5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Writing for Medium
Sometimes, my Medium journey feels a lot like that picture: write, publish, and pray.
Over the three months that I’ve been writing for Medium, I’ve taken two courses by experienced Medium writers who earn the kind of money I’d like to see from this platform.
In addition to those courses, numerous YouTube videos, and reading a ton here at Medium, I’ve also learned quite a bit from good old trial and error.
Here’s what I wish I had known three months ago.
1. Treat it like social media
When we all started on social media, we started with zero friends and followers. Some followers came automatically because you knew someone already on the platform, but when you take away your mom and best friend, you had to earn the rest on your content.
Content is king.
I thought I would make an enticing article, earn some money, and write another enticing article. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
When building a following on social media, you have to create content that people engage with. The problem is: you don’t know what people will end up engaging with.
I’ve learned that creators benefit from frequency more than perfection. If you don’t know what will attract attention, create lots of things to improve your chances.
Just like social media, stay active and prolific.
2. Don’t niche down
If you’re building an online business, it makes sense to specialize in a niche. Strictly talking about Medium, however, it makes little sense.
Here’s where I went wrong.
I used to own a publishing company, and I’m getting back into the game of self-publishing my fiction. So I thought I’d write articles teaching people how to publish. I dedicated most of September and October to that endeavor.
Could it have worked? Sure. But on Medium, writing about writing doesn’t do as well as other topics.
My niche has the worst views of all my articles.
You can still have your chosen specialty while you write for other topics — I have a publication set up for the writing articles that I publish every week — but you need to spread yourself out.
Don’t focus on one topic, even if it’s the thing you know best. My best article so far is on business and finance, even though my writing articles are far better.
Write about everything. For the rest of the year, I’m going to write about five different topics every week. As I see which ones gain traction, I’ll cut out the ones that aren’t as popular and focus on the breadwinners.
3. Don’t worry about length
Some publications care about how long your articles are, but it doesn’t seem to matter for distribution or read-time.
Let the story determine the length of the story. Sometimes, they’ll be 3-minute reads; other times, they’ll be 12 minutes.
If you inflate an article to hit an arbitrary read-time, people will notice, and they’ll click away.
Focus on making your work engaging — that’s what keeps the eyeballs on your work.
4. Don’t affiliate link
Medium says they’re okay with it, but I’ve tried it a few times. Each time I create an article and include affiliate links, properly cited and everything, I got hit with the “article was not chosen for further distribution” tag within an hour.
I’m not sure where I went wrong, but getting greedy with affiliate linking was not suitable for my Medium articles.
Side note: One place that I’ve found affiliate linking to work well is in your newsletter. Find books or products that you think will add value to your audience and send them a link.
In short: keep the Medium writing to the Medium platform. Engage here.
5. Submit to publications, patiently
When I first came to Medium, the curation methods were different, and publications were not supposed to matter as much. But things change.
Even before the distribution methods change, however, my most read articles were in popular publications.
It’s easy to get impatient with this. After all, a draft isn’t getting any views until it’s been published. But…
An article that no one can find won’t get any views.
Submit to the publication. The nice ones will tell you that they want to pass on it, so you know to submit to another publication.
My rule is to submit three times. If they all turn it down or fail to respond, I publish the article on my page and move on. But I never wait for an article to get accepted before writing the next one.
Keep writing. Keep submitting. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.
The things I wish I knew before I started, in summary:
- Be prolific — write as many quality articles as you can
- Don’t hyperfocus on one niche — write all the things
- Ignore read-time — let the needs of the story dictate its length
- Keep Medium for Medium — affiliate links work best elsewhere
- Submit to publications — they have the audience you need