I Was an Overnight Medium Success Story
Updated: Sep 13
Please allow me to update you on "My Incredible Success"
I made $613.11 in my first consistent month as a paid contributor due to two popular articles -one about how the Statues in Egypt Used to Have Eyeballs, and another which was a satirical article called, If You’re Not A Freelance Writer Now… subtitle: You Will Be By The Time You’re Done Reading This.
In it, I reformatted several of my biggest insecurities into an obnoxious, overconfident, clickbaity how-to listicle with advice like, “Spend twenty minutes writing the perfect tweet, then delete it” and “Write a bunch of fanfiction no one will ever see”. It was cathartic. It felt honest in a roundabout way and people responded. I felt like things could only go up from there.
…So I did what I’d seen all the other writers do — I wrote another obnoxious, overconfident, clickbaity how-to listicle about my success, stating my earnings transparently, along with advice that was intended to be motivational but, looking back on it now, didn't have a lot of substance. Granted, I didn’t have the confidence to take this one too seriously either. It was titled, The Secret to My Incredible Success as a Writer subtitle: Hello, Yes, Thank You. I Am an Authority.
But I want to set the record straight now.
That month was a total fluke. Unmatched ever since. No matter how much better I personally think my writing’s gotten over the years.
I didn’t know anything back then about what the average earnings were because I was inundated with so many articles by top earners about how much they were making. Compared to their $12000/month, my $613.11 seemed like chump change. So not only was I underestimating what a big deal my $613.11 was, I was assuming it was only a promising start. Wrong on both counts.
The day after I posted The Secret to My Incredible Success, I stumbled on an article by someone about how sick he was of seeing brand new writers getting lucky, shouting out their earnings, and misleading even more newcomers to think they could make a living on Medium when writers like him toiled away, earning scraps for their hard work. He never said my name, but he did say my number — $613.11.
He added that he didn’t even think I was that good of a writer, which… hurt. Hurt even more when my earnings over the next several months seemed to prove him right.
I kept trying to write that one article that would do as well as the Egyptian Statues one had. As far as I could tell, the formula seemed to be History + Fun = Money, so I got better and better at that genre/niche …without the same monetary results. Eventually, I realized my calculations had been all wrong (which is fair, I have Dyscalculia). History + Fun do not equal Money. They equal Fun History.
The thing is, I was enjoying the hell out of what I was writing. To the point where I was taking my time with it, posting long-form articles that definitely would have been better suited to book chapters than online articles. These were not toilet reads unless you really didn't care if anyone thought you were taking a massive dump. My follower count kept going slowly but steadily up and I started getting heartfelt emails from those that took the time to read, but my earnings stayed pretty consistently low.
I’m telling you this for two reasons -
I’ve been wanting to admit this for a long time but I was afraid to. I didn’t want my earnings to reflect on my ability as a writer.
Earnings ≠ Worth
I want to point out that earnings shouldn’t reflect on anyone’s ability as a writer. Here’s the thing — I’ve stated several other metrics throughout this post in such a throwaway manner that you might be forgiven for assuming they don’t matter:
My follower counts, including subscriptions to my website, have gone steadily up. Those that read me all the way through tend to follow.
I stumbled on a stranger’s post in which I was (anonymously) mentioned.
I, personally, feel that my writing has gotten better over the years. Sometimes I read my own writing just to remind myself how clever I am.
If you head over to my LinkedIn page, you’ll see that I kept writing. I made it my career. And the people who did notice were the right ones — people who needed exactly the type of content I kept posting because I actually enjoyed writing it, not because it was earning me a living salary on Medium. I've gotten three project leads just this week and, two years ago, I was hired to write a rock and roll memoir - something I never in a million years imagined I’d get to do. People trust my ability based on the proof I put out there.
I completely understand that we all need to make a living. To be totally upfront, I’m currently being paid a small stipend by the U.S. veteran’s office to be the at-home caretaker for my grandmother and I live rent-free with her and my parents at the age of 32. It’s definitely a trade-off. I can afford to eat and build my writing career, but a lot of my time is taken up with caretaking — cooking, cleaning, physically lifting, physical therapy, changing diapers, doctor visits, handling dementia crises, etc. For an artist in today’s economy, some might say I caught a lucky break. Others might say, “What a shame this is how it has to be done.” Still others might say, "Hi to your Nana! Let her know I'm looking forward to the next newsletter!"
But here’s the lesson — try your absolute hardest not to mistake earnings with worth. Yes, let it hone your clickability. Let it sharpen your hooks. Let it inspire you to politically rally against the content mills, the companies that don’t pay writers a living wage, and the laws that fail to protect us. Let it inspire you to emancipate yourself from them as much as possible, learn marketing and communications skills and find the companies that DO pay writers a living wage. But don’t let it stop you from creating what you love to create and don’t let it make you feel less-than.
You are a writer if you write because you love the feeling of a tone clicking into a theme. That has to be enough or you’ll stop, and you'll never see what lies beyond tenacity.
Want to read more? Visit www.KatlynRoberts.com
Here's what people are saying about this article over on Medium:
"This is absolutely beautiful! You inspired me today. It's never been difficult to write, but sometimes it's difficult to be a writer! But still, let's not give up or see ourselves less than ❤" -Mona Lazar
"I think you're good, and you have indeed gotten better. Earnings be damned. Thank you for continuing to bless us with fresh words!" -John Gorman