All The Ways Writers Win Even When We Don’t Earn Money
Be so good they can’t ignore you is a quote that’s been tossed around on platforms from Pinterest to Twitter. It’s even been grabbed by Cal Newport to title his book that’s meant to change the way we think about our careers, happiness and the crafting of a remarkable life.
The thing is, sometimes you can lack talent and still get attention, a strategy the growth hacking culture and Tik-Tok stars know well, and at the same time, you can be so good, and still be ignored.
Both of these, despite daily mantras to remain positive, can deliver discouragement. This post doesn’t have any solutions for that. What it does have are facts that writers need to know about outcomes from writing that are to be considered wins, even when their stories don’t earn much money, if any at all.
Let’s get something straight. I’m about my money, and I’m a good writer. I wouldn’t be on Medium if either of those weren’t true. I wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck, taking years to build RICKiRICKi, if I didn’t believe in myself and my skills. This is a long term play.
I’ve tasted the forbidden fruit, and been part of that 6% of writers that earned over $100 last month, and even had one month where earnings through the Partner Program covered my expenses, and I’ve desperately tried to get back there.
The attempts have haunted me, as I arrive just shy of the rim each time I jump. Every failed attempt sunk me deeper and deeper into a discouragement, which as a creator makes you question your entire path. So deep that I simply needed to adjust my outlook.
Easier said than done.
I needed to dig and surface all the ways outside beyond earning money that my writing was serving me.
Money isn’t the only way writers win on Medium. With what seems to be more and more writers joining Medium daily, competition has increased for writers. Competition is good though, it drives us to develop our craft. With nearly 100 million monthly readers there is still so much opportunity for writers. So, for those still writing, I want to offer consolation for the times when you penned a fucking brilliant piece of writing and it didn't earn money.
These are the 13 ways writers still win even when their stories don’t earn much money.
Access to and relationships earned through publications
This is a big one. When you publish with a publication you immediately gain access and exposure to their audience. That in itself is a win but think of the personal relationships you nurture in this process. If you publish with a Medium owned publication, this means someone at Medium not only is aware of you but also digs your writing. For other publications, you’re still developing a relationship with a professional editor.
When the story still gets curated
Curation is performed by a team of humans. Humans, that work at Medium, meaning people at Medium know your name and support your work. Like a drip campaign or a slew of billboards neighboring your commute to work, the more you write within a topic, the more exposure to these curators you will receive, increasing your brand recognition and equity with them, which better positions your future stories for curation.
The value of external views
Just because a story doesn’t go viral on Medium, doesn’t mean all is lost. Consider the opportunity that external views returned from search engines when your story has great SEO provide. With good SEO you might land on Google’s first page, and when you do your external views will increase. We like this. Why? Well, external views are opportunities to convert non-paying members into paying members, which Medium will reward writers for if they become members within 30 days of reading your story. This read between-the-lines encouragement to distribute transforms writers into affiliate marketing partners and their stories into lead gen for Medium, but if writers will be compensated for it too, then we should lean into this.
The value of internal views
Internal reading time is the metric we all want to wake up to and find that it climbed 30 hours overnight. I also would love to meet my Grandfather, and play with a dinosaur. That’s not reality. All of our work is an invitation to engage more, with the rest of our work. If 5 people find one of my stories, and then proceed to discover 30 more of my pieces, that’s a major win and this will increase internal reading time across 30 stories rather than just one.
Your story is personal lead gen
If you’ve set up your profile bio and story signature correctly there really is an opportunity to grow your network. If you have your website in your bio, and then your Linkedin, Facebook Page, Instagram, and Twitter hyperlinked in your signature you have placed rest stops for your readers to engage deeper in your entire body of work. By directing a reader to your website, you’ve led them to a menu of your services which transforms your story into personal lead generation. Just make sure to expose your contact information so they can get in touch with you easily!
Your custom audiences size will grow
If you have your own website, Instagram or Facebook page, then hopefully you’ve installed your Facebook pixel and set up your custom audiences. Custom audiences are useful for targeted campaigns as they are made up of highly defined groups of people who already have a relationship with you or your business. Of the custom audience settings available to you, 3 of them pull from website traffic, Facebook page visits, and Instagram page visits, collecting and storing profiles for when you want to retarget an ad campaign to them.
Your list will grow
Like sunlight to sunflowers, your email list will grow. But, only if you’ve linked it correctly. Most people are hesitant to sign up for yet another person’s email list. Why should they sign up for yours? It’s your responsibility to include copy that encourages them to convert. If I may offer a suggestion though, don’t send a weekly newsletter. This will become a burden. At most, send bi-weekly. I personally send a single monthly letter to my list of 1,000+ and since making this change, I saw open rates soar to 73%.
Your brand recognition has strengthened
So far your writing has been seen by editors at Medium and non-Medium owned publications, curators, passerby's on Google, your followers, and who knows who else. Each time you publish a story you increase the familiarity of your brand. This is density marketing, the more you see, the more you think the value of said brand or product is. Same goes for writing, each new piece of writing is an opportunity to strengthen your brand recognition.
The discoverability potential for Google
I’m no SEO expert, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night. Kidding. Listen, your story, even with basic SEO might land on Google’s first page. The opportunity that comes from this is massive. SEO increases your discoverability, and once discovered you open yourself up to a bounty of opportunities. From potential clients to freelance opportunities or consulting gigs, so much can happen. That, in addition to the traffic that will then be driven to your other stories, your website, your social media, and your newsletters. Are you now understanding why I include those above?
Your portfolio grew by 1
As you aim to expand your writing and secure freelance clients or market your services to prospects, each new writing grows your marketable portfolio by one. Selling, or self-marketing, is about how you tell your story. Storytelling is a heck of a lot easier when you have something to speak to. You can speak to a portfolio. Down the line, if you ever want to leave freelancing behind and apply for a role, you’ve equipped yourself with the knowledge and skills to run content, a blog, email marketing, or copywrite for a company. Roles that are extremely important today as we are being educated on the importance of digital presence and compassionate marketing.
Even without clients, you’ve made brand relationships
I haven’t been shy about the fact that I share my writings with brands. I don’t directly mention any, but if there is a topic or product in a brand's space, I let them know. Each time I do this, I open conversations with managers and executives at companies that operate in spaces I am interested in. The natural progression of this is to nurture this relationship, contract for them, and then at some point explore becoming a full-time employee for them.
Writing as a beautiful expression
Writing is such a beautiful form of self-care. It’s a meditative practice that allows you to collect your thoughts, and share them. As much as the writer benefits from writing, readers often find solace, comfort, or inspiration in another’s words, their stories.
Writing develops applicable skills
Writing has made me a better researcher. Writing has made me a better listener. Writing has made me a better speaker. Writing has made me a better writer. Writing has made me a better person.
As writers, we need to stop being so narrow-minded. Increased viewership and engagement may not always translate to income, but earning income is not everything. Had I not detailed all the ways we win, that statement would read as privileged words, but I share it with an alliance and as your peer.
Beyond using this list to boost our attitudes when a story doesn’t perform as well as we’d of liked it too, this list shares strategies writers should definitely weave into their practice.
Medium isn’t a platform for overnight success, sure outliers will exist, and the growth hacking community will continue to try and hack Medium, but our efforts serve us better when we apply them to a longer termed focus.
But, with everything, the ultimate thing we as writers can do, is write. So, keep those heads up, and those keyboards slapping.
The difference between Seth Godin, The Morning Brew, and me? I respect your inbox, curating only one newsletter per month — Join my behind-the-words monthly newsletter to feel what it’s like to receive a respectful newsletter.