Medium Referral Program Earnings: What Did I Make

In Aug 2021, Medium launched a new referral program.

This program is a replacement for the monthly $500 top writer bonus.

The referral program works such that a Medium author gets compensated for each member they convert on the platform.

The best part is that the compensation is recurring. For each referred member, you get ~50% of their monthly membership fee.

I have not seen many authors talk about their numbers when it comes to the referral program.

So I decided to share mine.

In short, for the past 6 months, I’ve passively referred 18 new members without any promotion. During that period of time, I have got 135,000 story views.

Running some basic calculations, this means:

  • I currently earn ~$40.00 a month for the referrals.
  • Every 7,500th reader becomes a referred member.

If you only came for the numbers, there you go!

However, I recommend sticking around to learn:

  • My audience, niche, traffic sources, and much more.
  • What you should expect.
  • What would it take to make a living based on referrals only (a funny calculation based on my data).

A Detailed Walkthrough: My Experience on Medium Referral Program

It has been 6 months since Medium launched the Medium referral program.

Let’s take a detailed look at my numbers during that time and what you can expect.

Disclaimer: Your mileage may vary.

I spent no time promoting Medium memberships.

The 18 referrals have come 100% passively.

No social media promotion, no link sharing, nothing.

This is because I do not believe people will convert to Medium members from the personal membership landing page.

I mean would you join on a platform you have never used before when you land on a page like this?

At least I would not.

Unless you get thousands of clicks on the page, there will probably be no referred members.

However, the Medium referral program works such that if someone subscribes to your stories and then becomes a member, you also get the commission.

Aha!

So if you write enough, there will be someone that subscribes to your stories and becomes a member.

This is the strategy I have used. It is also the only good strategy I have heard of.

My Niche on Medium

Before digging into the details of the numbers, you probably want to know my niche (although on Medium it should not matter much).

  • 90% of my content on Medium is programming-related tutorials.
  • About 5% is miscellaneous tech/science-related content.
  • The remaining 5% is about blogging.

My Audience: External vs Internal

For the past 6 months, my stories have received 135,000 views.

This audience is:

  • 70% external traffic from Google search.
  • 30% internal traffic from Medium recommendations.

So there is quite a bit of external traffic going on.

This positively affects the referrals as most of my audience is not from Medium!

By the way, external traffic means search engine traffic, such as Google, Bing, and so on. You can check this for each story separately from your Medium stats.

For example, here is one of my stories:

A Medium story where the majority of views are external traffic, that is, “External referrals”.

My Activity: How Many Stories Did I Publish?

For the past 6 months, I have only published a handful of new stories. I have spent 95% of my time growing my personal websites.

However, due to being really active on Medium at the beginning of 2021, my stories still get a bunch of views (~22k/mo). To be precise, during Jan – Jul 2021 I published close to 150 stories!

Calculations: How to Earn Full-Time Income on Medium Referrals

This is the funny part.

Let’s calculate what it would take to make a decent amount of money using the passive referral strategy described above.

Let’s say the goal would be to make $3,000 monthly solely on Medium member referrals in the next 2 years.

Based on my stats, 18 readers out of 135,000 have become referred members.

In other words, roughly every 7,500th reader becomes my referred member.

At the moment, each referred member makes me ~$2.20 monthly as long as they stay on the platform.

Let’s naively assume:

  • Each member stays on the platform forever.
  • The referral commission remains the same.

Thus, you would need to refer 3,000/2.2 ~ 1,364 members to make $3,000 a month.

To make this happen in 2 years, that is, 24 months. You would need to refer 1,364/24 ~ 57 members a month.

As of Aug 2021, I have referred 18/6 = 3 members per month on average. My monthly views count is at 135,000 / 6 ~ 22,500.

Based on this, to refer 57 members a month, I’d need to 20 X my monthly referrals and views.

This would mean 450,000 views per month. After 2 years, that would mean a total of ~10M views.

At the moment, my total view count is at ~400,000 with the ~200 stories I have published.

This would mean I’d need to write ~5,000 stories during the next 2 years, which is 7 stories a day.

My average writing time is 3 hours, so this would mean I’d need to write 21 hours a day :).

Results: To earn $3,000/month solely on Medium referrals, you would need to write 21 hours a day for the next 2 years. Yay!

These calculations, in my opinion, are a great way to illustrate the magnitude of work.

However, there are big problems and assumptions that make the calculations inaccurate:

  • Not all members remain on the platform.
  • Medium can change their referral policy any time.
  • Most of my stories are not written search-enginges-first.
  • 10M views in 2 years would already make you ~$5,000-$10,000/mo…
  • 18 referred members is too small sample size to draw accurate conclusions.
  • The number of referrals may vary based on the niche.
  • The number of referrals varies based on whether the traffic is mostly internal or external.
  • My stories are published in publications. Self-publishing might yield completely different results.
  • Using only one person’s data to draw conclusions is overall a bad idea.

Conclusion

Today you learned what to expect from the Medium referral program based on the past 6 months of my experiences.

I have passively managed to convert every 7,500th reader on Medium without any promotion.

Each referred member makes me ~$2.2 each month.

To make $3,000 dollars a month from the referrals, you would need to have ~450,000 reads each month for the next 2 years.

However, I believe this is not what it takes.

  • If you only write for the Medium audience, it will take way more than that.
  • On the other hand, if you write for search engines, you can reach that magical 450,000 views/mo in a year with 100-200 articles.

To write for search engines, you should know a bit about SEO and how to find topics that people are searching for.

Thanks for reading.

Happy writing!

Further Reading

How to Write on Medium: Ultimate Guide

How to Write a Blog Post 5x Faster with AI