Yet another article on how to make money from your writing on Medium
The advice I usually see in my feed is aimed at full-time writers, aspiring full-time writers, and other folks who are willing to replace their own preferences with SEO. Such people are bound to make more money, but it’s also possible to increase your earnings without becoming a one-man clickbait content farm. Here are some tips.
Build a back-catalogue
Even if you can’t write that single thousand-dollar article, it’s fairly straightforward (if you publish frequently) to have a stable of hundreds of one-dollar or ten-dollar or fifty-cent articles. Sometimes articles blow up months or years after they were written, as a new audience discovers them. Your old articles will continue to make steady profit, and the more you have, the bigger the profit you get from new fans (who will often discover you from one article and then read a big chunk of your back-catalogue). All these older articles also have a steady chance of being picked up and shared by readers.
Promote outside of Medium
If you rely on internal Medium recommendations, you will need every article to be curated — and curation is a crapshoot. There isn’t much you can do (beyond the basics described by Medium itself) to improve your odds of curation. But, you can still get high view numbers by promoting your articles elsewhere — view numbers that will increase the likelihood that your article will be shown prominently to your existing followers — and create a record that can lead to new readers stumbling upon your articles in the future.
My best-performing articles have owed their traffic to cross-posting to reddit, facebook, twitter, and hacker news.
Take advantage of the friends link
A friends link prevents non-registered users and non-premium users from hitting a paywall, while not affecting your income from premium users at all. In other words, there is no downside to always sharing the friend link, on every platform.
Join a publication, and publish there often
A publication has a lot of the same benefits as a large back-catalogue, but it lets you pool labor with other writers. The writers in a publication can aid in promoting each other’s articles as well — participating in discussion on link aggregators, or sharing links to specific platforms. Sometimes, the writers in a small publication may pool editing labor as well.
Use a header image, but avoid the cliches
As much as I absolutely hate it, articles on Medium that don’t have a header image are at a disadvantage — they show up with a big, ugly green moire thing that’s the Medium equivalent of an egg avatar. This has led to a tendency for authors to slap the same ten or fifteen royalty-free stock images on their articles — the Medium equivalent of having “life coach” in your twitter bio. Don’t do this.
Instead, I recommend putting together some relevant collage art or grabbing a public domain asset that is specific enough to not fit anybody else’s article on the same subject.
Target multiple non-overlapping audiences
It’s easy to figure out how to target the center of some particular audience — so easy that everybody does it basically the same way.
Writers (and ‘writers’) get pages and pages of recommendations with the same five stock images of women flying with books or cups of coffee on top of journals, near-identical titles leading to near-identical articles laundering the same advice (why it’s important to write every day, why it’s not important to write every day, how to avoid/conquer writer’s block, why writer’s block doesn’t exist, why to follow the hero’s journey, why not to follow the hero’s journey). They target the same cliche ideas about what kinds of hangups writers have: impostor syndrome (‘you are good enough’, ‘pitch your dream publication’), writer’s block, self-obsession (“don’t write what you know”, “why it’s ok to write what you know”). Programmers (and ‘programmers’) get the same sort of thing: pages of the same stock photos of green binary over shitty CG androids, with titles promising “life-changing tricks” you remember from the first page of every language tutorial. If you target the center of the audience, you have a lot of competition.
If you target two audiences at the same time, you will come off as different from the norm for both, and you’ll probably introduce folks in one to the concepts from the other. When I combined leftist politics, cybernetics, and the church of the subgenius, or free software with leftist economics, or media theory with sociology, I got views I wouldn’t have gotten from a straight shot.
Title in the most aggressive way that’s still not misleading
Clickbait is when your title is more interesting than your content. You can get pretty close to clickbait without screwing yourself over if you identify the most interesting or paradoxical part of your point, and use it as your title. These clicks tend to turn into reads, as they did for my articles A Libertarian Case for Social Justice, Silicon Valley Hasn’t Innovated Since 1978, Love Hina Ruined Harem Anime for a Decade, and How Mamoru Oshii Ruined Ghost in the Shell.