I Made $0.54 on Medium Last Week—And with a Little Procrastination You Can Too!
I don’t mean to brag. I was raised to value humility as a virtue. But Medium is also an incredibly supportive community of aspiring, amateur and professional writers. So who am I to keep my success secrets to myself?
For those of you who’ve joined the Medium Partner Program Wednesdays are always an exciting day.
I joined last year with an initial goal of earning more than I was paying. I was tired of the three-article limit and wanted to be able to read to my heart’s content.
But the more I read the more I started writing. And the more I started writing the more I started earning. With the exception of one month I was almost consistently doubling what I earned every month. It was astonishing. And addictive. Until last week. Which really started in the two weeks leading up to it. Earning two whole quarters and four cents was an important reminder of how important it is to not produce quality content consistently if your goal is to earn as little money as possible, (while simultaneously seeing a significant drop in your claps and new followers.)
For the last three years I’ve been pretty nomadic — packing is a tedious and frequent chore. For the last year I’ve been splitting my time between Oregon and Mexico. When I’m in Oregon I divide that time between three cities. So whether I’m packing for three months or three days I feel like I’m always packing. And in transit. Though I’ve gotten better at writing in airports, on planes, in my dad’s home office, during nap-time when babysitting my sister’s munchkins, and at other people’s dining room tables while house/pet-sitting, I just couldn’t see too many articles through to completion these last few weeks while I got ready to go back to Oregon.
Doing next to nothing is a replicable model for success if you too would like to earn less than a dollar a week when you pull up your stats next Wednesday.
Secret #1, Start articles but never finish them.
Inspiration can strike at any moment. And the best part is you don’t have to do anything. You can be catching up on the last 14 episodes of SVU and the perfect car accident metaphor for sexual assault will occur to you. Press pause and bullet out your points on your Notes app, where this article might live and die and never see the light of the internet, and get back to your show. Who knew Snoop Dog would ever be on Law & Order?! This is much more important than building and maintaining a writing career. And even though the plot and half the acting is worse than the writing in half your drafts at least it’s so bad it’s good. (To be honest with you it was just pure bad, pretty painful to watch actually.) But passive entertainment is sooo much easier than creating quality content with passion and your unique personality.
Start as many articles as you want! There doesn’t seem to be a max data limit. I have 51 drafts on my Medium account alone. That doesn’t include drafts in my Notes apps on my phone and laptop, Google Docs or fragments scribbled in my notebook and on the backs of receipts.
Whether you’re a writer prone to effortless inspiration but struggle with completion or you’re a grindstone writer who could finish with flourish if you could just figure out where to start, you can draft dozens of articles you will never post.
All writers are susceptible to all writing ailments. Fear not! You can struggle with inspiration and execution. As they say, good is the enemy of great. So spend more time editing than writing. Keep perfecting old drafts of stories and comments without actually publishing them.
Starting and not finishing works for writing comments and responding to comments on your own articles too. Just keep all your ideas in your drafts folder where their brilliant and beautiful potential remains eternally intact.
Secret #2, Don’t Write with Vulnerability or Heart
We all know cold data is more reliable, and therefore more relatable and valuable than stories with contextual depth or exquisite detail or vulnerability that makes strangers ache just from reading it.
As humans we have few voyeuristic tendencies. We don’t seek intimate access into the lives of others for any possible insight into our own lives. We prefer dry lists. Charts and graphs with no schadenfreude or feel-good triumphs. Jargon that reads with an academic ennui but seems to lack an actual point.
Don’t share your funny anecdotes or the painful lessons you’ve learned. Readers don’t respond well to “deep” or “real”. They don’t want to know what your grandmother’s kitchen smelled like when she was baking or how your Dad sounded on the drums when you were a kid. Just tell, don’t show. Think stats over stories.
In short, don’t share yourself. Don’t write about anything that matters to you. Don’t write about what you think would matter to anyone else either.
This protects your privacy and keeps people from relating to anything you write about.
Secret #3, Don’t Write At All
This is easier said than done. But I believe in your ability to not write too!
There are more articles than I could ever link to about how to grow your following on any platform. And there are probably hundreds specifically on how to Medium better. How to get more followers, more claps, more comments, highlights and mentions.
But it turns out if you have Amazon Prime you can watch reruns of Psych you’ve already seen. And now that you’re not doped up on pain medication and muscle relaxers, (see car accident above), it’s almost like watching them for the first time. And chuckling at a cheeky detective dramedy about best buds is way more wholesome than writing about sexual assault anyway. It’s undoubtedly better for your mental health than responding to enraged comments or writing about racism and sexism and your own painful experiences in the first place, so, really, it’s an investment in you.
And that’s not to say you can procrastinate with just TV. You can also spend a long weekend in pajamas and surround yourself with the sixteen or so books you’re concurrently reading. Keep them in a stack and move them from your nightstand to your desk to the couch as needed.
If I don’t recommend finishing articles why would I recommend starting and finishing books one at a time? It’s far more inefficient to read a hundred at once and all over the place.
Right now I’m simultaneously reading The Forger’s Spell, The Looting of the Iraq Museum, Escuela de Paris, Buddha’s Brain, Daring to Trust, two Nelson DeMille novels, a book on Dalí and a secondhand coffee table book I found for $1 on the Maya empire. If you’re doing your math, you’ve already realized that earning more than 50¢ per week would afford you the luxury of buying TWO secondhand coffee table books every single month if you procrastinate hard enough and produce next to nothing.
While $0.48 for a three-month-old article is impressive enough, imagine earning a staggering $0.06 from an article you wrote seven months ago. Although most people read new articles featured on their curated homepage, last week a few people wanted to read an old article about romance and a much older article about white privilege.
Avoid the algorithms that, however mysteriously, lead to readership. If you want to not make money stay out of the queue and watch some pennies roll in from old articles you already published.
No one is in this for the money, right? This is about art and passion. And writing only when it’s easy and convenient. But just like money and hard work, art and passion, less is more.