I published my first story on Medium exactly three months ago, on October 20th of last year. Since then, I’ve tried my best to write regularly, publishing another 50 stories. If I counted correctly (although that’s a big “if”), this will be story number 52.
When I first started, I read every article I could find about other users’ experiences on Medium. Now that I’ve hit three months and over 50 posts, I’ve decided that it’s time to finally do my own write-up.
I want to emphasize though that I still feel like a Medium newbie, and I’m learning more about the site every day. My stats are more modest than most of the other authors who have written a post like this, but I still think that I’ve learned some lessons over the past three months that are worth sharing.
I’m going to start with my stats, because I know that’s what people love to read.
- I’ve had a total of 13,502 views and 840 fans. That means just over 6% of people who click one of my posts end up clapping for it.
- My average number of views per post is about 265, and the average number of fans per post is about 16. That includes recent posts though, and even old posts continue to get new readers and fans. My guess is that those averages will continue to rise.
- My stats have grown at a steady rate. My first 30 days, I had a total of 1,220 views, and in my last 30 days, I’ve had 6,978.
- Post by post, my stats are extremely polarized (generally based on whether or not a post got distributed by curators). 13 out of my 51 posts have less than 10 views total, and some of those have already been up for a couple of months. 8 of my posts don’t have a single clap.
- Finally, I tend to get a couple of new followers each day. As of writing this, I’m at 205 total.
Overall, these stats are on the lower end when I compare myself to others who have done similar write-ups. But, I think there’s a lot of survivorship bias behind these kinds of posts — the better someone’s stats are, the more likely they are to make a write-up about it. I’m trying not to worry too much about comparing myself to others, but honestly, it can sometimes be hard to resist.
1. I do best by focusing on the issues I care about.
About half my posts have been about my drinking problem and subsequent sobriety. These posts greatly outperform the others, and I think that’s mostly because I have a ton that I want to say about the issue and I care deeply about it.
I’ve tried a couple of posts where I just go after the topics that seem popular on Medium (productivity, for example). These have done poorly even when they get distributed.
On the other hand, caring about an issue isn’t enough to guarantee success. My posts about poetry have only got a handful of views each. I also once spent half a day on a passionate post about juvenile justice reform, drawing on my own experiences as a defense attorney in the juvenile justice system. That post did so incredibly badly that I ended up deleting it (although I’m still looking for somewhere else to publish it instead).
2. The success of an article doesn’t correlate to the effort I put in.
This is something I had already known from past experiences, but it holds true on Medium as well: success and effort don’t always correlate. As I said in my previous point, my article on juvenile justice totally flopped, even though I spent half a day working on it. Meanwhile, I’ve had a couple short posts do really well even though I wrote them in less than an hour.
I don’t think the takeaway here is not to put the effort in. I still spend as much time on each post as I feel it needs. The important thing is to understand that effort won’t always lead to success, and to adjust expectations accordingly.
3. Curation is key.
So many other authors have already pointed this out, so I won’t spend too much time on it, but it’s such a huge point that I at least wanted to mention it. Whether or not my article gets distributed by curators is the single biggest determining factor in how well it does. If I sort my posts by the number of views, the curated posts are all on top and the uncurated posts are all on the bottom.
With each post I write, I really have two audiences: Medium members and the curators. I frequently refer back to the curation guidelines to make sure I’m following all of their rules and suggestions.
4. Posts can make decent money, but it’s inconsistent and hard to predict.
Everything that I’ve posted so far has been in Medium’s partner program, which means it can potentially earn money.
A few of my posts have done well in the partner program. My top post, “The Trouble with ‘Cutting Back’ on Drinking” has earned $75.88, which I’m very happy with. On the other hand, a lot of my posts have earned literally nothing, and I’d guess at least half have earned a dollar or less. Unfortunately, it’s still really difficult for me to predict which stories will make money and which won’t.
I know there are a few people who use Medium as their sole source of income. I’m nowhere near those kinds of numbers. I’m averaging about $50 a week. I’m happy with that $50, but I’m definitely not in quit-your-day-job territory.
5. Followers matter.
When I first joined Medium, I was surprised to see how many members follow thousands of writers. I figured that since people follow so many writers at a time, gaining followers probably wouldn’t have a big impact on my views. I was completely wrong about this.
At 205 followers, I’m already noticing a big impact on how many views my posts get. My very first article on Medium took 3 days to get even a single reader. Now, I can normally count on my posts to get 10–20 views in the first 24 hours.
I also see some readers clapping and commenting on lots of my posts in a row, which is a great feeling. So, let me end this post by saying: Thank you to everyone who has followed me!