From six-figure TikTok fame by photoshopping hounds

When Mandy Helwege’s TikTok video of her side business went viral in November, she immediately knew what to do: she quit her job.

Exhausted after 12 years in sales, the 35-year-old took the video pledge as a sign to pursue her passion project full-time. For the previous three years, Helwege had run Seeing Double Edits — a business where she photoshops photos of pets alongside their younger selves — as an occasional Instagram hustle, earning just a few thousand dollars a year. Pursuing him full-time would be a huge gamble, regardless of his popularity on TikTok.

Today, this video has over 2.4 million views and the Seeing Double Edits Instagram account has over 40,500 followers. Most notably: After earning just $4,000 from Seeing Double Edits last year, Helwege has won around $100,000 through June 2022 — most of the company’s around $120,000 earnings until present this year — according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

Demand for the rest of the year remains high. Once a month, Helwege opens 160 to 185 new slots customer availability for the following month. She still sells out in 90 seconds, she says – and the overwhelming interest has pushed her workload to around 80 hours a week. In March, she hired an employee to take over 30 hours of overtime per week.

“Virtuality is a blessing and a curse,” Helwege told CNBC Make It. “It takes a lot of time and energy to create five new works of art every day.”

Helwege says things are going well, but for self-preservation purposes, she actually hopes to stabilize the trajectory of her business. Here’s what happens in his 80-hour work week and why his goal is to maintain his current business momentum rather than expand it.

Transforming creativity into a business model

It all started as a fun idea for his Great Dane’s Instagram account. When Helwege posted this first photoshopped image of her own dog, her friends flocked to it and she gradually began to build a following on Instagram.

But cuteness doesn’t necessarily translate to glamour. As soon as Helwege’s TikTok took off, orders poured in and she learned some business lessons the hard way.

“I was so upset when it went viral, because I posted it thinking, ‘OK, if I can get 25 orders, that’ll be good,'” Helwege said. “I ended up with hundreds of direct messages on Instagram because that’s how I took orders.”

Soon, she paid $314 to start a commerce website on GoDaddy.com, which takes 2.3% plus 30 cents on each sale. She then scoured her Instagram inbox and compiled a list of the top 350 people who requested orders.

Many of those 350 people ended up imitating her or refusing to pay for the hours she put into their art, so she set up a reservation system – $10 for next month’s orders, $20 for orders this month – and began to cap orders, initially at around 150 per month.

Today, Helwege pays around $55 a month to host his website and run Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom on his home computer. And with each coin starting at $125, she earns more than double her monthly fee during each project from two to five hours.

Respond to the request

In March, demand increased enough for Helwege to hire its only employee and test its company’s bandwidth. The following month, she increased Seeing Double Edits’ monthly capacity to 230 bookings. The company won $25,000 in the process.

But it wasn’t sustainable: She worked 18-hour days that month, and she began to fear that she might potentially be hating her passion.

Helwege says the time it takes to create his digital art often depends on the quality of the photos: “If you send me a photo that was taken with an old flip phone 15 years ago, the quality will be very different from a current photo. picture of the phone.”

Mandy Helwege

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