How to Make Money on Medium: An In-Depth Guide for Beginners
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Learning how to make money on Medium as a freelance writer is actually easier than you might imagine. The barrier to entry is low, meaning you have an opportunity to build a long-term passive income from your Medium articles if you are willing to put in the work.
There aren't many really strong websites left that are considered web 2.0 or have an open writer policy.
Medium.com is one of those exceptions.
In fact, they are widely regarded as an incredibly strong website that provides a wide array of opportunities thanks to their 80-100 million monthly visitors. That's a whole lot of traffic no matter who you are!
Writers have the ability to join the Medium Partner Program, which allows them to make revenue off of their articles. This is an exciting opportunity for many individuals. Especially those who enjoy writing or are passionate about sharing their subject.
Want an entire course that teaches you how to grow an audience and make money on Medium? Try this full Medium Course right here.
- What Is Medium?
- How Writing on Medium Works
- Making Money on Medium
- Is Full-Time Income from Medium Possible?
- Verdict: Can You Make Money on Medium?
What Is Medium?
Medium is a strong publishing platform that has thrived at a time when many other writer-generated sites have struggled. Especially ones with a wide range of topics and interests.
Featuring massive traffic, a pay wall that Medium writers have the option of putting content behind (or they can make it freely accessible 100% of the time), and a strong push on revenue through membership, the Medium publication is very unique and has created a remarkable online reach. And they pay their writers!
That means opportunities for content creators looking for another way to diversify their income.
In addition to the main site, Medium also has “Publications.” These are online “shared spaces” under the Medium brand that act as online magazines run by Medium itself. Medium publications are topic-based and open to many writers.
Or in some rare instances a one-writer game.
There are over 10,000 publications on Medium, some of which have hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors all on their own.
They do a good job covering all of this in their blogging guide found here.
This umbrella of publishing and the massive number of paid subscribers buying into the value that Medium offers helps them to make a really unique online space. One where the writers who contribute have opportunities not only for attention and traffic but can also earn money on Medium.
Many Medium writers have done very well doing just that!
How Writing on Medium Works
The first step to making money on Medium is signing up as a writer and joining the Medium Partner Program. This isn't difficult.
Sign up is easy because they are open to new writers. You do need to have a bank account or debit card that you can attach to your Medium account to receive payments. Actual payments come via Stripe.
This does mean that you must be based in a country that supports Stripe to receive payments. While Stripe is a growing company that serves a solid number of countries around the globe, they're not worldwide as of this writing. That means you'll need to check to see if your home address qualifies or not.
If you live in a country that Stripe does not serve yet, unfortunately, there really isn't a workaround for that, at least at this point in time. They don't send checks, so all transactions have to be through Stripe to a bank account.
If you are based in a Stripe-friendly country, then you can sign up for the Partnership program right away. I was paid as a Partner for my very first article published on Medium. Writers are paid once a month, almost always by the 8th.
Getting signed up is easy as the Medium Partner Program definitely focuses on getting talented writers ready to get up and writing on Medium as quickly as possible. This is great because it makes it easy to get started writing. That means getting started earning money.
The Clap System Has Changed
Payments used to be determined by a combination of the number of claps from subscribers, and how many claps each subscriber gave in a month. That would divide their $5 subscription into a portion that would be paid to every article that received a clap from them.
You no longer earn money on a per clap basis on Medium. While claps are still there, they aren't quite as important as they used to be. As of fall 2019, they are no longer a part of the equation to figure out how much Medium writers get paid.
Claps are still important. Medium pays attention to them to see what types of articles their subscribers pay attention to and applaud. Publications within the Medium umbrella do the same thing. They are also a decent indication of whether you are on the right track while writing on this platform or not.
A story receiving a high percentage of early claps might get more attention from curators, who work to promote good pieces of content in an effort to get the best Medium stories more attention. This can happen even with your first article.
In fact, this is exactly what happened with the first article I wrote for Medium.
The New Medium Payment System
Now the important stat is read time from paying subscribers. Many writers actually like this shift as it does two things.
- It rewards long reading time whether you're an established writer on Medium or a beginning one
- This also rewards longer articles that writers have put a lot of time into
Admittedly, my first article would probably have paid much more on the new system. The highlighted sections in the screenshot below from my first article show these two important stats and where they'll appear on the article.
By focusing on creating high quality content Medium readers will read all the way through; you'll be set up for success. You get paid from these stats now. You also put yourself in a position to get your story curated or even featured.
Medium does the heavy lifting getting traffic for their active writers. That lets you focus on your writing.
While advertising your articles on social media like Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook can be a great way to get some attention, it's the pre-existing traffic that can really work to your advantage.
Medium does offer an interesting option of “importing” stories that you use elsewhere. This means you can conceivably write something for LinkedIn and publish that same piece on Medium. Or even a blog post on your own website.
This can be a good tool for someone who has to handle their content creation on their own and want to expand outreach.
For true beginners, Medium almost certainly is going to have a larger reach. A new writer can get curated or featured if their piece is good enough.
However, there are legitimate concerns with this strategy, and it's not going to be right for everyone.
For individuals building themselves as a brand, creating expertise for something like a speaking career, or for those who just want to get the word out period, this can be a useful way to get the most out of every piece of content.
For many other marketers, while this can be interesting, the drawbacks may not be worth the time savings. Still, this is an interesting little feature that most user-generated content sites don't allow.
Making Money on Medium
Medium is not an article directory. This is very important to understand up front. This isn't like an advanced version of the old article directories that used to spam up the internet wherever you looked.
Medium also isn't a substitute for an affiliate site. The product heavy top-10 lists aren't going to gain traction here because that's NOT what the millions upon millions of readers there are looking for.
Medium is an online publication that really does focus on quality writing. Readers come for articles that read like you could find them in a magazine. They like informational articles. They like personal experience articles.
Quality definitely gets rewarded over quantity in a Medium article.
Subscribers vs. Non-Subscribers
When you write an article for Medium you have a choice between keeping it open for everyone, or keeping it locked behind a Medium paywall. While it might seem like a good idea to keep the article open for everyone to see, there are actually several reasons to re-think this.
The first important detail to understand is not all views and read times count towards getting paid for an article. Only those from readers who pay the $5 monthly description count towards getting paid for your article.
While it might seem counter-intuitive, keeping your content locked behind the subscriber paywall can actually result in getting more traffic and more attention than you otherwise would.
Medium heavily promotes its content behind the paywall. This means more marketing, more promotion, and if a piece is going to be curated or featured it will almost certainly be among those articles that are for paying subscribers. In other words, by focusing on keeping your Medium stories where you can receive direct payment for them you might also be getting the largest number of possible views.
Reading time matters whether you are trying to make money from Medium directly from getting paid for the writing, or you're going to use Medium to drive traffic to a website or promote your expertise/services. The more attention you can get, the better.
This means focusing on three major parts of the beginning of your Medium article:
- Snappy eye-catching headline.
- Solid opening paragraph.
- Interesting, authoritative lead-in.
You want the snappy headlines to catch attention. Then the solid first paragraph is to draw readers in and up those read times. Those are great, but then that follow up lead-in paragraph needs to show value to your readers.
If you can show early and often you know how to tell a story with words, then you're going to get a lot more out of the Medium platform.
You're also going to see much larger and more consistent direct payments from writing.
Bonus payments actually are a thing on Medium. Sometimes when someone writes a really outstanding article, the human editors behind Medium want to reward it. There aren't a lot of clear guidelines on what constitutes a bonus payment.
The feeling is that there isn't a clear system or set in stone set of standards. But sometimes a bonus payment is given to an article that an editor or reviewer finds particularly outstanding.
These bonus payments on Medium members are generally $100 flat from what most writers report who have received them.
Payments to the Medium Partner Program members are not instantaneous. They are paid out once per month when payment is made for the rest of the writer's monetary earnings for that month.
While this can't be counted on as a consistent source of income it is a possibility that is always out there.
Curated & Featured
There are two terms that come up a lot on Medium when describing articles: curated and featured. So what do these mean?
An article that is curated is one that is seen as high quality enough that an editor decides to have your post recommended in one (or multiple) topics. This gives it a bit more exposure and allows you to be found by readers perusing actual topics on the Medium site.
How long you've been writing for Medium doesn't matter: your very first article can be curated if it's good enough.
Case in point:
Being featured is much harder to pull off, but it's a big deal if you can.
This means a well-written article hits the right notes with what is trending at the time and the tastes of whatever editor is reviewing your work. If you're featured, you're just that: featured. You get a big front page push and that is incredibly profitable for writers who managed to snag one of those honors.
Affiliate links are allowed on Medium. While spammy content can be penalized and writers banned, including an affiliate link is allowed. Make sure you provide quality content that Medium readers will enjoy.
You do need to disclose in the article that the links are affiliate in nature and that you get compensated for any purchases made through the links.
As with any affiliate marketing links, these work best when put in excellent content that builds trust and authority. If you can do this in an article, then you might just be able to harness Medium's amazing traffic to get some solid sales off a well-placed link.
Direct affiliate sales can be another way of monetizing articles on Medium. The other option you can pick is to use your writing skills and the platform's traffic to drive traffic to an affiliate website you own.
One of the strong points of Medium is the ability to drive traffic. Because of the sheer amount of traffic the site sees, a single article that gets a lot of attention can end up sending a large number of potential visitors to a website.
Driving traffic is one of the strongest potential ways of using Medium. Traffic here can be used to go to a website offering your services for sale, an e-book, or even an affiliate site. This is in addition to any SEO benefits or reputation building benefits that come from appearing on Medium.
Promotion & SEO
Medium can make money for marketers by being part of online promotion or SEO efforts. There aren't many websites high in trust and authority that are just open to writers. While that is the main site versus your article URL, a link from Medium is in your control because you can write the article.
A link from Medium might not be the strongest in the world. At least in terms of pure SEO punch, but it's a link that you can build and get for yourself on a site that is recognized as an authority by Google. There's no denying that there's at least some value in that!
Medium is a high-traffic platform. Writing well enough to get Medium stories curated or even featured could be big for your earnings. Even beyond that, the boost in readers could turn into a major boost in awareness of who you are and what services you offer.
Two Main Paths
There are generally two main paths for making money on Medium, and it's possible to combine the two to some extent. The first is the writing route. For individuals who are very good writers but struggle with affiliate marketing or building niche websites, Medium can be a great way to build a writing portfolio they can actually make consistent income off of.
Direct income paid by Medium is the first main path for income.
The second is using Medium to drive traffic and boost your web properties.
This is driving traffic to your website, increasing your online reach, and even boosting your reputation. Whether you're trying to build your profile or drive masses of traffic, both can be done by writing high quality articles on Medium.
In that scenario, the money is made from converting the traffic your drive from Medium.
Is Full-Time Income from Medium Possible?
There are a lot of numbers out there on Medium earnings, and a full-time income is indeed possible.
A majority of writers are not making that at this point. But that doesn't mean the potential isn't there. There are many ways to earn money from Medium. Whether as a writer first by nature or a marketer with some writing talent.
There's likely something at Medium for you.
For talented writers who also work hard to learn affiliate marketing and build passive income through building sites, they can make a full-time income using multiple strategies for both writing great articles and driving traffic while picking up the occasional affiliate sale.
The majority of writers are not making a full-time income on Medium based on released numbers. In fact, only a very small total number are, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible!
Even for those who see Medium as mainly a way to promote other sites or as a side hustle, there are a lot of potential benefits that come from working with this platform.
While the high end numbers are impressive, only 10% of total writers make above $100 a month and even fewer make a full-time living. Then again, there are writers making five figures on Medium: so it's possible.
Learn from Those Who Have Done It
There are many great articles right on Medium about how to make money on Medium. In fact, it's safe to say that it's one of the favorite topics for writers and readers alike.
Articles like this, this, or this all give some insight into where each percentage falls. As well as how the writers are doing. Keep in mind that with any site that signs up writers, a good 50% of them often write a couple articles (if that) and then never again. This can make the earnings reports seem worse than they actually are.
That being said, it takes work and skill to make serious money on Medium.
For those good writers intrigued by what the site has to offer you can save yourself a lot of time, and a lot of trial and error, by taking a look at this Medium Writing Course put together by a successful Medium writer making a very healthy living writing just for Medium.
Learning how to earn money writing on the Medium platform from those who have already done well increases your chances of quickly earning money for your efforts.
Verdict: Can You Make Money on Medium?
Absolutely. The site is really open about the numbers. If a new writer just writes a single story, the chances of making money is really small. As with any blogging platform the key to becoming a successful writer is to write quality content. And a lot of it.
Stay persistent as a writer, do a little social media promotion, and your Medium earnings will build over time. Maybe even to a full-time passive income if you stick with it.
There will be surges here and there during your Medium writing career. Some articles will take off. Others may struggle. Every successful Medium writer will experience this. The key is persistence.
There are not many writers who make a full-time living from writing for Medium. That being said, there are hundreds who have managed to do so already. That number continues to grow as more writers find everything that Medium has to offer. Writers can write articles and earn money every month by doing so.
There are many opportunities to make money writing from Medium. While most individuals do this through direct writing payments there are other options. Affiliate links in articles are a viable option. So is driving traffic to money-making websites.
All of these are viable ways to get paid as a freelance writer on Medium.
There are plenty of options here. While this might not be for everyone, for strong writers in particular making income from Medium can be a great way to take advantage of those skills.
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