I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to the first installment of this series, and so I plan to keep the ball very much rolling. This time it’s rolling in the direction of Martin Cross. His 20 years in the industry have seen him build up a formidable reputation, and all without a website.

In the interview below, Martin tells of how he got into the industry and went about cultivating a style which has earned him a great deal of success, not to mention a fair few awards. Enjoy!

McParland Copywriting: How did you come to be a copywriter?

Martin Cross: I read English Literature at university and didn’t have a clue what to do as a career. I accidentally got a marketing job with a bank, but hated it. When I learned what went on in agencies I decided I could write better copy than their creative people. I was a nightmare client, then I applied for an agency job on spec and got it.

MC: Do you remember your first real success in the industry?

MCr: I’ve always been relatively happy with what I’ve produced, but it was years before I started to win awards and find that people were talking about me. Sometimes I think it takes a while to find your voice, and of course to get the breaks.

MC: How did you find the transition to freelance?

MCr: I’ve had three periods of freelance work, each one thrust on me by redundancy. Happily I always kept busy and earned decent money. This time round I’ve been freelance for about seven years, and much prefer it to a salaried job – I don’t think I’d ever go back.

MC: Where do you find inspiration?

MCr: Travel, reading, movies, conversation, everything – ideas come from your head, and the more that’s in your head in the first place, the better the ideas that come out.

MC: Do you think it’s useful for a copywriter to master InDesign and other similar programs? 

MCr: Well I never have. I work with lots of other people, freelance and salaried, and they have those kind of skills. It’s worth knowing what’s out there, though – in design technology, but also in stuff like sound production, film, digital media and so on.

MC: Which social media platform(s) do you prefer to use?

MCr: I’ve not had to promote myself much, as I tend to get recommended by people who know me. I use LinkedIn, but I probably get more work from Facebook – it just reminds people I’m around. I got a good write up in a trade press article once and it’s still online years later, so I sometimes come up when you Google ‘freelance copywriters’.

MC: Top tips for getting into copywriting?

Just do it well, and get to know lots of art directors, designers, clients and suits. They’ll inevitably move around and call on you to help them out, recommending you to their peers on the way.

MCr: Tips for someone already copywriting?

Read everything from great literature to the copy on cereal packets. Listen to speech radio. Watch a lot of movies. Keep thinking.

MC: Any final thoughts?

MCr: The age of the monolithic ad agency is dead. These days your work will come from digital shops, design agencies, radio stations, direct client businesses and so on. This is good for freelance because these organisations don’t have many writers, which means they need your help. On the other hand it’s harder to identify who you should be speaking to – you can’t just phone up and ask for the creative director any more, because there probably isn’t one. Be adaptable, then, and turn your hand to everything you can.


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