What you need to know going into Medium, even if you’re not a new writer.
I know a lot of writers. In fact, it often feels like just about everyone I know is a writer of some kind. And even if they don’t identify themselves as writers, I just see the writer in everyone.
I guess it’s an occupational hazard (of the best kind.)
As a result, I often find myself saying something along the lines of you know, you should be writing on Medium to people who are barely aware of what Medium is (even though they’ve read posts here, without even registering that they’re doing it) and the idea of being a blogger hasn’t ever crossed their minds.
It’s my first, knee-jerk reaction whenever someone I know is a good storyteller and at the very least has the makings of a decent writer (or already is an experienced writer) has some kind of financial need or wants a change in their work-life or is trying to earn a little extra for some goal or the other.
It’s not easy, I tell them. It won’t happen overnight.
There’s a learning curve. But if you stick with it, I really think you can make some money. How much depends on what you put into it. But even $100 extra a month can make a difference in a lot of ways.
That extra $100 is your power bill. Or gas in your car. Or if you save it up for a year, it’s a vacation.
And if you’re a writer who’s been working and working and working without any real, tangible proof that this thing is ever going to go anywhere, that $100 a month can be the thing that keeps you going.
Also? It’s just a start. If you can get to $100 a month, there’s no reason why your income wouldn’t continue to grow if you continue to do the work. Maybe, eventually, it’s a different kind of life. You never know unless you try.
So, I get that far, and whoever I’m talking to gets intrigued.
And then I start talking about that learning curve. I start telling them about what Medium is (for writers and for readers) and how to get started, and almost without fail, it happens.
Their eyes glaze. I’m telling you, I can feel the eye glaze happen, even when I’m talking to someone online and I can’t see them. I can feel their brains backing away and hear their inner voices issuing a stern warning. Back away, back away, this is way too complicated. We are not doing this. Retreat. Retreat.
I’ve decided that what I really need is a primer. Something I can point my friends to when I get to that intrigue point. Or at least something I can use myself so that I don’t overwhelm them with too much information all at once.
This is a starting point. What I think you need to know if someone has just told you that you should be writing on Medium and you’ve never even heard of the place and have no idea at all what they’re talking about.
THRU MAY 15
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A Primer for Experienced Writers Who Want to Write on Medium
What is Medium anyway?
For readers, Medium is a place to read a huge variety of blog posts by a wide, wide range of writers.
Medium is a subscription-based platform for readers. They charge $5 per month and insure an ad-free, sales-free experience for readers. They also curate posts, so that when you read here you’re offered up quality, well-written posts on topics that are important to you.
For writers, Medium is a blogging platform similar to WordPress or Blogspot.
It’s hosted, which means that someone else is managing the backend. All you have to do is write and publish. You don’t deal with design or HTML or any of that. Medium is a massive platform with a lot of readers, so there’s some built-in audience that I’ll talk more about in a minute.
Medium is free for writers. You don’t even have to be a paid reader to write here, although it’s highly recommended. It’s just good karma since other writers are paid out of your subscription fee.
So, do I own my work if I publish here?
Yes. You always own your work when you publish on Medium. You can post elsewhere, sell your work to another publication, put it in an ebook, or use it in any other way you see fit.
Do I need a website to use Medium?
Nope. Some people have them and they cross-post their work — posting on their own websites and then also on Medium — but it’s not necessary or required.
If you’re building a business or a platform, you may find a benefit to having a website. If your goal is just to blog and earn some money, only writing on Medium may be sufficient.
For what it’s worth, I have a website, but I don’t post my blog posts there. I only blog on Medium. I use my website to host information about my books, workshops, and other Ninja Writers programs.
What do I write about?
Anything you want. Seriously, take a look around Medium. There are a ton of topics and people writing on just about every single topic. The post below has my method for figuring out exactly what you should be writing about.
How to Know What to Write About (Including my Secret Sauce)
A 4-step plan for starting a daily blogging habit.
I can really just write about anything at all?
Yes. Medium does not have any requirement for you to be approved or accepted. You can just sign up and start writing. The key is finding your people. If you’re consistent, the people who are interested in what you’re interested in will find you.
How do I get readers?
The same way any blogger does. Share your post link on social media. Use keywords in your title so that you’ll get some Google love.
People can also follow your account on Medium. And if you create a publication — consider that a website within Medium’s larger website — they can follow that as well. You can reach out via email to your publication followers to let them know you have a new post.
You can read more about creating a publication here:
A Guide to Starting a Medium Publication
What they are, why they matter, and how to do it.
What’s this curation thing all about?
This is where Medium has some advantage over having your own website, though, and where there’s some learning curve. Medium will share your posts with some of their extensive reader base if you meet their curation guidelines and a curator decides it’s worth sharing.
Curators are live people, not an algorithm. That means it’s a subjective system. Sometimes you write a post that fully meets the guidelines and it’s still not curated and you don’t get to know why. Is that frustrating? Oh yes. But it is what it is.
My experience is that curation is possible. You might hear otherwise from people who are not being curated at all or as often as they’d like to be. A few months ago I did a little experiment with opening a second account under an anonymous name to see if I’d be curated there as easily as I am on this account. I wanted to know if I’d just got in early and had some kind of privilege tied to that.
My posts on that anonymous account were curated at about the same rate as my posts here. So, if you learn how to write to Medium’s aesthetics, you shouldn’t have a problem getting them on board with promoting at least some of your work.
Remember that Medium is a platform, but it’s also a publisher. You can publish anything you want, but they won’t promote everything that’s published here.
What if I’m not curated?
If you’re not curated, it’s not the end of the world. Medium will make your post available on your profile. They’ll show your work to your followers via their front pages.
The problem comes if you’re a brand new writer on Medium and you’re not curated at some point in the first several posts. At some point, Medium seems to stop sending your posts to curators all together. They assume that you’re not writing at a professional level and because they have limited resources (human curators and their time) your posts aren’t considered anymore.
You don’t want that to happen.
In my experience, when that happens to someone who is a decent writer it’s almost always because someone didn’t read and understand the curation guidelines. They broke the rules because they didn’t know them. The most common violations are writing posts that are part of a series (Medium will never curate these) or not citing every single photo (even those that you don’t think need citation.)
Clickbait titles are also a reason posts will be passed for curation. The content of the post must deliver on the promise of the title. This is the one that I struggle with sometimes. Clickbait isn’t about being sensational. It’s about telling readers you’re going to write one thing and then actually giving them something else.
How do I get paid?
The $5 that readers pay to subscribe to Medium is paid to writers based on the time they spend reading each writer’s posts.
You create a Stripe account, which allows you to be paid directly into your bank account. It takes about five minutes to get signed up and is very secure. Unfortunately not every country has access to Stripe, so not everyone can write on Medium for pay.
Click the link below to get signed up to write behind the paywall, which you need to do to get paid.
A Place to Publish your Best Work
The internet should reward quality thinking, not clickbait. That's why we've created a better home for writers...
Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is write and publish something. Every evening around 9 p.m. Eastern, Medium lets all of its writers know how much they earned that day.
To find out how much you earned, click your picture in the upper right corner of your screen, then ‘Medium Partner Program.’ You’ll get a screen that shows you all kinds of data, including how much you’ve made during the month, up to and including that day (if the pay has been updated.)
What are some best practices for before I start publishing?
The very best advice I can give you is to spend some time reading. (By the way, this is the same advice I’d give you no matter where you were trying to break in as a writer.)
Just because you can jump in with both feet cannonball-style and just go for it willy nilly, doesn’t mean that’s the best idea. Even if you’re an experienced writer, your chances are higher of accidentally getting yourself in a situation where Medium curators stop looking at your work. And you’re also prohibited from taking old posts down and republishing them, so once you’ve posted, that’s pretty much it for that work.
So the number one best practice is to slow your roll a little bit and read. Take a look at the page for the topic you’re interested in. You can find those pages here. ALL of the posts you see when you look at any of those pages have been curated.
Reading those posts with the eye of a writer is a great idea. It helps you to see what the curators are looking for and get a good feel for the look and feel of the posts that Medium promotes to it’s paying readers.
Other than reading, here are a few more things you might want to do before you get started writing on Medium:
- If you have any connection to someone who is successfully writing on Medium (meaning they are being curated regularly), ask them to take a look at your first post.
- It wouldn’t hurt to offer to buy them a coffee and pick their brain, if that’s appropriate.
- Go back and read the post I linked to above about figuring out what you want to write about. Make a list of at least 30 post ideas. Fifty would be better. Actually, the more the merrier.
- Write a few posts before you post. It’s a good idea to get in the habit of writing and to have a few posts in the chute before you pull the trigger. Medium can be slow going in the beginning and there’s a risk of posting once, not making much money, and giving up. If you’ve already written a few posts, that’s far less likely to happen.
- Make a goal for a year from now, not a week or a month from now. It takes time to build your readership and get some momentum.
- Make a goal for your writing habit, too. How much do you want to write every week? One post? Two? Seven? Fourteen? Whatever it is, make a commitment to stick with it for at least ninety days before revisiting.
What are some best practices for my first few weeks?
Once you’ve published your first post, the best thing to do is start writing another one.
I know that checking your stats — how many people are reading and clapping for your posts — is tempting. It’s addictive, even. But getting caught up in refreshing and refreshing and refreshing exhausts you time and energy that would be far better used actually writing.
So, post-publishing best practice #1 is this: limit the amount of time you spend looking at your stats. Check them in the morning and at night. Twice a day is enough, I promise.
Here are a few more best practices for after you start publishing:
- Be careful about the Facebook groups for Medium writers. They’re awesome. Sometimes. But they also tend to be time sucks and can be full of some pretty weird drama. Add to that the fact that your writer brain will do everything in its power to convince you that talking on Facebook about writing on Medium is actually the same as writing — and it can be a recipe for disaster.
- Publish one post at a time at first and wait for it to be curated, or not. I’ve seen so many writers publish a bunch of posts all at once and when none of them are curated they’re pushed out of the curation loop before they even know what’s happened.
- Give yourself time to find your audience and space to be surprised by the audience you attract. You can’t know until you get started what niche is going to resonate. Part of the fun is figuring out where you’re going to land. Don’t try to hyper-manage things too much.
- Be open to learning. Always. Medium is a swiftly tilting planet. It’s always changing. So many times I’ve seen friends who are experienced writers get frustrated because they think they should know how this stuff works or that they shouldn’t have to start from scratch and when things don’t gel immediately, they just quit. Don’t be that person and I really think that you’ll surprise yourself with your results over time.
- Treat Medium like a job. Even if it’s just a very, very part-time job. Give yourself deadlines and expect yourself to stick to them. Set goals and expect yourself to meet them. Be a tough boss.
- Conversely, don’t let perfectionism keep you from publishing! Medium is all about authenticity and even the curators don’t expect perfection. Spelling and grammar matter, but you don’t have to be a perfect writer to do well here.
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- A Guide to Self-Promotion for Medium Writers – The Write Brain – Medium
- A Guide to Starting a Medium Publication – The Write Brain – Medium
- A Guide to Medium Curation – The Write Brain – Medium
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