For the past couple of months, I’ve been offering free feedback to any of my fellow Medium writers who are looking for ways to grow on the platform.
I might not be the top of the top writers here, but after two and a half years of blogging on Medium, I’ve learned a lot about the platform — mostly from making my own mistakes! I’d like to use what I’ve learned to help newer writers avoid these same pitfalls.
While looking at profiles, it’s no surprise that I’ve seen a few mistakes repeated frequently among new writers. Below, I’ve listed the most common three. If you’re a new writer, chances are you’ve been making at least of one these mistakes without ever thinking twice about it:
The single most common mistake that I’ve noticed is using photos without proper attribution. Doing this makes your articles ineligible for curation, which seriously limits your readership. It can also violate the license for certain images.
Every photo that you use on Medium should be one that you have a legal right to use, and it should include proper attribution (a statement in the caption about who took the photo.)
The easiest way to check both these boxes at once is to use Medium’s built in image search. When you’re writing an article, start a new line and click the plus sign that appears. Then click the magnifying glass to open a search bar.
From this search bar, you can easily access Unsplash’s catalog of completely free images. Search for any topic you want, click the image you like best, and it will automatically be added to your article with proper attribution.
If you’d prefer to use images from elsewhere, make sure that they are in public domain or have a license that allows you to use them. Creative Commons is the most popular free license. You can also purchase the rights to some photos, but this isn’t really necessary to do well on Medium.
Finally, if you use a photo that you took yourself, you still have to provide credit. Simply write “Photo by the author” in the caption.
Another common mistake is to write titles that are far too vague. Most of the new writers I’ve looked at have written great articles, but the titles tend to lag behind.
A good title should give the reader a clear indication of what the article will be about. Don’t be afraid to be over-the-top obvious about it.
One strategy that I use to write titles is to think of questions that people might search for on Google or in the Medium search bar. This makes sure that my title is conveying the content of my article in a clear way.
Try to think about your title from a reader’s point of view. Most of your potential readers won’t recognize your name or have read any of your other articles. The title is the only thing you have to draw them in. What can you write to make the reader click your article instead of the ones surrounding it?
Not Using Publications
The final major mistake that many new writers make is to overlook publications. Medium is full of user-run publications, many of which accept submissions from completely new writers.
The advantage of being in a publication is that it can potentially put your article in front of anyone who follows that publication. For new writers, who don’t have many people following their profiles, this is an easy way to greatly increase your readership.
Medium publications typically don’t pay you, but you can still make money through the partner program for articles in a publication. In fact, you’re likely to make a little more money than usual since you’ll be getting more readers.
The actual number of additional readers you get can vary wildly. Sometimes it will be just one or two more, other times it could be thousands.
To get started with publications, simply browse Medium for articles about the same topic as your own. See which publications those articles are in, and then check the publication home page for details about how to submit. Each publication has its own submission process.
When I was first starting on Medium, I was a bit intimidated by the entire publication-submission process, but the truth is that there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all very low stakes, because if a publication rejects you, you can simply publish the article like normal, or even submit it to another publication.