How to Build Your Software Engineer Portfolio on Medium (And Get Paid)

Why did I choose to build my developer portfolio on Medium? Because I want to win. I want to win in my career, my interviews, my daily work, my side hustles, everywhere that I am putting my work and reputation out there to be judged.

Why do I want to (have to) win?

  1. My family is counting on me.
  2. Being good at my work (my contribution to society) is a key component of my happiness.
  3. My personal resilience brings me peace.

And how do we win as developers? We win if we have a reputation for writing good code. Soft skills such as communication and an ability to work in team are critical too. But if you can’t write decent code, you won’t succeed as a developer.

I’ll dive deeply into three key reasons to use Medium as the platform for your portfolio: having your hard work reach an unlimited number of people, earning money from your portfolio, and the network effects of driving traffic from your Medium portfolio to any other digital assets you own.

Reach a Massive Audience with Little Overhead

Medium is a platform where content creators can do exactly that: hit the ground running and build your developer portfolio on Medium without getting bogged down with details about presentation, monetization, and traffic. Your goal for your developer portfolio is to show your React/NodeJS/Java/Python/whatever skill set, not spend a couple days fiddling around with hosting or a CMS.

Medium can also be complimentary to any standalone portfolio sites you build to demonstrate your skills. If you want to discuss in depth technical details of the SVG animations you created, you need a content platform for that article. If you want to write three times a week or once a month, it’s there for you with flexibility and opportunity.

No overhead of running a blog

Should you use WordPress or Gatsby? What theme should you use? Do you care about link building, domain authority, and dealing with privacy requirements? Medium is the shortcut past these questions. If your goal is to write code or talk about writing code, Medium will get you there the fastest.

Furthermore, there’s no hosting fee or domain registration. There are no security concerns. Medium is simply an opportunity for enterprising software developers to make themselves stand out and even earn money in the time it takes to put together their first excellent article.

Target Long-Tail Keywords to drive organic traffic

However, there are still strategies from the blog world that can be useful for having your articles found (aka driving organic search traffic from Google).

Image by janjf93 from Pixabay

One of the strengths of Medium is that the platform already has domain authority with Google. A new blog may be in the “Google Sandbox” for six months before Google decides the site is authoritative and deserves traffic. Medium is an incredible shortcut for a developer trying to build an online presence. It’s incredible to publish an article on Medium and see it on the first or second page of Google later that day.

A primary strategy for generating search traffic for months or years to come is to write great articles on topics that haven’t already been extensively covered. Google uses keywords in page titles and content to “know” what an article is about and how to match it to a user search term. There are tools such as Ubersuggest which can help you find keywords with low monthly search volume and low competition from existing articles.

Targeting these low competition “long-tail” keywords, plus the domain authority inherent to Medium, means that your articles can generate consistent traffic from people searching for a topic. For example, if there is a new state management library that is gaining some traction and you are interested in writing about it, you can see how often people are searching for it and what competition there is from existing web sites. Software development is constantly growing and highly dynamic, presenting many opportunities for targeting long-tail keywords.

Focus on your coding niche and build a following

Organic search isn’t the only opportunity, just the most passive and enduring. Medium also hosts “publications”, which are the writings of a collection of authors on certain niches. The publications have followers who have signed up to be notified of new posts in the publication. You simply submit an article to a publication for inclusion and if the article is accepted, you have an instant audience. Individual authors also gain followers similar to any social media network.

If you are writing regularly for a certain audience, you probably want to write about a certain niche within the world of coding. Most software developers have their specific technical stack, anyway, so your writing niche will likely reflect that tech stack.

Writing within a niche will get you consistent views from your followers and from publication followers. But it will also reinforce your skill set and build your technical portfolio in the area that you are trying to excel at. The ultimate goal of a developer portfolio for most people is to show their expertise so that they have more professional opportunities…If this is your goal, keep it in mind when choosing what to research and write about.

Write high-quality content to drive traffic and increase reading time

Writing high-quality content (read: appropriately long and detailed) for your developer portfolio should go without saying…it’s your professional resume. However, here’s three more reasons why great content is a gift that keeps on giving.

  • Reader engagement and time on page increases Medium earnings
  • High-quality content is a hook to gain new followers or clicks on links to your other content
  • Great content drives more organic traffic === more page views/earnings/new followers
Word Count vs Average Organic Traffic
Source: HubSpot

High-Quality content means usually 2000+ words, engaging graphics, good headings, etc. For a software development article, this also includes plenty of gists/codepens/repo links. The goal of these articles is to solve problems for or provide resources to other software developers and this can’t happen without a healthy dose of code.

Medium stats reinforce the perception you are an expert

One of the most fun aspects of Medium is the great statistics pages that are available to authors. Each story has a breakdown of views, earnings, viewer reading time, external traffic source, etc.

Stats for my Medium Article
Stats for my Medium Article

In this case, I wrote about how I solved a problem that I encountered that was difficult to find a solution to. I anticipate that over the course of a year this article will have helped thousands of people overcome the same problem I faced. That is certainly an interview talking point.

Part of the hiring process is finding those candidates that stand out. If you have dozens of Medium articles helping a couple hundred people every day, you will be memorable in an interview while simultaneously honing your coding skills.

And of course, page view stats are simply fun to check every day! If you build your developer portfolio on Medium, you get access to a number of useful stats about your work to keep you motivated.

Monetize Your Portfolio

Monetizing your portfolio may not be your primary goal, but you may as well get cash for your hard work. Medium has built in monetization, but there are many avenues to creating revenue streams from your Medium portfolio.

Long-Tail keywords drive organic search traffic which will bring passive income.

As mentioned above, long-tail keywords will bring long-term traffic to your articles. This means a steady trickle of views for each article that effectively uses the long-tail keyword strategy. A steady trickle of views is transformed on Medium into a steady trickle of passive income.

Medium pays authors for the amount of time that Medium subscribers spend reading an article. The long-tail strategy will naturally get views from Medium members but most views will be from “external” members (non-paying readers who get a few free views per month). There are plenty of ways to monetize views from external members, which we’ll cover below. Just remember, the best way to increase internal views is consistent high-quality writing that covers a niche and gains followers. Multiply these internal views by publishing these excellent articles for publications.

This article was a fascinating case study in how to promote one article and increase it’s earnings months after the article was originally written. The tl;dr version is that the author, Eduardo Morales, wrote an article on how to create instagram bots. He then set about promoting the article via Medium publications, his Twitter following, guest interviewing on other podcasts, writing more articles promoting the original content, and finally with ranking #1 on Google.

The ultimate result was earning $2,000+ monthly in affiliate income from the article. This isn’t even counting the direct income from Medium. Originally the article was at 1200 views per month, but with persist promotion it grew to 20,000 views per month.

What do you do if you don’t have a social media following or access to guest posting/guest hosting? Submit your articles to external publications like The CodePen Spark where they already have a following and may choose to blast out your article or CodePen out to thousands of readers.

Also, go to Quora, Reddit, and other platforms. Answer relevant and related questions and occasionally link to your Medium portfolio as appropriate. Build a reputation on these sites and you will build a stream of viewers to your Medium articles.

These strategies are more time consuming than targeting long-tail keywords. However, they are invaluable for getting traction early in your portfolio building. One great article in a major publication, internal to Medium or external, can get hundreds or even thousands of views.

Create Your Digital Empire

You can directly monetize your developer portfolio on Medium through views and earning paid to you by Medium. However, there is vastly more potential to monetize your portfolio: use it to drive traffic to other digital assets you own.

Internet Cash Flow
Internet Cash Flow

As readers find your long-tail keyword focused articles and have their technical problem solved by your excellent code, you have an opportunity to introduce them to other assets you own. For example, I write about developer side hustles at this blog and I know many developers are interested in side hustles. They may not be thinking about side hustles when they find my Medium articles, but I drop a link to my blog at the bottom of each technical article and try to pique their interest.

Have a good hook in the link…something that will draw developers whose problem you just solved to your blog.

Or write an article that gives away free content related to an eBook you have written. For example, my next Medium article will be a free Docker practice test. I plan on putting an affiliate link to my Docker Certified Associate Practice Exams book at the end of the article. The Medium article will have a much higher ranking in Google than my book, simply because the article benefits from the domain authority of Medium.

Affiliate links are acceptable as long as they are fully disclosed. Affiliate links are the method that Eduardo Morales, mentioned above, earned $2k per month from one article. A wonderful side effect of affiliate links is that you can make money from an eBook on Amazon (or another platform) if the link is clicked even if the book isn’t purchased. You will get a commission from any item bought within the next 24 hours by the person who clicked the link.

Even if you haven’t yet created any digital assets besides your Medium developer portfolio, you can still use it to draw clients to any coaching or freelance services you provide. If you are open to freelancing, simply create a landing page outside of Medium, link to it at the bottom of you excellent technical articles, and you are in business. Providing freelance services is a business model with essentially no setup time, high margins (likely the only cost is your time), and unlimited potential (again, the constraint is your time). Once you’ve experienced the joys of charging a strong hourly rate and getting cash in your pocket (I mean, bank account) from your own wits and willpower, you’ll see a world with endless possibility.

The Ultimate Goal – Ace the Interview with a Great Portfolio

Regardless of how you choose to leverage your developer portfolio, you will gain confidence in your coding skills. You will experience new opportunities by creating an online presence. Perhaps most importantly, you will have more interview opportunities and perform better during them.

Also, don’t forget to create a backup of your articles on Medium. It’s simply good practice.

Monetizing on Medium vs a Blog

***Updated 4-21-2021

I have been writing on Medium for a year now and I have decided to move my articles to this blog as the primary (canonical) source for Google search results. The reason I have chosen to do so is because I can monetize organic search traffic better on my own blog than on Medium.

However, I think Medium is a great place for many developers to create their code portfolios. Medium articles rank more quickly than articles from this blog. I have multiple articles on Medium that get 100+ views per day. It gave me the confidence to see that creating an online presence was both possible and profitable.

The reason I am moving my content to my own blog is because I can better monetize organic search traffic. On Medium, my posts got about 1/10th of a cent per view on average from organic search traffic. I believe on this blog I can earn around 1 to 2 cents per view of organic search traffic. Furthermore, this blog is a capitalizable business that I could potentially sell.

I think the best plan for a developer wanting to make a long term business is to start on Medium, then transition to your own site.

***Update 11-26-2021

Medium now has a recurring revenue model that I think benefits authors who drive organic search traffic to Medium. If a reader signs up for a Medium membership using an author’s affiliate link, the author gets half the member’s membership fee forever.

That could be a game changer for software developers writing on Medium. I see enough income potential for this site that I am not going to switch back to Medium, but it might be worth writing a few articles on Medium to test the referral program’s potential.

Share this post:

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.