Two years ago, I quit my job as an attorney to become a full-time writer and blogger. And even though I now make a living by writing words, for some reason, I’ve never really felt like a writer. I think it’s because blogging feels a bit different. It’s writing – but it’s a different type of writing.
I recently decided to try a new experiment with my writing. So, over the past month, I’ve been writing on Medium. This was mainly due to curiosity – I wanted to see what Medium was like and how it worked. I also wanted to see if Medium was really a viable way to generate some extra income.
Over the past month, I’ve been able to do just that. I’ve made a little bit of money writing. And importantly, for the first time, I’ve really begun to identify myself as a writer, rather than “just a blogger.”
What Is Medium?
I like to think of Medium as a sort of YouTube for writing. Writers can create written content on Medium and put it out into the world for anyone to find.
Like YouTube, Medium also has a curation role where it will promote content that it thinks is worth promoting. They do this through a combination of algorithms and human curators that read through posts published on Medium. You also can publish your work to Medium publications, which you can think of as online magazines or blogs within Medium. People can also follow you on Medium, much in the same manner as someone would subscribe to your YouTube channel.
I find Medium to be a place with interesting and thoughtful content. I’m not even sure how I first discovered Medium, but I did notice that I was reading a lot of stuff on it. It got to the point where I decided to spring for the $5 per month membership, which is what you have to pay if you want to read as many articles as you like. I don’t even pay for the New York Times or Washington Post, so paying my own money to read anything is a pretty big deal to me.
The writing on Medium feels different compared to what you often see in your typical blogs. Medium doesn’t have ads and writers earn money directly from the $5 per month fee that users pay. It’s also not a place to promote affiliate links or online courses (or at least it seems to be frowned upon). As a result, I find that a lot of the writing on Medium feels pure – more writing for the sake of writing and to share ideas, rather than writing to push affiliate links or optimizing for SEO.
I think it was this type of writing that made Medium so intriguing to me. You’ll notice that on this blog, I have a mix of posts. Some are posts that really are me writing for the sake of writing – I’ve thought of something and I want to share my idea. That’s what you do when you’re a writer – you observe things and try to write about them.
But I’ve noticed that to keep my blog sustainable with enough new traffic from Google, I also have to mix in posts that are designed primarily for SEO purposes. I don’t think these are bad posts – I’m happy with the quality of them and I do go in-depth in any SEO-type post that I write, but they don’t feel like the same type of writing to me.
One Month With Medium – What Did I Make?
So I’ve been writing on Medium for a month now. I’m finding it fun. And interestingly, I have made a little bit of money too. So what have I made so far?
The short answer is – not a lot. But I did make something! I wrote my first post on January 12th and ended up writing 12 total posts on Medium in January. That brought in $19.43. It’s not a lot of money by any means, but it is more than I expected someone could make as a brand new writer on Medium. And I have to say, there’s something really satisfying about getting paid purely from the words I write on a page.
Things are looking even better for February. I’ve already made more than I made in January and should be on pace to at least double my earnings from my first month, assuming I can keep a consistent writing pace. Medium isn’t making me rich or anything. It’s probably not the best use of my time either. But I’m finding it interesting and I think it does prove that you can make a little bit of extra money doing something you like.
I do have to note that I have some slight advantages that made it easier for me to earn a little bit of money in my first month. None of these have to do with any sort of built-in audience – I’m completely unknown on Medium, so I’m working from the same level as anyone else starting. But I have been writing for a long time. So no matter how you slice it, I have gotten better at writing simply because I’ve written more than most people have (this blog literally has hundreds of thousands of words and thousands of hours of writing on it).
The fact that I wrote some interesting articles also meant that Medium selected a few of my posts for further distribution. This means Medium curated my posts so that some readers would see them in their feeds when they logged into Medium. This definitely has helped me to generate some extra views that someone just starting with their writing career might not get.
How I’m Writing For Medium
I have a busy life, so to save time, I started with the strategy of reusing old posts I’ve written on this blog. I have a huge catalog of posts that I’ve written over the past 5 years, many of which never got many views since I wrote them when this blog was still very small. These posts also don’t get much Google search traffic since I never wrote them with SEO potential in mind. A few tweaks and some additional edits made many of these old posts perfect for putting up on Medium. In a way, I’m giving them a second life on there.
I also enjoy writing what I like to call “thinking man’s” posts, which are posts where I have an idea or something to talk about, but that doesn’t really lend itself well to Google search traffic. These types of posts, however, seem perfect for Medium. If you write good content on your blog, it won’t always get out there, especially if you don’t have a huge audience and if there isn’t an easy way to find it on Google. But on Medium, the curation system means that anyone can get their posts out to people, even if the post doesn’t lend itself to easy SEO opportunities.
The final thing I’m doing with Medium is getting my work into publications. These are essentially online magazines that have a built-in subscriber base. Whenever you write an article, you can submit it to these publications and if it works for them they’ll publish it.
There are a few publications that I’ve been following and that mesh well with my topics. One publication called Making of a Millionaire (edited by Ben Le Fort) has worked out well for me. The Post-Grad Survival Guide is another publication that fits into the topics I like to cover. Finally, Data Driven Investor is another good publication that fits well for my investing articles.
Getting into a publication – even a large one – doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a ton of views. But it does help you get more views than just publishing into the void. And I feel like it makes my writing seem more legitimate when it’s getting published by a publication with a decent number of followers.
There are a lot of things I like about Medium and I especially admire the people that have built a large following on Medium. One thing I really like about Medium is how it rewards consistency. I’ve noticed that the writers with really large followings (at least the ones that I’ve followed), all seem to post new content almost every day. It’s a baffling amount of content that I find really motivating for myself. There’s no doubt in my mind that I don’t write enough – so seeing these writers with large followings still publishing new content almost every day really is motivating me to get myself typing.
Beyond just writing, there’s also something about Medium that really makes me feel like a writer. Since there aren’t any ads on Medium and affiliate links are frowned upon, it means that any money I make on Medium is a direct result of my writing. It’s not much money – at least not yet (and maybe not ever) – but it’s really rewarding that someone was essentially willing to pay me just for the words I wrote.
The publications system is also weirdly appealing to me. One of my favorite writers, Seth Godin, always says to pick yourself. That is, there aren’t gatekeepers that control whether your writing can find an audience or not. These days, anyway can start their own blog and start writing.
I definitely agree that you should pick yourself – that’s what I did. But I also have to admit that getting picked is oddly satisfying too. Weirdly, it makes me feel more legitimate somehow, even though I have my own blog that gets plenty of readers on its own.
I started this blog in 2016 – which is a million years ago in internet years. If I were starting today, I’m not sure whether I’d opt to start a blog or opt to write on Medium instead. Based on what I’ve read, it does seem like it is possible to make a full-time living on Medium as a writer so long as you stay very consistent. That means writing almost every single day and constantly putting out new content.
From what I can tell though, the earning potential on a blog is much higher than what even the highest earners can make on Medium. The difference is that with a blog, it often feels like you’re doing more than writing – you have to market, you have to think about what you can sell or offer to your readers, and you have to think about how people can find your work. Medium seems much more of a place for writers that want to make money solely with their craft.
I’m still working on my Medium profile and will continue to report back sporadically about what’s happening there. This blog is still where most of my income comes from. A decent amount of it also comes from my side hustles. It’s possible that with a little work, Medium might become another consistent income stream. We’ll see.
If you want to check out my Medium profile, feel free to check it out here.