Career Code: How Susan Miller Became the World's Most Famous Astrologer
In honor of our co-founders Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power’s upcoming book, The Career Code: Must-Know Rules for a Strategic, Stylish, and Self-Made Career ($26), we’ve been running an interview series featuring 17 questions (to parallel the book’s 17 chapters) about the work lives of inspirational female leaders who are at the top of their fields. Next up, we’re inspired by the starry work of Susan Miller, the matriarch of astrology.
Life is an unpredictable roller coaster of ups and downs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who could tell us what to expect and how to prepare for it? Enter Susan Miller, astrologer to the stars, whose list of celebrity clientele reads more like movie credits than a business Rolodex. Over her 20-year career, Miller’s popular Astrology Zone website has accrued millions of devoted fans who religiously check in each month for insights into their future, and her phenomenal success shows no signs of slowing down. On average, the site reaches 6.5 million visitors a month, and the astrologer has earned every single one of her adoring fans.
Miller’s work ethic is beyond extraordinary: She tirelessly writes through the night to ensure her novel-length forecasts (which can be anywhere between 30,000 and 40,000 words) are out on time to help guide the public. Writing each month’s forecast is likened to “giving birth,” she says. The meticulous detail in her horoscopes explains why she’s accrued so many devoted readers and high-profile fans. Miller doesn’t leave any rising moons, suns, planets, or stars out of her charts. At any given moment, she knows where they all are, what they’re doing, and, most importantly, how they will impact you.
Aside from her monthly horoscopes, she also writes columns for several international magazines, provides content for two best-selling apps, collaborates with award-winning illustrators on her self-published calendars, hosts her own TV show, and, oh, is a devoted mother to two daughters. She clearly cares about every single one of her followers, which is why they promptly come back the next month for more.
We spoke with the magical Miller to discover her many secrets to success and what drives her to keep going.
“My job is intense and requires a great deal of attention to detail. I have 12 folders that I have prepared for each month—one for each sign. Inside [each folder] is a [natal] chart and a full-moon chart for each of the signs. If there is a new moon or a full moon that falls on the end of the previous month, the reader will feel that lunation, so I have to include that full or new moon too. So in that case, I would have 36 charts in a folder for each of the 12 signs. Typically, a year will hold 312 charts.
“For each sign, I work hard to not only report on the influences, but to also become that sign from the inside. No reader is born new to the world each month; they instead bring in certain hopes and dreams, setbacks and victories, and ongoing projects and relationships. I feel I have to acknowledge where the reader is now and where that reader has been, and outline the opportunities that are coming up for that sign. I am very detailed, and I have learned to trust my math. In astrology, there is no predestination—I can tell you which opportunities exist for you, but it will be up to you to choose which ones you will want to work with, and in what style. The determination of the individual will set the course and create the outcome.
“Starting from 11 a.m., I work straight through to 2 a.m. or longer, depending on how much I can get done. I have a goal in mind of how much I would like to get done each day. For Astrology Zone, it takes seven hours to write each sign—sometimes longer. Yesterday, writing Cancer took a full day for my May monthly forecast. Writing the signs is like giving birth: Some take longer than others.”
“If I am writing, I like to write at Dunkin’ Donuts. I like the top-40 music they play, and I particularly like the height of the counter, which looks out on the avenue. The counters are lower than most, so they are the perfect height for my wrists. I have the small coffee each day, but never more than that. I never have their doughnuts. Sometimes I will have the French cruller for breakfast, but usually I have eggs elsewhere. The staff is cute and tiptoe around me, saying things like, ‘Susan is writing, so we have to be quiet.’ It’s hysterical. I really love them.
“Another reason why I love it there is they have really strong Wi-Fi. I do have a portable hotspot, too, which I carry in my purse, but it’s so strong there that I don’t need it. I like the picture window in front of me so I can see people walking. There is plenty of light from the street; that’s another reason it is my favorite place to go. I can’t work in dark places, and Starbucks tends to be much too dark and noisy. If there’s too much going on at the office, I’ll tell the team, ‘I have to go down to Dunkin’ Donuts.’ Often after I write one sign, I will need to change things up and go to a different location to start the next sign.”
“Definitely I would like to meet Martha Stewart. So many times after I’ve had a hard day, I straighten up and think to myself, ‘I bet Martha had a day like this, and she got through it. I will too.’ Martha has always inspired me. She built quite an empire. I would love to talk to her about her beginnings. I started on the internet in 1995, and I think she began early, too. Many of my sensibilities are like hers, such as her need to take a creative approach in all the projects she touches and not follow what others have done.
“She cares greatly about quality, too, as I do. She is a fantastic teacher and a very clear communicator. Martha has standards, and you can see that come through in her interviews. For example, I love how she would correct Matt Lauer when he was mixing dough improperly or when she mentioned on the Today show that Twitter should have a spell-check. She does not like abbreviations, and neither do I. I feel like we have the same instincts. I have never met her, but hope I do meet her someday.”
“To keep up, I read The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Both are delivered to my door. I like a real newspaper because I will see news I wouldn’t ordinarily search for on an iPad. I religiously tune into Charlie Rose, Nora O’Donnell, and Gayle King on CBS This Morning from 7 to 9 a.m. I do other things as I watch, but some segments are riveting.
“I get 38 magazines a month by subscription, and some are international. They are the real fun in life. I love reading them while on the elliptical machine at the gym, which I know you are not supposed to do, but I find it’s fine to do. I get my best information from industry insiders I meet on the street, and I find out about things before it even gets in the papers.”
“When hiring, I look for enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and a sense of humour. I want an honest person. I love to see high energy, kindness, and a sympathetic nature in an applicant. A person working for me needs to have great communication skills and a fine sense of organisation. I’m coming to the conclusion that older employees are more stable and reliable, and they’re better for many positions I need filled.”
“I used to wear heels when I wanted to feel powerful, but due to an injury to my foot, that is not possible. Instead, I wear pretty ballet flats. I love fashion and makeup. Simply dressing well helps a lot when starting any negotiation. I have my hair professionally trimmed at Fekkai every month, even now while I am trying to grow it longer. I need a good hair day every day, and you can only have those if you start with a great cut.”
“I will let Marguerite tell you herself: ‘Compassionate. Her work ethic is incredibly strong, and I feel no one realises how hard she works. She has a very kind soul, and she’s fun—there’s never a dull moment around here. She has millions of readers, but she still cares about that one reader who will write in with a question, say about a feature on [Susan’s] app or is asking for clarification about a line Susan wrote on Astrology Zone. Susan really cares about every single reader.’”
“When I feel a little worn to the bone or uninspired, I change venues. I go to a different coffee shop to write or a restaurant that allows writers to stay a while. I’m constantly changing venues. It takes me close to seven hours to write each forecast, so I need a change when I shift to the next sign. I am really enthusiastic about the onset of spring because I know all the places I am going to visit to write. I love to sit outside, and I’ve found a few secret places where I can be outdoors and still see my screen.”
“If you have to leave your job, be gracious. You learned a lot with this employer, so tell them precisely what you learned. I wouldn’t say anything negative unless asked. I loved Elle; the editors there were good to me. I would say don’t go on Twitter or Facebook to vent about an employer. I see that happen sometimes, but I wonder to myself why people would do that. Keep private things private. Keep in mind that someday you may be working with that person again in another company.”
“That is a problem. There is a list of things I can’t eat due to the severe problem I have had with my digestive tract. After two years of pain and long hospitalisations, my doctors got me into remission. I am down to two meals a day. I like eggs and omelets, and I’m trying to eat to increase my iron count. I drink a glass of grapefruit juice with iron-rich foods because doing so doubles your iron count. Using an iron skillet also helps, too—google it and you will see! I need a high iron count with my schedule.
“I am allowed to have salad, and I love sushi. Sometimes I will save that for dinner and have soup for lunch. I love yogurt for a snack, and one of my favorite fruits is crunchy Fuji apples. I also love nuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and raisins. I try to eat well. Sometimes I will have a little mushroom quiche. There’s a place on the Upper East Side that does a really good one.”
“Young, just-out-of-school workers sometimes leave too early or don’t even come in. I pay every person who works for me, as I don’t feel interns should work for free. Many millennial workers today want a great lifestyle with an exciting career, but you can’t have both. Be open to working nights and weekends when something urgent comes up. Be gentle during your interview, and do your homework. Be informed. Many people who interview with me have never even looked at my site.
“I do think women today CAN have it all, but perhaps not at the very same time. I have my two daughters, a great career, everything I have ever wanted, but I feel you can have it at different times in your life. Decide what you want to achieve and what is really important to you. For me, it was vital I have children. I was not going to go through life without having them. I married very early for that reason. The trouble is that many women will get married and say they’ll have a baby some day, but when I ask when will that be, they reply, ‘Oh, maybe when I am 40.’ At 40, you may be into the in-vitro situation, which costs $25,000 per procedure. Ask yourself if you are you willing to give up your firstborn for your job.”
“I am careful with my skincare and apply serums before moisturiser each morning. Being that I work into the wee hours of the morning, I wash my face at about 8 p.m., and if I am not going out that night, I will apply my evening moisturiser—then it’s back to the keyboard. I wash off my makeup at 7 or 8 p.m. because if I fall asleep at my computer, I will be too exhausted to wash my face thoroughly, and that is terrible! I don’t have any other rituals. I love to watch some of my favourite shows while I am writing, but I get lost in my manuscript and miss the plot. Sometimes I rewind shows like Madam Secretary or Quantico, which require you to hear the entire dialog, not just some of it.”
“When you take on a job, even if it is low paying, you must give your all, 800%. No one will ever know how much you were paid or how long you had to complete the assignment. The job must stand on its own. My byline is on all my work; it must be the best it can be.
“I remember in the beginning of my career when I was working in the business department of the magazines, I felt the work was boring. I complained a lot to my husband. Finally he said to me, ‘You accepted the job on the terms told to you at the onset. You must give your employer all you have to give, even if the pay is low and the job isn’t very interesting. You can’t complain. Either you do the job or leave—don’t have a foot in two streams.’”
“Currently my year-old TV show is getting the lion’s share of my attention, and it’s creating quite the buzz in Hollywood. I love working with Paul Duddridge, my executive producer and director, who was born in England and who lives in Los Angeles now. Before we came together, for several years I had been looking into a lot of different production companies in L.A., but none seemed to be right for me. When I spoke to Paul, I instantly knew that he understood the real me better than any other industry executives I had spoken to before. Paul has his own production company and is part of 4TV Entertainment.
“He said, ‘I have been reading your Astrology Zone column each month for years and finally said to myself, Why doesn’t she have a show?’ That impressed me that he knew my work well and was enthusiastic about creating an entertaining show that would not duplicate any of the material on my Astrology Zone website—it would all be new! (You can see it anytime on Vimeo.)
“I am also working on my annual illustrated astrological calendar for 2017—an exciting project. Readers love the calendar; it shows which days to plan your greatest actions. We do not sell the calendar on Amazon or BN.com; it is only available on my site. I have done them for eight years. I create my calendars from scratch and hire an ace production team of two editors, a proofer, a fact-checker, a creative director, and a publisher to work on it with me. My long-term editor of Astrology Zone is on the team, and she is the only person allowed to change my voice in the calendar—she knows my lexicon so well. Then we self-publish. We sell it year-round. It’s very exciting. For 2017, I am working alongside another amazing artist whose name I will keep secret for now. She is based in New York and is the favorite illustrator of Italian Vogue.
“I am also talking with editors about a coffee-table book that I will do with artist Izak, who also worked on my 2016 calendar. Izak works with many clients worldwide, and he has offices and agents in New York, Paris, and Tokyo. It was Izak who created and continues the Henri Bendel’s iconic look. He created a stunning calendar that readers love. I’m told they cut out the artwork and frame it. My assistant did that too.”
Ready to put Miller’s inspiring career advice into action? Preorder The Career Code below and transform your work life.
Opening Image: Jessica Antola