Medium Writing 101: For Aspiring & New Writers (Updated)
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This Medium writing guide will help you stand out against the competition. You’re probably asking yourself, do Medium writers get paid, really? Or is it just a pipe dream?
It all depends…
I know where all the landmines are for new Medium writers. You’re a few centimeters away from stepping on them and blowing up your whole writing career before it even gets off the ground.
I just sit back and watch all the newbies. I see all the mistakes they’re about to make before they make them.
And I know that very shortly, they’ll flame out and quit, maybe even write a little butt hurt post about how they’re leaving Medium while the door hits them squarely in the middle of both cheeks on their way out.
Will you just let me help you?
I’m being harsh because I’m trying to help you.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You’re good enough at writing to make it on Medium. You’re good enough to join the top ten percent of Medium writers. My students hit this milestone regularly.
I can teach you how to start writing on Medium successfully.
Just listen and you’ll get there, I promise.
Let’s start with some Medium writing tips then dive into promotion and more.
Medium Writing Tip #1: Become a Better Writer
This one seems obvious, but many people (myself included) are blind to the fact that perhaps their writing isn’t that good.
The only way to become a better writer is to write more often. I’m not in the business of selling magic pills to success. There’s no replacement for hard work.
Use Medium to practice your writing. It will improve and more people will view your work.
Almost every successful Medium writer I know keeps some sort of quota to build a creative habit. Either it’s word count or time spent. Set a writing goal that’s easy to achieve.
500 words per day. 15 minutes per day. It’s up to you.
Don’t just publish everything you write on Medium instantaneously. You shouldn’t use it as your brain-dumping journal. Go through your posts and edit them, but write and publish often.
Nobody knows who you are now, but if you find a publication to write on and publish often people will start to notice your name.
You’ll continue to get better too, so people will start to enjoy and look forward to your writing.
Most aspiring Medium writers just don’t write or publish that often.
Most of the successful writers on Medium are prolific. They write constantly. If you go back to their archives, you’ll notice their audience growing in parallel to their amount of posts.
Each post builds on the last one. Prolific work leads to a snowball effect, which is why the successful seem to keep getting more successful.
I won’t dive deeply into the actual writing process, but here are some guides that will be very useful to you:
- 20 Hard-Hitting and Dangerously Effective Writing Tips
- Rapid Fire Writing Tips
- I’ve Been Writing Daily For Seven Years: Here’s How I Never Run Out of Ideas
Formatting Tips for New Medium Writers
The way your posts look on Medium is important. Take advantage of their excellent typography, user interface, and photo library. You want to make them appealing to the eye so people will read them.
Use a large photo to draw attention to your post. It’s a proven fact that people have a higher tendency to click on posts with large images.
The format of your text matters.
People scan through posts quickly online. You need to format your work so it’s easy to read.
Long paragraphs strain people’s eyes when they read them and make it more likely for them to stop reading.
Paragraphs can go on for multiple sentences, but I choose to keep mine shorter. You don’t have to write this way, but personally, I enjoy writing in this format and I think the people who read my posts prefer it too.
Use headings, bold, and italics to make your writing more eye-catching and emphasize important points in your pieces.
Exactly How to Promote Your Medium Writing (Very Few Newbies Do This, Though)
Tom Kugler is a Medium legend. He’s since moved his focus to other platforms, but his origin story is telling.
When he first hit the scene, he hit the scene hard and fast. He did a 30-day challenge where he posted a new blog post every single day. I don’t remember the exact number, but he commented on at least ten articles per day.
Not just comments like “Nice post!” He posted comments that made it clear he read through the post and added his thoughtful two cents to the idea.
He didn’t discriminate. He commented on posts from the most popular Medium writers and completely new writers whose stories he happened to find interesting.
There’s a saying: if you want to be interesting, be interested.
His pure, unadulterated, and endless curiosity about the platform led to his success. Contrast this with most new writers who won’t even commit to posting regularly, let alone, you know, actually trying to be a part of the Medium community.
To this day, some of my top writer friends like Tim Denning are connoisseurs and stewards for Medium. It would behoove you do to the same.
Quick tips for those of you who are truly about that life:
- Read, share, comment and clap for 5-10 articles per day
- Reply to every single comment you get on your articles
- Get meta and reply with thoughtful comments to other comments (this is an easy way to get followers)
Hit This Medium Writing Sweet Spot As Soon As Possible
You don’t have to write and publish a new article every day to be successful on Medium, but you should look to hit a sweet spot of 2-4 articles per week. You should aim to hit this sweet spot from the jump.
I started writing more than seven years ago. After the first time I hit publish, I was hooked on writing like it was crack cocaine. I wrote every single day without fail from the very beginning because I just liked doing it.
When I found Medium, I was publishing 5+ posts per week immediately. If you want to hit that sweet spot of 2-4 articles per week, it’s as simple as writing because it’s fun.
So many new writers are caught up in making money, which is why they don’t make any money.
That’s the double-edged sword of the Medium Partner Program. It’s an amazing opportunity for writers to make money directly from their work, but it creates a perverse incentive structure.
I wrote for free for more than a year because I liked it and wanted to get better. My biggest competitive advantage has always been the fact that writing isn’t work for me. Never has been. It’s joy.
Don’t write for money. Write because writing is awesome. Then, you’ll hit the sweet spot. Then, you’ll make money.
This leads me to my next point.
This is Literally Going to F$%@ Up Your Brain
I rarely check to see if one of my articles has been ‘chosen for distribution.’
I have no clue what my curation rate is. I’ve never known. I know that a good chunk of my articles gets curated, but I’ve never been a huge data and numbers guy because I figured the only variable I can control is the work itself.
You should aim to get curated. Your starts are important. But it’s easy to become obsessed with numbers instead of being obsessed with the work.
Most new Medium writers shouldn’t check their stats more than once a month.
Stats work in an 80/20 distribution, which means a handful of articles will get the vast majority of views and earnings each month. It’s even spottier when you’re new.
I’ve seen so many writers publish an article that takes off. Their stats jump, which gives them a massive dopamine spike. Inevitably, though, the views on that article die off and their stats level off, which causes a dopamine withdrawal.
Now, this writer is desperately trying to replicate what caused the spike. Their original article went viral because they weren’t trying to make it viral. They were just putting their best work out there.
As soon as they start trying, virality eludes them, frustration grows, and now their brain is spiking up and down and up and down and up and down.
Either that happens, or you get discouraged quickly because you get next to no views and you’re constantly refreshing your stats just to repeatedly watch them flatline. It’s super de-motivating.
You Have to Stop Worrying About This ASAP
I get it.
Fear of rejection is a thing.
But, fear of rejection on Medium, on the internet, is not a big deal. Ok, so some person you don’t even know who wouldn’t have the balls to say that comment to your face posts it on your blog post.
Who gives a fuck?
You certainly shouldn’t. Also, you shouldn’t care about rejection when it comes to posting your work in publications.
If a publication turns you down, you’re not blacklisted from the publication. Publications that have published literally dozens, if not hundreds, of my stories, still reject some of my stories to this day.
As a beginner, I’d suggest posting no more than a handful of posts straight to your feed just to practice and get the habit going. After that, post to beginner-friendly publications. After that, look to start punching above your weight as soon as possible.
The worst thing that happens is that nothing happens.
Overcome This New Medium Writer’s Kryptonite
If you’re new, stick to a basic format for your blog posts. I shot a video about how to do that here. Don’t get cute, keep it simple, hit the sweet spot, and you’ll be good to go.
On top of that though, you want to work on the major sticking point 99 percent of new writers have.
You suck at writing headlines.
The headline is the most important part of your article:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” – David Ogilvy
The biggest reasons beginners have trouble with headlines are:
- They don’t practice them: My top students all have one thing in common. They take my advice of writing 10 headlines per day to heart.
- They Focus on What the Article Is, Not What it Does: Bad headlines often just literally describe what the article is about, which takes away all the mystery and doesn’t speak to why someone would want to read it.
- They’re afraid to write clickbait: Do you buy books with no covers? Do you magically find products that aren’t advertised to you? Every business requires enticing people to buy. Writing is no different.
Medium does have rules about clickbait. You don’t want to go overboard. But, you can write enticing headlines without breaking their rules. I shot a video on YouTube that talks about how to do just that.
If you want to truly get good at Medium writing, please heed this advice. Let me say this in the kindest and most gentle way possible. Instead of worrying about Medium’s algorithm, what other writers are writing about, or what people are saying on Facebook groups, turn your focus inward.
Ask yourself if you are giving it your best and be brutally honest about the answer.
Ask yourself if you are giving Medium as much as you expect to receive from it.
Are you being generous with your words, time, and effort, or are you being selfish with them?
Intentions matter. The universe has this strange way of bouncing the intentions you send out right back at you. Only you know whether or not you’re putting the right intentions out there. Until you do that, nothing will work.
I’ve been successful as a writer because I have good intentions.
Medium can tell, my peers can tell, my readers can tell, and you can tell. If you good the work and your intentions are pure, good things will happen, I promise.