It’s My Mediumversary!
I can’t believe that an entire year has passed since I published my very first story on Medium. It certainly doesn’t feel that long, but in saying that, a lot has changed since then.
A year ago, when I wrote my first Medium story, I was running a Wordpress blog that was lucky to get a handful of visitors every day. It certainly wasn’t unusual to have entire days go by without any viewers at all.
So when Medium started off the same way, it felt right. When other writers on the Medium Facebook groups threw fits about not receiving the readership they deserved, it seemed foreign to me.
Years of Wordpress had taught me that attracting any eyes at all was a privilege and most of all, that the platform owed us nothing.
In some ways, I miss the spirit of Wordpress. I miss writers feeling that they weren’t owed anything and that attracting any readers was a joy and that every cent earned was a blessing.
But of course, we never earned anything; which made making the switch to Medium all the easier.
My first article was a guide on how to send money out of China in 2019.
I wrote it because the 2018 guide I’d written for my Wordpress site was responsible for a lot of my views. I assumed that writing an updated version for Medium would attract similar interest; I was dead wrong.
The article received 0 views for its first few weeks online, although at the time I thought it was because it hadn’t been curated.
I thought that all articles were curated eventually, and until they were, they wouldn’t be visible to readers.
Eventually, I worked out how the site actually worked and started pumping out stories trying to find my voice on the site.
Money, Money, Money
My earnings for my first month on Medium was $11.31.
While a lot of my friends made fun of me for making so little after having put in so much effort, I was really proud of my achievement.
This money wasn’t earned because someone had contracted me to write web content or ghostwrite a crappy ebook on BitCoin investing.
Instead, I had been allowed to put my own ideas and creativity out into the world and had been rewarded in the form of royalties.
Royalties have to be the best and most gratifying form of income of all the income streams you can receive.
Your royalties are paid to you as financial compensation for the joy someone else received because of the good work you put out into the world. I could have made $100 that first month and felt the same amount of joy that the $11 had given me.
After writing only a few stories on Medium I was hooked, and I greedily started searching the site for advice and tips for success.
After reading a ton of advice stories and one awful ebook I decided to set three goals for my first three months on the site. They were as follows:
- To earn $50 in the first three months combined
- Publish an article every day
- Earn at least one top writer badge
I managed to achieve two of the goals, the one I didn’t achieve was writing every day. My top writer badge was in Travel, but I’ve since lost that.
While I didn’t achieve the daily writing goal, it wasn’t for lack of trying. For those three months I wrote my ass off and worked like crazy, so as soon as the three months were over, I had burned myself out entirely and didn’t even open the site for a month.
After spending a month away from the site, I came back slowly, writing on and off whenever I felt like it.
At the time, the royalty payment system paid for claps, and I wasn’t someone who received a lot of claps, I still don’t.
Right now, I receive about 90K views a month, and about 60% of those are reads (meaning that the reader read the article all the way to the end).
But of all those reads, only about 1.2K become fans (which means they’ve clicked that clap button).
I’m not at all bothered by the fact that my clap percentage is considered low, because claps no longer affect royalties, so why worry over nothing?
But during my first five months on the site, claps were everything. A day without claps was a day you received no money, no matter how many people read your articles.
I remember feeling that the system was terribly unjust. I had some articles in the early days that received enormous attention, but none of that attention turn into claps, so none of it was monetised.
During my first week writing for the site I wrote a story while I was watching Trish Regan debate with Liu Xin on national TV.
I commented on the debate and added my feedback as it was happening, then hit publish an hour after the debate finished airing on TV. It had hundreds of views during its first few hours on the site, but to this day has one clap, so it earned nothing.
I was unhappy.
Trish Regan vs Liu Xin – Who Won?
The answer to who won the lowest key, highest drama debate of the year
Some people are naturally popular, so regardless of what they wrote they always attracted thousands of claps.
Others had enormous clap circles where friends would all clap for each other and ensure royalty earnings. Clubs like these meant that these writers could write absolutely anything and they were guaranteed to earn royalties.
When Medium eventually changed the system in late 2019, a lot of people were upset, and many noticed an immediate nosedive in their royalties.
I had several friends on the site who were grieving their lost royalties, and many of them quit. I grieved along with them in solidarity, but in reality, I was overjoyed.
I’ve always been fortunate to enjoy a lot of readers, and now I was finally going to be paid for it.
Things Are Turning Around
My earnings quadruped in December because of the change in royalty structure from claps to read time.
This change landed me firmly in “The Club” (my term for the percentage of writers on Medium who earn over $100 per month).
After landing in the club, my motivation really took off. I was already running two publications at the time, but after this new shot of invigoration, I started two more.
I’ve never been a big believer in big publications (I think they’re completely useless) and started pumping content into my four indie publications, as well as submitting to other small publications around the site.
I enjoyed a short-lived curation spotlight in January, so my earnings inflated because so much of my content was being chosen to be featured in the sun.
My earnings for January went up 33% from December, but in February they went up far higher (about 8x higher). This enormous escalation of royalties landed in me in “The Lounge” (my term for the percentage of writers on Medium earning over $1,000 per month).
I was really fortunate that I entered the lounge when I did, because Coronavirus crippled China in February and I was suddenly in need of income.
Lately, I’ve been doing some writing work outside of Medium for companies in China, but the work comes and goes.
Medium has been a stable lifeboat that’s seen me through the coronavirus pandemic without missing any of my bills, and I feel very grateful for that.
When I think back to my Wordpress days, I realise that I’m living the dream I had back then.
I remember spending endless amounts of money on marketing ideas, plugins, editing for my ebooks, and lots of other schemes to try and “make it” in some way.
I always had the dream of paying just one bill with money I’d earned from royalties. If I could do that, I’d consider it all to be a success.
While I still flake on Medium sometimes (like how I ghosted the site for almost the entire month of April), I can definitely see myself contributing to the platform regularly over the next year. Then who knows? Hopefully, this time next year I’ll have an even more positive update to share.
So what’s my takeaway from the past year? Here’s how I’d break it down.
- Hedging your bet on big publications will get you nowhere
- Just when you think you’ve given your story enough proofreading, go ahead and do it one more time
- Don’t write what you think people will want to read, just be honest. Authenticity is valuable because it’s bloody hard to find
- Don’t feel trapped in a niche. I run four publications that talk about money, health, entrepreneurship, fermentation, power, air travel, and more
- Just have fun. No income stream is worth it if you’re not having fun
If Medium didn’t pay, I’d still be writing. I don’t know if I’d be doing it here, but I‘d have to write somewhere or I’d burst.
If you’re new to the site, give yourself time to find your voice, it doesn’t come right away, even if you’ve been blogging for a while. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they sound dumb.
If you’re a reader and writing doesn’t apply to you, thank you for reading my story anyway. I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at my year, and I really hope you stick around for the next one.
Here are a couple of series you might enjoy getting into: