I Made $22 On Medium Last Week And We Get It: You’re Good At This

Yeesh.

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Photo by Caroline Ricciardi on Unsplash

Never start a piece with “these days,” but these days, it seems I can’t look down at my phone without being notified that someone else is making more Medium money than I am. Thousands upon thousands of monthly dollars just flowing like honey out of a plastic bear.

It’s great that writers can earn money, if not a living, on Medium. But I can’t shake the feeling that these “guides to success like mine” are kind of…uncool? What’s really the takeaway from them? Don’t write how you write, write like I write, then you’ll be rich? Does that track? It doesn’t for me, it feels like a shtick. And for me, Medium is a shtickless place.

I made $22 on Medium last week. A far cry from the supposed family-supporting sums made by the push notification people on my phone. Admittedly, that amount is low for me. I’m typically an $80-$100 a week kinda gal, but it’s been a rough summer and at the moment I’m not writing as well or as frequently as I’d like. But I’ll tell ya what’s not doing anything to help: constant guides purporting to tell me how to pay rent in claps.

Writing is how I earn my living. But it’s also how I live. It’s what I am. And every guide I see telling me how to write better or write in such a way that I play an algorithm and curation editors like a fiddle makes me feel deeply weird. I don’t want to game this space, to turn it into just another social media platform to manicure. I don’t come here to be perfect, or algorithmically ahead of the curve. I come here to write.

This opinion is probably trash, but mine often are: Writing classes, guides, advice, or seminars are ridiculous to me. How can someone teach me to write? How can someone teach me talent? How can someone know or improve upon what’s inside my head, and translate that into keystrokes from my fingers that have a greater overall net worth? I’m very happy for those who earn their full living on Medium, and I don’t want to discourage writers from writing—ever. But the notion that “I did it, you can do it, too” is informercializing a platform I hold very dear to my heart and it’s gross.

I’ve always written because I love to, the kind of love that feels like “have to” sometimes. And now, on Medium, I write publicly because someone gave me space to do so. Medium took the pitch-silence-follow-up-silence-begging-editor-rejection treadmill I was hamstering on for years and sold it for parts. This is a place where I can write, publish, and engage with an audience—and I don’t need anyone’s permission first. That is a beautiful thing, and if it comes with money—sweet. If it doesn’t, I got to write today, which is pretty sweet too.

I think breaking things down to a science removes their romance. There aren’t many romantic places for me to write as a freelancer. Yes, I have my own website, and I can do what I like there, but it feels like a vacuum. Medium feels like I’m painting a mural on the side of building. Please don’t spoil this platform, with it’s minimalist UX and open, beautifully blank pages I can fill with whatever I want, any time I want, permission-free. I don’t want a guide to making more money on Medium because I’m never going to replicate someone else’s experience, and I’m never going to allow this space to feel like a game to be beaten. The money is nice, the freedom is nicer.

There’s a coldness to “how to make more Medium money” pieces, at least to me. I might be wrong but I also think there’s a pretty good chance of disappointment in them, too. Traffic, virality, and money will always be traceable back to the quality of the content, and back to how much an audience was able to connect with and enjoy it. That and I think there’s a little luck involved, too.

Medium is my Neverland—I can do what I like here. And of course I want to make more money in my life, I think that’s a pretty normal feeling. But what I want more than that is one place where, as a freelance writer beholden to others, what I have more than anything is room to run.

Written by

NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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