How I Wrote a $500 Article in My First 3 Months on Medium

How I Wrote a $500 Article in My First 3 Months on Medium 1
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$500 isn’t a huge amount of money. What if I told you I spent less than 30 minutes to make it?

I’m not writing this article to boast. Other writers’ tips and stories inspired me when I started out on Medium. So, here’s my story about what I’ve achieved in three months on Medium.

A Little Background

I’m a programmer and a non-native English speaker. I’ve been working as a software engineer for almost ten years. Recently, I’ve been pursuing an interest in writing - I’ve always enjoyed reading, but haven’t written too much.

I’m still a new player on Medium who started writing several months ago.

How I made this $500 piece

Since I’ve been practicing my writing skills on Medium, I think even more about the stuff I read online.

One day, I was reading a non-English article about funny Linux commands. I thought it was amusing. We don’t use these commands in daily work, but they provide a moment of humor for users. I thought why not write a similar article with Medium style? I needed more practice writing anyway.

So, I made this piece in less than 30 minutes:

7 Terminal Commands That Will Just Make You Smile

Using the content marketing skills I’ve learned on Medium, I put 7 in the title. (An odd number in the title attracts more attention). Since the previous article I read was for professionals, I wanted to expand my audience to newbies or non-technical readers. So, I included detailed instructions about how to install these command tools on operating systems, such as macOS.

I experimented with every command on my Mac. If it’s not available on Mac, I tried it on a virtual machine. For every listed command, I accompanied it with a screenshot.

I submitted the article to Better Programming and forgot about it since I didn’t put too much effort behind it. Better Programming is a Medium publication for IT professionals, such as software engineers. This article wasn’t super technical, so there was a possibility it wouldn’t get accept. I figured I would post it on my page if it didn’t get picked up. Why not give it a try?

Surprisingly, Zack Shapiro (Better Programming’s editor) accepted and published it quickly. An editor added a lovely feature image and subtitle with a bit of humor:

These tutorials don’t always have to be practical.

Medium curators distributed it amongst software engineering and programming articles.

The number of reads and claps began to snowball.

How I continue to craft it

I got my best-performed article right now.

About two days later, I re-read this piece and began to think about any other side I could improve.

This piece is not long, with only 300 words. How to improve the average reading time?

My thought was making it more attractive!

The first thing I figure out was, screenshots are not enough. I should make Gifs for those commands because Gifs will demonstrate the loveness of these commands more obviously. I didn’t create a Gif on Mac before, I searched on Google and found a handy tool called LICEcap to finish my task.

I even inlined a Youtube video on the page. All that I want to do is make this article easy to read. My readers will get the fun quickly and staring at it. The average reading time is 1 minute 2 seconds.

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What I learned from it

Yes, the idea of this article is not original.

What I did is follow the idea to make a perfection article to my targeted audience.

I made a prototype piece in a short time to verify the idea; then continue to make it to perfection afterward. This is a workable strategy for this specific kind of article.

Another thing I learned is, excellent illustration is a critical factor to be viral.

Final thoughts

So, how to reproduce this?

Honestly, I don’t know.

I learned something from this piece, but I’m not sure how to clone another case. There is no ultimate success formula for Medium articles. All we need to do is writing more and better.

I wrote some other articles with much more time than this one but didn’t get many reads. I would think the pay is a reward for my whole time spent on writing, but not only this single one.

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Figure 3: @dustinlee on unsplash.com

From the starting point, earning money from writing is not my target. I enjoyed myself writing and will continue with it.

I will be better than yesterday, and this is what I am sure.

Thanks for reading!

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