How To Build A Career You Love – And Get Paid For It
Is it possible to craft an amazing career by rolling with the punches and trusting your intuition? Wunderkind Brodie Lancaster is living proof. Brodie chatted to SONIA TAYLOR about going with the flow, being a little cheeky, doing what you love and making sure you’re giving yourself the best chance at being paid for it.
There’s a certain type of inspiring person whose success is too easily dismissed as ‘lucky’. When that’s the case, it can feel impossible to emulate their kickass career trajectory. Brodie Lancaster could be considered of such ilk; she’s an editor at writing studio, The Good Copy; writer of all things One Direction and Kim K for sites like Rookie, Pitchfork, Jezabel and Rolling Stone; the founder and editor of zine, Filmme Fatales; managing editor of Melbourne’s Rooftop Cinema; a sometimes DJ; speaker; and soon-to-be author of her first book.
However, there’s a lot more at play to Brodie’s remarkable success than a dusting of fate – and a lot we can learn from her story.
See everything as an opportunity – and be bold about it
Sometimes working for a smaller company means you have access to opportunities that aren’t possible at a larger one. “I did a media degree so we had to do work placement, and I got an internship writing for a website that’d just started,” says Brodie. “I did that for a few weeks and then they offered me a part-time role there.”
It was the kind of set up led by contributors and interns – there was no editor at the time. While some might be frustrated by the lack of a team lead, Brodie decided it was the perfect opportunity to take things into her own hands. “I was a little bit, I don’t know, precocious – and fixed other intern’s spelling mistakes in their articles.” Her natural affinity for this type of work and willingness to just go for it “turned that into a [part-time] assistant editing job.”
If you do what feels right, things have a tendency to work out
This was all happening while Brodie was still at university, and as uni drew to a close, Brodie had travel on her mind. She’d developed a great relationship with her colleagues, so was open about the fact that when uni was done and dusted, she wanted to explore.
“I was literally going into Officeworks asking, ‘how much is it going to cost me to photocopy a hundred copies of this zine?’ – yeah. That was how little I knew.”
“One of the co-founders of the company had set up an office in New York… [and when] I was literally about to quit because I was like, ‘I need more money and I need more hours so I can travel,’ they said ‘why don’t you just move [to NYC] so you can make more money working more hours here?’” It was a brilliant idea, obviously – and one Brodie hadn’t expected them to suggest.
She moved to the states when uni wrapped, “And that was my first full time job, managing and editing the site.” This wouldn’t be the first time that following what felt right would work out for Brodie.
You need to let go of what isn’t working to make space for what does
“I only lasted like a year before I got too sad and overwhelmed and came home,” says Brodie about New York. The experience was amazing and she met a bunch of incredible people, but when it no longer felt right, Brodie knew it was time to come home.
The move back to Melbourne meant a fresh start. “I came home, and by that point I’d basically been at that job two and a half years, so I left that job and got a job in advertising – which I did not like.”
But instead of trying to make herself like her new job or toughing it out for the sake of it, Brodie reflected on what she did like. “When I was working a day job at an ad agency and I realised there was something missing – that I really did love this thing I’d been doing that I’d just happened to fall into.” Editing and writing wasn’t just a fluke, it had become a passion.
You don’t need to be an expert before you start; learn on the fly
“I’d never studied editing or writing and I was never like ‘I want to be a writer’ – I’d never had aspirations to do this,” says Brodie. But that wasn’t going to stop her. Her previous job, “really taught me how to do the job as I did it.” She learned on the fly, and “read a lot of stuff by Ann Friedman who was editing GOOD magazine in LA at the time.” Brodie remembers that she had a column and a blog all about editing advice, “and that literally taught me how to do my job.”
This realisation was how her print zine about film and feminism, Filmme Fatales, was born. “When I came back I started Filmme Fatales because I realised I really like doing this thing, it wasn’t just a day job. I wanted to make a thing of my own.”
Brodie applied the same chill mentality to launching her own print publication as she had to her career up to this point. “I see new magazines and zines starting up now and they’re all really good from the get-go, whereas mine – I was literally going into Officeworks asking, ‘how much is it going to cost me to photocopy a hundred copies of this zine?’ – yeah. That was how little I knew.”
But when you’re doing what you feel passionate about, you’ll make it work. “I really just wanted to talk about the things I was interested in,” remembers Brodie, and her previous stint as website editor meant she knew enough artists and writers to make it happen. “I had a network of either filmmakers or people who wrote about film or people who I just admired that I could get in touch with because I’d worked with them or talked to them in my old job. That network, more than anything, helped when it came time to start Filmme Fatales.”
One door leads to another when you’re doing what makes you happy
Her passion project opened doors she never imagined. “Everything that I’ve been paid to do has come from Filmme Fatales – which is a personal project that started from love and interest in the topic and which I poured myself into. And that is how I got the staff writer gig at Rookie, which is how I got connections to people who went onto work at Pitchfork and Jezabel and Rolling Stone – they were other Rookie contributors or read my work there. I got that role at Rookie because Tavi [Gevinson] had seen Filmme Fatales and thought it was cool and wanted me to do stuff.”
The founder of The Good Copy, Penny Modra, had also seen her zine.“Penny had seen Filmme Fatales and that was what made her wanna hire me as well. So really, all of these opportunities stemmed from my personal project that I didn’t make thinking ‘this is going to get me hired somewhere!’ – I only did it because it was something I really cared about, and I spent all my time on.” In fact, Both Penny and Tavi offered Brodie these roles on the very same day. (OK, so maybe that was a little bit of fate at play).
Networks are just a collection of human people that become your friends
If you don’t have a network set up, what do you do? “I’ve found that the best people I know who do cool stuff are people that I’ve met organically,” says Brodie. She acknowledges, “that’s easier said than done” but that it’s so common for people to completely overlook their peers because they’re on the same level.
“I know [money is] an awkward thing to talk about but it’s the only way you’re going to get any of it. You need to learn to how to ask for it, how much you’re getting and when you’re going to get it.”
“You probably know people who can help you but you don’t acknowledge it because they’re on the same level as you right now,” she says, and that’s the thing: “People I was in classes with at uni have gone on to do great stuff. People I camped with at music festivals have gone on to edit for national newspapers. And I just met them because I wanted to be friends with them and they’re human, as opposed to treating them like they’re just good for a professional connection.”
It might go against everything we’re taught – “we literally did a semester in my course at uni, an assignment called ‘Professional Networking’” – and when students from the course ask Brodie for an interview for the assignment, she always says yes, so that she can stress to them: “please don’t think that this is just what networking is. You need to acknowledge the people around you that are doing cool stuff because you guys are all going to come up together.”
Don’t be weird about asking money-related questions
Brodie is clear when it comes to finances. “Don’t be afraid to talk about money upfront, and do it early… If you send a pitch and the editor accepts it, the first things you should ask are: what’s your deadline, what’s your pay rate, and what are your payment terms?”
Brodie understands that a lot of people are very afraid to discuss money, “I know it’s an awkward thing to talk about but it’s the only way you’re going to get any of it. You need to learn to how to ask for it, how much you’re getting and when you’re going to get it.”
She also acknowledges it’s important to know when you should stand your ground. “If a corporation makes money and they’re asking you to work for them, you should be getting paid for it,” Brodie says.
Brodie’s Rule Of Three (aka the best career advice around)
Sometimes it’s not so cut and dry. “Every time I’m offered any kind of job, speaking role, article – anything – I run it through a filter of three points,” she says.
The opportunity has to do two of these three things:
#1 Make money
#2 Be really fun
#3 Advance my career in some way
Advancing your career could be as simple as writing for a website you’ve always wanted to write for or meeting someone you’ve always wanted to meet. “So, if it’s going to be a gruelling, not fun job, it has to be good for my career and make me money; if it’s an unpaid job it has to be really fun and do something really validating or encouraging,” explains Brodie.
It doesn’t matter what point in your career you’re at either. “I think you can change those three priorities based on where you’re at,” she says. “I will take on work that I hate doing if it pays well and I’m in a position where I really need money. If I’m a bit more financially secure, I will do more of those passion projects.”
And if Brodie’s career is any indication, it’s good advice to take.
Sonia Taylor is the Founding Editor of The Cusp.