Image for post
Image for post
Photo by @neonbrand

Can Writers Make Money on Medium in 2020?

Little tips for articles that earn — even if you’re new to Medium.

Here’s some info to establish credibility. Right now on Medium, I’m officially a top writer about Business, Productivity, and Books. Just one of my articles alone has generated over $2,000 and counting. I had spent no longer than two hours writing it. By the way, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I’ve linked it down at the bottom of this article.

In this article, I’ll discuss the Medium writing process that has worked best for me. I’ve had my fair share of trial and error experiences, trying out different strategies with each of my articles.

Did I crack the “code”? No. Honestly, no one can do that. Even if they say they have. But, at this point, I definitely know a thing or two.

Why do I want you to have these hard-earned tips of mine? Well, writing is important. It forces you to educate yourself and practice explaining complicated thoughts in terms that everyday folk can understand. I want you to feel empowered to write.

I want to save you time and energy so you can just focus on the fun parts of the writing process on Medium. And money can come as a result.

Deciding What To Write About

First, think about yourself. What are some things that you’re passionate about right now?

I live in the circles of business, psychology, and technology, so I mainly write about those types of topics. However, sometimes, I’ll write about something that is out of my normal zone. I do that to diversify my writing experience. This article is an example of that.

The next step is to figure out what other people are interested in right now. The goal is the figure out the happy compromise between what you’re interested in and what other people are interested in.

If you manage to meet in the middle like that, you will get more views and responses from readers, which will help you make money. If you purely write about what you want to write about, that’s completely fine, but don’t expect to make money from your writing that way. The money will (indirectly) come from your readers, so you must take them into account.

To figure this out, head over to the Medium search bar and type in the topic of what you’re considering to write about. If you’re considering writing about how to start a candle-making business, type in “candle-making” and see what articles pop up.

Look at the titles of each article that pop up, and also at how many claps each article has. Pay close attention to the articles that have a thousand claps or more. Those are the ones that have likely been successful.

Use this evidence to decide what your article should focus on. If candle-making doesn’t seem to be a popular topic, type in something like “start a business” and see what comes up. If the results look promising, then perhaps you can write an article about generally starting a business, and incorporate candle-making into your discussion. This process will help you decide what you should really write about if you want to make money.

Also, this process should give you some good article title ideas. If searching on Medium isn’t enough, just try Google. See what comes up on the first page. You’ll likely notice a couple of trends.

Once you’re done with this, draft a title and a subtitle. You can finalize these after your article is written.

Write a bulleted outline for the article content. When you’re done creating a content outline, group bullets together that might flow well together. Once you have this down, separate the outlined and grouped content under draft headers. Each header should represent a section of the article that will contain at least a paragraph or two. For this particular piece, I thought that it’d be good to not have too many headers. Most of the time, though, I‘ll make use of headers a bit more.

On that note, make space on the top of the article for an intro. Also, make space at the bottom for a conclusion. You don’t need to write these until you finish writing your main content.

Start Writing, For Real Now

Some writers think that you shouldn’t write an article intro until after the main content is finished. Honestly, I think it’s good to write your intro first. Writing your intro helps you get into the mindset of your article topic, before getting into the weeds. It only has to be a few paragraphs, like my intro above. Here, explain why what you’re writing about is important, and what the reader should expect in your article. Motivate the reader to keep on reading.

Use your outline and headers to start writing in the body. Just write, write, and write, header by header. It doesn’t have to be perfect at all. Let your thoughts flow.

There’s a myth that writers on Medium should have a size limit of 3–4 sentences per paragraph (when writing on a laptop, since there will be more lines on mobile). This isn’t good advice to follow, because it can actually annoy readers. It’s better to do whatever feels most natural and tailor it towards whatever you’re writing about. You’ll notice that this article has been quite stream-of-consciousness, so the paragraph sizes vary. It’s good to keep the reader on their toes, so to speak.

Before you know it, you’ll be done with the intro and body, so it’s time to write the conclusion. This ending should briefly sum up the article. This is a place where you can recommend another one of your articles and encourage readers to respond with their own thoughts.

Don’t ask for more than that. Don’t ask people to buy something, follow something, or sign up for something. That’s not what Medium is for.

Go back up to the top of your article and finalize the title and subtitle. Looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes is helpful.

People do like numbers and lists. If applicable, see if you can draw out any numbers from your article. If your article contains 7 tips or something like that, you can include that number in the title, subtitle, or intro.

With a lot of practice, you’ll be able to write full articles within 1–3 hours. However, try to keep your article read time between 4–10 minutes. Around 7 minutes is a wonderful amount of time. If your article is 3 minutes or less, write more. If your article is over 10 minutes long, think about how to cut it down.

Once all of your content is done, read it through to make sure everything makes sense. But, don’t stop there. Use Grammarly to check for typos. Use Hemingway Editor to make sure that you don’t have any run-on sentences.

Now, it’s time to make your article really shine. Make use of the special Medium formatting options. Here’s a messy tour:

Use big letter starters to start your intro, conclusion, or both.

“This is a cool quote format to use.” — Ben

“This is a cool quote format too. You can also use this to reemphasize a key point in your article.” — Ben

This is an awesome way to show your code, an excerpt, or something else.

You can also emphasize things like terms, variables, or names like this within a normal sentence.

When separating your intro from your body, and your body from your conclusion, I recommend using a separator like this:

Also, don’t forget the usual suspects like bold and italics.

Publishing Your Article

After spicing up your Medium article, you’re ready to publish. Before you do, make sure that you sign up for the Medium Partner Program. The program allows you to earn money when Medium subscribers read your article. By the way, I’d highly suggest becoming a Medium subscriber yourself. At $50 per year, it’s totally worth it. And it’s nothing compared to what you can make from your articles.

As you publish your article, you can pick up to 5 category tags. These tags will help the Medium curators decide what to do with your article. A curator is a person who reviews your article and decides where it belongs in Medium (that person might be an algorithm instead, or a mix of both…I’m not sure). You should take advantage of this by using no fewer than 5 tags. A common misconception is that you should pick tags that best describe your article specifically.

This is not how Medium works. Instead, 4 out of the 5 tags that you choose should be incredibly popular categories.

Medium makes it easy to know which ones are popular. When you start typing in a tag that you’re considering, you’re able to see the number of people that follow that topic. If you pick tags with 100K or more, then you’re in good hands, but don’t go any lower than 40K. The more popular your tags are, the more likely you are to get curated in a popular category.

Having trouble finding a popular tag? If so, you’re probably thinking too specifically. For instance, if you’re considering the tag Book Advice, and notice that it isn’t popular, take it a step back. If you just choose a tag like Advice, which is a much broader category, you’ll notice that it’s quite popular.

Once you finally push the publish button, you just have to wait and see what happens. You can only hope that your article gets curated in at least one category. This means that your article will get exposure on the front page for that category, which is really nice. If you’re lucky, your article can get chosen for several categories. Knowing if you’re selected can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of days.

Chances are, some of your articles will probably not get selected. Even if you think that your article is really awesome. Maybe it’s actually really awesome. Sometimes, the curation process just doesn’t work in your favor for whatever reason.

Honestly, this just means that you should keep on writing new articles. Don’t spend your time worrying about one article. The more high-quality articles you publish, the more likely you are to get curated. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of flops and successes.

The next step is to submit your article to a publication. For brand new Medium writers, this process can seem confusing. Here’s how it works if you’re new.

After you publish your first article, hopefully it gets curated, but it might not. At this point, you have two options. You can find a publication on Medium that looks nice and formally submit your article to them, or you can wait to see this pops up on the side of your article: *. That * means that a publication admin saw your article and wants you to submit your article to them. If you click on the *, you’ll see a note from a publication admin, encouraging you to submit. Don’t forget to give them thanks. If you submit, you’re basically guaranteed to get accepted.

You can decide whether or not you want to submit to a particular publication. At first, I wouldn’t be too picky. But, as you write more, you’ll have more options. That’s because publications can make you an official “writer” for them. I’m probably an official writer for a dozen publications. This means I can easily click-and-submit to those publications, and they’re likely to be accepted.

Once you do have options, look into the publications and see how many followers they have. Try to get published in one that has a lot of followers.

By the way, if no one wants to accept your article into their publication, no sweat. That has happened to me a bunch of times. Just keep writing new articles.

Then, the following day, check out your article stats. You can do this by clicking on your profile and pressing the Stats button. I’ll briefly explain what to look out for.

The main stats to looks at are your Views, Reads, and Read Ratio. The number of views tells you how many people saw your article. If you’re able to get 5K views or more, that’s awesome. The number of views on my articles ranges from 9 views and 68K views (a large range indeed). That’s the reality.

The number of reads refers to how many people actually scroll through your article. This should be a portion of your number of views, which is exactly what your read ratio is about. Your read ratio tells you how many people actually read your article when they see it. A healthy read ratio is around 45%, but you should expect to see ratios between 30% and 60%.

No matter the outcomes after you publish your article, don’t stare at Medium all day. Close your laptop and move on with your day. Start fresh tomorrow.

Thanks for reading — hopefully, this helped you understand how to make money from your Medium articles. It’s quite simple, as long as you follow the key ideas that I discussed above.

Also, here’s the article that I was talking about at the beginning of this article. Feel free to check it out!

If you have any thoughts about writing onMedium, feel free to comment below.

Until next time!

Written by

Follow me for biz & tech nuggets.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store