Anatomy of a $150 Medium Article

Lesson learned, lesson shared

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

I live in Hungary and I don’t speak Hungarian.

What seemed like just a random fact that nobody cared about ended up being my most successful story on Medium, to this day. Here it is:

I had published on Medium before but, at the time, I didn’t even know that the Medium Partner Program existed. Until, one day, I learned about it and I decided to monetize my writing. The article above was the first one I ever published under the MPP and, nine months later, it is still my best performer.

So, what made this story so special?

Photo by author. Screenshot of stats page on Medium.

1. Personal Experience

Medium loves to promote personal stories. Readers want to know about our dirty little secrets, our heartbreak, our failures, and our successes. But why? They want to know about it because it helps them in their own lives somehow.

Many people around the world live away from their home countries, in places where they don’t understand the local language. My story in this article was not just mine, it was ours, all of us, ex-pats.

And I didn’t just share my feelings, I gave some tips for people navigating similar experiences. That is why people read your story — to get something useful out of it. If not, why would they be interested in some random person’s life experience?

2. Structure

As you can see, I didn’t even capitalize the title correctly!

I also used some random meme as the cover photo and didn’t use captions on the images, which, I learned over time, is not acceptable on this platform. And, worse, I also didn’t use almost any of Medium’s formatting tools.

To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing; I was putting on the page my feelings about my personal experience, that’s all.

However, the thing that I happened to do — accidentally — was to use the list format. I made bullet points with all my learnings while living in a country where I don’t speak the language. And Medium loves that! Lists performed well back then, and they keep doing so. Use them!

3. Social Media Promotion

The medium doesn’t pay you for external traffic, we know that. But is this traffic pointless? I am still trying to figure that out.

What I know is that I am part of a few Facebook groups of foreigners living in Budapest and I shared my story in all of them. I had dozens, maybe hundreds, of comments there. People relate to this experience — if you know anything about Hungarian, you know it’s one of the hardest languages in the world, and most foreigners living in the country just give up on learning it. So, these people understood me, and they felt understood too. We were all in this together.

The day I published, I had around 600 external views. Another 200 the next day. Does it matter? Does Medium recognize that your post is doing well and, in turn, shares it with more people, internally? I don’t know. But it probably doesn’t hurt to share your work on social media.

4. Timing

This is the trickiest factor because it is impossible to replicate. I published the story in early October 2019, months before the pandemic hit, and when Medium was not overloaded with thousands of new, talented writers, putting their stories out there.

I am not saying it is impossible to succeed on Medium now. But, based on what I read from more experienced writers on the platform, it is now harder than it used to be. A story that would make you a certain amount a year ago, will probably fall shorter now and give you a thinner paycheck at the end of the month.

Is it a bit frustrating, to not have discovered the wonders of Medium a little earlier? Yes.

But does that mean I should stop writing, or any of you should stop writing? No.

I Replicated the Formula

“Don’t change a winning team”, they say.

Well, armed with the key ingredients to succeed on Medium, I decided to replicate the formula, to see if I could achieve the same level of success.

I wrote a similar article, “I Lived in 4 Countries and This is What I Learnt” and published it in June this year. Guess what?

It’s my second most successful story on Medium, earnings-wise!

However, it reached only above one-third of the success of the original one, both in views and in revenue, standing at $58 at the time of writing. I guess this proves the point of #4, stated above.

I know $150 is not a big number. But I still remember how it felt back then when I saw the dollars adding up. I can tell you, it was amazing!

Let’s be honest, I want another one of these successes. And I want you all to experience it too. I hope I helped in some way!

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