Medium is a unique platform with its own method of recognizing interesting stories and rewarding creators. Unlike other social websites, there aren’t a whole lot of influencers who seem to define what success looks like on Medium. There are some people who are quite popular, and depending upon your niche, you may associate Medium with a couple names. One thing I can guarantee: I’m not one of those people.
I’ve been publishing on Medium for about three years now. I started in 2018, but my first year and a half were really inconsistent. In the middle of 2019, I was taking classes and wanted to improve my digital presence and reach as a writer. So, I started to post more on Medium which allow me to learn more about the platform. This time I became more consistant. I’m not a daily writer, but I’ve averaged at least one story a week.
As of early 2021, I have successfully published 100 stories on Medium (well, 101, but who’s counting). Throughout this time, I’ve learned a lot about the platform. I’ve established some sense of identity, and I feel I approach each article with more realisitic expectations. That said, there are also areas that still have some mystery and I don’t think I’ve cracked the code to becoming the face of Medium.
Now that I am working on my second hundred Medium posts, I approach each article with information I’ve learned from the first hundred. These lessons shape my identity on Medium, and will guide the ways I publish in the future.
1. You Don’t Need to Write About One Topic, But You Can’t Write About Everything
If you look at Medium writers who have thousands of followers, they usually have some kind of an identity. However, it seems these people sprinkle in some variety to their writing every now and then. As long as these articles are rooted in personal interest then it’s usually doesn’t hurt them as a writer.
When I started writing on Medium, I went in with the mindset that I’d write about anything I want. My early articles are related to music, lifestyle, product reviews, technology, and life experiences. As I wrote more, I started to narrow down my interests and focus more on products and branding.
I can’t guarantee I won’t deviate away from these topics. In fact, this post is probably slightly off-brand for me. At the same time, I’d rather enjoy what I write than write because I think it will get views.
2. Your First Story Isn’t the Hardest
The first time I wrote on Medium, I was excited. There was a lack of commitment and no real investment. Writing has never been a chore for me, so it wasn’t exactly hard to get my first story on the site.
When did things get hard? It will depend on the person, but for me it was after about five or six stories. This is when I ran out of great ideas and had to find more inspiration to sustain momentum.
It’s also hard to keep writing after you’ve had a successful story published. Then, I may have two or three stories without decent engagement. It can be hard to maintain enthusiasm after this, though it won’t stop me. I write on Medium because I enjoy writing, but I’d be lying if I said the numbers didn’t encourage me.
3. Be Personal and Opinionated
When you write on Medium, don’t hold back! People tend to gravitate toward polarizing points of view or controversial opinions. There is one caveat here: you need to actually believe what you’re writing. You won’t be rewarded for being a contrarian, but you will be rewarded if you can defend an unpopular view.
Similarly, people are rewarded if they open up about their lives. This is especially true if you lean into taboo topics and discuss personal stories. Again, you need to be writing about real experiences, but people like to read topics they don’t discuss offline.
Keep it real on Medium, but also recognize people don’t want to hear your moderate opinions. You’re most interesting writing about your passions or the experiences that define your identity. Some people will agree with you, some will disagree, but these are the things that make you interesting.
4. Some Good Things Just Happen, Most Don’t
Early into my resurgence onto Medium in 2019, I posted a story about the sudden popularity of the song Old Town Road. I thought this was a fun way to explain Billboard’s algorithm, and apparently Medium agreed. This was the first time I was distributed by Medium and the first time my story was part of the Medium Partner Program. Not long after that, I would have a couple of publications recognize my stories and distribute them.
Those moments never get old. As a writer, any time someone finds value in my work I am ecstatic. Whether it’s a single comment or mass distribution, these moments will always make me excited. Medium does a fairly good job presenting my articles to the right audience if I label it correctly and use hashtags.
There’s an ambitious side of me that hoped my writing on Medium would help me find career opportunities or networking groups. So far, that has not happened. I am grateful my articles are featured in publications that are well-regarded in professional communities, but anyone can get a feature on Medium. This is a reflection of your commitment to write, but it doesn’t make you that special.
5. Publications Are King
Sometimes, your stories will be organically discovered by readers and curated by Medium. More often, if you want to get recognition, you need to work with publications.
This is one area where Medium is a bit unique. If your story is accepted by a publication you can get it put in front of all of their followers: sometimes hundreds of thousands! Anyone who mostly writes about a specific topic knows how valuable it can be to work with publications.
I’ve had publications randomly leave me a message asking to share my story. I’ve also submitted stories because I thought it would appeal to a publication’s audience. There’s a chance the story won’t be selected, but as long as you’re not spamming, this is alright. Publications are part of Medium’s culture and moderators should expect to receive more submissions than they want to share.
6. You Can Make Money, I Don’t Know How Much
When you write for Medium, there’s a chance you will be invited to join the “Medium Partner Program.” This allows you to make money if you get enough readership on your stories, but there’s a catch. Only individuals who pay $5/ month for a Medium membership can freely view your stories.
Having been a part of this program for over a year, I haven’t quite figured it out. I know my story will earn some money if Medium members spend time reading them. How much? It feels like the Medium gods determine that. There are also days when stories will earn some money despite having no member readership time.
Ultimately, I am glad I can earn a little through this program. I’m not earning a whole lot, and it’s not going to replace my full time job. You’d have to get hundreds of thousands of monthly reads to get substantial income from this program. For me, my earnings are enough to help me pay my cell phone bill.
7. It Doesn’t Quite Feel Like Blogging
Medium lives in the gray space between journalism and blogging. Some major media outlets used Medium as a medium, but you’ll mostly find independent writers here. They can say whatever they want and write about topics they truly find interesting.
I’ve been a blogger in other capacities for a long time, and Medium does have a different feel to it. You need to strike a good balance for your stories to become successful. Thought pieces and reviews are popular, but they’re seldom just accounts of personal experiences.
Blogging sometimes feels entirely personal and almost like a journal. Journalism often requires a great deal of research and almost feels like a report. Medium is a blend of the two, and readers tend to enjoy this. It’s part of Medium’s charm, and if you can embrace that you’ll enjoy contributing to the site.
8. Success Can Come Out of Nowhere
Some of my most successful stories seem random to me. Personally, I find these stories very interesting, but I only write about topics that interest me. This mean I was just as excited about my biggest failure as I was about my biggest success.
Part of being a writer means that some articles are going to be less successful than others. On Medium, I’m more likely to get traffic within a couple of days of posting the story. This may be the rule, but there are many exceptions. Some stories build an audience over time and other stories get random spikes in popularity.
Is there any way to predict success? Kind of. If I write a story that’s topical and based on current events, it’s likely to have some success while the event is relevant. After a couple of months, it’s a crapshoot. Readership could decrease or increase. It all depends on your audience and where the story was distributed.
9. A Slow Start Isn’t a Failure
My most viewed story got a really slow start at first. One or two views a day, then some days without a single view. After about three months traffic picked up.
If you look at the stats of this story, they gradually started to accumulate more views each day. Why? I don’t really know. Most of the traffic on this story comes from Google. Likely, this means the story is interesting or has valuable information. Google views it as a credible source and it will appear in search engine results.
Don’t let a slow start discourage you. If you really believe in your writing, there’s a good chance the audience will eventually come to it. Once the right eyes get in front of the story, the quality will speak for itself. People may start to recommend and share your writing, and if you get decent traffic Google will take notice.
10. Consistency Is Infinitely Important
Above all else, you need to keep posting on Medium. This will establish you as a writer and allow you to find communities where you fit. There’s a decent chance one of your first articles will get some readership on Medium due to the way they curate content. This will quickly fade.
There’s no single definition for success on Medium, but consistent writers will have people who follow all their work. This will allow them to have opportunities to work with other writers and publications. If you don’t post, people will have nothing to follow. A single post might get recognized, but its author will also get forgotten.
I may not be the most successful writer on Medium, but I like to pretend I’m going to be. So I keep writing, because nothing good will come if I stop.
My Next Hundred Articles
One thing I can’t stress enough: I’ve loved writing for Medium. Of course, this is because I enjoy writing in general and Medium is unique platform. It can be a tool to get more views on existing stories or a chance to engage with new communities.
As I continue to write, I have a better understanding of Medium’s ecosystem. This may modify the way I write or distribute stories, but it doesn’t change my core interests or branding as a writer. I’m ultimately committed to remaining authentic. I will take some risks in the future. I hope to have some rewards, but expect there will be some failures.
My best advice to anyone interested in Medium: just write. Start with a couple of stories, then read stories from other writers. The more you immerse yourself in Medium’s ecosystem, the better your understanding will be. If you’re like me and enjoy writing, what do you have to lose? The best case scenarios can be super rewarding while the worst case scenarios have little risk.