My Medium Income Stopped Being Pocket Money

A case study on how I crossed the $1.000 threshold with MPP in November

Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash

TL;DR: Yes, this is going to be another how I made x amount on Medium, so if you clicked by accident then just click away. In case you are really interested, here’s my story about how I got to $1.097 in eight months. And my future plans and strategy to grow further. No secret recipe, sorry. Spolier alert: I wrote a lot and worked my ass off to make it happen. Details below:

When I started writing on Medium a little less than 8 months ago it was a huge step for me. I broke out from my own inhibitions and gave it a try. I have been writing literally all my life, but apart from a few cheesy poems that got published in the school magazine and my always outstanding notes in Literature class, there was no intention from my side to pursue writing as a career.

It’s not for me, who am I kidding? Of course, I would love to be a writer but I just don’t have it in me. I’m not good enough, and besides, who cares about my rantings, my thoughts, my feelings or my life in general.

I didn’t have expectations — really. I didn’t start publishing to become a writer or to make money. I started it because I had a story in me that had I needed to write because all the emotions I felt were too overwhelming to keep them inside.

By that time I had been reading tons of articles on Medium, and I have to admit that it was extremely attractive to get paid for writing. It was inspiring and promising and encouraging. But I didn’t think I could do it.

I hit publish on my first story — and I felt extreme relief. I did it.

After years of writing secretly for my draft folder or the bin, I did it. I published something!

I read about curation and publications and MPP, but I didn’t give much thought to it. After all, who are we kidding here? I’m just a single mum from Eastern Europe with no degree in writing and English my second language anyway.

And then comes this, that my first ever article gets curated in three tags — overnight.

screenshot by author

And I was like, wow. The curators (gasp) read my story and based on its quality (OMG) they selected it to be recommended… you know the drill. And then the three tags — I had zero ideas about tags or anything. But boy, I wanted to know more.

And from that point on my Medium journey started.

After eight months, I am here, and my Medium earnings stopped being pocket money and some nice-to-have — it is an income stream that I cannot ignore anymore.

I crossed $1.000 with my November earnings — which is not the most that can be done within such a time frame, but I know that it is the goal for lots of writers in the writing community.

November earnings summary screenshot

I don’t have a secret recipe, I didn’t get lucky, I didn’t go viral either — but I am willing to share what I have done and why I think it could work for others as well.

I am sure you have read it all, but it might help you in creating your own strategies.

Have writing goals, not money goals.

I am in a very fortunate situation where I have multiple income streams, so I don’t have to rely on writing to pay the rent or the bills or to feed my kids. This way, I never set myself money goals, I had writing goals.

I started with a 30-day challenge back in April, when I decided that I will write and publish at least one piece a day. I read it on multiple accounts that consistency and permanent presence is necessary to make it on Medium. This shouldn’t be a surprise, it’s valid for everything in life, not just for writing, not just on Medium. If you build any business, if you pursue any passion, if you want anything to work — you need to work for it.

My earnings were steadily building up from April. Ups and downs, but generally an upward trend.

My first month was just a week in the MPP, and it was an amazing start, my full Medium membership covered for a year plus change! My first full month I already passed the magical $100 threshold. And it went like this:

Completed periods 01.12.19

I still don’t have any money goals. I have money dreams and I would love to make enough money off writing so I can say no to some of my freelance jobs and focus my efforts more on something I really would like to do. I still have writing goals, and it’s not different from what I have done before. I want to publish consistently — at least once a day. I am pushing my boundaries by trying to write more than once, but I do believe that quality is just as important if not more. I don’t want to write more if that means my writing quality will drop.

Don’t count on luck

I have witnessed quite a few lucky instances on Medium. Fellow writers making it to the Medium home page, being featured in big pubs, going viral and gathering thousands of claps. I didn’t really have it.

I had a few instances of my articles going sort of viral, and I saw an article getting 8k views overnight — but it got picked up by some external site and it never meant too much for me in terms of money.

Of course, I would love to get on the home page — it would surely feed my ego and it would feel like an accomplishment, probably would mean some spike in my earnings too. But I am not counting on it. I am counting on the consistent work I am putting out. That’s the baseline, everything else is just an extra.

When you think about it as an extra, rejection doesn’t hit you that much. When you don’t count on luck being the drive for you, it might just hit you anyway, when you least expect it.

This is what I plan to do from this point on as well. Just writing a lot of good stuff and hoping it gets noticed. Because even if it doesn’t, I still can think I have done everything I could. And when I know better I will do better.

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Find your tribe

Finding your tribe comes in three layers for me:

1. I have written about the writer community in quite a few articles, how to support each other, how to behave in social media communities, how to be a decent member. And in each and every article I wrote about it, I repeated the same: the writing community is the best thing that comes with writing on Medium. Like-minded people who are with you on your journey, supporting you and helping you, understanding your struggles and celebrating your victories.

If you are not yet a part of any writer group, go ahead, find yourself one. there are plenty on Facebook that will get you started or help you move forward. Search for Medium Mastery, Medium Dreamers, Medium Writing or Medium Magic and find your peers.

2. Try to find yourself a couple of writers to help improve your work. Think about it as a group of co-editors where you support each other with inspiration, writing tips and direct editing advice. It’s great to have a writer friend who will look at your article before you publish to spot the inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. Create your own little group or try to join an already existing one.

3. The visibility of your writing is a given on Medium — this is one of the best things about it. This is what makes it so different from say having a blog anywhere else. You don’t need to worry about shouting into the void, there will be at least a few eyes who will see your work. But to make it big, you need to work on your readership. You need to build up a follower base, you can start a publication to collect your own work and you should definitely start an email list — the best time was a year ago, but start it today if you missed it — for you shouldn’t rely on anything else, but what you own.

I am part of quite a few groups on Facebook, being a moderator to one of the upcoming ones, I have a few close writer friends — all from Medium, all from the Facebook groups, who I can ask to help me with headlines, ideas, brainstorming or just general rants.

And I am also a part of a bigger mastermind group where more experienced writers help the newbies to improve. It’s all great, I highly recommend this. Participating actively takes time and effort, but everything important does.

I also started an email list and I am slowly building it since June. I am sending out weekly updates, and the more I am doing it, the less it feels awkward and self-promotion-like.

Experiment with different approaches

As I had zero experience with writing I was going with the flow from the first moment. As I said, I have no degree in writing (and I don’t even intend to get one); I am not a native speaker, so I need to put in twice the effort to deliver quality writing without major mistakes; I have never been a blogger who is used to producing big quantities of text. I am learning as I go, and I am experimenting with everything.

At one point I had 14 different top writer tags, meaning that my stories were revolving around 14 different topics. Some stayed and some went.

My key areas are in three bigger categories:

  • self: as in relationship, love, sexuality, self-help,
  • business: marketing, social media, content and
  • writing, creativity and productivity.

I ventured into technology and wrote about AI, I gave a try to parenting, I sometimes write about culture and feminism — but I stick to my main areas as that’s where I am most comfortable and where my articles are best appreciated.

I have a back catalogue of “only” 284 stories which is nothing compared to the thousands of stories some writers have, but I am working on building it up.

I intend to stay here, with an occasional peek into some areas that catch my interest. Writing about life is a gold mine, there are so many topics to write about that resonates with my readers.

Personal stories, sex and love sell

After the recent MPP changes, it is more apparent than it was before, that those stories that touch us on a human level work very well: be it about relationship advice, sex stories or self-help based on personal experiences. They work, because they resonate with a lot of people and because they are universal.

My best selling stories are relationship related even if they talk about sexuality.

Relationships
Relationships and Self
Relationships
Relationships

They are nowhere near some stats I have seen — stories that make 5k in a few weeks, oh, yeah well… But still, these stories work consistently well and they add up.

I write about these because I care about the topics, not because they make money. I was writing about them even when they weren’t making me any money. Now that I can see that it’s lucrative, of course, I will capitalise on it and write more that interests me and earns me money.

I don’t suggest you to take up writing erotica and smut (although why not, if that’s your thing, it’s great!) just to make money off it, but I do believe that it is possible to write about sexuality in a more subtle way that touches on cultural and societal issues, that is informative and helpful. We need to talk about it, we need to open up about our vulnerabilities, our sexuality, our mental health and our struggles — to make others belong and to educate, inform or entertain.

I will keep writing about my personal life, my love and loss and pain, my anxiety and depression and yes, about my orgasms and sex life and dating failure equally. Not only to make money but because this is what I want to write about.

Adapt to the situation

I was learning how to adapt from the beginning. I have a track record of being adaptive — as I used to be an employee of the corporate world for almost two decades, I have vast experience in it. Writing for an audience is not that much different. It’s an everchanging environment where you can struggle or thrive, depending on your willingness to go with the flow or against it.

My writing goals also include to be curated often, and I care about my views and reads and claps — a lot. I have been adapting my articles, my topics, my writing style to meet the expectations while still keeping my base values.

During the summer months when the views were down and my stats looked depressing I experimented with pushing them up with poetry. I have been writing poetry forever, but I never thought I could do it in English as well. I did it and it was great for the views and I got a lot of appreciation from it. I tried to adapt — because it was within my comfort zone.

But when people suggested me to write shorter pieces — my average article length is around 8 minutes — to get more views and more claps, I said no to it, because it’s not how I work. I write quite verbose pieces, I like to allow myself to explain, I like to support my arguments with examples and research and I never managed to shorten my pieces.

It wasn’t for me, so I tried but it didn’t work. I should have adapted, but I couldn’t. So I gave up.

After the change of the MPP, it turned out that longer reads worked better for me, so I was eventually happy about not adapting to that system. I wanted but I couldn’t do it without compromising my style, so I let it go and it turned out to be a good choice.

I would suggest taking up an adaptive behaviour, and adapt to the situation as much as you can — but never compromise on what you believe in.

Don’t limit yourself

And last but not least, don’t limit yourself. I limited myself for more than twenty years and I started to write only when I was past forty. I wish I could go back to my twenties and convince myself to believe in the dreams I have.

If you want to do something, don’t let anyone else limit you, and please don’t limit yourself either. Try it, do it, adapt, change, and persist. But don’t let anyone convince you that you are not good enough, that you are not a writer, that you don’t belong here.

I am struggling with the occasional imposter syndrome, the writer’s block is killing me, I am doubting my abilities and I can get into a spiral of self-loathing when someone points out a typo — as if it was a proof for me not belonging here as I am not even a native speaker. But I won’t let any of these stop me. I am better than that, so much better.

So this is how I got here.

I am a writer. I could even say, I will eventually be a great writer someday. I write and I work on my writing voice and my style. I stick to my plans and never let go of my dreams. And I frequently pat myself on the back, because it is something! It is a great thing. The greatest of it that I can write. And as a not insignificant factor, but only a by-product to my consistent work, I am getting paid for it.

And I intend to work just as hard because this is just the beginning.

I hope you can find something for you to take away from this, some inspiration, some help, some motivation. I am rooting for you! Thanks for being here on this journey with me.

If you liked this and want some more, follow me on Twitter or IG and sign up for my newsletter.

Writer. Dreamer. Hopeless romantic. Newsletter: zita.substack.com Email me: zitafontaine (at) gmail

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