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Did Boosting Just Get a Lot Rarer?

Or maybe I’m just sour grapes on Medium right now

These grapes look delicious, but my grapes are sour. Photo by Bruno Scramgnon: https://www.pexels.com/photo/red-grapes-23042/

Suddenly, no matter what I write, I can’t score a boost to save my life.

This has always been the thing that bothers me about Medium. It always has, and still does, feel completely arbitrary to me in terms of what it and its editors boost (or curate). Whenever I write something and submit it, I feel like I’m buying a lottery ticket — only rather than spending ten seconds of my time and a dollar or two for a chance, I’m spending hours and days writing articles.

And the sad fact of the matter is that I’m getting too old, and inflation is getting too high, for me to write just for the fun of it.

I first started writing on Medium back in 2020, and I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed reading other writers here, and I enjoyed writing articles on a wide variety of topics (a luxury in freelancing) and every now and then I made a few hundred bucks.

Then, my income slowed to a trickle. I would write 2–3 articles per week, and ended up making thirty to fifty dollars per month. That simply was not enough per word to make it worth my while, and I had to concentrate on other, higher-paying freelance jobs.

So I left.

Then, in 2023, I found I had a little bit more time to freelance (and was also procrastinating on a bigger project, the organization of which was destroying my ADHD mind) and found myself thinking, what if I just hadn’t given Medium a fair chance? What if I could just get better at writing articles for Medium and its algorithms? What if, what if…

And so I jumped back on the platform.

And, after writing my first ten stories, four of them had been boosted. “Hey!”, I thought. “Maybe I figured something out and this could work.”

Since then?

I still get stories boosted, but not quite 20% of the stories I’ve written since those first ten (with that 40% boost rate) have been boosted, and, because I don’t write on the big-money subjects of, well, money and self-help and tech, even my boosted articles tend to earn $100 to $200 at most.

Please note: The state of editorial and writing freelancing is such that I am really, really grateful any time I can make a couple of hundred bucks through writing. (And I am endlessly grateful to everyone who has read and clapped for any of my articles.)

But now I’m right back where I was the first time I left this platform. For every hundred-dollar story I produce, I write a lot of five-dollar dogs, and that is not a formula any freelancer can sustain for long.

I’m not a great writer, and God knows I’ve never been a very successful writer, but I’ve been at it a long time and I mostly know how to put a sentence together.

And I promise you that none of the stories I get boosted are that much different than the stories I don’t get boosted. In fact, if anything, I often feel that my boosted stories are not typically my strongest or even my best-written ones.

I also know it would be the height of entitlement to think that I deserve to get a lot more stories boosted. I really don’t expect that; Medium and its editors and its publication editors are all certainly within their rights not to boost ANY of my stories. There are a lot of people writing here, and not all of us can be boosted all of the time.

When I speak with people about Medium, everybody seems to have made their peace with not knowing how it’s working.

I’m not good at making peace with that sort of thing.

I don’t need a lot of money, I certainly don’t need fame, but I’m finding the one thing I really would like is some idea of how a place I work for actually works. I get that from other jobs I do:

  • When I write for nonprofit magazines, I know that I will put in a lot of hours and make very little money. I write those stories because I believe in the publications I write for, and I believe the stories I tell need to be told.
  • Likewise, when I write for content mills, I know that I will write serviceable articles for a flat fee. I won’t get to write about anything I’m really interested in, but I will know the market rate for the words I’m selling.
  • When I write kids’ nonfiction books, I work for a flat fee per book. It’s not enough, but I enjoy learning about different nonfiction topics.
  • When I edit or proofread or index, I make a straight hourly rate. This rate is lower than it used to be because demand is low and everyone who produces books that need those services are also making less money.

I have accepted all those different variations of squeaking out income from editorial and writing freelancing, and I am so, so thankful for my jobs.

But the difference between those jobs and Medium is that, with those jobs, I know up front what I’m walking into. I know publishers don’t value my editorial skills, and fewer readers do all the time, and that’s why my pay rate is low. Even when people do value my skills, they are invariably the types of people who don’t have a lot of money themselves. I GET IT.

So I think I’m learning, at this late stage in my career, what my work deal-breaker is.

It’s not money.

It’s not fame.

It’s not “professional satisfaction.”

It’s this: I want to know what my boss is doing, and why.

So it turns out I’m not sour grapes about not making much money on Medium. I’m sour grapes because it never, ever lets me peek behind the curtain.


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Long Live Grandma Smillew
Writing On Medium
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