A Statistical Breakdown of $4,345 in 6 Months on Medium

Jul 23, 2020

A Statistical Breakdown of $4,345 in 6 Months on Medium

Tackling myths with data

A photo of the author, created by the author.

With only 5.7% of writers earning over $100 in June, I can comfortably say I’m in the top 1% of writers. This doesn’t make me extraordinary, I’m nowhere close to the people earning $30k per month yet I am a realistic story for people to follow.

I’m going to walk you through all of my money based statistics so you have a benchmark to compare to. I don’t have a long history of blogging nor do I write about anything related to my day job, so I was a blank slate. If I can do it, you can too.

I’m a sucker for statistics and tend to overanalyze to find trends that aren’t there. There are many misconceptions about Medium and I hope my numbers and charts can clear some of them up.

Individual Stories

Created by author

I went viral very early. There was one story before the $2,400 one but I deleted it, so it’s outside this analysis. Yet the overwhelming majority of my stories have earned under $25 with only four others above $100. One story has earned over half my income and three stories combined make up over 75%. I thought one viral article would give me a license to print money and I was wrong.

What you can see here is the more stories I wrote, my average earnings per story kept going down. This idea of needing to publish a huge amount of stories may get more absolute money but most stories will be duds. This is true even for the best writers on Medium. Unless your name is Nick Wignall of course.

If you’re going to write on Medium, be prepared for a lot of failures and keep getting back up. You must learn from each article to break out of the rut and know your limits. Some writers have written hundreds of articles before making any real money and I’d have given up long before.

P.S. In a crazy turn of events I have had two more articles breach $1000 in July so I’m no longer a one-hit wonder!

Monthly Income

Taken/created by the author

My monthly income has been eerily consistent through coincidence. Four months were around $500 and two were just over $1000. What I want to show here is Medium earnings are not always upward trending. After doubling my money in February, I was convinced I would be in the $5k per month club by the end of my six months. You may notice a pattern as I was wrong again.

As you’ll see later the composition of my earnings changed a lot over the period. There are wild swings in income so please don’t have one $1k month and quit your day job. There will never be a case of writing ten articles a month and earn the same amount each month.

This is true even for the people at the top of the pile, they only earn what they do by creating more viral articles. When luck doesn’t go their way, their income can halve easily.

When Stories Earn Money

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The great thing about evergreen content is readers can find its way after it was published. Here you see my stories written in January earned the bulk of my income until April. Only in January and April did stories written that month make the largest part of my income.

Cut out the belief stories have to go big straight away to make money. I’ve learned Medium works in mysterious ways and you can suddenly get a boost from a story months after it was published. If I were to quit Medium today, I might have a random $1,000 appear in my Stripe because an old article going viral. The more good content you have, the greater the chances one will pick up. Be patient and play the long game.


Created by the author

I think this graph depicts my Medium journey well. I started on a high with a curation then had a streak of six articles without being curated. This is when I was getting agitated as a lot of new writers do. But then I recovered and now my curation rate sits pretty above 70% including two ineligible articles about Medium.

My famine of curation forced my writing to improve. If you’re a new writer and can’t get curated, have a long hard look at your writing before jumping on social media to complain. Up your game as this has a large effect on a story’s success.

Created by author

As we can see here, curated articles average far more than the uncurated ones: $130.70 vs $21.16. Even excluding the viral article, curated articles average over $50. The distribution gives you a chance to reach a much wider paying audience within Medium which makes the difference. Uncurated articles can go viral off-platform and bring you external views but these aren’t as valuable. I have an article with 8k external views and it brought it only $20.

Primary Curation Tag

Created by author

Curation matters but does the tag itself matter? My sample size isn’t huge for each topic here but my biggest hits have both been curated in Lifestyle. My single articles with Philosophy and Education tags have also done well and writing maintains a decent average. Most other topics haven’t even beaten zero tags.

It makes sense for some topics to have larger audiences than others on Medium but this is difficult to work out with any confidence. One of the money articles has since crossed $1,000 and would move it’s average up to second comfortably.

I would suggest writing about what you are passionate about rather than trying to game the system. Each topic could have a hit and you’ll likely find the more lucrative topics are also the most competitive. If you would have never written about Lifestyle until you saw this post then your writing will reflect this.

Curation Number of Tags

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When I started on social media groups, I saw people boasting about the number of curation tags their articles received. I did the same myself but it’s only vanity. I’ve got a story with 12 curation tags and it didn’t even make $5.

From the chart, it looks like two is the magic number but be cautious. My two biggest hits have two tags but I have several others with this number that didn’t do so well. You can’t read anything into how many tags except there isn’t a direct relationship where more tags equal more money.

The number of tags is completely out of your control. Any tags are better than not being curated. If I repeat this in the future, I expect all of the curated articles I’ve written to continue to bring in small amounts of income whereas the uncurated ones stagnate.


Created by author

The next debate is the effect of publications. From these charts, we can see I average the highest with The Ascent, Mind Cafe, and Better Marketing. Don’t be too quick to conclude getting into these publications will make you rich overnight.

The $2,400 article was originally self-published then housed in a small publication before moving to The Ascent. This is where it made most of its money demonstrating the power of curation. Yes, publications open your article up to more readers but many stories in these big publications fail too. We can see my stories in The Startup barely moved.

I see the true power of publications in the identification of quality. The people who run publications know their stuff. If you write a story that passes their standards, the story is likely to do well anyway. Some editors will tweak your headline or make small changes they believe will help your story. Feel free to question them but trust their knowledge too. (Full disclosure: I’m a Co-editor of Entrepreneur’s Handbook).

Article Length

Created by author

Finally, let’s look at how a story’s length affects its income. There’s no big secret here and you can see at no length have I had more than one hit story. The two biggest stories are seven and eight minutes long but none of the other stories of this length crossed $50.

My only two stories longer than ten minutes have both done well but they were both about Medium with deep analysis. The read time on both was under three minutes so the extra depth of the articles didn’t make a big difference to the earnings. I’ve had longer average read times on five-minute articles.

I now aim to err on being too short in my articles rather than being too long. Over six months on Medium, I’ve become accustomed to seeing a long article and scanning through it in less than a minute. If you write a story that is long make sure it justifies the reader’s time.

What You Should Take With You

I hope by seeing data laid out like this you can see the uselessness of trying to analyze every little trend. Most of the takeaways are about reducing your expectations except for curation. Curation matters.

  • Expect most stories to fail. Most stories won’t make the big bucks so lower your expectations.
  • Stay humble if you do well. You can have a big month and find it hard to replicate again.
  • Be patient after publishing. Stories can earn most of their money way after they were published.
  • Write quality in Medium’s style. Curation is the only factor which seems to strongly affect income, I would make this my priority as a new writer.
  • Don’t hunt for more tags. Curation matters but no evidence more tags mean more income.
  • Submit to publications. But the quality of your story and curation matters more.
  • Don’t obsess over length. No length guarantees a hit.

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Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.