My First Medium Article Generated $1.64 in Revenue

Definitely not the tools I used to write my first article. Photo by Luca Onniboni on Unsplash.

Three weeks ago, my life was changed forever when my article was accepted into one of the better known Medium publications. Although I have been a casual writer on this platform for some time, this article became the very first time I earned money from writing.

Just as is typical for small businesses to frame and display their first dollar inside their establishments, allow me to present this screenshot as a digital version of that:

Photo by Daniela Singlel.

My goal, like many others on this platform, is to eventually support myself through writing. I still have a long way to go to achieve this, but in my short time as a revenue-generating writer I have learned some important lessons about making extra income from writing:

  1. Headlines determine whether your writing gets read in the first place, so make them stand out.
  2. Your article should be visually appealing and easy to navigate.
  3. Leverage publications and blogs with existing audiences for quick growth.
  4. Do your research about your audience, niche and publishing platform.
  5. Patience is your biggest asset as a writer — everything else can be learned along the way.

Although my platform of choice is Medium, these lessons can be applied to any online channel of your choice.

Headlines matter

A headline is your barrier to entry. In many ways, it is the most important aspect of your article, because it determines whether people will click to read more, or keep on scrolling.

However, that doesn’t mean you should use clickbait headlines to entice more eyeballs. Your headline should be a good representation of the theme of your article, because people on the internet have a very low tolerance for deception.

When writing a headline, you need to find the right balance between divulging informational and making it sound catchy. Otherwise, your article can be a work of genius that only a few people will have the pleasure of reading.

If you are struggling to come up with a catchy but accurate headline, you might find inspiration from looking at the Medium homepage to see what articles are trending. Similarly, have a look at the video titles of your favorite YouTubers to see what key words and phrases they use to entice their audience.

Finally, there are plenty of tools to help you fine tune your headline and make sure it is optimised for SEO purposes. Here is the website I like to use, which analyzes a headline for its readability, SEO and sentiment scores. Remember to use these tools as a guide, not a rule of law.

With the right kind of headline, your article stands a chance of being read and shared by tens, if not hundreds of additional people.

Space it out

To put it bluntly, you can’t become a successful writer without being a ruthless editor. That’s why you need to make sure your article is easy for readers to digest, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

Ideally, the first few sentences of your article will highlight the main themes of the whole piece, and clear subheadings will help readers find the sections they are most interested in reading.

Additionally, don’t expect people to read your whole piece from beginning to end. Think about how you read articles online; more often than not skipping to sections that are most relevant to you. As a writer, it is therefore part of your job is to create a map for readers to easily navigate your writing.

Yet it’s not just about the content of the article, it’s also about the visual appeal. Although there are exceptions, huge blocks of text are intimidating to readers. As you are editing, remember that most people will be reading your content on their phones.

By making sure that your article is visually approachable and easy to navigate, you will largely increase the chances of people taking the time to read it.

You can’t do it alone

Before my article got picked up by a publication, the most views I received on any of my previous stories was six. Compared to this, the article that got picked up received 141 views without me even having to lift a promotional finger.

That’s over 23 times as many views!

When I first started out on Medium, I hadn’t realise the importance of submitting articles to publications. Unless you already have a following elsewhere or happen to get extremely lucky, the only way your articles will generate views, follows and conversations is if they are picked up by publications.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can search Medium’s list of publications here by typing in key words that are relevant to your article. Every publication has a different process for accepting articles, some more formal than others, but most will have an ‘About’ section that explains the steps for you to submit your story.

Just be sure to check that the publication is still active by looking at the date of their most recent articles. I’ve come across some relevant but inactive publications that haven’t published anything new for several years, so there isn’t a point in submitting to a channel with no active audience.

Notably, this rule doesn’t only apply to Medium publications. Leveraging the audiences of other writers and bloggers through guest blogging and other collaborations is a great way to get eyeballs on your work, fast.

Some niches are more profitable than others

It’s a sad but all too real truth that certain articles don’t perform as well on some content platforms as others.

On Medium, for instance, articles on how to make money as a writer and opinions on current events generally perform very well. At the same time, poetry and stories are much more difficult to sell on this platform, although not completely impossible. This is because Medium was built for an audience seeking information, not fiction and literature.

However, I’m not suggesting you write about what will make you the most money. The money will come if your passion is in it, you just need to find the right platform for your words. Perhaps that is Medium itself, or another publication, or your very own blog.

Without a doubt, you will have the greatest chance of success if you go where your audience already is — so don’t just post your content wherever is easiest for you. Be sure to post it with purpose.

You have to be in it for the long haul

There is no such thing as an overnight success, and everything worthwhile takes time and dedication to build.

Anyone who has made a sizeable income from writing has had to put in the hours. Even people whose articles suddenly go viral, had to put in hours of work to get to where they are.

The beginnings are the hardest and slowest, because you are still finding your voice as a writer and haven’t amassed an audience yet. This time is the perfect opportunity to experiment and try new things, without the fear of others watching.

Eventually, by regularly posting about topics you are passionate about, your skills as a writer will develop and the audience will slowly but surely come to you.

Consider that writing online is one of the easiest skills you can learn with little barrier to entry. All you need is an internet connection and the thoughts in your head. Everything else, like the skills of writing quality copy or marketing your work, can be learned along the way.

Therefore, if you want to make it as a writer, you will have to beat out all the people who give up after not finding immediate success. The easiest way to do this is to stay in the game and just write.

Ultimately, your most important asset as a writer isn’t just the creative thoughts in your head, it is your ability to persevere when progress is slow.

In conclusion

I acknowledge that $1.64 is a measly sum of money to have earned from an article that took me a several hours to write, but it’s an amount that I am celebrating. To me, it isn’t just a dollar and sixty four cents — it represents the promise of one day making a good living doing what I love.

Everyone has to start somewhere, so I celebrate this first bit of money as a step in the right direction towards my dream of being a writer.

Wherever you are on your writing journey and whatever your hopes are for the future, remember to celebrate the small wins along the way, because eventually they can add up to big rewards.

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Daniela Singlel

Daniela Singlel

Confused millennial. Unwilling participant in the attention economy. Equal parts classy & sassy. Sometimes I write about the new media & pop culture.