The ultimate guide for those new to writing for money online with Medium.com
Photo by Michael Steinberg from Pexels
Can You Make Money Writing on Medium.com?
Absolutely! Medium.com is one of the few blogging platforms on the internet where you can quickly sign up, post your great content, and get paid after a month. You don?t need a niche, you don?t need to do affiliate marketing (although you can if you want to) and you don?t need ads to make money with.
When I first joined Medium back in June of 2019, I did so out of the advice of a few friends as a hobby to pursue while I was traveling around Asia. I loved the platform and the idea that you could make a few bucks while doing something you enjoy!
I wrote a couple of articles and drew a few digital portraits as my first posts, made around $10 and didn?t look back for a while as life got in the way.
Since the end of September, I?ve been going at Medium like a burning bat out of a pest-control facility, and have greatly enjoyed the last two months of writing on here.
But I made a few mistakes that could?ve easily been avoided in the beginning, and that?s why I?m writing this article.
To help you, the new writer to Medium, earn money faster and easier than I did.
What is Medium.com?
For those unfamiliar with the website, Medium.com is basically the Youtube of writing. Much like Youtube, if you join Medium and sign up to the partner program, you can earn money when other paying members read your stories.
Also like Youtube, Medium now uses viewing time (reading) as the main metric for earning money on the platform.
You can also earn a small commission of sorts if a non-member reads your writing and signs up within a month. I?ll talk about that more later on.
Unlike Youtube, if a non-paying member of Medium reads your article, you don?t earn money from it. But that same view might be shared, the user may sign up, and it may help the various algorithms push it in front of people.
Any read is a good read in my books!
Medium is also a huge site full of hundreds of thousands of stories, articles, poems, and comics with over 200 million readers a month! Many people simply sign up with the intent of reading great content from tens of thousands of writers.
So whether you?re an avid reader on a massively wide variety of subjects, or if you want to dabble in the art of wordsmithing yourself ? Medium.com is the place to be.
How to Make Money Writing on Medium.com
Some people make an incredible amount here ? upwards of $30,000 USD per month! But those kinds of figures are rare. For you to make a lot or a little, it depends on how much effort you put in (as with everything in life).
I?ll start by having you ask yourself a few questions first:
- Is your goal to make a full-time living?
- Is your goal to make some extra coffee money every month?
- Are you here just to explore the hobby of writing?
Those above three questions are very important to set your expectations right.
If you want it to be a full-time living?then you need to treat it as a full-time job! Or at least part-time, with a minimum of 20 hours a week. The hardest and most rewarding part of this is to be consistent over a long period ? expect to achieve large success only after 12 to 18 months.
Time + Repetition + Quality = Success on Medium
That?s when, if you follow the advice below, you can expect $1000+ paychecks (or maybe a lot more if you?re really good at this).
For those looking to make some extra coffee money, great! This task is much easier. Try to write a few articles a week and focus more on what you love, what you?re an expert in, or just plain have fun. Aim to write in some of the small to medium (heh, pun) sized publications for a $20-$50 paychecks every month.
Lastly, if you?re here as a hobbyist, then get out there and start writing! You can embed almost anything in Medium stories and they have publications and topics for everything ? poetry, fiction, comics, business articles, coding, you name it!
But regardless of your goals, I?ll start with some important things you should know about writing and making money on Medium.com.
Who makes the big bucks?
Making a full time living on Medium is probably a secret goal of most writers on this platform. Before we begin though, you should know that only 9% of writers on Medium make more than $100 USD a month. That?s 9% of an estimated 200,000?400,000 writers on the platform, amongst 34 million total members.
Some important points you should know before going further:
- The very top writers (under 1%) on the platform are now making $5000-$30,000 a month.
- 91% of writers (as of November 2019) are making under $100 a month
- 59% of writers made some money (more than $0)
- Many of the top writers only started earning that kind of cash after working extremely hard for 1 to 2 years
- You can also write for free on the platform, as in, you don?t have to be a paying member to post stories if you want to try it out first
If you want to see who some of these writers are, check this out:
50 Humongous Medium Writers With Over 10,000 Followers
Including profile descriptions, followers, Twitter, top writer categories, time on Medium.com and their featured?
How does Medium pay people?
Medium has a few different layers of ?membership?, which aren?t very clear to the new user. If you aren?t a user, you can view up to 3 articles per month before hitting a paywall.
I?ll briefly outline the three different Medium layers below:
1. You can join Medium to become a user
A) This allows you to post stories (but it requires you to add more details to avoid bots/scam systems):
Source: Author?s Screenshot
B) You can still only view 3 articles per month officially, it will prompt you like this to sign up to full membership:
Source: Author?s Screenshot
2. You can sign up to the Medium Partner Program
This is often referred to as MPP. Joining this layer allows your articles to be eligible to earn money:
Source: Author?s Screenshot
To join the MPP, you can go to your settings page (click your profile image in the top right corner) and go to the ?Medium Partner Program? tab. It will take you to a page that explains the concept and has a link to join.
Source: Author?s Screenshot
It will then take you through a few boring-but-simple steps to help get everything legal.
Note, Medium currently uses the Stripe platform, so people in some countries might be ineligible to earn money.
3. You can become a Medium member
- This allows you to view unlimited stories on the platform
- Part of your subscription will go to support other writers on the platform
To do this, you can hit the ?upgrade? button near your profile in the top right. If you can?t find it, don?t worry, Medium will find a way to ping you eventually to join.
Source: Author?s Screenshot
It?s a pretty reasonable $5 USD per month or $50 per year. This allows you to have unlimited reads and post an unlimited amount of stories each day.
How about getting paid?
Assuming you have signed up for the MPP, your posts will be eligible to earn money as long as you have selected that option when you click ?publish?. Note, its now the autoselected option so if you didn?t know about it, your stories are probably already eligible.
As of October 28, 2019, Medium changed its payment methods. There are now two ways to make money with a story.
A certain percent of every Medium member?s subscription is paid out to the authors on the platform (ex. $4 of every $5 monthly subscription). There are two ways that each story can get a piece of these payments:
- Total read time on your articles from Medium members
- If a non-member reader signs up within 30 days after reading your article, you get a bonus (it?s not currently known how much that bonus is, but likely derived from their first month?s subscription)
Once you sign up on Medium, you can make your account eligible for payments by joining the MPP.
What are stories?
A long time ago, Medium had the vision to become a different kind of writing platform. They?ve changed their methodologies and strategies a few times over the years, but one thing they?ve consistently done is call all posts, articles, poetry, drawings, etc ? ?stories?.
I?m not a big fan of the term myself, but just know that its the official lingo of the platform.
You should also be aware that they treat every post the same when they show statistics for your posts.
The one caveat; responses/comments/replies are not currently eligible to make any money on Medium.
What does it take to be successful on Medium?
I?ll keep this short and succinct. There is plentiful advice on the subject on Medium if you search around, but I?ll save you hours of digging:
- Be prepared for the long haul, it will take one to two years before you can achieve big numbers on Medium (ex. 10,000 followers, $1000 paychecks, consistent 1000+ view articles)
- Option 1: Write or schedule to post 2 stories per day that might take you 20 minutes to an hour to make
- Option 2: Write very well researched, cited, and unique articles 4?8 times per month that might take you several hours to create
- ?Publications? are kingmakers ? strive to get in the bigger ones and start with the smaller ones at the beginning to get your name out there
- ?Curation? gets the long term view count ? beginners have their first few articles auto-reviewed by the curation team at Medium, this never happens again, so ? FOLLOW THE CURATION GUIDELINES RIGHT AWAY
- ?Top Writer? is a vanity award (but still helps with some extra views and credit)
- Proper tagging of your stories is required for?everything
- SEO is your friend when making titles
- Promote, promote, promote your stories any way that you can
Here?s an analysis of 100 popular on Medium stories handpicked by the platform?s curators. This is a good look at what Medium is looking for in terms of best of the best:
I Analyzed 100 ?Popular on Medium? Stories: Here?s What I Found Out
Here?s what I found out about the list of popular stories, their number of claps, headlines, publications, topics, and?
Wait, what are publications?
Publications are sort of like online magazines within the Medium platform. Medium owns some of them, these are the holy grail of publications to get published in.
Why?s that? Because Medium gives preference to their own publications as well as partner publications. This means that if you get published in one of their publications, you have a chance to:
- Be on the front page, with access to the 250+ million visitors a month that visit that page
- Get emailed out to subscribers in weekly and monthly featured article emails
- Show up higher in the lists when people use the search function on Medium
- Oh, and unofficially, once you get posted in a Medium publication, you stand a much higher chance of repeat publications for an exponential effect on your views and earnings
If you?re looking for places to publish or find good quality work, I?ve made a bunch of lists like this one:
The Ultimate Guide to 43 Active Publications on Medium
A massive curated list of publications with topics, followers, tags, and how to apply
Okay cool, what about ?curation??
There is a team of 35+ curators on Medium that are living all around the world. Each of them is assigned a few topics (there are 101 official topics) to review and curate for.
What is (unofficially) known about the platform is that when a user publishes a story, it immediately goes into a queuing system. An algorithm then does a review of that story and decides if it should pass and go to the human review.
Once there, a curator reviews your article, firstly to see if it follows the CURATION GUIDELINES as a minimum, and secondly to see if the article is of high quality.
If you manage to get curated, congratulations!
You are now eligible to earn a ?Top Writer? vanity award. You?ll also be more likely to be searchable in the topics.
In addition, the mysterious algorithms now enjoy your writing and will keep putting you through to the human curators.
That doesn?t mean you?ll continually be curated, but as long as you maintain high quality and a level of consistency, there?s a good chance you will. Large writers on the platform sometimes achieve 40?70% curation rates, ensuring their success that month and helping to grow a following.
If you don?t maintain a decent level of quality, break the curation guidelines, or write articles about Medium (sigh), then you?ll be kicked out of the algorithm?s grace faster than a politician breaks his promises.
This lands you in the ever-so-feared ?curation jail?, as people on Medium call it. You don?t want to be in curation jail, it?s very hard to get out.
I should know, I?ve been there ever since I started writing seriously on this platform.
Why am I in there? Because I didn?t read the CURATION GUIDELINES when I first joined. Are you getting my gist here yet?
There?s a very cool thing that happens when you first sign up on Medium. The first two to three stories you post will be automatically reviewed by the human curators!
So, please, please, please follow the CURATION GUIDELINES and get your first few articles curated! You?ll have an incredible headstart over the 99% of people that don?t follow those guidelines until later ? when they?re already in curation jail.
For more on the subject of curation jail, please read this article by Jason Deane.
If you want to know everything about curation, I made a huge article on the subject:
Everything You Want to Know About Medium Curation in 2020
Discussing all the various aspects of curation on Medium
I?m still awake and want to know what ?Top Writer? is
If you check out some people?s profiles on Medium, you?ll see an odd thing in their profile description that says ?Top Writer in? and then a list of topics.
Just look at this bad mamma jamma named Tom Kuegler (and check out his cool publication called Post-Grad Survival Guide):
Source: Author?s Screenshot
It?s rare to be a Top Writer on the platform, and even more unique to be in so many different topics (leave some for the rest of us will ya Tom?)
What does Top Writer actually mean? Well, nothing huge really.
It?s a ?nice-to-have? and gives credit to the hard work of the writer who has it, but it isn?t a big money earner nor will it get you on the front page of Medium from having it.
But, you will show up in the ?Top Writers? section of a topic when someone searches for something related.
Source: Author?s Screenshot
So there will be some extra views over time from it, but nothing too crazy from what I?ve read.
There are currently 73 topics/tags that are eligible to give a Top Writer status.
List of Medium Top Writer Tags, Number of Hits, and Amount of Writers
A list compiled in November 2019 to be used by writers on Medium with highlighted categories to help in choosing a?
The above is a good place to start if you want to pick one to pursue.
You should also note that you have to have a story curated in that topic before you can get the badge of honor.
Once you have a story curated in that subject (you can check in the ?stats? page), you then need to produce a certain quantity of work with that specific ?tag? on your stories.
There are up to 50 Top Writers in any of the 73 topics, so you need to produce more than them within a certain unknown time to get on the list.
Tagging? How complicated is this platform?
I swear, once you make just three stories, you will have the hang of the platform. Tags are used to organize stories on Medium, and they?re super important for showing up in the search function.
If you get published or curated, tags are so important that those editors are likely to change the ones you selected (as they know better than us!) to ones more appropriate.
Once you?ve made your first article, you?ll see the ?Ready to publish?? button in the top right of your screen. It takes you to a page that looks like this:
Source: Author?s Screenshot
That box in the upper right is where you can put up to 5 relevant tags for your article. So, take a look at the top 73 eligible Top Writer tags, add one or two (if they?re related) and play around with 3 more.
I highly suggest filling all of them out. It gives your story more chance to be seen in searches and makes the Medium algorithm happy if they?re related. Plus, these count towards the precious ?Top Writer? award once you?re curated.
J.J. Pryor this is getting very long, but what?s SEO?
Well, my new Medium friend, SEO is that tech-speak for search engine optimization. Basically, it boils down to how well suited your titles and subtitles are for searching on Google.
Is it easily understood? Will people want to click the article? Are there keywords that are trending on Google Trends?
Medium has a very high ?domain authority? on Google. It means that Google algorithms give a lot of ?props? to Medium when an article is of high quality, helpful, and engaged with. In return, Google will boost it up higher in the search results, kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy of quality work.
But this requires a good headline, plain and simple. Here?s a decent article on the subject from the very informative Casey Botticello on SEO (and other great Medium writing tips).
Why do I need to promote my work? I?m not a marketer.
The dark side of the blogging world is that writing and blogging is only half the battle ? promoting yourself is the other half.
There are over 200,000 other writers on this platform, all vying to get the attention of the Medium users. That?s a lot of story submissions every day, and in the modern world, writers need to fight to get real-estate on platforms like Medium.
That?s where promoting comes in. There are many forms, effort levels, and value-for-investment levels out there. It depends on what you want to achieve and what level of effort you?re willing to put in.
Here?s a list of some ways to get eyeballs on your work:
- Join Medium Facebook groups to share work, read others work, ask questions, and comment
- Connect your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Medium for easy sharing and some fun tricks
11 Amazingly Useful Medium Things You (Probably) Didn?t Know About
The below story shows 11 useful features, quirks, and tips about Medium you might not know about
- Start an Instagram and share tidbits of your stories with links back to your Medium articles
- Join Pinterest and get to work building a following on there that also jumps back to Medium ? here?s a well-informed article on it from Fab Giovanetti
- LinkedIn is a great source for views if you?re writing about anything related to the business world ? Oh look, another great article on the subject from our new friend Casey Botticello
- Buy Facebook ads ? yes you read that correctly. I haven?t tried it myself but you can find examples of people who do use that as a strategy.
There are many other methods out there, it?s all about slowly building your writing as a brand and maybe getting a lucky few articles to go viral.
Finally, that list is over?and I just signed up to MPP, what?s next?
Now that you?ve taken out your shovel and are ready to dig down into the Medium rabbit hole, we can look at some very important first steps.
Please do the below if you want to make money on Medium!!! I didn?t and I lost potential money because of it.
- Read and memorize the CURATION GUIDELINES of Medium ? this is super important, in case I haven?t beaten that message-horse enough (I kick myself daily for not doing this 1st step until many months later)
- Go back up and actually read the advice in this article!
- Check out my in-depth beginner?s guide to Medium
- Determine which one of the three kinds of Medium writers you want to be and re-organize your daily habits to accomplish your goals
- Look up successful authors on this platform to learn from the best (Shaunta Grimes, Tom Kuegler, Shannon Ashley, Ayodeji Awosika, Casey Botticello, Tim Denning) are just a few that come to mind. Here?s a bunch more big authors if you?re curious.
- Follow a few of the helpful publications like https://medium.com/feedium for advice and lists of publications to publish in, https://writingcooperative.com/ for all things writing-related and https://thecreative.cafe/ for a creative writing community.
- Find answers to virtually any topic on Medium in this helpful list
- Write as often and as much as you find it enjoyable!
Go forth and be creative! And welcome to Medium, good luck!
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JJ has two degrees in business, previously held a CSC and has studied the CPA and CFA programs extensively in the past before switching careers and working in tech and living in Asia.