How One Etsy Seller Made the Leap from Side Project to Small Business

by Madeleine Somerville

5 min read

    Online shopping was just taking off when online retail powerhouse Etsy burst onto the scene in 2005. The site, which originally sold exclusively handmade items, reclaimed an element of the personal in increasingly impersonal sales transactions where it was suddenly entirely possible for someone to order, pay for, and return an item without ever interacting with another human being.

    The nature of Etsy’s homemade products meant that online shopping suddenly felt human again. In the intervening years, hundreds of thousands of people have created and sold handmade products with that same personal touch and ended up merging their own business and personal lives as a result.

    For many Etsy entrepreneurs like Jenna Crucitti, the story is a familiar one: a personal project which quickly turned into a full-time career. Crucitti is the owner of Jenna Caitlin Designs, an online Etsy shop that creates personalized tumblers for weddings and other occasions.

    “It just started to become more lucrative and more enjoyable than my actual full time job so I took the big step, quit, and have been doing this full time for 10 months now.”

    “Last year I made some really cute tumblers for my girlfriend’s bachelorette party,” says Crucitti. “I was her maid of honor. And everyone loved them so much I decided to put them up on Etsy…It just started to become more lucrative and more enjoyable than my actual full time job so I took the big step, quit, and have been doing this full time for 10 months now.”

    For Crucitti, that leap from side gig to full-time job paid off. Jenna Caitlin Designs has rung up over 2,700 individual sales and hit some big sales goals, too.

    “My proudest moment since running my Etsy shop full time was when I hit $10,000 in sales, “ Crucitti shares. “That was just insane to me, that I could make a tangible amount of money through something I enjoy.”

    Jenna-Crucitti-Etsy-7

    It wasn’t just the money, either. For Crucitti, one of the best parts of running her own business was being able to see how much people truly love what she creates. “Another big milestone was hitting 100 five-star reviews. It was just so validating that people liked what I was making for them, and it made me really happy.”

    Knowing the impact those positive reviews have on her business, Crucitti celebrates every 25 five-star reviews with a glass of champagne and a toast to her growing shop—a ritual that’s now happening almost twice a month.

    Jenna-Crucitti-Etsy-4

    It’s not all champagne and milestones, however. Although Crucitti owes her career to following a personal interest into a full-time job, that fuzzy line between work and play does prove difficult to navigate at times.

    “I’m working seven days a week now,” she explains. “I don’t have a desk I have to be at to work. I’m always getting messages, and inquiries, and new ideas, and just trying to find that structure and that balance to my day has been the biggest challenge.”

    Given this struggle, it’s not surprising that although Crucitti is enthusiastic when advising others who may be considering starting an Etsy shop of their own—“If you have something that you love making, that will show through in your work, and people will like it,” she says—she also strongly advises that anyone who is self-employed draw clear lines between business and personal lives, especially when it comes to finances.

    “The best advice that I’ve gotten as an Etsy shop owner and really, just as a small business owner is to separate my personal and my business finances. It makes it so much easier to be organized as opposed to running everything out of me and my husband’s joint account which is what we were doing for a while.”

    “The biggest pain point is keeping your personal life and your business life separated.”

    Crucitti used to do this via a haphazard set of spreadsheets, downloads, and bank accounts which left too much room for manual errors and required too much time hunting down and manually categorizing expenses.

    Crucitti explains that the lack of distinction between the business and the personal caused huge headaches for her in the beginning.“The biggest pain point is keeping your personal life and your business life separated,” she says. “When you’re working from home and shopping all at the same time it was a big challenge to keep things separate.”

    After downloading the QuickBooks app and connecting it to her Etsy account with one click, her work life suddenly got a whole lot simpler.

    “I don’t really have to think about it any more” she laughs, “Now, I have time to actually run my business.”

    The app also helped Crucitti take advantage of a too-often overlooked aspect of self-employment, making the most of tax deductions. Case in point: Crucitti is a familiar face at the post office in her hometown of Danville, California, but despite making almost daily trips there and back, she never used to track (or deduct) the cost.

    “Before QuickBooks I wasn’t even tracking my miles so I wasn’t even getting that benefit at all,” she admits. “I didn’t even think about the fact that I could track my miles and get tax benefits for that towards my business, I discovered that all within the app which was a very pleasant surprise.”

    The app, which Crucitti says she uses “all day” along with her Etsy app, has made the distinction between work life and personal life that much clearer. “Now that I have QuickBooks it’s so much easier to keep things separate because I can automatically set up rules,” she says. “Every time I’m shopping at a certain place we know that that’s a business expense.”

    It turns out that merging a personal passion with a full-time job can be intensely rewarding, but like any relationship it’s best if built upon clear boundaries. With QuickBooks, it’s simple for Crucitti to separate the expenses, income, and deductions of her personal life from those of her business. And although she’s still struggling with the rest of that whole work/life balance thing —I mean, aren’t we all?—she doesn’t seem to mind.

    “There’s nothing better than being able to combine work and what I actually like to do, and being able to do it whenever I want, “ Crucitti says with a grin. “Making the decision to go full time with my business is the one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”

    Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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