An interview with Hannah Martin

Hannah Martin

We had a natter with Hannah Martin, freelance copywriter and founder of Talented Ladies Club.

“I haven’t always known what I wanted to do for a career. Not specifically, but I always knew I wanted to do something creative that I loved so much I’d do it for free – but got paid for it. I remember telling a career’s guidance counsellor this and she laughed and told me it was unrealistic. But it wasn’t – I made it happen!

I dropped out of uni (I was doing a fine art degree) and had no idea what to do. A conversation with the career’s guidance counsellor just depressed me, so I got a temp admin job and saved up for a one-way ticket to Hong Kong.

My rationalisation was that if I had to do a shit job, at least I’d do it somewhere exotic. In Hong Kong, I landed a job as a PA to the publisher of a global magazine (that sounds MUCH more glamorous than it was), and then followed him as he launched a start-up magazine for another global publisher.

I realised then that I wanted to write, but didn’t know in what capacity. Then, one Saturday my then-boyfriend needed to drop into work to pick something up and brought me with him. He was an ad agency creative, and as soon as I walked in the creative studio I knew that was where I was meant to be.

I heard there was a job as a copywriter at Ogilvy going so I called up and arranged an interview. In the interview I could see the executive creative director wasn’t interested; he wanted someone with experience. But I managed to convince him to set me a test, telling him I was a fast learner. So he did, and I passed it so he hired me! And so began a long, very enjoyable job as a multi-award-winning advertising copywriter.

I’m a resourceful person and had managed to continue to grow my career as a mother. But as my friends had babies, I could see that many women struggled, and I saw too many talented women having to give up on their ambitions. And at that time there was no positive messaging around mothers and careers.

So in 2013, I launched Talented Ladies Club with my friend Kary, to inspire women to continue to pursue their ambitions after motherhood and to give them practical support as they did so.

It’s tough to break into advertising, but I’m proof it can be done without qualifications or experience! I prefer the back door approach. If you wait until a job is advertised and then apply, you’ll be up against dozens, if not hundreds of competitors. You may not even get the chance to wow them with your personality in an interview.

So I don’t wait for roles to be available, or take the conventional route in. If I want something I’ll use all my creativity and energy to make it happen. I’ll find out who I need to talk to and get in touch with them. And I don’t wait until they need to fill a vacancy, I’ll get in touch on spec.

What I love most about my job is the creativity and freedom. I could never work in a job that required a mindless routine or expected me to dress or behave in a particular way. I love having the autonomy to decide when, how and where I work. And to be paid or earn my own money for being creative.

What’s probably shaped my career the most is my desire not to settle. I don’t want to accept something less than I want or need and live half a life. I want to live a full life, and achieve the ambitions that are important to me.”

Learning to unplug 

“I’ve learned over the years what I need to keep me healthy and happy. I go to yoga twice a week and a dance class once a week to keep me fit. And I see my friends a lot; friendships are really important to me. Eating well and getting a good night’s sleep is also essential for good health.

I wind down in the evenings I’m not out by watching Netflix or reading. And I make sure I get outside – a walk on the beach or in the countryside – when I can.

If I’m spending too much time connected to devices, then I challenge myself to find three things of beauty on my walk to or from work, my office is across the road from the beach, so that’s not hard! But this simple exercise gets me looking up from the ground at the world around me, and focuses my attention away from a problem I’m trying to solve and onto the simple beauty that’s around us every day.”

Girl Power

“There were always far fewer women in the creative departments in advertising. I was either the only female member of a creative department or one of a few. And there were scant few female role models as creative directors.

When I fell pregnant with my daughter I discovered why – an associate creative director position I had been offered was retracted once they realised I was having a baby!

If we want more senior women in the industry (and every industry needs a gender balance, in my opinion) then we need to reduce discrimination and prejudice – and make it not just easier but possible for mothers to continue their careers. A mother is no less ambitious and has a wealth of valuable life experience to bring to the workplace.

I also think there is more awareness of mental health, which is much needed, but I also, companies need to do more to prevent it, rather than simply reacting when people present with mental health issues.

I don’t suffer with my mental health anymore – I have learned over the years what I need to be happy and healthy.

When I was younger I was anxious and had panic attacks, but I have always been determined not to let anything like that define or deter me. So I learned strategies to overcome them.

I make sure that I prioritise the things I need to keep me healthy and happy. They’re simple, but incredibly effective.

I’m not an expert on this, but I’d say they need to ensure there’s no toxicity in the company structure or management. I’d also have structures in place to encourage good mental health – free fruit, lunchtime yoga classes, company sports teams, and incentives that rewarded effort that was available for everyone.

I’d also have a clear system of access to help if you were struggling, and resources to support people. And finally, I’d make talking about mental health normal and every day, not taboo. If we can express how we’re feeling and ask for help early on, many problems can be managed before they become overwhelming. And if nothing else, we can feel understood and supported.

Working in digital can be scary – it always feels there’s some kind of new technology or platform that you need to learn. But I’ve learned that you don’t need to avidly consume industry publications and be ahead of the curve to not get left behind.

Just being curious, not being scared of something you don’t understand (and asking people for help with it) will ensure you don’t get left behind. And always remember that you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that is always needed – it can just be implemented in new ways. Nothing is wasted!”

The Changing World of Digital

“I love people and psychology, so the uprising trends that fascinate me are the ones that change how we communicate with each other, and how we present ourselves to the world. In particular, how our communication as a society has evolved (and continues to evolve) through social media.

I am interested in the changing ways we consume media. The basic principles of coming up with ideas and the core messaging don’t change, but the medium and presentation of it do. And new channels, for me, just represent new opportunities for creative ideas!

I never personally felt that I’ve had to prove myself more than men, but looking back I can see that men in my industry were more likely to be automatically given respect, whereas women had to work harder to earn it. As a woman, you’re always starting from two paces behind.”

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