How long have you been writing on Medium, and what were your worst months?
I’ve only been here for seven months, and I’ve had three. That’s a pretty lousy average, except for one crucial point.
I learned something from each one of them. I not only learned from them but modified my approach. And you can, too. Preferably, analyze your own worst months and take something away from them, but that’s not what you came here for. You came to learn from me.
So, sit down, Grasshopper, and snatch the pebble from my hand.
The First Worst Month
I think for most of us, the first month was the worst. I’m talking about the first full month. I earned $22. From what I have read, I should be happy with that. A lot of people did much worse in their first month. Some people still aspire to do that good. If that’s you, keep reading; maybe I can help. But for me, it was my worst month by far, and I hope it always will be.
If your first month wasn’t your worst, then I think you need to take a close look at your work anyway. If you had a great first month and it went downhill from there, then something is not quite right. Either that first month was a fluke, and that’s certainly possible. Medium is nothing if not flukey (Grammarly says that’s not a word, but it should be, so I’m making it one.) You can’t do anything about those, so just enjoy them. I had one later, and I’ll discuss that in a bit.
But, if your first month was good and then you changed something, and it got worse…. don’t do that. Don’t mess with success. Maybe, your first month was good, but you thought it wasn’t. You thought you should do better. Well, perhaps you can, but build on what you have, don’t tear it down and start over. Unless what you did didn’t make you happy, didn’t fulfill you somehow. But if that’s the case, you aren’t here for the money, and that’s a good thing. We need more of you.
But, my first month was my first, and I built up from there. I think I learned the same things we all struggle with when we are new here. We learn more about what doesn’t work than what does. Even though there are plenty of people that came before us, happy to tell us what works and what doesn’t, we have to find out for ourselves. It’s our nature. It’s in our DNA. Who among us, when told as a toddler, “Don’t touch that, it’s hot,” didn’t touch it to find out.
But here’s the thing. When we touched it, and it burned our finger, we were shocked. Hurt, yes, but shocked. That hurt! Then we looked at our parents like it was their fault.
And, unfortunately, it was the same here. @Shaunta, @Ayo, and @tom said, “Don’t touch that; it’s hot.” And we gleefully grabbed hold anyway, burning ourselves in the process.
And then we looked shocked. I thought that would work. Surely, people want to read about my summer vacation.
Not so much.
So, in my first month, I staggered around like everyone else, touching hot things and getting burned.
But, fortunately, I learned. Not necessarily quickly, but I learned. So, in my second month, I slowly typed in different stuff with my fingers and ego bandaged and doubled my income. And that trend continued well into my fifth month.
So, hopefully, if you are in your first month, you can learn the same things. Don’t worry about all that pesky advice everyone is giving you if you understand the lessons on your own. But that’s a big if. I’ve watched writers here do the same thing month after month and complain about their earnings.
When I was in computer support, I saw it every day. Every. Damn. Day. Someone would do something. Push a button, click an icon, send something to the printer. It didn’t work. So they did it again. And again. And fifty more times. If it didn’t work the first time, it’s not going to work the second. Or the fiftieth. The only thing that will happen is once I solve the actual problem, fifty copies of your 200-page report will be heading for the printer.
Don’t do that. If your first month worked, build on it, don’t’ change it. If your first month didn’t work, do something different. If at first, you don’t succeed, try again is a dumbass motto. Don’t do that. If at first, you don’t succeed, try something else.
The Ride Starts Here
Do you remember your first good roller coaster? You stood in line and finally got your turn. The attendant lowered the bar, locking you into a death trap. The cars jerkily began rolling slowly down the tracks. Finally, with another sudden jerk, the train was pulled up the big hill. Slowly it rose, higher and higher, while your excitement, fear, and anticipation grew. Finally, you topped the hill. If you were lucky enough to get the first car, you saw… nothing.
Then, the sudden weightless plummet. And that’s when the ride started for real. Up and down, around and around, your body and mind getting jerked one way and then another. (And we wonder why all this stuff hurts now.)
That’s my second-worst month. My earnings doubled in March, April, and May. And then there was June. The flukiest of flukey months. (If you are going to make up words, you have to use them a lot.) My income doubled again… before the end of the second week. Two articles, linked below, one I published on the last day of May and the other on the first of June, took off. Unexpectedly and for wildly different reasons. Neither of which was likely repeatable. That’s the nature of a fluke.
By the end of June, I had hit over $1,400, quadruple the previous month. And in my delusional state, I began doing the math. It was exhilarating at the end of June.
But then, it was July. And the ride was over. I didn’t have another ticket, so I wiped the cotton candy residue on my pants, grabbed the stuffed rabbit I won at the ring toss, and went home.
July, my second worst month. It was hard. It was depressing. But it was also one more thing. It was almost double what I earned in May. It was over $600 freaking dollars. By many standards, it was a great month, an outstanding month. So, finally, when I put things in perspective, I was thrilled with that month.
And that’s your takeaway from my second-worst month. It’s a roller coaster. It’s a ride. Buckle up. There are a lot of things at work here behind the scenes you know nothing about. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. He’s pulling a lot of switches you can’t see. And one of those switches will cause the lights to come on over your portfolio. When that happens, enjoy it.
But don’t count on it. Learn from everything that came before and keep doing what works. If like me, you try to recreate that spike, you are just going to waste time that could be spent writing new stuff.
It’s a Long Game
Interestingly, my next ‘bad’ month came right on its heels in August. But that’s okay. I had already learned that lesson in my fifteen years of selling stock photography. It’s a fact that should be carved in stone somewhere for all to see. And like most things carved in stone, it’s a timeless lesson, one that’s been true down through the ages.
It always has. It probably always will. Europe goes on holiday. In the States, it’s the end of summer and the start of another school year. There is an amazing number of countries that celebrate their independence day or national day in August. Like Lichtenstein. I probably lost every one of my readers from Lichtenstein until September comes. I’m not sure what it is. I guess it’s really hot in the northern hemisphere and really cold in the southern, and people just get pissed off. Hey, let’s have a revolution.
But whatever the reason, August sucks. Ignore it. It ends.
But it gave me time to reflect again; to look back at the previous six months and re-evaluate. And what I learned from the time spent pondering during August was that it’s a long game. It’s like playing the guitar. One note on one string. Eventually, you’re playing chords and melodies.
If I scroll back through all the stories that paid me anything in August and September, the information is the same as most months. There are a few top-heavy ones, and then everything else. But everything else adds up. Every pebble helps build up that paywall.
So, just keep writing. Write about what you love to write and learn from the results. If you want to make money here, you will have to pay attention and be flexible. If not, then, more power to you. But hopefully, like me, you find a middle ground. There are things I like to write about that don’t click here. I still write those, but not as much. And some things don’t get me too excited but earn good money. I sprinkle those around when the mood strikes.
But mostly, I write what I want to write because I want to write it. Like this one. Don’t write about Medium; you won’t get curated. Don’t write things that don’t get curated; you won’t make any money.
This month, because I didn’t listen to all those guys, I’ll probably have to settle for around $800.
My second best month.