How to Make Money on Medium: The Ultimate Guide
Did you know there’s a website called Medium.com you can use to make a full-time living writing, no strings attached? Get exclusive access to your free five-day email course on monetizing Medium.
With the rise in popularity of the website, more bloggers want to learn how to make money on Medium.
But just like any other online making money scheme du jour, most people flock to a platform or idea hoping to make a bunch of short-term money.
When they don’t make a killing right away, they quit.
If you want to learn how to make money on Medium you have to be different. You have to take the time to not only understand how the platform works but take the steps to become much a better writer in the process, period.
If you can do both, you stand a chance. If not, you’re toast.
Now that we have the caveat out of the way, let’s dive a little bit deeper into how you can start earning an income with your Medium writing.
How I Started Making Money on Medium
I joined Medium in November of 2015. Back then the Medium Partner Program didn’t exist. For the uninitiated, MPP is the program that allows writers to make money on the website. Members pay $5/mo for access to exclusive content and writers make money based on engagement from members. Simple.
When I first started on Medium, the number of writers paled in comparison to the number of writers on the platform. By all objective metrics, competition is higher on Medium now. No one can debate that.
My story is equal parts work and hard luck. What you’ll come to find in life is the fact that success in any arena is usually a mixture of both. And the important takeaways from my story involve the attitude I had throughout the process.
The first post I published on Medium essentially got zero views. So what did I do? Like most writers on the platform today, I concluded: “Medium wasn’t worth it.” I quickly snapped out of that attitude though and gave Medium a try again shortly after.
I tried to submit one of my stories to a publication, sort of a mini-online-magazine within Medium, and the editor rejected my submission. So, after going through the guidelines of the publication more carefully, I submitted a new article, which got accepted.
From late 2015 to fall of 2017 I grew my Medium following from zero to roughly 10,000 followers by doing a few things:
- Writing and publishing 3-5 times per week
- Adding all my new posts to publications
- Never taking a sustained break
That last point is key. Most writers burn themselves out on Medium, even experienced ones, even ones with results. My main key to success? I just never stopped writing. I never got tired of writing one bit.
Mark Manson talks about the type of attitude you need to make money writing:
There are only two valid reasons to start a blog. Either a) you have some other business and blogging would be a nice way to help promote it. Or b) you just really, really, really enjoy blogging. Outside of those two reasons, there’s no legitimate reason to start one.
You have to write for joy. Because you like doing it. And you have to write a lot.
My favorite hobby is creeping on Medium Facebook groups and watching writers complain about how they’re not making money.
I spent two years on Medium without making a dime. Prior to that, I wrote for a year on other websites, without making a dime.
And, yes, I early adopted on Medium, but focus on the attitude behind it. I was willing to try something new with no proof of success.
Would you have done that?
People who gripe about Medium being late stage are like people who get FOMO about bitcoin but never would’ve bought it in the early stages. And just like investments, even though Medium has a higher “stock price,” it’s not done growing. Some will invest now and some will complain about it being too late on Medium.
Which one will you be?
The Number One Thing You Must Understand When it Comes to Learning How to Make Money on Medium
If you’re a brand new writer, I have good news and bad news.
Bad news first, you’re not good at writing.
Good news, you can practice in public without embarrassing yourself all that much because no one is going to read your stuff anyway.
When the Partner Program rolled around in 2017, I already had three years of writing experience. I took courses on blogging, had a few books out by then, and published tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of words. Right place, right time, sure, but I guarantee a brand new writer could’ve been in my exact same position and not made that much money
Give yourself time to get this making money on Medium thing to work.
I didn’t use some scientific method to come up with this, but here are some good benchmarks for success on Medium:
- Give it a solid year – I know writers who weren’t making much to start who hit major growth after a year.
- Publish 2-5 articles per week – I’ll straight up tell you Medium incentivizes prolific writing. For better or worse, that’s how the game works.
- Put your work in publications – Every experienced Medium writer will tell you to do this, me telling you is redundant, yet to this day I observe a large number of writers who don’t heed this advice.
While you’re checking off those three boxes, adopt this attitude.
You are lucky to have Medium, at all. Medium isn’t a charity. Also, it’s the best blogging platform out there. For all its detractors, no one seems to be able to identify a better alternative.
Trust me, I do SEO, kindle publishing, online courses, coaching. Good luck getting those to work if Medium is too hard for you.
Reduce your sense of entitlement. You live in the best possible time to be a writer in, ever.
You might not get rich writing, ever, but if you do things right, you get to make pocket change and learn how to write at the same time. Eventually, you can make a living writing by, yes, becoming an anomaly on Medium.
You must become an anomaly to make a living writing on Medium.
But…you have to become an anomaly to make a living writing, period.
So, how do you become this anomaly?
There are only two steps you need to take.
Two Simple Steps to Online Writing Success
I first started writing on a website called Thought Catalog. TC had featured columnists and I quickly became interested in two writers — Brianna Wiest and Ryan Holiday.
Both are top writers on Medium today and both are just flat out some of the top writers in the world, period.
I remember thinking to myself, “Damn, how are they so good? How can I ever get close to being that good?” I’d read through Ryan’s advice and he actively tried to discourage people from becoming writers. I loved that. He talked about how much work it took, how he wrote for five years without making a dime before he got his book deal, and how you shouldn’t write if you don’t love it. I studied his ethos and studied his techniques.
With Brianna, I loved how she wrote about self-improvement without being pretentious about it. She was always clever with headlines and could make a listicle seem meaningful. I dove into her archives and saw she’d been writing for years and years and years. I studied her ethos and studied her techniques.
Noticing a theme here?
If I openly tell you over and over again that it took me five years to go from beginner to full-time, that I wrote for 19 months straight on the Medium Partner Program before hitting it big, and that I ruthlessly practiced persuasive writing techniques, take that ethos to heart. I’m not hiding anything from you. This is hard.
If you want to write like me, you shouldn’t directly ask me how to become a better writer, ever. Don’t ask to pick my brain, ever. It’s just not a great use of your time. What can I tell you in an email?
I never asked Ryan or Brianna for a single piece of writing advice, yet they felt like mentors to me because I was watching their moves carefully.
Because the techniques themselves don’t matter as much as having a proactive attitude about your writing career. You’re here because you want to learn how to make money on Medium and that’s great.
But embrace the attitude behind the way I learned to do it. When I got on the website, I wrote my ass off and also looked at what other successful writers were doing and tried to reverse engineer their work.
Aspiring writers tend to have this mind virus, just very low self-awareness combined with very little proactivity.
You have all the resources in the world to help you figure this out. Use them.
Want to Make Money on Medium? Stop Looking For The Easy Route
Sometimes I feel like I’m too hard on aspiring writers.
I get it. You’re looking for answers. You want to get your writing career off the ground. And you want it to happen now.
If you want to accomplish your goals as a writer, you need to work really hard. Not even hard, you just need to repetitively perform the act of writing while iterating along the way. Working at a coal mine is hard, writing just takes time.
I use such a blunt message because I feel like I need to. I feel like too many aspiring writers just don’t get it.
You realize what your dream is, right?
While the vast majority of people on the planet earth work at jobs they hate or tolerate, aren’t entrepreneurs, don’t have creative careers, and never get any traction with their dreams whatsoever…
…you want to become a superstar blogger.
Think about that for a second.
You want to blog for a living. That’s kind of crazy. You know that, right?
The difference between me and you? I knew that my dreams were crazy and I knew crazy dreams required crazy work. You can definitely figure out how to make money on Medium if you’re a little insane.
Get your crazy ass in front of the page right now.