I have been writing on Medium since early 2018, but I never took it seriously until May 14, 2020, when an article of mine went viral. It wasn’t anything special —just a list of book recommendations. But the stats of this one took me by surprise when I checked it the next morning.
In 24 hours, the article made $22.90 with a member reading time of over 20 hours.
This was better than anything I had seen in all my time here on Medium.
Over time, this article continued garnering views and today, it stands at 15k+ views and $230+ in earnings. I have already written an article dissecting this piece and understanding what are the things that made it work-
Lessons From My First $100 Article on Medium
From $5 to $200 in one month — If I can do it, so can you
But more than the money or views, more than anything else, this article filled me with inspiration to write. It gave me the audacity to hope that I could make a steady source of income through my articles here on Medium.
Since then, I have published 45 articles in 45 days. Here is a breakdown of the performance of the articles I published:
- I achieved 40,000+ views in the month of June and earned 700 new followers.
- I started June by making $10 each day, but there were exceptional days when I made more than $30 in 24 hours.
- The total amount I made in the past 45 days was $692 ($467 in June alone — which is more than the salary from my day job when I started out).
- I became Top Writer in four topics — Books, Productivity, Reading, and Self-Improvement.
This article discusses the lessons I learned and lists the steps you can follow to replicate (or even outperform) my success.
1. Aim For Curation
That mail from “Medium Writers Program” gives a special sense of validation. You know you have poured your heart and soul into your article, but these few words can make you feel satisfied in a way no others can-
Our curators just read your story that you submitted for review. Based on its quality, they selected it to be recommended to readers interested in TOPIC across our homepage, app, topic page, and emails.
The Medium curators are a bunch of extremely hard-working and dedicated people who read each and every story published on Medium. If your article delivers value to the reader and follows the curation guidelines, they will select it and distribute it to an audience wider than you could have achieved from your following alone.
The biggest perk of having a story curated is that it will have a longer lifetime. While most stories stop earning anything after the initial few days, several of my curated stories have been making good money even after 30–45 days.
Here are my stats:
Out of the 45 stories I published, 27 were curated, which makes a curation rate of 60%. I can’t say if this is a good number or bad, because I have seen writers with rates going as high as 90%. All I can say is that I am happy with this stat.
The following are some of the topics my stories were curated in-
- Books: 10 stories
- Writing, Poetry: 3 stories each
- Mental Health, Self, Women: 2 stories each
(Check out the attached screenshot for the topic “Women”. I love the tagine — Women, who run the world).
- The rest of the stories were curated in myriad topics like Beauty, Relationships, Parenting, Equality, etc.
2. Don’t Aim For Curation
While it feels amazing when a story gets curated, it can be demotivating when the curators choose to pass it.
The “Not distributed in topics” tag does not look good below the name of any story on your Stats page, but, as authors, all you can do is stop lamenting and move on. Rather than feeling crushed, keep writing and focus on creating great content.
Also, it is not guaranteed that curation will ensure your article goes viral. I have had several stories that were curated in as many as three topics, but reached barely a hundred views, with the distribution curve going flat immediately after it was selected by the curators. Here is an example-
On the other hand, a couple of my stories that I believed were of high quality and weren’t curated have been performing quite well, going on to earn well over $15 and amassing 1000+ views.
Curation helps, but it is not the only factor working in favour of your story.
3. The Publication Matters
When you submit your story to a publication, it has the added benefit of being shared with the followers of the publication in addition to your own followers. This can help your story grab more eyeballs.
In addition, when you submit to larger publications (say, the ones with 10,000 followers or more), the curators are likely to read and process your story sooner than they would if you simply self-publish it.
44 out of the 45 stories I published were submitted in publications. Here are the top 5 publications I submitted most of my stories in:
- Publishous: 13 stories (11 curated)
- Invisible Illness: 4 stories (2 curated)
- PS I Love You: 3 stories (3 curated)
- The Ascent and The Writing Cooperative: 2 stories each (all curated)
But, not always
That being said, I have also published in smaller publications like Indelible Ink with considerable success (5 stories submitted, out of which, 4 got curated). It follows that the size of the publication is not a make-or-break for you. If you can deliver quality content, the Medium curators will find you and distribute your story.
How Writing Daily Changed Me As A Person
Coming up with a new article every single day is not easy. Luckily, I had decided to follow James Altucher’s concept of maintaining an Idea Book daily since the end of May 2020.
I never had a dearth of ideas; the only problem was to get my butt to a chair and type away on my keyboard.
Idea or no idea, writing daily is hard work.
But when I tasted my first success, I was determined to stick to it for a few days. I am so happy I managed to overcome my laziness and procrastination. The daily writing habit also brought in a whole lot of changes in my day-to-day life. Here are some changes I observed —
Being mindful about my life
Since most of my articles were derived from the experiences I had or the books I read, I had to be mindful of everything that I lived through. At the end of each day, I would sort through the last 24 hours objectively and note down the lessons I learned or the things I should be grateful for.
This helped me maintain a positive outlook, and also made sure I did not plod on blindly through life. I analysed the things I went through, how I could derive lessons from them, and how I could present them in a way that would help others too.
This is a valuable life skill I wouldn’t have acquired otherwise and I would forever be grateful to Medium for helping me achieve this.
As I said before, getting ideas is not the problem, executing them is.
It takes immense self-control to make yourself sit and write something each day without fail. But, because I had a commitment I knew I should stick to, I could manage to come this far.
There have been times when I have given my hundred per cent to an article and, even then, it flopped badly. It was rejected by all major publications, barely made $1, and was stuck at 100 views or less.
After this, I had two options — either be heartbroken and lament over why my hard work is never rewarded, or move on to the next article and hope this one makes it big.
I chose the latter because the former would only have detrimental effects on my mood and productivity.
Whether the result was success or failure — I learned to detach myself from it and single-mindedly focus on my goal of writing daily.
In this fickle world of content creation, holding too much value to one article is foolish. Often, it is the stray ones, the ones you don’t have too many hopes for, that rake in the actual moolah.
Some Important Points About Medium
Before I conclude this article, let me clarify one thing: I might have written for one and a half months on Medium, but that does not make me an expert. The following points are based on my limited experience here as a new writer.
Basically, here are some things I wish someone had told me when I was starting out on my Medium journey:
No matter how much you’re earning now, Medium can make you rich
Trust me, I wrote 200+ articles in two years and made only $81 from all of them combined. Then, I had one viral article that changed the equation and brought me where I am today.
My point is: if your stories are not getting views, don’t get disheartened. Medium has a way of rewarding consistency, and, if you keep creating content relentlessly, there is no way your articles won’t earn lots of money.
You need to follow the rules
Just like you cannot win a cricket tournament without using the proper gear, you cannot make it big on Medium without following some necessary rules. Off the top of my head, here are some rules you cannot afford to break at any cost:
- Use proper formatting tools as per Medium’s curation guidelines.
- Add a relevant, high-resolution, duty-free picture above or below the title. Use only one image, though. Too many images will lower the quality of your article and give the reader a chance to get distracted.
- Add five relevant tags.
- Find your niche and keep focussing on those topics.
- Follow the Top Writers in your field and closely monitor their writing style, frequency of publishing, the publications they work with, etc. Learning from observation is more valuable than anything a $500 course can teach you.
- Be a Medium member. Yes, Medium allows you to write even if you don’t pay the monthly $5 fee, but trust me, your ability to read, research and learn will improve drastically since you have unlimited access to all articles published on the platform.
Maintain a rhythm
I understand that not every writer can publish one article daily. That is alright. There have been several success stories who publish only twice or thrice a week.
Find a frequency that works for you and stick to it. If you are going to be caught up in work for a few days, plan and schedule your articles in advance so that your frequency doesn't get messed up too much. If you stay away from any platform (not just Medium) for too long, it gets difficult to find your footing once you’re back.
So, stick to publishing, and keep writing quality articles.
Learn, don’t compete
When you closely follow Top Writers, it is natural to get feelings of envy, especially if you see that similar articles you write are flopping, while they are making thousands of dollars. Whenever you are assailed by such feelings, understand that these people have invested months and years of hard work to reach where they are today. Keep this quote by Tom Hiller in mind-
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle, or your middle to someone else’s end.”
When you observe the stalwarts, learn from them, but don’t compete. If an article of yours fails, try and understand what X-factor is lacking in it? If it were written by a Top Writer, how differently would they frame or format it?
Then again, do not get sucked into the rabbit hole of comparisons and lessons. You cannot waste time wallowing in self-pity for long, remember?
Understand that some articles just won’t make it. Focus on creating the ones that might.
Understand that your story has value
All through my life, the only two hobbies I have nurtured are reading and writing. That is why it gives me immense pleasure that I can combine the two and write stories about the lessons I learned from books. Literally, books are my superpower. I love them so much, I made a publication where writers can share stories specifically related to books.
Books Are Our Superpower
Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim…
You might not be a reader, or a Holocaust survivor, a fighter pilot, a mother of two, or a travel vlogger. You might have the most boring of lives, but understand this: your story has value.
You are the culmination of a unique set of experiences, perspective, and life lessons that no other human being on this planet has lived through. You are unique, and that’s what makes your story so valuable.
If you get thoughts like, “This has already been written so many times. There is no point in writing this again.”, remember this: it might have been written a million times before, but it hasn’t been written by you.
So, don’t hesitate. Write on, keep publishing, and unlock the full potential that Medium has to offer. I am prepared to keep moving forward on this journey. Are you?
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