The Agony of Making My First $100 On Medium
Here’s what finally worked to get my first break — and why it kind of sucked
I’d been toying with the idea of writing a salty article about not getting noticed. I’d already written a few whiny paragraphs when I eventually came to my senses and decided to focus on something a little more substantial and, for lack of a better word, mature.
I’ve been writing on Medium since July, but only started taking it seriously and writing daily since the end of October. I was able to get into some top publications early on, and over sixty percent of my pieces were getting curated. After reading dozens of advice articles on how to gain followers and succeed on the platform, I thought I was doing exactly what I needed to do.
Apparently, there was more to it that I was missing.
Despite checking off all my “must do” accomplishments, I still wasn’t getting many views. As I researched and read more of the popular articles from popular creators, I noticed that the majority of what worked were instructional pieces about writing, and deep, personal essays.
Educate and entertain.
I wanted to write about writing, but I didn’t have any success stories to write about yet. Who wanted advice from a broke writer with only 100 followers? Since I’m not into writing about something I’m not experienced in, I chose the latter.
I’d written a few personal essays that had been distributed, but still…not much traction despite the hype of curation. One particular essay sat in my draft arsenal for a few months. It was a deeply personal and emotional piece that I had written mainly for therapeutic reasons and, as a person with a self-diagnosed social anxiety disorder and an intense fear of judgment, I couldn't bring myself to release that baby to the world.
Reaching the end of my wits and struggling to figure out what else I could do to make this work, I decided to take the leap and give it one more shot before I admitted defeat. So, I threw open the gates, hit publish on my essay, and exposed myself to the masses.
My story just sat there. I had five views trickle through in the first six hours. Like the others, it was curated, but still not enough exposure to make more than a dollar and change. It was an anticlimactic disappointment that almost made me delete my entire profile.
Later that evening, I received an email:
I guess what I should mention about myself is that I’m extremely impatient. My style has either been to submit to a publication that I know will most likely accept my story within a day or two, or self-publish and wait for a publication to contact me. At forty-six, I’m running out of time to sit and wait two weeks to get my work out there. I’m not getting any younger.
Since I was already feeling trepidatious about bearing my soul to the world, I went with the self-publishing option. I just needed to dip my toes into the water instead of diving all the way in.
Yes, I’m a big chicken.
By the following afternoon after receiving that email, my article had reached over 4 thousand views, I had a hundred more followers, and I’d finally made my first $100. My hope had returned, as well as my confidence.
Until I started reading the responses.
Having been so excited about finally reaching a goal — albeit, a small one — I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of negativity and judgment that came at me in response to the opening of my emotional floodgates. I became paralyzed with anxiety and, despite all the claps, positive comments, and the honor of being featured by Medium…I felt horrible.
I know most who have made it as successful writers — or successful anything — will say that having haters is par for the course. I get it, but it really hurt. By the end of that day, I was considering deleting my post.
As I obsessed over the comments throughout the day, I began to analyze my reaction. I recalled a thought I had about a week prior after reading a very popular and controversial article. As I read all the comments, opinions, and conversations between readers on the author’s piece, I was hit with a bit of jealousy over the writer being able to provoke such emotion and thought.
None of my pieces do that. I may never be good enough for this.
Be careful what you wish for.
With the small shift in mindset and the advice of fellow writers, I decided to hang on a little while longer.
My story was just that — my story. It was my own personal account of a life tragedy and how I chose to overcome it. Ironically enough, it was also about differences in perspective. How foolish of me to think that my readers wouldn’t also have their own.
I may never be as tough as Shannon Ashley or Tracey Folly who write with abandon and seemingly don’t give a flying fudgsicle about what their haters think, but if I’m going to be any good at this, I’m going to have to thicken my skin. I’ve decided to change my own perspective, and be proud of the fact that I’ve entered a new realm, stepped up a level, and made others think.
Hiding in the shadows may keep me safe from judgment, but no one will ever know I’m there.
Although I decided not to delete my piece, that doesn’t mean that I refuse to acknowledge the negative comments and contrary opinions. I’m nothing if I’m not open-minded. Many would say not to read them, but that’s not who I am. I’ve always taken pride in listening and attempting to put myself in others’ shoes. So in a way, those “haters” forced me to analyze myself and my own way of thinking.
My tough exterior might have sheltered me from vulnerability and the horrible discomfort of self-confrontation, but it also kept me from growing as a person.
The price I paid in finally making my first $100 on Medium was steep, and I hated almost every second of it. I’m still trying to readjust the negative association my mind has now developed with receiving responses on my articles, and for writing in general — at least for the last couple of days. I’ll get back to it, learn from it, and keep plugging along like the rest of the top writers do.
I’ve learned that the only way I’m going to make this work is to abandon my people-pleasing tendencies and allow myself to be human.
Whether your focus is on educating your readers on How I Made 10k In Fifteen Seconds or entertaining your audience with a personal essay, if you’re struggling to figure out how to succeed on Medium, here’s my advice: Give them the real shit, but most importantly, make sure you’re tough enough for the job.
After the agonizing experience of my “right of passage” into finally receiving a top writer status, I also reached another goal:
I can finally write about writing.