How to Make Money on Medium: Tips to Make Your First $100
This make money on Medium guide is 4,500+ words long and filled with detailed step-by-step tactics. Click this link to download a PDF guide to read on your own time, print out, and refer to over and over again.
How much money can you make on Medium, really?
On average, less than 10 percent of writers ever make $100 or more in a month on Medium.
Pretty discouraging, huh? You write your little heart out, only to feel the massive heartbreak and sting of publishing your words into the abyss.
You feel invisible.
It’s so demotivating that you’ll likely quit forever. You’ll go to the grave as most aspiring writers do…
Penniless. No fans. No audience, catalog, or legacy. Just another would-be writer chewed up and spit out of the blogosphere. I can help you avoid this fate. Students in my programs regularly join the $100 club and beyond.
I can show you the way.
I know you’re tired of reading vague and useless blog posts about ‘success on medium.’
Welp, I’m throwing the entire kitchen sink at you with step-by-step instructions, for free.
Sad thing is…most writers won’t even take the time to read and implement this advice, and they wonder why they fail. Pity. Be different.
If I can’t help you, no one can.
If you’re serious about making money on Medium, then keep reading.
If You Don’t Get This Right, You Won’t Make Money on Medium
If you want to figure out how to make money on Medium and earn your first $100, you need to forget about money for a while.
The Medium Partner Program is a gift and a curse.
You can make money directly from your writing, but the promise of cash trains new writers to think the wrong way.
Most new writers think like an employee. They look at the dollar per hour output of their work, which is a bad way to view your earnings early on. Instead, they should think like entrepreneurs and focus on building profitable skills that make money on the back end down the road.
In the beginning, you might make a few cents for an article. 30 days, a few months, and a year from now you can make 10,50,100x the amount of money per article with the same amount of effort.
Be patient and let leverage and scale do the work for you down the road.
Now, let’s take a look at the nitty-gritty when it comes to making your first $100 on Medium.
Follow the 80/20 Rule of Content Creation
80 percent of your views and earnings will come from 20 percent of your articles.
You can learn how to create the seeds of virality, but you can’t predict the success of an article. If you can come up with good ideas and publish consistently, though, your odds of producing popular work will continue to grow.
Many new writers have this twisted belief.
They’ll say something like:
I want to hold onto my good ideas for when I’m popular. I don’t want them to go to waste
If you’re new to writing, odds are you don’t have groundbreaking ideas and viral articles dancing around your head. You’re afraid to waste time and effort by publishing your posts, but you’re wasting time and effort by holding onto them.
Your work needs to make contact with an audience for you to get better at writing. Seeing what readers like and don’t like will move you closer to your goal.
Experienced writers will tell you this. Sometimes you have an idea that you think is a hit and it totally flops. Sometimes you have an idea that doesn’t seem all that great or an article you’re unsure of that goes crazy viral and you just don’t know why.
Since you’ll never truly know why stop worrying about it and hit the publish button.
Now for some tactical tips.
Frequency, Consistency, and Volume: Guidelines for Medium Newbies
You don’t have to publish a new article every day to be successful on Medium, but you do need to publish enough for people to recognize your name and become loyal fans.
Also, engaging and becoming a student of Medium will help you figure out how to write articles people want to read.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, but they’re good guidelines for beginners:
- Publish two times per week minimum: 2-4 articles per week is the sweet spot, but twice per week creates a solid floor. 104 articles in a year is an excellent catalog. Your effort will compound over time
- Read, comment, and clap for three articles per day: This shouldn’t take more than a half-hour per day. Read stuff you’re genuinely interested in instead of gimmicky networking
- Reply to all of your comments: Eventually, this will be unsustainable, but it’s an absolute must if you’re new
Pro tip: Study the top articles on Medium to see what others are doing to get noticed. Don’t plagiarize, but swipe strategies like headline style, article format, and tag selection.
Choose a popular tag you write about and go to the tag page:
Next, go to the ‘best’ category and read the top posts for either the week or the month (a year is too long as the algorithm changes often):
Read the top three articles and take notes on:
- What you like: Is the headline appealing? Does the post have a compelling intro? Are the points clear and effective?
- Areas of improvement: What is the article missing that could make it even better? You can find a competitive edge by identifying these gaps
- What readers are saying: People tell me my writing gets inside their heads. Here’s a secret tip: I copy and paste phrases people use in comments and add them to my articles verbatim
If you follow these tips, you’ll avoid writing stuff people don’t want to read, which brings me to my next point.
The Biggest Lie In The Writing World
You can practice your writing a ton without getting any better. I see it happen all the time.
Usually, the biggest culprit is a major blindspot some writers have. They can’t see their work through the lens of their readers. If people aren’t reading their stuff, they’ll blame the audience instead of looking within.
“Just write more!” only works if you’re practicing the right way.
Let’s take a look at the ways this big lie plays out in practice:
- Cryptic titles: Your headline is the most important piece of your article. If people don’t click, people don’t read. Far too many writers treat headlines like throwaways and fail to answer this question with their headline “Why should I read this?”
- Self-absorbed storytelling: Remember my famous mantra: Your blog is not your diary.
- Poor topic selection: Your topic has to be narrow enough to stand out in a niche, but if it’s too narrow or simply a topic people don’t care about, your writing will fall flat. Read this for further guidance.
This doesn’t mean you have to write about writing, making money, or self-improvement to make your first $100 on Medium.
You can write unique stories, but they have to follow the right patterns.
Let’s put it all together and talk about a strategy that creates a flywheel effect that’ll lead to your first $100 on Medium (and more).
Swipe This Strategy
I already told you to write two articles per week, but let’s break down how to do that as well as some promotion tips to help you get more views.
This is the simple process I’ve taught countless students and still use to this day.
Step 1: Write 10 Headline Ideas Per Day
I’m telling you, this strategy is gold, but so few writers actually do it.
It takes time to master the skill of writing headlines. I’ve written more than 25,000 headlines over the years. Doesn’t take a huge percentage of good ideas from that batch to build a successful writing career.
Also, over time, you can even switch up the 10 ideas strategy in different ways. In the beginning, just focus on writing 10 headlines per day based on your topic. Once you’ve turned it into a habit, you can start to get fancy to come up with even better ideas.
- 10 ideas for listicles
- 10 ideas for headlines that don’t include a number
- 10 ideas for how-to post headlines
- 10 totally random, off the wall, and borderline crazy headline ideas
- 10 ideas for headlines about stories from my life
- 10 ideas for headlines not in my normal niche
- 10 ideas for super-click bait headlines
- 10 ideas for articles people can’t help but share
- 10 ideas for deeply emotional articles
- 10 ideas for articles that make people feel good about themselves
See what I just did there? If you get it…highlight this sentence and comment the answer below for others 😉
Create a word document and store the ideas you like in it for future reference. That way, you always have something to write about.
Step 2: Follow This Process to Write Your Articles From Start to Finish
Ok, you have an idea for a piece ready to go, now it’s time to sit down and write.
Here’s the mistake most writers make. They just sit down and start writing. Their words get jumbled, the article structure is off, and they have to spend tons of time editing.
Instead, use this simple process to write articles that are easy to edit and easy to publish:
- Mind-maps: Take pen and pad. Scribble out the details of your article — main premise, main points, sub-points to main points
- Formal outline: Take those scribbles and write out an outline in a document
When you know what you’re going to say before you say it, the article is much easier to write. Also. the frame of your article matters more than the words themselves. People want the concepts and stories. The words themselves just facilitate both.
Write your first draft and follow the shitty first draft rule. Get the draft done, no judgment. Also, follow these rules for writing drafts so you can write much faster than usual.
Next, follow the three-step editing technique:
- First pass: Look at the overall structure of the piece. Do all the main points fit and make sense? Aim to cut about 25 percent of the draft. Pro-tip: Cut and re-write the intro and conclusion to your piece every single time
- Second pass: Simply follow this rule. While reading each line, ask yourself if it needs to be there. Cut weak sentences and replace them with strong ones. Fill in the missing 25 percent
- Third pass: This is the fine-tune edit. Wrap the article up in a nice bow. Also, add relevant hyperlinks, data, and anecdotes.
Next, you must hit the publish button. If you don’t, none of the steps above matter.
With 30-60 minutes per day, you can publish two articles per week with ease.
You’re Guaranteed to Reach the $100 Club If You Actually Execute This Strategy
That’s a big ‘if.’ Again, most aspiring writers just won’t follow directions and execute.
Here’s the water…up to you whether or not you’re gonna drink.
This process will help your views and earnings compound, which means, over time you’ll be able to get more views and earnings with the same level of effort.
This will only work if you listened to the advice above and focus on writing stuff people want to read, study Medium articles regularly, and engage with the platform.
Step 1: Create an Email List
I have few regrets in my writing career, except that I didn’t start keeping an email list from day one. I wrote for 18 months without doing so.
In that time span, thousands of people read my words, but none of them became part of an audience I could take with me wherever I go. Keeping an email list gives you an audience you can communicate with directly and build a relationship with over time.
Use platforms like Medium to build your audience, but understand that platforms come and go. Medium is nowhere near dead, but if it does die one day, you’ll have an audience you can continue to share your work with.
Choose an Email Service Provider
Just use Convertkit. It’s the best one. Mailchimp is free up to your first 2,000 subscribers, but emails from Mailchimp often get stuck in spam folders instead of the main inbox.
When I switched from Mailchimp to Convertkit, the percentage of people who opened my emails jumped by 10 percent.
I’ve been able to have a super-solid ‘open rate’ with Convertkit.
When it comes to using their software, just read educational articles and step-by-step instructions.
It seems daunting and it’s a bit tedious to learn, but once you learn how to use it, you’ll realize it wasn’t as hard as you thought it would be.
Step 2: Lead Magnets + Call to Action = Email Subscribers
You create lead magnets to give people something in exchange for signing up for your email list. Using a lead magnet will get more people to sign up to your email list than just saying something like ‘subscribe for updates!’
People don’t want to subscribe to stuff. It’s a word that makes them feel like you’re just going to spam them with emails and makes them feel like you’re using them.
A good lead magnet gives your readers something that’s genuinely useful. These days, it’s even more important to have a good lead magnet because readers have ’email list fatigue.’
You’ve probably experienced this. An article prompts you to sign up, but you can tell it’s something someone just threw together to get you to subscribe.
Much like people developed ‘banner ad blindness’ meaning they totally ignore ads on websites, people are starting to develop email sign-up blindness.
I watched a really good video from Alex Hormozi the other day that talks about this. If your lead magnet is the main thing you’re using to build your list, it would behoove you to spend time on making it really good.
Give away something people genuinely benefit from using. Right now, I give away ‘The Headline Vault.’ If you sign up, you get 50 custom headline templates you can tailor to your topic. It solves a major pain point for writers who struggle to come up with headline ideas.
Good ideas for lead magnets are:
- Checklists with step by step information to achieve a goal
- Lists of valuable resources for people in your niche
- Access to exclusive content like videos that you don’t publish publicly
Pro Tip: Get good at naming things. Your lead magnets should have a catchy name that has emotion-evoking words. The Headline Vault is better than just saying 50 Headline Templates. The word ‘vault’ speaks to exclusivity.
The Call to Action
Once you create the lead magnet, you connect it to your email software using a landing page. A landing page is the page people visit that describes the lead magnet and contains an email sign-up form.
Convertkit comes with a bunch of different landing page templates. You literally just have to fill in the words:
Don’t treat those words like an afterthought, though, use these tips:
- Headlines matter with lead magnets, too. Write 10 variations before choosing one to land on
- Write a description that explains why the lead magnet is useful and how it benefits your reader
- I even go so far as to change the label on the sign-up button itself. Instead of ‘subscribe,’ I’ll write something like “I want my free guide.”
Over time, you’ll want to learn how to write copy. Copywriting is the process of learning how to write words that get people to do what you want them to do, whether it’s signing up for your email list or buying your product.
Don’t be afraid to get a little gimmicky here. Certain phrases and techniques are time-tested and work well. Use words like free, easy, fast, proven, effective, guaranteed, roadmap, bonus, exclusive, and secret.
If your lead magnet can speak to a specific number or timeline, and you can back it up, even better. Examples: Lose 5 lbs in 30 days, 5 tools for writers that cost less than $100, increase your conversions by 10 percent.
The call to action means you tell readers exactly what you want them to do. Be direct, explicit, and simple. At the end of your article instruct your audience to sign up to your email list to get their freebie.
My friend and expert marketer Sinem Gunel, does a great job of this:
The CTA will include a link to your landing page where readers can sign up for your list and get their free goodies.
Next, you will use your email list to build your audience so you can make your $100 as soon as possible.
Step 3: Use Your Email List to Build Your Flywheel
You’ll use your articles to get people to sign up for your email list. Then, you’ll use your email list to promote your articles. This will help your articles get more views and spread across Medium, which will help you get even more subscribers.
See how this works?
Beginner writers shouldn’t get too fancy with email marketing.
Here’s all you need to do.
Create a Welcome Email + Share Articles Weekly
If someone signs up for your email list and then doesn’t hear from you for a while, they’ll forget about you. A welcome email helps you get on their radar and builds a connection with them.
Include this in your welcome email:
- A brief introduction about yourself with a personal touch: Keyword ‘brief.’ Don’t ramble. Just tell them who you are, where you’re from, and a cool or interesting fact about you.
- Talk about who you help and how you help them: Your description of who you help should match the person you’re talking to and how should speak to their pain points. I help writers defeat writer’s block, build an audience, and get paid
- Tell them what to expect: Both from them and yourself. Foreshadow the topics you’ll teach them, talk about how regularly you’ll communicate with them, e.g., I’ll send you two articles per week, or even have a themed newsletter like James Clear’s 3,2,1 newsletter (remember what I said about naming things?)
Here’s the part that’ll help you get to your first $100 fast…
Include links to your top articles in the welcome email.
This way, every person who signs up for your list will get exposed to your work. Even if they aren’t Medium members, non-member views still help your articles spread and appear on the feed for other readers.
Over time, you can keep updating the links in your welcome series. Pick articles that are already doing well because virality tends to beget more virality.
When it comes to regular communication, beginners would do well by just sending readers links to new articles weekly as you publish them.
“But what if I only have three subscribers?”
Send them emails as if you had 3,000 subscribers. Don’t worry about unsubscribers. Start running your email list like a pro from day one.
For these emails, I like to keep them very short…
I want them to view the link to the article asap. If you do it this way, you’ll train people to get used to clicking on your links.
This simple process creates compounding views, email sign-ups, and ultimately money. Repeat until you hit your first $100
The Final Step: Progressively Level Up On Medium
This final piece to the puzzle pours gasoline on the fire.
Over time, as you’re more experienced and publish higher-quality work, you can level up to expose yourself to more readers and make more money.
Here’s your problem…
In the beginning, nobody knows who you are, nor do they care. So you’re fighting an uphill battle. This is the part where most writers quit because they’re only making a couple of dollars, or a couple of cents, per article.
If you’re brand new, it’s a good idea to avoid looking at your stats altogether. It’s just going to frustrate you. Even experienced writers like Zulie Rane only check their stats and earnings at the end of the month.
Focus on getting better at writing above all else and follow these steps to level up on Medium, make your first $100, and eventually become a household name on the platform.
Get Your Feet Wet With Beginner Friendly Publications
You’ve probably heard that publications can help increase your reach on Medium.
For the uninitiated, think of publications like mini-magazines within Medium. Most publications are owned by independent operators, ‘indie’ pubs.
Medium itself owns a few publications, most of which you need connections or direct access to one of their editors to get into. Don’t worry about those for now.
Start with publications that are more likely to accept your work.
Some names that come to mind are:
- Illumination | Submission Guidelines
- The Orange Journal | Submission Guidelines
- New Writers Welcome | Submission Guidelines
- Age of Awareness | Submission Guidelines
I’d start pitching these publications immediately, even if you have zero experience. The worst they can say is no. Gotta learn how to deal with rejection. Even to this day, publications pass on some of my articles. It’s unavoidable.
Most publications have submission guidelines that tell you exactly how to apply to be a contributor. Some even explain, in very explicit detail, the type of writing and quality they’re looking for. Some even so far as to provide explicit style guides and formatting requirements.
This next part is crucial…
It’s a point many new writers miss and thus fail to get accepted…
Follow their directions to the letter.
Actually read the guidelines instead of glossing over them. Sometimes, they’ll add a specific direction deep into the guidelines to make sure you actually read them.
For your first 30 days on Medium, just focus on regularly publishing 2 or more articles per week to beginner-friendly publications with calls to action for your email list. Forget about money. Have fun, work on your craft, and build your audience, that’s it.
If you have prior writing experience, you can skip ahead to this next step
Gradually Level Up to Intermediate & Advanced Publications
Some newbie writers have a misguided belief that Medium and publication owners discriminate against new writers because they’re new. This isn’t true.
You don’t get accepted into higher-quality publications because you need to work on your craft. I’ve seen writers get into higher-quality publications quickly because they have prior writing experience.
Anyway, once you’ve spent a solid 30 days working on your craft in beginner-friendly pubs, it’s time to take a stab at intermediate and advanced pubs.
Some that come to mind are:
- Curious | Submission Guidelines
- Publishous | Submission Guidelines
- The Startup | Submission Guidelines
- Hello, Love | Submission Guidelines
- Entrepreneur’s Handbook | Submission Guidelines
You don’t need to be a household name to get into these pubs. There are plenty of writers with less than 1,000 or less than 500 followers who get in. You just need to be a decent enough writer.
Some of them will ask for writing samples, which you’ll have from your 30-day sprint. The advice is the same. Follow their guidelines to the letter.
Also, here are some things to consider:
- Many of these publications just have a ton of people trying to get in, to the point they have to close submissions periodically. Be patient. Also, do things to get on publication owners’ radars by executing what I’ve already said so you can skip the line
- Size and concentration are key. Some pubs have a lot of followers, but they also have a ton of writers, which means you get a smaller piece of the attention pie. Often, it’s better to choose a medium-sized pub with fewer writers, giving you more concentrated eyeballs
- Keep an eye on both the publication owners and its readers. Two pubs might be the same size, but one has a more ambitious owner who promotes their writers and a more engaged reader base
You learn how to make these considerations useful by getting your hands dirty, doing the work, and being observant.
Advanced Publications, Make Money on Medium Beyond $100, and Becoming a Household Name
Every once in a while, I come across a new writer who just has the it factor. It’s not just a talent thing, although, contrary to what other writing gurus tell you, natural talent matters.
I can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voice, or feel it in their words.
I can teach you how to write, publish, and promote yourself on Medium. Hell, I can also give you one hell of a pep talk to achieve all the above. But, hunger, the will to win, a relentless drive to improve, that comes from within you.
It’s okay if you don’t aspire for world domination right away, I didn’t, but at a certain point things have to click for you and you have to go all-in if you want to become a household name.
No BS, you can become the next Tim Denning, Zulie Rane, Sinem Gunel, Sean Kernan, or Ayodeji. Every year or so, a new guard of writers takes Medium by storm and becomes the new cool kids.
I’m a Dinosaur now. I still get down on the keyboard, of course, but my reign as King of Medium is over. Consider me now the whitehaired kung-fu master, ready to provide tutelage.
I love this role I’m in and the new season in my life I find myself in. My goal isn’t to just help new writers make their first $100 on Medium. I’m trying to break blogging superstars.
Are you that person?
Don’t just talk about it, be about it. Don’t just comment ‘thanks for the tips’ come back a month from now and comment with what you’ve done.
As far as tips, getting into advanced publications happens when you’re an advanced writer. Advanced pubs are the ones that don’t have submission guidelines because they either hand-pick writers or you have to find a side door and pitch the editor.
At this level, it’s about who you know.
I know pretty much all the top writers on Medium, can get access to these publications, and have many connections in the blogosphere. I did zero networking to meet anyone.
I made these connections by focusing on becoming great and doing everything possible to learn how Medium works. If you want to reach that point, that’s what you need to do.
Put a bone in front of a dog’s face and it thinks of nothing else. Pure unadulterated focus and desire. This is what you need to become a top writer.
I mean, come on, you’re trying to make a living writing your thoughts online. And if you’re trying to make a good living doing it, you have to be borderline delusional.
The vast majority of people who try to make a living writing online fail quickly, miserably, and exit the game without making a millimeter of a dent.
You have to be the exception to the rule. This is true not just in writing, but in any pursuit people rarely achieve. I remember when I committed to making a living writing. All the naysaying didn’t slow me down at all.
“Most writers never make a living doing it.” You know what I thought? “Oh man, that sucks for those other writers, they’re not talking about me.
90+ percent of writers on Medium don’t make more than $100.
Good thing they’re not talking about you, right?