My Journey to 10k Followers on Medium
It started with a theory
I did it.
From January 4th 2019 to around mid-November. Amidst birthdays, family events, Christmas and new years, I wasn’t really paying much attention to the numbers.
I remember celebrating at 5k. Not so much at the 10k mark.
A lot happening at the time and it wasn’t until the last few days did I really had the time to sit down and look back on how my journey played out.
There’s already a ton of advice out there by people that’s reached major following milestones like 5k, 10k, 15k and 20k. But for this reflection, I want to do things a little differently.
I want to share with you my story — the story of how I arrived at 10k followers in less than a year.
How it started
I can’t remember how I stumbled onto Medium — only that I did.
It was probably way back in 2016 or 2017, when claps were still hearts and Benjamin Hardy, PhD was the top dog you saw everywhere.
During my maternity leave at the beginning of 2018, I decided to start writing again. A bit too lazy to boot up my own blog, I decided to use Medium and made my first ever $18.45 through one locked story.
It didn’t quite click that I could have made writing a full-time job. I wrote consistently on Medium in 2018, averaging about 2–3 stories a week. Then I lost my job 2 months after returning, felt the pains of burnout and maternal guilt.
The company I worked for died an ungraceful death.
The big boss pulled the plug and I went down the drain with it.
Back then, I probably had about 300 followers.
I wasn’t really counting.
The stories were more personal and became part of the unraveling process.
I was writing for very different reasons. Followers, stats and money weren’t really on the agenda at the time.
The fuel for the fire
My final day at my former job was in August 2018.
By the time September rolled around, I started to panic.
My maternity leave had sucked out a good portion of my savings.
I was applying to jobs but the hours didn’t quite work out.
Some people probably thought I was just being a Millenial complaining about my life — but what’s the point of being a parent if you don’t actually get to see your child?
A traditional 9 to 5 wouldn’t work with a newborn. In fact, it didn’t work for me at all.
In the short time that I returned to work, the commute meant I had to be up at 5am to feed the baby, feed myself, look presentable, pump the milk, sort out lunch, out the door by 7am and spend a good 2 hours traveling to work.
I may or may not have had a good night’s sleep so there was no guarantee that I would be mentally awake for work.
When 5pm rolled around, I would spend another 2.5 hours getting home.
There are kids at daycare that starts at 7am and leave at 6pm. Whatever their circumstances are, in those two months that I returned and after my last day at work, I decided that didn’t want that routine to be mine and my baby’s.
A leap into the unknown
When the new year rolled around, I knew I needed to do something.
With approximately two months left in savings for rent, I started applying for jobs again. But I also started doing something differently — I started writing consistently on Medium.
I reframed by writing goals, where I wanted to go in my career and how I was going to achieve it.
Within the first month, I gained an additional 1k followers, made a total of $201.05 and hustled out enough on the side to cover bits and pieces.
When February rolled around and I had to make a decision on a job offer.
I remember looking at my Medium Partner estimated earnings — which was sitting at around $500 in the second week and took a leap of faith.
I decided to go all in — to properly commit to my Depth Year and the task of reconstructing my career trajectory from the ground up.
I remember getting excited every time someone followed me. I checked my stats incessantly, watching as the number of fans and claps went up. But there was something that kept me from obsessing over the number of followers I had.
Theorizing and testing
One major lesson learned from my old startup was that stats are arbitrary. This was during the period when the company was thriving and the marketing team knew exactly what they were doing.
The combination of wanting to never sit through 4 hours commute each day and the desire to be a proper parent to my child pushed me to be smart about my Medium strategy.
The number of followers is only a vanity metric and sometimes distractionary. What you’re really looking for is engagement. That’s when you know your content has found the right audience.
The general theory for any kind of social platform or search engine is that engagement begets more engagement, which fuels the algorithmic profiles of who gets to see your content.
I figured that’s how things work on Medium and constructed content that I enjoyed creating for a user profile type.
It’s good to note that this is all an unproven theory, based on personal observations and past experiences with SEO and how systems work. I’m a developer that used to work for a transport startup — creating systems is what I do.
Reversing thinking and theorizing how Medium works became part of my accelerated growth process.
By the time May rolled around, I was peaking at 200–350 followers a week.
Summer Lovin’ Hits
In June I wrote 8 stories. They were all programming stories — and all the stories took off at approximately 40k views and average 52% read rates on each of them.
All of them got curated into the categories I wanted.
My followers was about 6k around that time.
It was a crazy month.
That month I had to be super strategic with what I produced. I continued to go with the like begets like theory. As a result, I avoided posting in clap and read threads on Facebook groups. I only participated in conversation and made friends instead.
During that time, it was winter where I live, which means flu season. So while my content blasted off, I was holding my sick child — thankful at my life choices that allowed me to be with her.
If I had gone back to work, I would have used up all my sick day allowances.
But because I decided to go down a different path, it gave me the ability to be ultra-flexible and do actual work whenever I wanted.
Re-entering the woods
October was a precarious month.
The system changed. My engagement dropped as my audience began lurking more than clapping and commenting.
Despite all that, my followers continued to climb at a steady 35–50 people a day.
When November came, I remember people congratulating me on reaching the 10k milestone. But my mind was elsewhere.
I was gearing up for the next pivot in my writing.
It gets lonely sometimes when you’re writing to a quiet audience. The issue with the tech crowd is that we tend to lurk. I’m guilty of it too.
But I also don’t want to keep writing reactionary pieces just to get a response. I want personal growth so that I have something of value to offer to my readers.
So I’ve come up with a new theory for my next 10k. How that actually plays out is a different story.
I wrote quite a bit in 2018 but didn’t see the same explosive growth that I did in 2019.
My 2018 journey didn’t have a strategy. I just wrote whatever I wanted.
In 2019, the major difference was that I had a purpose and a goal. I initially tested by writing a lot —producing content at the rate of 2–3 stories published daily. Then when I found my audience, I slowed down and worked on increasing the depth of each story produced.
A lot of my testing stories start off as surface stories — ones with content that brushes the surface of a particular topic or idea. And if the audience bites, I create more content around the same topics or ideas, but with greater depth.
That’s my method for getting 10k followers and more than a million views and half a million reads over twelve months.
I focused on the content first.
I watched how people reacted and interacted with my content. I ignored everything else that was happening around me, as much as I could.
My theory for Medium is that when the writing is good and has the right audience, everything else will naturally follow.
In my case, it came in the form of 10k followers.