How I Made $460,000 Writing Articles on Medium

If you want to know how to become a better writer, you can swipe the step-by-step process I used to:

  • Make $460,000 writing articles on Medium
  • Get millions of readers every year
  • Publish blog posts for some of the top blogs in the world
  • Freelance for high-quality companies

Everything you read below is a masterclass in learning to write well.

 

If you want to write better…

you have to write a lot.

Obvious and cliche? Sure. But after nearly a decade of showing people how to become a better writer, it can’t be overstated.

Most would-be writers underestimate how much time and effort it takes to get good.

Mark Mason, author of the best-selling book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***” had this to say about how to become a better writer:

[…] my go-to advice for aspiring bloggers is always, ‘Write 100 posts and then come back and ask me again.’

Because until you’ve written 100 posts, you generally have no clue what you enjoy writing about or what people enjoy reading from you, you have not developed anything close to decent writing chops, and you have no chance at ever monetizing.

If you want to become a better writer, you have to create a system that helps you write every single day.

Here’s what I did to build my writing career when I had a 9 to 5 job:

  • I woke up at 4:30 a.m.
  • I spent 15 minutes journaling to spark ideas for posts
  • I worked on either writing or editing for two hours

The ideal writing routine involves writing at the same time, for the same duration, and even in the same location on a daily basis for months or years.

William Faulkner shared a similar sentiment about the mindset required to become a great writer:

Too many aspiring writers rely on motivation and inspiration. Instead, you want to build habits and discipline. This is where having a writing routine comes in.

 

Swipe my routine to become a better writer

I teach a specific process to students in my community that shows them how to write articles and social media posts that resonate with readers.

It solves the problems of:

  • Not knowing what to write about
  • Writing posts that nobody wants to read
  • Writing and editing your articles faster

Let’s assume you know what topic you want to write about. Use these steps to write posts people want to read.

 

Step 1: Build your four-factor analysis document

The four-factor analysis ensures you’re writing posts that address the conversation that’s already happening in your readers’ minds.

Create a spreadsheet with these four columns:

  • Fears
  • Frustrations
  • Hopes (short-term)
  • Aspirations (long-term)

You want to write fifteen answers in each column, using the word “I.” This helps you get inside your readers’ minds and see life from their point of view.

Here are some examples from my four-factor analysis document:

FearsFrustrationHopesAspirations
I'm afraid to put myself out there due to a lack of confidence.I'm frustrated with anxiety that keeps me from reaching my personal/professional goalsI hope to have the courage to start my online businessI aspire to have full financial freedom

Your 4FA will be your new bible.

Every time you sit down to write a post, you’ll use this as your guide.

 

Step 2: Turn your premise into a positive outcome

Use this process to come up with title ideas for new blog posts easily.

  • Choose 1 of your 60 fears/frustrations/hopes/aspirations
  • Turn each of them into a positive outcome
  • Translate the outcome into a headline

Here’s what that process could look like in practice:

Fear: I’m afraid to talk to people


Quick Win: I developed confidence by saying hi to three new people per day


Headline: How To Cure Social Anxiety in Just 10 Seconds Per Day

 

Step 3: Write 10 headlines

Writing 10 daily headlines helps you develop premises, get rid of creative blocks, and learn to attract attention and money (that comes when people click). Plus, the way you write headlines can dictate the tone and style of your articles so, for all of these reasons, it’s a worthwhile skill to develop.

Here are the rules for writing your 10 headlines:

  • Stop trying to make them “good”
  • Spend 15 minutes max
  • Use tools to help, like ChatGPT

For the next couple of months, use this strategy to help you come up with headlines more easily.

Choose one of the 60 fears, frustrations, hopes, or aspirations of your audience. Create a quick win/outcome. Now, you can write 10 variations of headlines based on that outcome. 

Examples based on the previous outcome we worked with → “I developed confidence by saying hi to three strangers each day”:

  • Overcome Your Social Fears with This Easy Daily Practice
  • Transform Your Social Confidence with One Simple Daily Task
  • Boost Your Social Skills in Just Minutes a Day: Discover the Surprising Method

Once you’ve settled on a headline, it’s time to create the structure for your post.

 

Step 4: Mind-map your post

Take a piece of paper and create a mind map, which is a fancy way of saying you should brainstorm the topics you’re going to include in your post.

Start with a central topic

  • Write down the main theme or idea in the center of a blank page.
  • Use a single word or short phrase to represent the core concept.

Brainstorm subtopics

  • Think of related ideas, questions, or themes.
  • Write these around the central topic, connecting them with lines or branches.

Expand on subtopics

  • Break down subtopics into smaller ideas or aspects.
  • Add more branches to represent these details or connections.

Identify content structure

  • Look for patterns or relationships between subtopics.
  • Organize ideas into sections, headings, or a logical flow for your blog post.

Refine and prioritize ideas

  • Eliminate or combine redundant or irrelevant branches.
  • Rank ideas based on their importance or relevance to the central topic.

Convert your mind map into an outline

  • Use the structure identified in your mind map to create a detailed outline.
  • Flesh out your blog post based on the organized ideas and subtopics.

 

For a visual walk-through of what this looks like, check out this video:

Step 5: Create a formal outline

Take your messy hand-written mind map and turn it into a formal outline in a Google doc.

This seems redundant, but hashing out what you want to say before you say it makes the writing process 10 times easier.

Organize your ideas

  • Review your mind map or brainstorming notes.
  • Group related ideas together to form sections or subheadings.

Create a clear hierarchy

  • Use headings and subheadings to structure your outline.
  • Apply consistent formatting (e.g., Roman numerals, letters, numbers) to indicate different levels of organization.

Start with an introduction

  • Outline your hook, background information, and thesis statement.
  • Provide a brief overview of the main points you’ll cover in the post.

Develop body sections

  • Break down each section into main points and supporting details.
  • Add sub-points, examples, or evidence to further develop your ideas.

Focus on coherence and flow

  • Ensure each section logically follows the previous one.
  • Use transitions to guide readers from one point to another.

Include a conclusion

  • Summarize your main points and restate your thesis.
  • Provide a call-to-action or a thought-provoking statement to end your post.

You can watch me walk through the process here:

Once you have your entire post structure mapped out, it’s time to start writing.

 

Step 6: Write your first draft

The only goal of your first draft is to get the draft done. Don’t worry about having a pretty post just yet. Focus on getting all the words onto the page.

Embrace the “crappy first draft” rule

  • Accept that your first draft won’t be perfect.
  • Focus on getting your ideas down without worrying about quality.

Avoid editing while you write

  • Separate the writing and editing processes.
  • Write freely without getting stuck on grammar or phrasing.

Close social media and other distractions

  • Create a focused writing environment.
  • Eliminate notifications and other interruptions.

Use placeholders when you get stuck

  • Insert a temporary note or symbol when you can’t find the right word or fact.
  • Continue writing and return to fill in the gaps later.

Write non-stop until the draft is done

  • Maintain momentum by not taking breaks during the drafting process.
  • Use a timer or word count goal to keep you on track.

Dive in without hesitation

  • Start writing immediately instead of waiting for the “perfect” moment.
  • Combat procrastination and self-doubt by taking action.

Stick to your outline for faster flow

  • Follow the structure and organization of your outline.
  • Use your outline as a roadmap to guide your writing process.

Check out these posts if you’d like to read more on staying focused and finding flow:

 

Step 7: Follow the 3-Step Editing System

Having a solid outline will make the editing process much easier. It’s important to edit your work, but you don’t want to endlessly toil on a single article for weeks at a time.

This process can help you write a brand new post every 2-3 days.

Edit 1: Review structure and cut content

1. Assess the overall structure and flow of your draft.

2. Aim to cut 25% of the content by removing redundancies and irrelevant information.

3. Delete the original introduction and conclusion.


Edit 2: Rewrite and refine

1. Rewrite the introduction and conclusion to better fit the revised content.

2. Fill in any gaps left after cutting content in the first edit.

3. Review each line and ask if it deserves to be there, cutting further if necessary.


Edit 3: Fine-toothed comb edit

1. Conduct a thorough grammar and spelling check.

2. Add hyperlinks, quotes, or other necessary data to support your points.

3. Ensure your final draft is polished, accurate, and well-sourced.

If you run this blog post writing framework from start to finish, you will publish new posts with ease.

 

You won’t become a better writer unless you take this advice to heart

The most important step in learning how to become a better writer isn’t the writing itself—it’s hitting publish on your articles.

Your work doesn’t count until it makes contact with the real world.

Here’s what I mean: Imagine two basketball players. Player A does drills non-stop, but never plays in any games. Player B does the same drills, but also takes his skills to the court and improves his game by playing against others.

Which player do you think will perform better?

If you write tons of drafts, but never hit publish, your writing won’t get any better.

When you hit publish often, you experience these benefits that will help you become a better writer:

  • You get feedback on what resonates and what doesn’t by exposing your work to readers.
  • When you get a positive response to your piece, you’ll be inspired to write and publish more.
  • The more you publish over time, the more data you’ll have on what works and what doesn’t, which will give you patterns and trends you can use to write higher-quality work.

Now that we’ve covered the basic structure of how to write and have acknowledged the importance of publishing…

 

Focus on these writing touchpoints to make your articles shine

Readers tend to skim through posts. They’ll abandon an article when start to feel bored. 

Mastering these elements will increase retention and cause more readers to finish your posts:

  • Headlines
  • Intros/hooks
  • Sub-headings
  • Article flow
  • Conclusions

Let’s break these down…

 

Write headlines that capture attention

Adverting legend David Ogilvy once said:

Continue to write 10 headlines every day and focus on these rules when you do it.

  • Focus on self-interest: Your headline should suggest to readers, “here is something you want.”
  • Use power words: Use action words that trigger an emotional response and create a sense of urgency. Examples include “Discover,” “Uncover,” “Reveal,” “Unleash.”
  • Ask questions: Pose questions that are relevant to your audience and encourage them to click to find the answers.
  • Make it personal: Address your audience directly and make them feel like the content is specifically for them.
  • Use numbers: Numbers can be attention-grabbing and persuasive. For example, “10 Proven Ways to Boost Your Productivity.”
  • Be specific: Avoid vague or generic headlines. The more specific your headline, the more appealing it will be to your target audience.
  • Keep it short: Headlines that are to the point are more likely to be clicked on and read. Keep your headlines under 10-12 words.
  • Use positive language: Focus on the benefits and outcomes of the content.

 

Nail the introduction (aka the most important part of any article)

My friend Michael Thompson, one of Medium’s top writers, told me he re-writes his introduction over and over again until he nails it, sometimes writing 20 variations or more. 

You want to nail the intro because readers will quickly abandon your posts if you don’t. Here are some intro styles you can use.

 

❓Ask a rhetorical question: Start your post with a question that piques the reader’s curiosity and prompts them to continue reading. 

 


❓Ask a multiple-choice question: Create a pop quiz by asking a question with multiple answers that the reader can choose from. 

  • Example: “Pop quiz. Which of these do you agree with?  

– Intelligence is fixed at birth.

– Some people are creative, others aren’t.

– You can become a world-class expert through enough practice, whatever your starting point.

– You can change your personality.”

(Link to the full post here)

 


📖 Share an interesting story: Start your post with a story that is relevant to the topic of your post and ties in with the concept you’ll be discussing. 

 


🎨 Produce a mental image & paint the picture/scenery in the first line: Paint a vivid picture with your opening sentence, creating a mental image for the reader. 

  • Example: “Berlin, November 2022. C❄ld as balls. Dark as a wolf’s throat, as we say in Spain.” (Link to the full post here)

 


📊 Cite a unique and curiosity-inducing statistic: Use a statistic that is surprising and encourages the reader to keep reading to find out more.

 


🔎 Begin the blog post with a mystery: Start your post with a question that has no obvious answer (like, “What are the rings of Saturn made of?”) and then proceed like a police investigation. 

  • Example (mine): “Why are most bloggers broke and unknown, while a tiny percentage are rich and famous? The answer might surprise you.”

 


💁🏽 Put your readers in the story: Use the first line to make the reader feel like they are part of the story. 

  • Example: “Come on, fess up! You’ve done the unthinkable. You’ve let your beloved blog wither in the shadows of neglect.” (Link to the full post here)

 


🧠 Quote someone famous for social proof: Add credibility and social proof. 

  • Example: “The brain is a wonderful organ. It starts the moment you get up and doesn’t stop until you get into the office.” —Robert Frost (Link to the full post here)

 


♥️ Share a personal or vulnerable part of your life: Start your post with a personal or vulnerable aspect of your life to connect with your reader 

  • Example: “I was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. Yes, the dreaded c word. It’s probably not what you are thinking. I don’t look at this health issue as an anchor. I look at this as an opportunity for growth.” (Link to the full post here)

 


🤔 Withhold key details to create a curiosity gap: Start your post by withholding key details, creating a curiosity gap that the reader will want to fill. 

  • Example: ”What if I showed you how to use curiosity to increase your blog traffic, build an email list, and earn more sales? Keep reading.” (Link to the full post here)

 

Write scroll-stopping sub-headings

Your sub-headings serve as “pattern interruptions” that keep your readers from getting bored while reading your articles. Writing irresistible subheadings will increase your read ratio and get more people to finish your posts.

 

Sub-head mistakes to avoid

The Plain Label Subhead: Many writers use sub-heads as mere labels, which do little to pique the reader’s interest or keep them engaged.

The Spoiler Subhead: This type of sub-head gives away the content that follows, making it easy for readers to skip sections.

The Cryptic Subhead: Overly creative sub-heads that are confusing rather than compelling can also cause readers to bounce.

 

5 steps to crafting compelling sub-heads:

1. Write your post as you normally would.

2. Look at your sub-heads and consider each one in isolation with the text that follows.

3. Determine the purpose of the text block that follows the sub-head.

4. If the block of text were its own post, what would its headline be?

5. Ensure the sub-head creates curiosity, and incorporates surprise, personality, and emotion.

 

Use the “Book End Method” for a seamless flow

Treat each section of your blog post as a stand-alone with an intro and conclusion of its own. 

 

For opening lines, try these tactics:

  • Leak out new pieces of the story with each section.
  • Start with a relatable story or anecdote.
  • Spell out the problem or issue you’re about to explain.
  • Use an interesting fact, anecdote, or story.
  • Begin with a quote under the sub-heading.

 

Opening line examples

Continue to leak out new pieces of the story with each section. 

The miracle of mothers: “Over the next 16 years, I had pneumonia 16 times. But I never died. It sounds strange to say it, but my mother wouldn’t let it happen.” (Link to the full post here)

 


Open with a relatable story/anecdote 

They practice intellectual humility: “I worked in finance and mostly hated it. However, one of the few perks was the people.” (Link to the full post here)

 


Spell out the problem/issue you’re about to explain: 

Automation is eating the world: “Here’s the problem: Industrialism consumes itself. As an example: Every time a line of software is written, a job is lost.” (Link to the full post here)

 


Use an interesting fact, anecdote, or story 

How they respond to the good fortune of others: Back when Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl, a funny meme made the rounds: A photo of his brother Eli, whose facial expression seemed to indicate that he wasn’t too thrilled. “Crap, what am I going to brag about at Thanksgiving now?” one tweet captioned him thinking.

 


Open with a quote underneath the sub-heading 

Know You Can Change: “Set the kind of goals that will make something of you to achieve them.” —Jim Rohn

 

For closing or transition lines, try these tactics:

  • Transition to a related but different idea.
  • Reiterate the main takeaway.
  • Use definite phrases to close the point, such as “the bottom line,” “the moral of the story,” or “what you need to remember most.”
  • End with a quote.
  • Present bullet takeaways or examples.

 

Closing and transition line examples

Translate one idea you shared to a related, but different idea: 

Example: “And I think we can learn something from them. Not to minimize what mothers do, but I’ve come to believe that our job as writers is not all that different.” (Link to the full post here)

 


Re-iterate the main takeaway to close the point: 

Example: “An obsession with money has its downsides. Learn how to cap the downsides of money through Keanu.” (Link to the full post here)

 


Use definite phrases to close the point, e.g., “the bottom line, “the moral of the story,” or “what you need to remember most.” 

Example: “The moral of the story? It’s all in your mind. Change your mind and you change reality.” (Link to the full post here)

 


End with a quote 

Example: “No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” —Seneca (Link to the full post here)

 

End your posts on a high note with a compelling conclusion

Leave your readers feeling inspired. If you want them to read your next post, nail the conclusion so they’ll want to keep coming back for more.

Here are some ideas and examples below.

 

❓Ask a thought-provoking question

What are some other ways you have seen unique intros and hooks used effectively? How do you like to begin your own blog posts?

 


Provide a call-to-action 

Now that you have a better understanding of how to write compelling intros and conclusions, try experimenting with a few of these techniques in your own writing. Let us know in the comments below how it goes!

 


👀 Offer a sneak peek of what’s to come in future content 

In my next article, I’ll dive into the art of writing compelling and persuasive body copy that keeps readers engaged and wanting more. Stay tuned!

 


🔁 Reiterate the main takeaway(s)

In this type of writing, the main goal is to summarize the key points of the article and bring out the most important takeaways for the reader. This helps the reader understand the essence of the article without having to go through all the details. (Example here)

 


TL;DR

List out the key points of the article, providing a brief summary of the article in a concise and easy-to-digest format. (Example here)

 


🪢 Tie the knot

Write the ending to the story you used at the beginning of the article, tying up loose ends and connecting the dots for the reader. Example: Finish the story from the post in the previous section about dating in college. (Link to the full post here)

 


💡 Motivate and inspire:

Encourage the reader to take action or embrace a particular idea. (Example here)

 

You have everything you need to write a killer blog post

Use these tips every single time you sit down to write if you want to become a better writer.

Remember, success is a volume game.

The answer boils down to a simple two-word phrase:

Write more.

Nobody is reading your articles? Write more.

People are loving your articles? Write more to get even better.

Want to improve your skills over time? Write more.

If you’re consistent, the blog posts you write a year from now will be unrecognizable to the ones you write now. 

You’ll surprise yourself.

You’ll write posts that entertain, educate, and inspire your readers.

But it starts with what you do today.