The Passive Income Medium Game

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

Give it time and be persistent and consistent

Any Medium reader or writer knows there is an endless stream of articles about making money with the platform. Articles outlining how one piece made thousands or about a writer’s system for making money consistently. Some focus on their first paid writing project, which is great as a motivator but ultimately means you really don’t know much, yet. So, is there a formula for financial success here?

There are obviously writers making real money consistently, the ‘superstars’ of the platform. But they are outliers, from what I can tell after two years writing here and publishing hundreds of pieces. Medium tells us how many writers were paid a hundred dollars or more in the past month and, frankly, it is not many. But after these two years, I’m seeing a pattern emerge in my situation and it is centered around passive income from all those articles.

Passive income is income derived from work you have already completed

To clarify, if a client asks me to write a blog post and we agree on a deadline and a price, that income is not passive income. It is active income, aka work for hire. This is how I make most of my money as a writer.

Passive income comes from work that earns without you having to do anything. My book royalties are passive income. One title has generated quarterly checks for over twenty years, which is an amazing thing. But most writers today won’t have that opportunity because publishing has changed. Self-publishing and, honestly, places like Medium, have made distribution of writing very easy to set up, but they have generally diluted the amount of money available.

Putting articles into the ‘bank’

The bank I’m referring to is your entire inventory of past stories you’ve published on Medium. I call it a bank because the content is still out there to be found and read and it still can make money for years after you publish. Many of my old stories continue to earn small amounts of money each month and when you have hundreds they start to add up, like interest on your writing investment.

We all want to have those consistent hits that make the big bucks and bring in lots of loyal followers. But it is a Catch 22 situation (Google it) in that it is a lot easier to have consistent hits if you have had big hits, because your stories are distributed more when you have more followers. And you get more followers from having hits. That’s the catch.

But those articles in the bank can keep making you money in between hits. That is one way to play the Medium game.

I don’t write here for the money

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting those deposits into my account every month. But Medium gives me, as a professional, a place to indulge myself as a writer and write about things that are not my paying business writing. Things like cooking, psychedelics, marketing theory, self-improvement and growth, etc. Just stuff that interests me. So I’m happy with the passive income Medium game and just view it as a bonus.

Views and Reads don’t always add up to revenue

My most popular article made a lot less than a midrange article, in spite of having over 10 times as many views and reads. When you compare the stats between the two, it turns out that the very popular piece got most of its traffic from outside Medium. The particular publication that published it promotes very aggressively on social media and search. But those views and reads don’t pay anything because most of those readers are not paying Medium members.

Because of this I’m avoiding those publications that do a lot of promotion on other platforms, in spite of those big numbers. I realize this seems counterintuitive but I am an analytics person and these pubs skew my numbers. Though I’m not here for the money, I’m also not here for pubs that use my content only to get traffic. They obviously have put their traffic ahead of writers getting paid.

I don’t mind writing for free, if that is my choice. Otherwise I expect to get paid like any other professional. It’s a rule I set for myself years ago and it serves me well. Others may choose differently.

Former software marketer. Former musician. Writer, nine non-fiction books, two novels, Buddhist, train lover. Amateur cook, lover of life most of the time!

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