Forget the 80/20 — It’s the 99/1

Ben Heim
4 min readNov 6, 2023
Photo by Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

A year ago, today, I’d made less than $10 writing. A month later, Medium sent me a $1000 check.

Last December, I was hastily working on a post for my Medium. By this time, I had firmly established the habit of writing every day. I also had been publishing every other day (a practice that took the pressure away from needing to write something “good” every time I wrote).

This piece flowed a little more than they usually do. I had been reading Principles by Ray Dalio and the connections with my own experience and past readings felt natural. So, I wrote a piece on When to Quit. I love this piece. I think it offers realistic and clear guidelines that help you escape from the insidious “never give up mentality” we hear so often.

Was it my best piece of writing? No way. But it was solid.

Within the next month, I reached 30x the number of people I had ever reached and made 99% of my income from Medium. The piece blew up. I felt validated. So many people were telling me that my writing had helped them. It also gave me the hope that I could make money doing something I love.

It was a tipping point.

Tipping Points

The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto is the originator of the 80/20 rule — a basic principle that, in many things in life, 20% of your inputs with lead to 80% of your outputs. From a basic economics point of view, this makes sense. With more inputs, you’ll get diminishing returns. From a life perspective, this also makes sense. Time and time again, we find that a few small events have an outsized impact.

I was listening to Ali Abdaal’s podcast with Nicolas Cole about monetizing online writing. Cole wrote every single day with little progress, but he kept writing. On one day after work, he didn’t want to write. He wanted to go home and call it a day. But he wrote anyway. It was this post that took him 20 minutes to write that led to his first $5,000 in revenue from writing. His progress started slow, but then exploded.

In my story and in Nicolas’s, it’s clear that the 80/20 rule doesn’t hold. The creator economy is more intense than the 80/20 rule — welcome to the 99/1.

99% of your outputs come from 1% of your…

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