Yesterday I had an epiphany.
It’s been almost exactly 12 months as I started writing on Medium and I keep reflecting on what it means to be a writer on this platform. And what it means to make a living writing on Medium.
We live in a great and weird world. We don’t have to work full-time at an office anymore to make a living. We can create an account on a “platform” — and do our job.
There are many platforms out there. Uber is one of them, possibly the best example of how a “platform” can create a whole class of professions and allow so many people to make money easily.
An Uber driver owns nothing — usually not even his car, he can lease that out through a company for $15/day. So to start making a living driving Ubers, all you need is the desire and a driver’s license. The more rides you take — the more money you make. If you stop driving — you stop making money.
It’s the same with Medium.
I came to this platform last October with nothing. I had 35 followers — all of whom were my Facebook friends. And I didn’t know what to do to make money, so I just started writing. The more I wrote — the more money I made. Recently, as I started to get burned out by writing so much, I started to make less.
People talk about the “passion economy” — i.e., a step two in the “gig economy” of Ubers and UpWorks of the world — but Medium is very mich still in a gig economy.
The job of an Uber driver is to get you from A to B, the job of a Medium writer is to come up with something interesting to entertain you over a few minutes.
Yes, your income is slightly less linear than on a platform like UpWork — a post you spent 10 minutes on can go viral and you can make a killing — but more or less, it’s the same.
Personally, I am not sure I like it.
I don’t want to churn out endless Medium pieces just to make cash.
I don’t want to write several times per day.
To be honest, I don’t even want to write every day.
I want to write whenever I have something meaningful to say to my audience. I want to build a relationship. And I understand that this means letting go of additional income here and there.
This is what I love about my Substack newsletter: it’s where I can be myself, forget about the metrics, and just focus on the ideas I deliver. I don’t obsess over the length of my pieces, I don’t obsess over anything. I just write.
In this way, Substack is not like Medium — you don’t have to do anything. You just create as much content as you see fit and can set up a paid membership so that people who care about your work, support you.
It’s pure creative freedom. And that is how it should be.
Writers shouldn’t be pushed to write as much as possible, they shouldn’t be pushed to publish twice per day to maximize their income — they should be building relationships with people they care about.
Meanwhile, Medium is a great platform to start writing. I am immensely grateful to Medium that it has given me the confidence — I started to get paid for my writing — and it’s absolutely unique in this way. There’s no other platform where you can show up with nothing and get paid (except Uber, I guess).
But Medium is not the pinnacle of a writer’s success.
Just as if you drive Uber to make extra cash — and you don’t want to be the best Uber driver in your city — you don’t want to be the #1 Medium writer. (Unless that’s what you want to build a career in.)
Platforms are just that — platforms. They give opportunities. They are starting points. They allow you to make cash, gain momentum, but if you want to do big things — you have to go out there on your own.
You don’t have to become the best Uber driver to make a living. You don’t have to become the best writer on Medium to gain the following. 60–80% of the effort is already enough.
The real question is, what kind of change do you want to see in the world? Medium is great — but what’s next for you? Where are you going?
With that said, I just want to say:
Thank you that you’re here and thank you that you’re reading this. It means the world to me.