How to Turn Medium Subscribers Into Email Subscribers, and How to Earn Money With That List

Spoiler alert: this is not for people who want the easy answer.

Photo by Freshh Connection on Unsplash

One of the toughest things about writing on Medium is that your followers don’t have great engagement. As of this writing, I have 7.4k followers. That means, when I publish a story that doesn’t get curated, I can guarantee maybe 100–200 views.

Yep. That’s it. 

The biggest and most necessary challenge you’ll face as a writer on Medium is moving your audience off Medium. 

It’s hard because as writers, we’re not naturals at marketing. It’s uncomfortable to promote our work, and it’s tempting to simply not do so, especially when Medium does such a great job of distributing curated posts, and ranking highly on Google searches.

It’s necessary, however, because of three reasons. 

  1. As mentioned, Medium isn’t the best medium for sharing your work with followers. Your followers do not get notifications when you post. They might never see your work again.
  2. Scary as the possibility is, there is a chance that one day, Medium will cease to exist. You don’t want to be caught out if that happens. 
  3. If you’re a creator, it’s possible that you have other formats to share with readers. Medium only gives you one option: writing.

So let’s talk about what to do with your Medium subscribers — outside of Medium. 

A brief disclaimer: this will not work overnight. This will not be easy. This will not be pain-free. You will have to think hard, be willing to experiment and be unafraid of difficult work.

If you’re looking for how to get 100,000 email subscribers in six months and earn a million dollars with them in a year, this isn’t it. This is my guide for moving your Medium audience onto an email list, and what you can do with your email subscribers once you have that audience.

How to Turn Medium Subscribers Into Email Subscribers

The very first thing you need to do is step away from your computer and have a little think. Why do you want to pull your audience off Medium? What can you give them elsewhere? What do you have that’s unique? 

This is going to give you two things: the beginnings of off-Medium content, and what you can use as your method of getting followers there. 

For me, I wanted to share how to earn money by writing about what they loved. I could email articles, ensuring a wider audience than Medium could offer. And finally, I could make tutorials in video format, and even more resources to special subscribers, like patrons on Patreon.

What do I have to offer? I’m successful on Medium, I’m a good communicator, and I have a background in technical support. This means I’m uniquely placed to offer my Medium starter kit — the one week guide that helps newbies on their way to earning money on Medium.

Here’s how you can create your own.

Creating Your Medium Call-to-Action

Carefully consider your call to action at the bottom of your post. It’s tempting to overpromise or use clickbait — think “This Ebook Guarantees You $1,000 From Writing on Medium,” or “Click Here To Find Out How You Can Become a Millionaire Overnight.” 

Those tactics might work in the short term. But you’re not here because you want another vanity metric of followers who sign up, only to unsubscribe when they realize all you’re selling is snake oil. You’re here because you want a solid email list, with people who are genuinely interested in what you can realistically offer.

This freebie is going to be the very first thing from you in their inbox. It is going to set the expectation for the rest of your content and will let them know whether you’re worth that precious inbox space. 

Your call to action must have three elements.

  1. What problem are you solving? 
  2. Why are you an expert in solving that problem?
  3. How is this free content going to help your new email subscriber?

Starting with the problem is important. You want to correctly identify a pain point your potential follower is experiencing. For my subscribers, this is often a lack of money with a love of writing. 

Explaining why you’re an expert in the next step builds trust. For me, I show how I’ve been successful on Medium consistently. People want to know why they should listen to you.

Finally, your free content must promise how it’s going to help — but without giving away the solution. This can be an eBook, a checklist, a link to other resources, an opportunity to speak with you one-on-one. Use your imagination.

Two examples of great calls-to-action

My favorite examples are from Kyrie Gray and Shaunta Grimes.

Kyrie’s is a great one because it’s unusual. She’s not offering the typical things — make money, become more productive, make people love you. She offers instead entertainment. Because she’s a humor writer, a reader will get to the bottom of a story they enjoyed, and then be in the mood for more. 

Screenshot from Kyrie Gray’s story

Problem? Bored or not entertained. Why should you listen to her? Because you just spent five minutes laughing at her story. How is this going to help you? It’s giving you extra content, above and beyond what you read on Medium.

You can use that example to come up with your own out-of-the-box offering ideas.

I love Shaunta’s because it’s enigmatic, short, and intriguing:

Screenshot from Shaunta Grimes’s story

A secret weapon? For my thing? What could it mean? You click on the link, and this brings you to one of the missing two elements — she’s an expert on this because, in her words, “it helped me lose 120 pounds, sell a novel to a major publisher, get out of debt, earn an MFA, and start a business I love. In three years.” She doesn’t explicitly lay out what she’s going to do for you. Instead, she lets her wide variety of examples inspire and excite you.

Now you should hopefully know why you need to move your audience off Medium, and understand how you’re going to do it. The only thing left is to pick an email building tool. Mailchimp is free, and though I found it hard to use, there are tons of free resources for learning to use it. My personal favorite is ConvertKit — though it costs money ($29/month for me) I found it incredibly user-friendly, and it pays for itself in read-time on Medium and Patreon subscribers.

The above is an affiliate link, meaning I earn money if you sign up. It’s a great primer into how you can start thinking of ways to earn money with your mailing list.

You have your audience — let’s get into what we can do with them.

What to Do With Your Off-Medium Audience

Keep in mind what drew them to you in the first place. If you’re offering humor, stick with humor. If you’re promising writing advice, stay with that. 

There are several types of content you can provide. But at the very least, you should offer a newsletter. This gets people used to seeing your name in their inbox, and associating it with value. It can be the vehicle for other types of content, and it’s going to let you think of ways to monetize that list.

What should your email newsletter be?

A newsletter can be short and sweet, or lengthy and in-depth. It can be twice a day or twice a month. It’s up to you. 

The content needs to stick with your theme. I typically have a short life update, a writing tip or two, and possibly a link to a relevant Medium story. 

Keep the format consistent, but don’t be afraid to experiment with various types. What works for you? Long, short, frequent, rare? 

The only recommendation I’d make here is to let your audience know what you’re doing. If you’re trying out something new, tell them. If you’re going to be more often, let them know.

Other than that, the email newsletter is a playground for you. Sign up to several and see which ones you enjoy. Copy those, or try your own styles. 

Should you create videos to send to your email list?

The answer is yes — if you enjoy creating videos. I love it, so much that I make a new one every Sunday. I will warn you that for me, at least, it’s time-consuming. It takes me about an hour to record the video, and another hour to edit it. And these are short-ish videos. 

One of my most successful videos

Nevertheless, if you like video creation, it can be so rewarding. I use my regular Photobooth app to record the videos, and I edit in iMovie on my Mac. To create the thumbnail for the YouTube videos, I use Canva. 

Here’s a screen-recording of how I do that. 

Videos are tricky, and I see lots of people fall into the same trap as they do on blogging: making it about them, rather than the viewer. To avoid this, I highly recommend scripting your video in advance. Create bullet points and talk about them as though to a friend. This will keep you on-track and giving viewers valuable content, and will stop you from sounding like a robot. 

Monetizing your email list

Ah, finally! Let’s talk about money. It is sorely, sorely tempting to try to sell people your stuff right away. I’m going to ask you to not do that. Why? Because you need to prove yourself first. 

First, give your brand new subscribers the chance to get use from your free content. Show them you’re worth listening to. Prove to them that should they invest in you, they’re actually investing in themselves. Once you have an audience that trusts you, you can begin to think of ways to sell to them.

Content: One is more content, which is more or less what I do. I create free content for anyone, and additional content — income reports, a spreadsheet to track where and how I submit to publications, extra videos — available to those who pay for it on a monthly basis.

You can create a paid course, a paid ebook, a paid newsletter (Substack offers this option). 

Sponsored products: Another option is to advertise for sponsors. I can’t speak much about this area because I’ve never done that, but I know for example Girls Night In and Optimal Living Daily podcast newsletters each mention sponsored products — and I have purchased products from both of those off the back of their recommendations. 

Send traffic to other paid sources: Lastly, you can use your email list to drive traffic elsewhere. 

Personally, I drive it right back to Medium, which pays you based on read-time, and to YouTube. Videos for me currently serve two purposes. One, they show potential Patreon patrons that I provide useful, helpful, actionable info in my free videos. Two, they gain me YouTube subscribers. I don’t have any high hopes of making millions on YouTube, but it’s possible that someday soon I’ll have a small amount coming from there.

If you have a website, Facebook group, Instagram account, or anything else, send your subscribers there.

You have a way to get Medium subscribers off Medium. You know what to do with them once they’re there. You should have ideas about how to start offering more valuable, paid content. 

As a final note, do NOT be afraid to ASK. Research what your newsletter subscribers want from you! I regularly ask what I can create and I get amazing replies from my email subscribers all the time.

Mobilizing your Medium followers is so rewarding for me and for every other creator I’ve spoken to. It opens the door to more options for creativity, it fosters open communication between you and your followers, and it gives you the chance to earn money by helping others. Writing on Medium is fantastic — but you can use it as a stepping stone to do so much more.

With thanks to Bob and Jenny for the suggestion for this story and video!

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