This freelance photographer makes $30,000 a year. How is she spending during the pandemic?

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This freelance photographer makes $30,000 a year. How is she spending during the pandemic?

Who Gabi Macias, 22, with her 14-year-old Maltese, Coco
What she does Freelance photographer and virtual assistant
What she makes $30,000 a year, supplemented by savings from university
Where she lives A two-bed, two-bath hard loft at Jarvis and Dundas that she shares with a roommate


Macias grew up in Stouffville, a small town about 50 kilometres north of Toronto. After graduating from high school, she enrolled in the photography studies program at Ryerson, with aspirations of becoming a professional photographer.

In her third year of university, to supplement her income and pay off student loans, Macias started working as a virtual assistant, helping entrepreneurs, creatives and small business owners manage their online tasks, including email and social media management. The gig paid $20 an hour and afforded her the flexibility to work as a freelance photographer on the side, making roughly $500 for an eight-hour shoot.

In early 2020, Macias planned to leave the virtual assistant job after graduating—then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, she needed the stability of a monthly paycheque, so she kept at it. But during lockdown, some of Macias’s clients cut back hours to save money. Then, after losing some of her freelance photography opportunities because of social-distancing directives, Macias collected CERB and used the free time to figure out a plan.

After graduating from Ryerson in May, she launched her own business, specializing in personal brand photography. She charges about $875 for a four-hour shoot. Surviving on $30,000 a year is difficult, according to Macias, who supplements her lifestyle with savings accumulated during her time in school. In the short term, she hopes to build up a client base for her photography business so she can earn enough money to quit her virtual assistant job.


Regular Expenses

Rent $1,150 a month, for her half of the loft, including utilities and Internet.

Cellphone $90 a month, for unlimited call and text, with Rogers.

Groceries $300 a month, at Metro, Loblaws and Summerhill Market. “Even though I’m vegetarian and vegetables are relatively cheap, my bill adds up when I start buying vegan cheeses and tofu at specialty stores.”

Eating out $100 a month. Her go-to is Manita on Ossington. “Manita has a super-cozy patio, which was perfect for Stage 3.”

Coffee $15 a month, for grounds from Page One Cafe. “Quarantine helped me kick my daily coffee purchase. I still need at least two cups to get through the day, but I just make it at home with my AeroPress.”

Liquor $30 a month, for wine and beer from the LCBO. “I like to stock up on California reds and Creemore Lager, in case my roommate and I decide to have drinks up on the rooftop. I’ve been saving about $75 a month by avoiding bars during the pandemic.”

Transportation $30 a month, for Uber and TTC. “I usually walk or bike to photo shoots, unless they’re more than a 30-minute bike ride away.”


Recent Splurges

Vacation $1,000, split between Gabi and her partner, for a trip to Grand Bend. “After being stuck in the city for the summer, we spent a few days relaxing at the beach.”

Rug $200, for a large woven rug from Wayfair. “I got tired of the old rug in my room—it was small and a bit too colourful. I spend a lot of time at home now, so I paid a bit more than usual for the new rug.”

Camera $150, for a Pentax film camera. “I accidentally cracked the film door on my old 35-mm camera by tossing it into my bag.”