Freelance Writing in 2023: Medium vs LinkedIn

 Which platform is worth more of your time?

This is not clickbait, I promise. The conclusion of this article will not be ‘it depends’. I’m going to suggest spending more time on one of the platforms and give you the reasons straight up.

First, a disclaimer: I do not make my living as a freelance writer. I’m a published author, language professional and writing coach. The reason I feel qualified to give advice here is that many of my clients are freelancers, and they share the details of their writing journeys with me. In addition, I write on both platforms and have experienced quite different results myself.

So, without further ado, let’s examine which path is more lucrative for writers.

Medium for freelance writers

Medium is a blogging platform with separate publications accepting articles on different topics. It is worth saying that, perhaps, we are not exactly comparing like with like, as Medium is a blogging platform (not a social network).

Medium: the pros

Medium is equitable. There is a wide range of writers on Medium, which is something I love. Whereas traditional publications have strict guidelines and principles, Medium is open. One of my favourite things about the platform is its diversity — many bloggers have English as a second language, but their voices are celebrated not silenced. Writers with small followings can achieve publication in bigger magazines and might even go viral. This doesn’t happen a lot on other platforms.

Free editorial feedback. When writers submit to publications, they might receive helpful feedback on where their writing could improve. Although Medium editors are pushed for time, many of them offer tips and corrections on articles. This kind of feedback is worth its weight in gold and is rare to find (for free) in the world of traditional publishing.

Write what you want. There’s no need for a niche on Medium. You can cover whatever variety of topics you want. In fact, producing a good quantity and variety of articles may help you earn more.

Medium is about writing, not selling. There are no ‘six-figure income’ bros shilling their latest course on Udemy. There are no wannabe influencers posting pictures looking mournfully out to sea. We are here to improve our writing and read great work.

You get paid to write. This is the main benefit. As a creator, you can make money straight up. Even if you only earn a few dollars from each article, it’s motivating to watch the money roll in.

Medium: the cons

It can feel like an echo chamber. Writers writing about writing for other writers. Due to the business model, most of the readers on the platform are also writers. Who should we pay attention to? It’s hard to prove your expertise on a topic, and it can be exhausting to read more advice on writing. But that’s why most of us are here, right?

It’s not a social network. How many times have you wanted to message a writer whose article you enjoyed? If only there were other functionalities than writing, clapping and commenting. Also, it’s extremely difficult to follow writers effectively. The ‘feed’ on your homepage is impossible to organise or optimise. As users, we can’t choose the content we want to see more or less of. If one writer in your feed publishes four articles a day, they block the visibility of the other 300 writers you follow. For this reason, ‘follow for follow’ is ultimately pointless. There’s not even a way to get notified on the platform when your favourite writers hit publish (and no, I don’t want to receive 40 emails every day from Medium).

The top creators take most of the money. This is always the case with subscription models such as Patreon, Substack or Medium. It’s even true for Amazon KDP. The top 1% make big bucks, while the rest of the bunch tries to emulate their success. The distribution of funds does not relate to your writing ability; it relates to your understanding of digital marketing. I’ve seen a large Facebook group (10k) full of ‘clap for clap’ posts designed to earn the writers a few extra cents from the engagement. Yet, this won’t ever lead to real earnings growth as a writer.

My experience on Medium

I genuinely like the platform. It’s easy to use and I’ve discovered some excellent writers here. On average, I write two 1000+ word articles per week on the English language, literature, and creative writing. So far, I’ve made very little money (around $10 per month). However, I’m not disheartened by this, as I never counted on earning money here.

Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

LinkedIn for freelance writers

LinkedIn is not what it used to be. If you think it’s a place to post your CV and find a job, you’re wrong. Microsoft has made big changes, and there is a growing community of creators who have made the platform educative and vibrant. Yes, it’s still mostly a business platform, but more workers are logging on to read, share, learn and network.

LinkedIn: the pros

It’s easy to stand out. Only 3% of users on LinkedIn create content. Most users are lurkers, reading posts without ever liking or commenting. But for freelance writers, that’s no bad thing. You can grow an active audience while practicing writing daily. There are many great writers to learn from, and you can even get notified when your selected writers publish. The platform is more accepting of personal brands and colourful characters. All you have to do to stand out is be authentically you.

It’s a great place to build community. Creators flock together and soon, others start to take part in the conversation. As a business network, LinkedIn has a fairly routine user base. People log in when they are bored at work, claiming that they are doing important business networking and learning. Really, they are just snooping and consuming fun content. The algorithm shows content that people like to their connections, so your words can travel to the outer reaches of your network. Due to areas of niche business interest, you’ll soon find yourself connected with major players and top voices in the industry. There is a newsletter feature and groups, which really strengthen the idea of community building on the platform. For writers looking to get clients and grow long-term, this is crucial. A viral article might bring a temporary increase in revenue, but a key connection might become a lifelong client.

Lively discussion. Not everyone is on LinkedIn to offer unconditional support. This actually makes for lively discussion and debate. Comments sections are more likely to include additional value, as well as questions and dissenting opinions. There are fairly strict rules and norms of what is acceptable on the platform, so this rarely spirals into polemic bigotry (as it does on Facebook et al).

You can demonstrate your expertise. Due to the nature of network-building, your connections will come to see you as an expert if you a) post consistently and b) post valuable insight. Even if you create discussion and share news from your niche, you’ll see the same people coming back to you. Repackaging content from outside of LinkedIn and adding your personal take will cement you as a go-to guy or girl for your industry. And if your industry is freelance writing or content marketing, that’s golden — you’ll have lots of people to network with. Eventually, you’ll get opportunities from connections who reach out with questions or requests.

LinkedIn is built for outreach. This is the big one. As a writer, you want steady work. Perhaps you want ghostwriting gigs or longer content-writing projects. Maybe you’re a copywriter who has a slam-dunk idea for a company you’ve been tracking. Once you’ve built a relationship with connections or companies on the platform, you can message them. Ask questions. Chat. Schedule a call. Nurturing and networking take time, but if they result in long-term contracts and premium rates, it’s 100% worth it.

LinkedIn: the cons

You constantly need new ideas. With short-form posts and content, you’ll need to be creative to keep the ideas flowing. If you can’t commit to generating unique ideas several times a week, you won’t build authority on LinkedIn. Added to that, other people will steal or repurpose your posts.

Comments are not always supportive. Most of the users on LinkedIn are not creators. Many people log on just to ‘knock people down a peg or two’. While comments are rarely offensive or aggressive, it’s common for professionals to try and score points by invalidating others. Be prepared for some people to dislike what you say.

Topics are more restricted. LinkedIn is a bit more lively than it used to be, but it’s still a business network. This means edgy posts or content unrelated to business and industry is going to bomb. Popular topics include Finance, Marketing, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Productivity, Mental Health, Policy, Science & Technology, and Creativity. Popular culture, romance and food aren’t going to cut it on LinkedIn.

Spammers. There are lots of them. It’s best to turn off your InMail and choose your connections wisely.

Payment. Creators are paid $0... no matter how many views they get. LinkedIn is one of the few platforms that does not share any revenue with the creators who bring millions of users to the platform. In fact, companies and creators are more likely to pay LinkedIn (for premium accounts and access to data). Your connections and relationships are the only payment you’ll get from the platform.

My experience on LinkedIn

Until 2021, I thought LinkedIn was a place to post your CV. I’ve been actively posting and growing my network for around 18 months. I have really enjoyed writing there, and get a better response than when I began. Plus, it’s easy to find great writers to follow and learn from. In fact, many of the writers I have connected with have similar stories. If you learn how to use the platform well, it can bring in clients and even land you high-paying jobs.

The Verdict:

This might surprise you, but I wholeheartedly recommend LinkedIn as the more worthy platform for freelancers. While there are no guarantees that your comments, posts and messages will turn into dollars, it’s a risk that is worth taking. Essentially, time spent on LinkedIn is much more profitable for writers, as it leads to contracts and commissions for high-value work. Unlike on Medium, you are not competing to be in the top 1%. On LinkedIn, writers network with prospective clients and build long-term relationships while writing daily. 

Don’t get me wrong, Medium has its advantages, so I’m not telling freelance writers to abandon ship. Why not use the two together? Write short on LinkedIn and expand your posts into long-form articles here on Medium.

As writers, we are all unique and all have limited time. Where we choose to spend it is up to us. 

What do you think? Which platform do you prefer and why?

Photo by Philip Charter

Philip Charter is a writing coach from the UK who works with multilingual content writers. He is also the author of two collections of short fiction and Fifteen Brief Moments in Time, a novella-in-flash.

If you found this useful, please read his other articles and feel free to connect on LinkedIn.