Behind the Biz: Isabel Sandercock-Brown
Before conducting this interview, I had no idea just how much Bel and I had in common. We’re both writers. We both love Harry Potter (and books in general). We both adore the ocean. Our lives were both changed by reading Big Magic. We have announced ourselves as friends, and equally importantly, kindred spirits.
I feel incredibly privileged to consider this woman a friend, and a true inspiration for my writing career. We found each other through the gram (where else?) and it didn’t take me long to pester her for an interview.
Continue scrolling to learn about how Isabel started writing, the reason for starting her beauty blog, Five to Try and a lot of brilliant book recommendations.
Who’s That Girl?
Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sure! I’m Isabel. I’m a regular Sydney girl, who loves to read and write. I’m a Leo (and an ENTP for any Myers Briggs fans).
I love my family (I have a very big extended family and was blessed with amazing parents) and friends (who are the most supportive girl gang you could ask for). I love the ocean, I own a lot of shoes, and am obsessed with face masks. I have the most wonderful boyfriend who makes me laugh every day (and cooks me dinner every night).
I believe in pink, love, laughter and Girl Power. (I’m practically the sixth Spice Girl.) I love pasta, pumpkin, chocolate and ice cream. I do yoga and think Carrie Bradshaw nailed it when she said “the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.”
I can quote Friends by heart (my favourite episode is “The One Where Ross is Fine”). I laugh a lot. I’m opinionated, strong-minded and stubborn, but I believe in being kind. I try to be kind to every person I meet and in everything I do. I would like to think I’m funny, but people laugh at me more than with me.
Does that paint a picture? Also Netflix. I love Netflix.
How is 2019 shaping up for you?
I think the best is yet to come – but so far, amazingly good.
I’ve already quit my job, achieved some goals, done multiple face masks, read six books and Sydney’s had some fabulous summer weather – what more could a gal ask for!?
What was it like living in Sydney?
I love Sydney. It’s my home. We moved around a lot while I was growing up (I went to 5 schools) and I’ve lived all the way from Mortdale to the Northern Beaches, where I live now. But because we were always in Sydney, I feel like the whole city is my home, not just one suburb. I’ve found my super happy place where I am now in Fairlight – I love living near the ocean. When I lived in London, I longed to see (and jump in) the ocean. I was surprised by how deeply I missed it.
But really, how many cities are on a beautiful harbour, with beautiful beaches only minutes away? Answer: none. There is no other city in the world like Sydney.
Top 5 books of all time?
Just FYI I’m doing my top 5 fiction books of all time:
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
(I’ve read all the adventures and memoirs many times – they are the BEST stories. Sir Arthur was a literary genius.)
- Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
(Again, I’ve read the whole series many times. Anne is a character like no other.)
- My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
(I became obsessed with this book and made everyone read it – I still cry despite knowing the ending by heart.)
- Harry Potter by J K Rowling
(Technically it’s 7 books, but you get it. I’ve also read these many, many times and they get better with every read.)
- What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
(Liane Moriarty is one of my ‘top 5 people I want to meet’ alongside Zoe Foster Blake, Oprah, Michelle Obama and Ellen DeGeneres)
What is home to you?
My boyfriend, my family, the ocean and wherever my shoes are.
What was your professional background prior to becoming a freelance writer (congratulations, by the way!)?
Thank you! So my first full time job was at madison magazine, the most BEAUTIFUL magazine in the world, that was sadly shut down in 2013. After that, I travelled, then lived in London where I worked for a service design agency called Fjord. When I came back to Sydney, I worked for an online retailer then I moved to the Salvos and became the Digital Communications Manager. Now, here I am! I’ve learnt so much in each of those roles, which I think has set me up perfectly for the #freelancelyfe.
Did you complete any formal studies or are you self taught?
I did – I have a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in Creative Writing from UTS. But I believe practice makes perfect. You have to be self taught if you want to be good at something, because you have to work at it daily and be your own critic.
What inspired you to choose a path in writing?
I’ve always loved to write. When I was younger, I wrote weird little “articles” that I thought were extremely ground-breaking and thought-provoking. (When I was 13 and I got my period, my mum suggested I not wear my favourite white pants to a party and I wrote an “article” about how unfair it was and how women should rise up and wear white pants anyway.)
My dad was actually the one who told me to pursue it as a career. When I was in my mid-teens I wanted to work in fashion and my dad suggested becoming a fashion writer for a magazine (I LOVED magazines). And voila! That’s what I set out to do. (Funnily enough, my dad also loves to write too – he’s my own personal editor.)
Tell us more about your beauty and book blog, Five to Try.
I’ve started about three blogs over the years, before I finally stuck with this one! I had wanted to start a blog since Uni, but something always held me back (I now know it was fear).
But in November 2017, I read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (an AMAZING book) which basically told me to get the heck over myself and just start (but in a much more thought-provoking away). Not knowing what to blog about, I read an article that said blog about something that you already give people advice on. That made it was easy – beauty and books. (I read A LOT.)
A couple of days before NYE, I wanted to just bite the bullet and start. I ended up spending less than an hour on the name (which was probably a mistake). But when I worked at madison, Sherine Youssef, who was the Beauty Editor, let me write her weekly beauty 5-to-try for madison’s website. I also knew that people love ‘listicles’, and they say have a name that explains what the blog is, and so 5-TO-TRY was born.
But the whole point of 5-TO-TRY is to make women (including myself) feel good. I want to help women find products and books that they love, and that empower them to feel confident and strong and beautiful. Women are amazing, and I want to do my part to help build a culture and community of Girl Power.
What inspired you to start reviewing beauty products?
Once I started at madison, I switched from wanting to be a Fashion Editor to wanting to be a Beauty Editor as I fell in love with beauty.
The beauty industry is often misconstrued as being vain and manipulative, and while some of it is, at its heart, it’s about creating products that are going to help women feel good about themselves. The whole industry is meant to be about empowering women, and I am all about that.
What’s a common mistake that you see a lot of brands make with their social content?
Not writing back to comments – if someone has taken the time to comment, you should reply. That’s how you build a community.
Do you have a favourite/most memorable project?
The best is yet to come.
What was it like deciding to take the leap to freelance?
SO EXCITING! (Caps lock necessary.)
Honestly, I’m on cloud nine (or five, because ~branding~). I know it’s the right decision because I’ve been so damn happy and excited and all the good feels since I made the call.
It’s hard work, but nothing worth having ever comes easy.
Do you have any advice for those just starting out in writing?
Do it everyday – no excuses. Just write.
What is the best part about being a freelance writer?
Working at the time when you do your best work, rather than the hours corporate life sets for you – for me, that’s 5am in the morning – and building my own ‘thing’. Rather than giving my best years to an organisation, I’m truly testing myself and seeing what I’m capable of.
And the worst/most challenging?
Having to “sell” myself and convince someone to work with me – I’m rubbish at it. I’m hopefully getting better, but it feels excruciating every time I have to pitch and try convince someone that I’m great. They should just know I’m great, damnit! (Jokes – please hire me.)
What’s something that people don’t see/realise that you do (the nitty gritty, behind the scenes stuff)?
The time – it takes time to write blog posts, it takes time to take photos (and a lot of mess), to research, to source images, to add links, to upload content etc. People think that because digital’s instant that it doesn’t need the same love and care. Not true. If you want good content and good copy, it takes time.
And of course: what inspires you?
Meditating – I seriously get the best ideas when I meditate! The trick is trying to remember them by the time I get back to my phone.
Hearing women’s stories – they’re so inspiring and are my favourite type of podcasts.
Instagram – I only follow accounts that make me feel good, inspire me and are in line with my values.
How do you take your tea (or coffee)?
Flat white – always.
And if I’m having tea, T2’s Melbourne Breakfast, Lamington or Madagascan Vanilla. (Seriously, how great is T2?)
Fave coffee shops/cafes at home
Balgowlah Social. It’s owned by a local girl who is killing it. They make the most delish bowls and have even better customer service.
Another cafe called Two Sister’s Pantry has just opened near me, which I think I’ll start blessing with my presence and hard-earned freelance dollars too.
Go to outfit
Gosh! I don’t have one. My mum taught me to have fun with what I wear – to go bold, wear colour, prints, textures and dress to suit your body type. So my go to is really anything that makes me feel fabulous – whether that’s jeans and a t-shirt, a fabulous dress, a bright skirt or heels. (I love heels by the way, they make me feel tall and powerful.) (Feel like I should add that I’m short.)
Buying a one way ticket to London on my own at 22 years old – I wasn’t proud at the time, but now I realise that was pretty damn brave.
Ultimate travel destination
Italy – in particular, the Amalfi Coast. (Positano is one of my favourite places in the whole wide world.)
I always think: Isabel, Italy, ice cream. (I just think it was meant to be.)
Waking up to sunshine, making a coffee for me and boyfriend to drink in bed, going for a dip in the ocean, yoga, buying fresh fruit and veggies from the Manly market, then lazing around on the couch and reading a book, followed by dinner cooked by my boyfriend (he does all our cooking) with a glass of wine, and, finally, ice cream.
How much time do you have?! Let’s do a top 10 of each (because I have too many for 5).
- Second Life by Clique Brands
- Lady Startup by mamamia
- Making Oprah by WBEZ Chicago
- Making Obama by WBEZ Chicago
- Offline by Alison Rice
- Serial 1 & 3 (I really didn’t like season 2)
- The Teacher’s Pet by The Australian
- Lady-Land by lady-brains
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations
- Dirty John by LA Times
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (fiction)
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (self development)
- Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight (self development)
- The Secret Life of Bee’s by Sue Monk Kidd (fiction)
- A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce W Cameron (fiction)
- Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (self development)
- Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (fiction)
- All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (YA fiction)
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semples (fiction)
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover (fiction)
Is it just us, or are we in bloody good company? Running this series has been a total eye-opener to *just* how many brilliant business women we have in our community, and we’re pleased to confess that we’ve become friends with quite a few of them (happy dance).
If you have another wonderful lady in mind that you’d like us to interview, drop a comment below or straight to email@example.com
Until the next brew,
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