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A Day In The Life With Zara McDonald + Michelle Andrews, Of Shameless

A Day In The Life

Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews started Shameless back in 2018. It seems like everyone has their own podcast these days, but back then it wasn’t quite so mainstream – especially here in Australia.

The two Melbourne based journalists recorded the first episode of their pop-culture podcast ‘for smart people who love dumb stuff’ from Zara’s parent’s place, sticking promotional posters in university bathrooms in hopes of finding listeners who loved reality TV and celebrity news as much as they did.

Fast-forward to today, and the Shameless brand has grown into its own successful company, with Zara and Michelle at the helm. The girls now manage a growing team of eight at Shameless Media, and they’ve just reached the impressive milestone of 50 million downloads!

Join us as we shadow this prolific pair on a typical workday!

29th September, 2022

Zara and Michelle are the brains behind one of Australia’s biggest podcasts, and their own business, Shameless Media! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The pair have been working together since they met as interns at Mamamia shortly after finishing university. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The Shameless office is is conveniently right across from cafe Tarts Anon, where the team often heads to for a break and a sweet treat! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

When they’re not behind a mic or a screen, they’ll step out for a coffee and a walk. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Christina Karras
Thursday 29th September 2022

Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews were dissecting pop-culture everyday as friends and co-workers long before they started recording their conversations as Shameless.

They were working at women’s media group Mamamia when the executive podcast producer overheard their witty debriefs of The Bachelor and ‘threw them in the studio’. After working on their ‘tiny Bachelor pod’ for a few months, they pitched the idea of another podcast dedicated to all-things pop-culture to their bosses, who shot them down. Instead of throwing in the towel, Zara and Michelle decided to produce, host, and edit the show independently, learning the ropes of podcasting via YouTube in just six weeks.

‘In the very beginning we were juggling both the show and our full-time jobs,’ Michelle says. ‘We had to work seven days a week to get everything done; we’d spend Saturday mornings researching and prepping segments, then generally record hungover on a Sunday, and then have to edit the episode before it went live on a Monday morning at 5am.’

It was a ‘chaotic’ schedule for two 23-year-olds, but the duo knew they were onto something. At the time, there was a distinct gap in the market for thoughtful content catering to their demographic as young women, and Shameless’ funny (yet intellectual) chats on everything from The Kardashians to diet culture went beyond the superficial nature of traditional celebrity mags. Just nine months later, Zara and Michelle took the podcast full time.

‘You’ve got to start somewhere, and we are glad we jumped into the podcasting pool when we did: it wasn’t a huge space here in Australia in 2018, so starting even 12 months later would have been tricky,’ Zara says. ‘What we lacked in polish we made up for in enthusiasm.’

Shameless has since evolved into something bigger than either of them could’ve anticipated. Now both 28, Zara and Michelle are the co-founders of Shameless Media, respectively taking on roles as the company’s managing and creative directors. They’ve also launched five different podcasts, and written a book together – all while releasing their beloved pop-culture recap every week!

‘We’re just stoked that we get to do what we do every single day, really,’ Michelle adds. ‘We genuinely adore the content we put out for our audience, and adore the team we work with, so to celebrate 50 million listens together was beyond exciting.’

While the saying ‘if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life’ is a bit of a stretch for any job, it’s clear that for Zara and Michelle, running Shameless Media together comes pretty close.

Below, the friends, podcast hosts and business partners reflect on their careers (so far) and let us in on a busy day in their lives!

The duo now record their shows and manage their team of eight (including themselves!) from co-working space The Commons! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Zara and Michelle release two weekly episodes, with their deep-dive into historical celebrity scandals (called SCANDAL) dropping on Mondays, and Shameless on Thursdays. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

A peek inside their office, featuring endless books (and their award for Popular Vote at the Australian Podcast Awards in 2019!) Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The girls also host a Shameless Book Club podcast once a month. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Recording is normally their priority for the mornings, with the team wrapping up around 4:30pm when they can. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

‘We know how sad this might sound, but we’re the kinds of people who don’t mind sitting at a desk all afternoon, tap-tap-tapping away on our little MacBook Pros. It suits us.’

First Thing

Z: What time I get up totally depends if I have the energy to go for a run or not. If I’m exercising, 6.30am, if I’m not, about 7am. I will never not resent my alarm and I will never be someone who can comfortably wake before 6.30am. That said, I think I work best from about 8am and I positively crash mid-afternoon.

I’m pretty religious about pushing play on a podcast or an audiobook the minute I get up. If you were to psychoanalyse, you’d probably say it’s got something to do with needing to fill the silence with stuff. If you weren’t, you’d just say I like audio ‘cos it’s what we do best.

M: My alarm generally goes off at 6:50am! I can’t really function without an early morning soy latte, so coffee is always the first thing on my agenda. I also (perhaps embarrassingly) turn on my brain by working my way through Wordle, Quordle and – yes – Octordle, because I’m apparently stuck in early January.

Morning

Z: The team gets in at 8.30am when we don’t WFH, but I try to get there at 8am if I can get out the door in time. There’s something nice about setting up the day with a coffee before the chaos really starts. I’m a fickle commuter – sometimes my partner will drop me, sometimes I’ll get the train and sometimes I’ll Uber if it’s raining (see also: lazy).

M: I tend to drive to work at the moment and I really cherish the time I have in my car to listen to podcasts, call loved ones, or zone out to music. We generally spend the first 15-20 minutes of the day catching up on emails and admin before jumping into the studio. For some reason, it feels like we’re recording all the time at the moment, and we almost always do all our recordings at 9am. It’s generally when our energy is the highest. Any later and we are no good at all.

Lunchtime

Z: We try to take a break for lunch! We are embarrassingly bad at bringing our lunch to work. If we need to take a walk we’ll generally head to Swan St in Richmond which isn’t too far from our office (there’s so much there: Hugo’s, Fishbowl, Big Dog Deli and United Sushi are a few faves), or we’ll walk to LaManna in Cremorne which will always have a reliable sandwich waiting to be eaten.

Afternoon

M: Our afternoons are ever-changing. Some days we will be reviewing a podcast edit, others we will be deep in research for our other podcast SCANDAL, and run sheets. Also, outside of producing content, we still have to keep a business afloat day-to-day. People would likely be mind-numbingly bored if they knew how some of our afternoons looked: we might be chasing invoices, sitting in meetings about business development, managing staff, and responding to a never-ending stream of emails.

Z: With all that in mind (and yes, we know how sad this might sound), we’re the kinds of people who don’t mind sitting at a desk all afternoon, tap-tap-tapping away on our little MacBook Pros. It suits us. Mich is way more energised later in the day but I start crashing. We do not have the same circadian rhythm and sometimes it’s a problem.

Evening

Z: We always try to be out the door at 4:30 or 5pm. Balance is super important to us and a pretty key ingredient to us feeling happy and fulfilled. That said, we are often talking most of the way through the night, and sometimes social media stuff naturally rears its head outside of typical work hours too.

To unwind if I’m at home, it’s a glass of wine and putting on some music or a podcast while we (read: my partner) makes dinner. I actually find I relax much better when I make plans on a weeknight though, so I love a good weeknight wine at the local pub with a girlfriend. Those nights are paramount to feeling like my evenings aren’t consumed with work like my days are.

M: I’m the cook in my household; my partner takes literally all of the washing and cleaning off my hands. I tend to opt for lots of risottos and noodles at the moment, but I’m also a sucker for homemade pizzas. Then I turn to (mostly trashy) reality television. Preferably British, preferably the kind of thing my mum would say ‘Oh, Michelle, really?’ to. I am also a classic extrovert and crave the company of others, so I try to see my best friends, siblings and parents every single week, and find their company totally relaxing. (It’s a bit of a joke in the Shameless office that I am allergic to spending a single moment alone!)

Last Thing

Z: I wish I was one of those people who could survive off like five hours, but the truth is I fall apart without a solid night’s sleep, so I try to be in bed by 10pm, and asleep by 10.30pm. If I look at my phone of an evening and it’s past 10.30pm, I just about faint. That’s the no-go zone.

M: I would love to tell you that I go to sleep around 9pm. That would be a lie. It’s more like 11pm.

Right now we are listening to, watching, and reading…

Listening to The Imperfects, watching The Split and reading Black Cakeit’s this month’s Shameless Book Club pick!

We get our best work done when…

When we go to a local cafe (we love Tarts Anon) to get out of the office, have a change of scenery and use the time to brainstorm.

A philosophy we live and work by is…

We constantly work to the idea of going a centimetre wide and a kilometre deep. Do a few things and do them well. Don’t spread yourself too thin!

Listen to Shameless Media’s podcasts here!

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net