How I Earn Money On Medium

Not a lot, but a lot for me

This month I earned about $70 on Medium, which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s Rs. 12,500 where I live, enough to buy lunch every day. However, the Medium Partner Program isn’t really available where I live. So how does this work?


The short answer is that it probably won’t work for you. My wife is a UK citizen and has a bank account and billing address and all that. So we can connect that bank account to Stripe easily. If you don’t have an account in a Stripe country then it’s much more expensive.

Stripe does let anyone create an account through their Stripe Atlas program — which actually registers a whole company in Delaware (USA). This, however, costs $500, so not sure if Medium is the real use case for that. It’s really intended for incorporating startups and I don’t know if anyone has used this method to connect to the Partner Program.

Getting Paid

Once you’re in the partner program, it’s a matter of getting paid. What I find interesting is that it’s not pageviews that earn money. What earns is getting engagement (in the form of claps) from paying Medium members.

For example, my father reads my stuff and seems to clap on nobody else, so a significant amount of his $5 monthly membership fee goes to me, lol. For example, I wrote a poem which I liked but which only 10 people read. However, my father clapped on it so that actually earned $0.50, more than other posts that had more (inert) readers

That’s one thing I really like about Medium. They’ve somehow found a way to incentivize quality rather than quantity. The drive for massive pageviews to sell advertising led to bad and often malicious content in the Internet, and it feels like the incentives here are pulling in the other direction. When writing I find myself thinking about quality rather than popularity, and I admire that they’ve designed the system to fuck with me positively.

The other layer is that they have a team of human curators that actually reads stuff and selects articles for further distribution in categories. I’ve been selected a few times for stuff like Racism or Equality or Politics, but I haven’t noticed huge bumps from this. It does seem to expose me to different people, and there are a lot of interesting people on Medium. Maybe it’s quality vs. quantity again. Nothing in this system seems to be driven towards maximizing page views.

In terms of what I write, I’ve found that the stuff I read on Medium tends to have a personal angle, people talk about their experiences, sometimes quite intimate and painful, and then an issue around that. My natural writing is much more abstract and reveals little, and I’m slowly trying to change that. Partly because the system, but I also find that it makes for better, more honest and less lecturing writing.

In terms of frequency, I wrote 21 pieces in the payment period, each a 3–4 minute read, or about 600 words. Of those I earned $30 from one piece, which got merely commented on in Hacker News and, from my perspective, blew up. The next highest earning piece netted $7.30.

These are not princely sums but there is one major benefit. You can get paid more for freelance writing, but you have to find the work, make pitches, send drafts and then spend countless emails getting paid. On Medium I can just sit down for 40 minutes in the morning and write. You can do this on a blog, but on Medium I don’t have to maintain a server or deal with any technology beyond the text editor. I don’t have to deal with AdSense or advertisers or editors or anything. The platform really does do a lot of work for me.

The Future For Medium

I remember when Medium took this hard pivot when they were like ‘uhhh, we’re cool, what’s our business model?’ Ev Williams took a lot of flak because they had to lay off people and move away from advertising without saying what was next.

Now I think they have found a testable business model, and an interesting one. I’ve actually used every Ev Williams product from Blogger to Twitter to now this. They have each changed the world and failed in some way, but they have all been interesting. So I don’t mind being along for the ride.

I don’t know if the Medium Model will last, but I do think it’s a noble experiment, and one that’s more thought out in terms of its social and ethical implications than most Silicon Valley businesses. The basic idea is a shared paywall for writers who are paid by a shared pool of readers. The most interesting thing is that it aligns the interests of writers and readers. Writers aren’t trying to herd sheep in to advertise to them, and readers aren’t trying to get stuff for free and bounce.

Will this last? Will this explode? Will this spit out tons of money for venture capitalists? I don’t know. I think it’s a worthy idea, and it spits out money into my wife’s bank account and I’m writing more. So I’m quite happy with it for now. That’s just my experience and I wish the Medium team and all the writers and readers on it well.

Further Reading: I wrote about this last year as well.