Case Study: How I Turned My Unique Perspective Into a Paid Writing Career

By Jonathan Muirhead

I have written more free reviews and short stories and poems than I care to remember. But I always had a hankering to be a “real” writer – that is, one who got paid.

When I was about twenty, I found out I had a condition called Asperger Syndrome.  It is a form of autism, more common amongst males than females.  It affects motor skills, our cognitive abilities and our general abilities to interact with other members of the human race with the same ease that everyone else (apparently) does.  What, then, could I write about this?

What did I have to offer that no one else did? I decided to do some research.  To find out what other writings about Asperger Syndrome were available out there,  so I could see what wasn’t out there, which needed to be.

I a lot of writing on the subject of autism in general.  I saw a lot of writing on how to help children and teenagers deal with Asperger Syndrome.  I could even see a fair bit on how parents could help their children cope with Asperger Syndrome. What I couldn’t see were any articles for people of my own generation.  The generation who had grown up being misunderstood.

Surely, there would be others out there who felt the same way? Who had grown up wondering why they could not join in with class and playground games with the same ease that others around them apparently had? Whose parents were always having to take them to one side and have “wee words” or “wee chats” with them, due to continued social or practical indiscretions?

I made a list of websites concerning Asperger Syndrome.  I made a note of the kind of content on them.  Then, I wrote an email to those that I thought would be most receptive to my idea.

I have found, through my writing career to date, the easiest way to get people to relate to you is to write plainly and simply.  If people see you doing that, they will want to know more.  My email stated who I was, what kind of writing I did and why my articles would be of interest to their users.  Eventually, one of them got back to me – The Asperger’s Test Site (

That was what got me the gig with The Asperger’s Test Site.  That was how I found the opportunity. My proposal to The Aspergers Test Site was as thus:

  • Here is what I can offer: experience, readability, some advice on what I have learned as an Aspie, what does and does not work for me now and why
  • Here are some examples of my previous work: personal writings on autism to provide some examples of context and relevance
  • Here is what I would charge per article: I’ll do the first one for free and if you find it gets a favourable response, is this fee agreeable to you for others going forward from there?

I made a long list of all the things that had troubled me about having Asperger Syndrome.  Why they cropped up, when they cropped up, how they had made me feel, how they had affected others around about me.  Then, I started to write the first article.

I was able to both use and develop my reviewing skills here – why have I said what I have said?  What purpose does it actually serve?  What point am I trying to get across?  Have I made it well?

It also enabled me, when my family finally read what I had written, to see their own points of view – something I will readily admit I had some serious problems in doing up until that point.

I approached it as a chance to help others.  I approached it as a chance to develop my own writing, thinking and analytical skills and to prove to others what I could do.

What was also really helpful about The Aspergers Test Site was that they put me in touch with an editor – something I had never previously had.  This leads nicely to the interactions I had with the website owner.

Below is a copy of the initial communication between myself and the owner of the website:

“I’d like to share my own story. I am a freelance writer in my 30s with Aspergers and my normal rate is £25.00 per 1000 words or £30.00 per 1000 words including pictures.

Please find attached some samples of my writing.  I am a reviewer for various websites and local magazines.  These enclosed samples have been used on the website and My Wiltshire Magazine (

If you require any further information then please let me know and I will be happy to oblige.

Is this viable with yourselves?

I look forward to hearing back from you

Warm regards

Jonathan Muirhead

I think this demonstrates two things:

  • I had done my research. I knew what kind of and style of writing they were after.  This is so important, I feel, if you want to make a good impression on an editor or website owner.  Show them you know what they are looking for.
  • Keep all communications short and simple. Website owners and editors are busy people with hundreds of submissions coming in, each of which is crying out for their attention.  If they don’t see what they want within one sentence of yours, they wont bother reading any further.

The correspondence between us then continued as thus:


We don’t normally pay for writing but is something I may consider if you agree to letting me use the article in an upcoming book.”


“Hello again and thank you very much for your swift response.

First of all, I am more than happy for you to use my article in the upcoming book, if you see fit to do so.”


“Hi Jonathan,

Ok great, go ahead, and write.  When would you have it ready?”

And then, the real work began.  The first article, is a piece of writing of which I am still, to this day, immensely proud.

What I was writing was having an effect on other people.  That was all down to clear communication.  And the end result was increased traffic to the website.  Success, then, all around.

This, then, leads me nicely onto the penultimate part of this article.  How much I got paid and other ways in which this article was successful.  I got paid £25.00 for this article.  I have also been paid £25.00 for every subsequent article I have written (under the pseudonym of Robert Laing) for The Aspergers Test Site.

Getting that first payment gave my confidence a real boost.  The website owner wanted to hear more from me.  Therefore, this first article gave me something I could build upon.

It opened up other topics I could write about.  Other items that the website owner wanted me to write about.

It also led to the building up and maintaining of a successful working relationship between myself and the website owner.  There were other ways in which these articles were successful also.  I was able to expand upon my portfolio of published items that I could show to editors and with which I could prove my worth to them.  I plucked up the courage to approach other publications.  I did this first with the UK publication Writing Magazine ( .  Again, I kept the communication short and simple.  I sent them the following email by way of introduction:

“Dear Mr. Teller and Ms. Jackson,


I am writing to you as regards the above.  In your latest issue (February), you have two very useful articles, from Lisa Williamson (How I Got Published) and James McCreet (Submission Under The Microscope).  I have an article that I have written, on how I got my first paid writing work and also how I pitched my work, successfully, to an editor.

This has resulted in my establishing a very good working relationship with this editor and I think, therefore, that my article could be of interest to your readership, as well as being a good follow-up to the above pieces.

Can you please let me know to whom I should submit this article for consideration?

Many thanks

Jonathan Muirhead

Tel: 07516 216 031”

I also sent them a sample of the kind of articles I had written for The Aspergers Test Site.  The editor came back saying yes please!  Success yet again!  This article was also successful for me in that it showed me, to myself, that I could cope comfortably with a much longer piece of writing.  It also meant that my writing reached a wider audience.  And it meant, to me, that what I was doing, was reaching out and helping people.

So, to conclude, how has my situation changed?  I have gone from being an unpaid writer to being a paid writer.  I have broadened my own horizons in terms of the subject matter I can write about.  And, lastly, it has shown me how to build up and maintain good working relationships with editors and website owners.

That, in summary, is how writing about what I know helped me get paid work as a writer.


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