If you want to start writing online, where should you do it?
I’ve been blogging for 8 years now and have written everywhere you can online. In that time I’ve learned there are only two options you need to consider. Either you sign up for Medium.com or you self-host a blog like Writingchallenge.org.
But which is better?
I’ve learned that each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so read on to decide which one is right for you.
Pros of Medium
This is one of the best things about Medium. It’s free.
If you want to go premium to get access to some of the better content and potentially earn money, it’s still only $5 a month. A bargain, right?
All you need is an email address and you can start getting your writing out into the world. You can even start building up a following of readers, all for nada.
Easy to start
Compared to setting up a WordPress blog, starting on Medium is an absolute piece of cake. You don’t need technical knowledge, you don’t need to spend time designing it, you just fill out an application form.
And if you can’t manage to write out an application form then there’s a good chance writing might not be for you…
You Can Get Eyeballs on Your Writing from Day One
This is the best part about Medium. Your articles will get circulated to people who might like them. I can’t overstate how huge that is. On a self-hosted blog, you’re standing in a ghost town shouting into the wind.
On Medium you’re at the edge of a bustling city of millions of potential readers. Sure, they won’t all come flooding to see your work on day 1 but a few people will and it’s a wonderful feeling. That’s why if you’re starting from scratch Medium is definitely the better choice.
You Will Make Money Faster
If you’re in an eligible country you can join the Medium Partner Program once you have 100 followers. At that point you can put your content behind a paywall and start making money when a member reads your article.
This is so much easier than a self-hosted blog where you often need at least 10,000 visitors a month before you can apply for an ad program. Not an impossible task but much harder than getting 100 followers.
Cons of Medium
They Own and Moderate Your Content
This is the main problem you might have with Medium. When you publish to Medium they own your content, when you publish to a self hosted blog you own it.
But who cares?
I personally haven’t come across a case of this backfiring in any way. Knowing I have content that’s exclusively publishing on Medium doesn’t keep me up at night. Especially because I have copies of each article saved that I can reuse if I were to lose my account
Lack of Design Choices
This is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is you don’t get bogged down deciding which shade of orange looks best (earthy orange all the way, if you’re wondering).
But the curse is that you can’t stylise your profile to make it recognisable. You also can’t organise your homepage to direct people where you want them to go. And it’s limited in terms of page design too.
Pros of Self hosting
You Own the Content
As you’d expect, the pros of self-hosting are pretty much the opposite of Medium’s, the first being that you own the content that’s published on a blog you host. You can repurpose each article however you want without worrying about terms and conditions.
You Get Full Control
Run ads, put in pop-ups for email newsletter sign-ups, create a homepage, and change the design. Full customisation and full control of the site is definitely a plus when you follow the self-hosting route.
Full control can be overwhelming but if you want to set up a business and a brand like I’m doing here at Writing Challenge, then it’s a great choice.
Cons of Self-Hosting
You Pay More
Hosting generally starts around $10 per month and you’re usually locked into at least a 12-month contract. Then if you want a nice theme on top of that, it’s usually around $100. In other words, you’d pay $220 after 12 months of self-hosting compared to $60 for Medium access. Plus, Medium is a rolling monthly fee you can cancel anytime.
And it’s much easier to monetise Medium content sooner, as I mentioned above.
You Need Technical Knowledge
A lot of WordPress can be handled with drag and drop, but before you long you might need to learn a little bit of CSS and HTML. Even then, it can be a frustrating process getting your website to look how you want it to.
I quite enjoy the technical side of setting up WordPress but it’s got one major drawback: every hour spent fiddling with code is an hour you could have spent writing.
That’s why I wrote my guide to setting up a niche site in under 3 hours. Keep time input to a minimum and save it for what matters.
You Need to Do All the Promotion
As I said, Medium will show your content to other users of the platform and allow you to instantly start getting views on your posts. If you self-host you’re going to need to go out and find people to read your work. That’s where marketing comes in, which is its own kettle of fish.
For motivation having eyes on the prize on day 1 is huge so it’s a big negative for self hosting that you don’t get that.
Which Is Best for You?
If you are just starting out, I’d go with Medium. Use it as a place to test the water and decide if you enjoy writing without the long-term commitment of a self-hosted blog.
Self hosting is better if you want to start a business based around your writing. But even then I’d still republish to Medium at the same time as a marketing tool.
As you can tell I’m a big fan of Medium. I love what it’s about and I love what it can do for you. If you want to write online, you need to be doing it on medium. Feel free to use my referral link to sign up to Medium