To Become a Serious Writer, Act like the Other Serious Writers

A woman laying in the grass while her dog licks her face.
Photo by Yingchou Han on Unsplash

A few weeks ago I told myself I would give writing a serious attempt. Last month, I made $40.62 without any real effort, minus the last week. I had one article do exceedingly well and earn $31.09, over 3/4 of September’s earnings. Here’s that article if you’re interested.

My medium earnings, showing $40.52 earned in September, $16.94 in August, and $6.65 in July. September’s top story at $31.09.
My Medium earnings for September 2020.

In October, that article has already made me $8.00, and it’s only the 8th as of writing this. If I can replicate that article’s success over the course of a few hundred articles, I’ll be doing quite well.

Because I am determined to give my writing career a real shot, I’ve been studying the content and format of many popular article writers. Here’s what I’ve found.

They Publish Every Day, Often Multiple times a Day

Before you roll your eyes, let me explain what I was doing wrong.

It’s obvious which writers publish a lot — they have the followers to prove it. I wanted to replicate this success, but I also knew the value of publications so I would submit daily to publications.

The only problem here is that some publications may take weeks to publish your work. If all your work is caught in publication queues, you aren’t publishing every day.

My new approach is to publish something every day, whether in a smaller publication or self-publishing. I submit an article to bigger publications every other day so I still get the recognition and wider audience reach as well as the consistency.

That comes out to 1.5 articles a day. I typically write at least 1,500 words a day, but if you write poetry, your output is going to be different.

They Use Featured Images of Women

This is a strange one I’ve noticed.

For the purpose of human connection, it is well-known that articles featuring images of people do better. An art website found that when they swapped out photographs of paintings in favor of photographs of the artists, the conversion rate increased by 95%.

I notice this phenomenon with pictures of women more often than men. Perhaps it is because our society is hyper-focused on the attractiveness of women that this is the case.

Looking at the profiles of popular writers, you will likely see a trend of their articles featured photographs: smiling women.

I wouldn’t recommend changing every single article photograph, but a few more than normal dotted in may help your engagement. At least, that’s my theory.

You’ll see I used a picture of a woman and her dog for this article. They look welcoming, and it’s fall so I wanted something festive. I am also a woman.

They Run Their Own Publications

Publications have newsletters — essentially anyone who follows your publication can opt into receiving emails from you.

This is extremely valuable for marketing your work. Considering Medium has a pleasing newsletter box that can be configured to display after every story in your publication, it is far more tempting for readers to sign up than to follow your links off-platform.

I recently started my own publication, The Cozy Chair. I wanted a place to put my favorite, relaxing cozy pieces. The world needs some wholesome content these days. I designed my own logo using Canva, played with Medium’s setting options, and used HTML Color Codes to pick my background color.

Having your own publication also gives you some prestige. Your profile will suddenly be affixed with a new, “Editor of ___” blurb. This looks great to readers, but also to editors of the other publications you submit to.

It demonstrates your competence and willingness to grow.

Although it may seem daunting to share work in a publication with 0 followers, if you market your articles in Medium Facebook groups, on Reddit, Twitter, etc., you’ll have an audience in no time.

It may seem like a slow burn, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Create Relationships with Other Publications

When you are applying for a job, your cover letter usually ends with a “thank you for considering my application”.

There is no reason you can’t add a kind, private note on the articles you submit to publications. It’s an extra thing that many writers don’t do but is happily received by editors.

I also make sure to thank editors for their feedback and consideration after an article gets rejected.

I used to submit any old article, get rejected, and re-submit it immediately to another publication. I didn’t recognize the human beings involved in the process.

Editors do a lot of work for little praise. Be kind to them.

If you are going to take a real crack at writing, whether the plan is to be a freelancer or as a side hustle, learn from the professionals.

Once you’ve mastered Medium’s format and know how to put an article together, use best practices such as

  • publishing frequently
  • customizing featured images
  • starting your own publication
  • continuing to communicate with other publications.

Before anyone can enjoy your article, it needs to be seen and clicked on. Medium rewards consistency with viewership. Be consistent in your upload schedule and content quality.



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