Should I Write for Money or Exposure on Medium?

100 Days Of Medium
In our 100 Days of Medium journey, there are two potential goals we can set to indicate success.

The first goal is money. The objective of this goal is, well, to make money. Medium makes it possible to earn money through stories written under the Medium Partner Program. The way it works is simple — you write stories, publish them as ‘members only’, and you’ll earn money depending on the number of ‘claps’ (engagement) per post. For more information, read the FAQs here.

The second goal is exposure. Exposure means attempting to get as many views as possible in order to gather influence. Influence is important — it’s why celebrities have as much say as politicians, as opposed to the average Joe. The goal of gaining exposure on Medium is to be able to gather influence until it becomes monetizable, either through products or services offered or in the form of sponsorships or endorsements.

Ideally, I’d want to achieve both simultaneously (yes, I’m ambitious), but the question is: will it be possible to focus on both without any significant loss of efficiency? 

I have a plan, but before we get into it, let me first provide a bit of context for each of the goals.


Reading tip: whenever you see superscript numbers like ¹ ² ³  , it means that at the end of the section, there are corresponding notes. 


Writing for money

Writing for money on Medium is a goal I’m sure many of us have.

I’m the same. If I can make money from writing on Medium, I’ll no longer have to worry as much about daily expenses or take on additional side projects for income — that means I’ll be able to instead focus my time on doing things I want.

But making money on Medium is a lot easier said then done. The amount of money you can make on Medium will depend on how much exposure you get per post, and ultimately, your levels of influence. If you’re not getting enough exposure for your stories, it doesn’t matter how well written they are because nobody will see them and in short, you won’t make much money.

Let me give you an example.
Here are the stats to 2 of my stories, taken 3 weeks after I’ve published them¹ as paid posts:

The stats are incredibly low. 40 views over a period of 21 days (3 weeks) averages to about only 1–2 views a day. As for the post with 8 views over the same period? It’s not even really worth mentioning.

When you have stats like these, there’s really only three things it can mean:
a) I’m a terrible writer and my stories suck
b) Title and cover image of the story isn’t good enough to attract attention
c) My stories aren’t being shown in people’s feeds because I lack exposure and influence

We know it’s not [option a] because I’m a great writer.

Kidding. We know it’s not likely to be [option a] because the the view counts are low. Low view counts mean that people haven’t even had the chance to read the story yet; they’ve yet to click on the actual post.

And if people aren’t clicking on the post, it’s either [option b], which means the title or the cover image of the story isn’t impressible enough or [option c], where Medium isn’t showing my story to enough people because I lack the influence.

To test whether or not it’s [option b] or [option c], I run another experiment. This time, I publish the 2 posts, with the exact same title and content, to Tiffany’s account (with her permission) to see how they do.

These are the stats for the 2 stories, again taken 3 weeks after publishing:

4000%+ more reads than what I had gotten. Interesting to note though, that the read ratio for the first story was exactly the same.

A completely different outcome. The view counts were significantly higher for both stories, with the read ratio for one of the stories noticeably higher than before. And more importantly, money was actually earned for the two stories. Including the estimated payments for the month of March, a total of $175.09 was made for both stories. That’s not a bad start at all.

But what this ultimately means is that until I have the same levels of influence that Tiffany does ², it’s not likely that I’ll be making much with Medium’s Partner program.

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:
¹ The two stories at the time were published to my Medium account with over 10,000+ followers. It’s been two years since I’ve written though, so my assumption is that a lot of those followers are no longer active on Medium.

² I can’t completely rule out [option b] here as Tiffany had wanted to use her own cover image to remain consistent with her branding, but based on another experiment I ran, it wouldn’t have mattered that much (more on this in future posts).

Paid posts can only be read by paying Medium members only, so unless someone is a member, they’re not allowed to read the paid you’ve written.³ And because of that, even though you technically do get exposure from writing paid posts, it’s not worth mentioning when compared to the exposure you get from writing public posts.

³ To be clear, non-paying members do get an allowance of three paid posts to read every month, but their engagement on stories won’t actually contribute to your earnings.

Writing for exposure

Writing for exposure on the other hand is a different ball game altogether.

By writing for exposure, what you’re really focusing on is long term success rather than short.The idea is to build and gather influence until opportunities to monetize comes naturally —it’s a grind that could realistically take anywhere from a few months to even a decade, but if successful, could return more than triple the time you’ve invested.

That said, writing for exposure isn’t guaranteed success; it’s straightforward, but as with everything, there is a risk. It also won’t be easy.

My Plan

My ideal plan, as I mentioned before is to be able to monetize while gaining exposure.

I understand the importance of investing in long term success (writing for exposure), but I want to make money now because it’s what will allow me to focus on producing higher quality content. If I were to focus on writing for exposure alone, I have no doubt I’ll eventually make it, but I’ll have no idea when.

From how I see it, there are two ways for me to make money while simultaneously getting more exposure on Medium:

Plan A

Write two posts daily, one for money and the other for exposure.
By writing two posts daily, I’ll be able to make money while getting exposure at the same time.

The problem with doing so however, is that it’s not efficient. Writing one post for money and another for exposure means I’m splitting my attention in half. Instead of investing all my efforts into either money or exposure and maximizing what I get from it, I’m limiting the potential for both by not selectively focusing on one.

Plan B

Write two posts daily, both for money.

Once a paid post has been published for at least 30 days (to ensure that the post is no longer generating any income), I’ll delete the post and re-publish it for exposure.

By waiting a month before I publish the old posts for exposure, I’ll have theoretically have a never-ending supply of posts to publish, and because of the 30 day gap in time, I’m able to maximize the potential of writing for both money and exposure.

There are two problems with this plan. The first is, because I’m not writing any posts for exposure in the first 30 days, the lack of exposure in the beginning, which to be honest isn’t a really big deal. The second is having to stay committed in delivering two new posts a day — if I slack off, not only will I not have paid posts to publish, but I won’t have any old posts to republish for exposure either.

Both Plan A and Plan B allow me to make money while getting exposure, but Plan B makes more sense to me because it’s what will allow me to maximize potential gains for both money and exposure after the initial 30 day wait.

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Note: Actually, even better. I don’t even need to wait 30 days before republishing old posts. I already have 40+ posts I’ve written before in the past that I can start republishing while I focus on writing new posts for money.

What to expect

While this idea sounds good in theory, we won’t know until we really try.

I realize I’ve still yet to set milestones for the 100 Days of Medium journey, but because I still don’t know what to expect at this point, I’ll wait till I have enough data. Once I’m able to identify patterns based on data, I’ll set milestones accordingly and the metrics to track it.

As for problems I anticipate, I think it’ll be having to write two posts a day. Writing two posts a day is relatively easy, but writing two high quality posts? Not so much.

Medium from what I understand now, is a lot more saturated than it was two years ago and the topics I do plan on writing in: Life Lessons, Motivation, Startup and Entrepreneurship are topics that are highly competitive. The only way to really succeed is to set myself apart from all the other writers who write in the same niche by focusing on higher quality posts as opposed to higher frequency of posts.

We’ll see how it goes, but there’s definitely going to be a steep learning curve in figuring out what works on Medium.

Onwards with our journey.

Do Shorter Posts on Medium Get Less Views than Longer Ones?
Intro to 100 Days of Medium

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