"[By working as a graphic designer] from July to December 2020, I made more than my annual income when I was an employed architect!"
When the construction industry experienced a slowdown because of the pandemic, Sahara Isles, a licensed architect, was forced to choose between her job and her health.
Before COVID-19 landed on our shores, Isles received a small salary that was augmented by overtime pay in exchange for long hours. When the virus arrived, this was reduced further.
Unfortunately, taking on more tasks in her job meant compromising her health as she discovered she has asthma which makes her more susceptible to the virulent disease.
“I decided to stop working and wait for the situation to subside, but it didn’t,” she laments. “Monthly necessities ate up my savings and I only had very little left in my account, with no job.”
Raised in a single-mom household, Isles knows first-hand about the innate strength and determination that women can lean on when pursuing a goal. In May, she started looking for freelance graphic design jobs, something she has been passionate about since childhood.
With the help of an online design and publishing platform, Isles was able to design her way, so to speak, to a better life amid the challenges brought by the pandemic.
“I decided to specialize in designing on Canva and found projects through freelancing websites. I was surprised to get my first gig quickly and found that my skills were highly sought-after,” she relates.
For several months, she focused on various graphic design projects such as designing brand collaterals, book covers, flyers, and posters.
“My most in demand service is creating social media visuals; most of my high-paying clients are agencies that manage social media. I also have patrons and repeat customers,” shares Isles.
In fact, there was a time, she says, “when I got so many gigs that I had to hire an assistant to help me with minor design jobs so I could meet deadlines. It was exhausting but fulfilling.”
Her freelance work presented many advantages that even allowed her to earn more than her full-time job.
“I can earn money from home, and it often takes no more than a couple hours of work to complete a project on Canva. From July to December 2020, I made more than my annual income when I was an employed architect!”
More than just surviving, she was able to succeed and have a regular source of income until circumstances allowed her to gradually go back to the field.
With some restrictions being lifted, Isles has gone back to her day job, but designing still remains a very important part of her career. “I was commissioned for a project as lead architect to design a two-hectare subdivision in Candelaria, Quezon, but because designing has been so close to my heart, I still accept graphic design commissions on the side.”
“Looking back, I now feel more empowered and encouraged to trust in myself, my skills, and my ability to adapt.”
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