How to Make $500+ Writing on Medium in 2021

Blogging is dead, they said. 

How wrong they were.

Medium is the most accessible way for writers to get paid for their work. Simply sign up, start writing, and get paid on their Partner Program.

For instance, I made almost $2,000 in April of 2021 alone.

Untitled design 1

Perhaps the best thing? You can write about whatever you please. Of course, some topics do better than others. For true virality, focus on money, self-improvement, programming, and politics, but you can go viral with anything. Medium is great like that.

Here are the ins and outs of the format. By the end of this article, you’ll understand how to make $500+ writing on Medium in 2021.

Medium: A Brief History

Twitter co-founder Ev Williams created Medium in 2012. Medium, to give you a definition, is essentially Instagram for bloggers without all the superficiality. You can follow writers, create your own profile, and post blogs that your followers can then see on their home page. No–you don’t post pictures, just blogs.

Between then and 2017, Medium changed its logo a few times and gradually implemented the tools writers use every day, such as private notes and responses. In 2017, Medium also implemented their “Partner Program,” which allows writers to get paid based on how many people read their articles.

For a while, Medium based its pay on how many claps writers earned. Claps are basically the equivalent of a Facebook-like for the uninitiated. That’s thankfully changed (as I’ll explain later).

The site then focused on its in-house publications such as Forge, OneZero, and Gen. From there, Medium drafted journalists to help grow the platform and give it a more professional image. However, they’ve since ditched that tactic and are putting the focus back on you, the writer.

Now that’s all well and good, but how does it work?

Medium’s Partner Program

To start, I strongly advise you to pay the $4.99 membership fee, as it means you can write and read as many articles as you want on Medium. The way writers get paid through the subscription fees readers pay to Medium.

Think of it like Netflix. Imagine that if you watched your favorite shows on Netflix, the creators of those shows would get a portion of your membership fee. That doesn’t happen in real life on Netflix, but that’s exactly how it works on Medium.

When people read your articles, you get a portion of the $4.99 they pay to Medium.

Once you’ve paid the membership fee, go ahead and sign up for the partner program. You’ll need to fill in basic details such as your name and address and, depending on where you live, a tax form.

Medium pays its writers through Stripe, usually on the 12th of the following month. Unfortunately, if your country doesn’t have a tax arrangement with the USA, then Medium may withhold a % of your earnings.

Once you’ve done that, go ahead and write your story. Once it’s good to go, you can make it eligible for payment through a checkbox just before you publish. It’s all reasonably straightforward.

This locks your story, as is shown with a small star underneath the title. This means that only Medium members can read it.

This is all great, but how much do you get paid per article? I hear you cry. Well, it varies.

No writer knows the proper workings of Medium’s algorithm. It’s changed a lot over the years. However, we do know the following:

  • Your article’s earnings are based on member read time. So, the more paying members read your work all the way through, the better.
  • How much you earn per reader depends on how they use their membership. If, for example, a paying member-only reads one article a month and it happens to be yours, you’ll get most of their membership fee. The same happens if a non-paying member signs up after reading your article.

I’m sure Medium will tweak with the algorithm now and then, but that appears to be the gist of it in 2021.

Publications

Putting an article behind a paywall is all well and good, but you won’t earn $500+ if no one reads it. That’s where publications come in.

Medium has over 12,000 publications, all of which have a following you can utilize. There are some with 100 followers and some with 700,000, focusing on nearly every topic you can think of.

This is what Medium does so well – you don’t need to have a legion of followers from another site to start making money. Instead, you can use the following publications have at their disposal. And as we know by now, the more paying members who read your work, the more money you’ll make.

While publications are a great way to make a name for yourself on Medium, the site appears to be leaning away from them. Some partnered publications, such as the vast P.S I Love You, received funding from Medium. Unfortunately, Medium has cut that funding, and PSILY’s last day will be June 30th, 2021.

But this is good news for you. Instead of publications, Medium is putting a focus on individual writers such as you and me. This makes it easier for you to start earning money sooner.

Profiles

With Medium’s move toward helping its writers, it’s more important than ever to make your profile stand out.

You can create a logo, design your header, and choose a font for your words.

Medium wants its writer’s profiles to feel like individual blogs. It’s working, as the new format is much more professional-looking than before.

On your profile, you’ll see how many followers you have, and if you click on the ‘about’ button, how many ‘top writer’ (top 50 writers in self-improvement, for example) tags you have.

Don’t forget the basics, however. Upload a clear, friendly profile picture and an approachable bio.

Curation

If you scroll through any of the Medium Facebook support groups, it won’t take you long to find someone asking, “What is curation?” or “What do the words ‘chosen for further distribution mean?” Allow me to explain.

When your article gets curated or ‘chosen for further distribution,’ it means Medium’s curators have decided your article is worthy of more widespread promotion.

Medium actually has a global team of curators who work around the clock looking at all the most recently published articles on the platform. If they read your article and think it’s worthy of further promotion, they will “curate” it and spread it around on Medium’s homepage.

Medium will also push your article to readers interested in the tags it’s been curated in. For example, if your work is curated in creativity, readers who follow that tag are more likely to see your article on their homepage or the Daily Digest email.

In recent times, Medium has moved away from the emphasis on curation. Just last year, writers would receive an email telling them which tags their article had been curated in. Now, the only way to know is through your article’s stats page. If the words ‘chosen for further distribution’ are under the title, then congratulations, you’ve been curated.

But how do you get curated?

Well, Medium has strict guidelines you must follow:

    • Does the story meet a high editorial standard? – Is it well-written, easy to follow, free of errors, appropriately sourced, narratively strong, and compelling?
    • Does it add value for the reader? – Does it share new insights or perspectives? Offer an original take on a familiar issue? Does it stir emotions and/or thinking? Provide meaningful advice? Enrich a reader’s understanding of the topic? Does it feel like time well spent?
    • Is it written for the reader? – Is the story written with the reader in mind? Does the story make a connection with the reader or to a larger issue?
    • Is it complete? – Is it a finished, polished piece of work? Considered? Concise? Will a reader walk away satisfied?
    • Is it rigorous? – Are claims supported? Sources cited alongside stated facts? Does the story hold up to scrutiny?
    • Is it honest? – Is the story written in good faith? Is it truthful?
    • Does it offer a good reading experience? – Is it properly formatted for the web/mobile? Does it have a clear and relevant headline that lets the reader know what the story is about? An easily readable story body — paragraphs/spacing/styling/section breaks/quotes?
  • Is the imagery relevant and appropriate to the story?

In short, while curation isn’t essential to earning good money on Medium anymore, it’s still crucial you follow the guidelines, especially when starting.

How to Grow Your Earnings: The Truth

I’ll be honest – you aren’t going to earn $500 in your first month unless you already have a following elsewhere, are a perfect writer, and have a lot of luck. While it’s true you can earn lots of money on Medium (one writer made $50,000 in one month last year), results won’t be immediate.

But if you persevere, they will be inevitable.

At the start of your journey, don’t worry about how well your articles are performing. Just churn out the next one and the next. You get the idea.

As you progress, your stats will show you which topics your readers resonate with the most. Double down on the most popular ones.

Above all, though, readers love a good story. You could give the most generic advice ever, but if it’s wrapped within a fascinating anecdote, your readers will appreciate it more. From there, you can get the algorithm to work in your favor.

And remember – more paying members who read your work = more money in your pocket.

Small but Essential Things to Note

I’ve covered a lot in this piece, but there are a few little things worth mentioning:

  • You can check how well your article is performing via the ‘stats’ page. It shows views, reads, read percentage, and claps.
  • Unsplash is built into Medium’s system, so you don’t need to go far when searching for an image. Simply click the search button when writing an article.
  • You can leave up to 50 claps on other people’s articles and highlight as many sentences as you please.
  • You can make changes to a published article by clicking on the three dots and finding the ‘edit story’ button.

Making Money Online Has Never Been Easier

Only 5% of Medium’s writers earn over $100 a month. Yikes. But don’t let that put you off.

While it may feel frustrating to begin with, I promise you earning $500+ is 100% possible. It boils down to three things:

  1. Perseverance.
  2. An understanding of the platform/your audience.
  3. Eye-catching headlines.

That’s it. You don’t need to be a world-class author or a renowned journalist to make money through writing anymore. You just need a $5 subscription and a bit of patience.

Note: You can follow Tom on Medium or his personal website where he drops advice on blogging, investing, and self-improvement.

Website | + posts

Tom is a blogger on Medium who mostly writes about self-improvement, traveling, investing, and creativity. He has over 50,000 followers on Medium and has been writing there since 2016.