great — but let’s get real: how much $ did you make?

When it comes to earning money on Medium, there is a lot of taboo and secrecy. I don’t write this piece to brag about my achievements — by all means there are new writers who have had more success on Medium than me at this point — but I would like to increase transparency about what and doesn’t work. It can be incredibly frustrating trying to make a living as a writer, but we owe it to each other to try and make it a bit easier to keep the lights on.

I made $37.33 this month on Medium, which is £30.56 in British sterling. I’m pretty darn happy with that — it’s only a few dollars off my target of $40 — and I’m keen to use what I’ve learned this month to hopefully improve my output next month. Watch this space.

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The Indiependent Founder, NCTJ qualified journalist, Oxford University grad. Interested in tech, political communication & data ethics. Tweets: @BettyKirkers

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