What I’ve Learned From a Year of Writing on Medium

Or: “The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”

I started writing on Medium last October, which means that this month I’ll be rounding out my first year on the platform.

It’s been both interesting and fun to post here, and I’ve been surprised by how large an audience some of my stories have reached. (A huge thank you to everyone who has read my posts and followed me!)

When I first started writing on Medium, I spent hours and hours reading advice from more seasoned users. Now that I’m a bit more experienced myself, I’d like to pay it forward.

To be honest though, the longer I’ve spent on Medium, the less sure I am about what exactly makes some posts succeed and other posts fail to take off.

Some of the posts that I’ve spent the longest time writing have only attracted a handful of readers. On the other end of the spectrum, one of my most popular stories ever is one that I was so unhappy with that I almost deleted it instead of posting it.

So, even though my posts are getting thousands of readers a month, I’m still no expert on what will do well and what won’t.

With that disclaimer out of the way though, I do still have a few pieces of actionable advice that I think will help new Medium writers build their readership:

Try a Variety of Topics

I strongly recommend that new Medium writers try out many different topics when they first get started. You never know which ones will find an audience here and which won’t. Even after a year on the platform, I still try branching out into new topics.

It’s important not just to emulate the top posts on Medium. I think that many of those topics (productivity advice and computer science, for example) are actually harder to break into because they are oversaturated with writers copying what does well.

I’ve learned to just focus on writing what’s interesting to me. I don’t worry ahead of time if a new topic will do well or not. Instead, I write the posts I want to write and then see how they do.

Also, I’ve decided to be okay with the fact that some topics just won’t do well. I’ve written enough about birding to know that I will never write a birding post that gets more than a handful of readers. Despite that, I’m going to stubbornly continue to write birding posts.

Give Each Idea a Few Chances

There is absolutely an element of “luck” in how well any given post does. No matter how well you write something, it may go up at the wrong time, or fail to get curated into the best categories, or just for whatever unknown reason not take off.

Don’t write off an idea just because your first post about it failed to gain traction.

When you have a post that doesn’t get any readers, feel free to go back and try to write it from a different angle in a month or so. You need to give each idea a few attempts before you can really be sure it won’t work.

When I was new to Medium, I jumped to a lot of conclusions about what does and doesn’t work here. The truth was, my sample size was much too small to come up with any accurate insights. It takes a lot of posts before you can start seeing any clear patterns.

Stick With It

My most important advice for anyone new to Medium would be simply to stick with it.

There are a few success stories on here about people whose first post ever ended up reaching tens of thousands of readers.

More realistically, your first post is going to reach two or three readers. (Unless it gets curated, in which case it will likely reach a couple hundred, but still not thousands.)

It took me a while before my posts started regularly getting a lot of readers, and even now, it can still be hit-or-miss. When I compare the number of readers I get today to the number I was getting half a year ago, the difference is clear. On a week-by-week basis, it’s not so obvious.

In the year that I’ve been posting on here, I’ve seen countless other writers come and go. If you want to do well on Medium, plan to be in it for the long haul.

Thank you again to everyone who has read or followed me in my first year here. I hope to keep posting here for years to come, and I hope many of you will join me!

Written by

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more.

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