Beginning writers often ask, "Where should I start writing online?"
Here's our advice.
Don't start writing on Medium.
We know that sounds counterintuitive, since the title of this article is How To Start Writing on Medium, but hear us out.
Medium is an online publishing platform where writers can publish stories to an audience of millions. Unfortunately, Medium's heyday is long gone—and even though it still has a lot of users and content creators, that doesn't mean it's the best place to start your writing. The internet is riddled with posts like the X reasons you should or shouldn't write on Medium. It's a much-debated topic.
But, like all online writing, it's worth experimenting. Here's why:
- Anyone can write and publish on Medium. There is no gatekeeper.
- The editor is easy to use, and you can get your writing published fast.
- The audience is smart, and they pay you to write!
So, what's the best way to start experimenting?
Expand your writing to Medium.
The best way to start experimenting on Medium is to expand what you've already been doing.
Turn your Twitter threads or atomic essays into a Medium post. Go through your content library and look for topics that stand out. Write about those ideas again on Medium, drawing on the main points you made on other platforms.
We’ve got four steps to get you going. Let's get into it.
Step 1: Get familiar with how Medium works.
Medium is a platform for readers and writers.
Anyone who wants to write on Medium can do it — no vetting process is involved. As a reader, you can only read three stories per month without paying $5 for a monthly membership.
You don't have to have a membership to write, but it's worth paying to observe and learn from other writers.
There are three ways you can create reach for yourself.
- Followers - Your followers are the first to get notified of new writing you publish via push notification and promotion on their Medium homepage.
- Tags - Each article you publish can be "tagged" with a topic. This is how you tell Medium what topic or audience interest your article is relevant for. You can use up to 5 tags per article. Some tags are more popular than others—the more popular, the greater the competition, but also the greater potential reach.
- Publications - A publication is a shared space for stories about a common theme or topic. Medium readers subscribe to these publications. Think online magazine, but democratized for online writers. You can submit your work to be curated into a publication. Or, if you are interested in curating stories from other writers, you can create your own publication.
But, you are at the whim of the "curators" who decide whether or not your piece should get attention.
Medium makes the rules, and the rules change.
In the last several years, this has changed. While the Medium algorithm and good writing still matter, your success on the platform is dictated by the curation engine. And that's a black box. It's really hard for you as a writer to learn what makes a particular piece of writing go viral because the platform has shifted to operating more like a traditional publisher. This means Medium decides what works, and this is why the platform has lost its steam, in our opinion.
But remember the rules? They will likely change again, so it's worth being present here.
Join the Partner Program and get paid (once you hit 100 followers).
By becoming a partner, you can put your writing behind the Medium paywall & submit your work to a Medium publication. You're able to earn $ for publishing once you get 100 followers.
Alright, with that out of the way, let's get your first article published.
Step 2: Publish your first article.
The first thing you need to do is create an account. We won't go into all the details because it's well documented on the Medium website.
First principles for your online presence apply here too.
- Write a clear, short, compelling, and credible bio.
- Connect your social accounts.
- Click "Write a Story", and you're off.
If you are into design and user experience, you won't be disappointed with Medium's writer tools. They have figured out how to make you feel good about how your writing looks. They have stripped away all the formatting headaches for you. The font is simple. The pictures are easy to add. And the time it takes to hit publish is about as easy as it gets.
It's a huge leap forward from the days of writing on a personal blog.
Prep the page with an outline!
If you are following our advice here, you are coming to Medium with an outline.
This makes your process 1,000 times easier. Drop your outline in the editor. Use the same headline you used for your Twitter Thread or your Atomic Essay. This will make it easier for you to keep track of what you have posted where. AND more importantly, when your readers go looking for more, they can find the additional pieces you have written on that topic in varying levels of detail.
Follow the 1-3-1 writing pattern for flawless formatting to make your article skimmable and easy to read.
You can access Medium's text editor functions by highlighting a snippet of text.
You can choose from title case, typographic emphasis, and links. Make the subheads in your outline title case throughout a piece to help the reader know "where" they are in your line of thinking.
Add an image that creates curiosity.
Finally, add a compelling image at the top of your article.
Think of the image as a curiosity-inducing addition to your article. Treating the image like a visual sub-head will make your article that much more appealing to your reader. Medium allows you to add your own images or stock images. You can even embed videos. In the editor, you will notice a "+" icon next to your cursor.
Click the "+ to access the image options.
Bonus tip: Paste a link to each tweet in your thread and a bit of color.
Not up for "re-writing? No problem.
Paste the links to each tweet in your Twitter thread into the Medium editor. Drop in a title, add some additional context before or after each tweet, then hit publish. Readers are used to long-form text on the platform. When you experiment with different presentations it's often a way to garner attention.
Atomic Essays started this way on Twitter.
Step 3: Get your first 100 followers.
People are on Medium because they want to read good writing.
They might be looking for inspiration, or they might be looking for new and interesting ways to build their own business. They might even be bored and want to pass the time creatively. Whatever the reason is, one thing's for sure: people are on Medium because they want to read good writing. You've created a beautiful post.
But how do you get your writing in front of the right people to grow your audience?
The following three strategies will help to get to 100 followers fast on Medium.
Be topically consistent.
Use the same tags for everything you write.
Medium is a long game that favors a quantity of quality writing.
If you have been writing threads and essays for at least a month, and have a perspective on your areas of interest, use that understanding to double down on Medium. Make sure the tags are relevant to your article. Target tags that represent your broad audience and your niche.
For example, "Productivity" could be a broader topic of the niche topic "Writing Tips."
Don't re-publish everything at once.
Target publishing 2 to 3 pieces per week.
Consistency is key. Publishing 2 to 3 pieces per week will get your name out there, but publishing 1x per week or 1x per month won't get you very far. You will be rewarded for a steady cadence over time. It's easy to get discouraged when you don't see an immediate payoff, but it takes time for your work to build momentum.
Be patient and give yourself the time to establish yourself as a trusted source of information.
Follow our digital writing principles.
Submit your writing to publications.
Don't let your writing go to waste.
Submit your content to publications (otherwise, your reach will be minimal).
Unfortunately, there is no generic way to submit your work to a publication. The application process is unique for each one. And there are literally thousands of publications to choose from. Build the discipline of publishing first, and then look for publications that align with your topics. If you find one that's a good fit, great! If not, keep looking. Every writer has their process. But no matter what your approach is, it needs to be consistent so that you can build momentum with each article.
When you are ready to go down the publication rabbit hole. Start exploring here.
Step 4: Identify the metrics that matter so you can gather objective insights.
Your number one goal as a digital writer is to build a publishing flywheel.
Every time you hit publish you are generating a data point. The more you publish the more you learn. Medium, like other platforms, has a set of metrics you can and should pay attention to. The cool thing about Medium is that you can see not only the number of views that you get on a particular piece of writing, but you can also see the read time. Read time is your engagement metrics and is the biggest contributing factor to your ability to monetize on Medium.
In addition to reading time, pay attention to "Selected for Further Distribution."
If an article has been selected for distribution by Medium, then it means that it will be shown to a larger audience than just your followers. As we mentioned, there is a mystery behind the selection process, but when you see Selected for Distribution on your analytics page you know that your article will get more views than just your followers.
That's a wrap. Four steps to help you get started writing on Medium.
Remember, writing anywhere with existing readers is an opportunity to learn. The appeal to make money is real. Yes, you can make money, but it's not a panacea.
- The money you earn is a signal, and if you stick with it, maybe it will pay your rent.
- The hard part? It's hard to know why something works.
- The readers on Medium are different than they are on other platforms.
- So, become a member, follow topics and people to learn what works.
- Use the platform to learn more about your reader and validate their interests.
At the end of the day the medium is irrelevant, write where you are comfortable.
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