should I take my Etsy business off my resume?

A reader writes:

Up until March of 2020, I worked as a supervisor in the food and beverage industry. I also continuously maintained an Etsy store, which I fell back on after my abrupt layoff. During the pandemic, people came online to shop in droves and I was the busiest I have ever been, but now that orders are going back to pre-Covid levels, I have begun looking for a new “day job” since it is looking like my previous place of business has permanently closed. After lots of thought and consideration, I have decided to try to get out of the food and beverage industry into something with more stable hours and guaranteed benefits.

At the top of my resume, I have my Etsy business listed as 2014-Present. Since it is my most recent work history, I have found that people I am interviewing with are focusing primarily on that facet of my resume. It usually starts off well enough, as I am able to point to evidence of my great customer service with thousands of positive reviews, the amount of inventory management and deliverables I am solely responsible for daily, as well as marketing and being self motivated. My Etsy store is a fairly large one by Etsy standards, and the website shows my lifetime sales of around 28,000.

However, in every interview, they ask what I will do with my online store if I get the job. I’m not going to lie and say that I will close my store, especially after my layoff proved to me how important it is to have something to fall back on if things don’t work out with my primary job. If I try to downplay the amount of work that goes into my store, then it also devalues the skills I am leaning on to show I am qualified for what I am applying for. I usually explain that I have two part-time 1099 employees who are fully trained and available whenever my store gets to be too much, but it still does seem to be a bit of a sticking point with my interviewers.

I am not applying for high level jobs that would demand 60+ hours per week. I can happily and easily work entry-level 40-hour weeks and balance my business, but I’m wondering if the stigma of listing an Etsy business like a “real” job (which it is) is hurting me as they think I will never take a regular day job seriously enough. But I am fully aware that my Etsy store will most likely never be successful enough to not have to worry about also having a “day job.”

I also wonder if it is wrong to have it listed on my resume at all and if I’m missing out on even being invited to interviews because my only recent work history is something many people may not take seriously. You ran a column months ago about someone listing a MLM on their resume and unfortunately, while VERY different, that is how most employers will view my business. I feel like many hiring managers seem very concerned that I will not be a dependable employee due to my Etsy store. Should I just remove my Etsy store from my resume and deal with the stigma of a 15+ month resume gap? I know I would be a great employee if someone would just give me a chance!

Don’t take it off your resume! It’s impressive and valuable experience that the right job will value.

If you weren’t getting any interviews, I’d say to experiment with removing it and see if that changed anything, but you’re getting interviews! So it’s more likely just a matter of figuring out how to talk about it with your interviewers.

My hunch is that you’re giving too much detail when you explain why the Etsy shop won’t interfere with a day job. You’re citing your two part-time employees to explain that they’ll be able to handle things for you — but that’s likely making interviewers more concerned, not less, because now they’re picturing you not only running a separate business but managing two people on top of it. And that makes it sound even more time-consuming and more of a priority!

Instead, try something like this: “It was great to be able to lean into it last year given how the pandemic affected the food and business industry, but I’ve set things up so that it only takes a few hours a week from me now and I’m ready to return it to hobby status so I can focus on a role like the one with you.”

I know it’s not really hobby status for you. But framing it that way is likely to put interviewers at ease in a way that “I manage two people” will not be.

(Also, I don’t think you need to worry about employers viewing an Etsy shop as in any way akin to an MLM! MLMs are problems because they’re unethical and deceptive, both in their selling practices and in the way their reps are encouraged to portray their work. Etsy shops aren’t associated with that kind of shadiness at all!)

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. drpuma*

    I wonder if this is a scenario where it would make sense to group resume items by industry or skillset. I’m imagining a “Food & Beverage” or “Customer-Facing” section followed by an “Entrepreneurship” or “Maker” section.

    1. Dusk*

      Or even just “relevant experience” and “other experience”. People may ask since it is still the most recent work OP has done, but it might be less prominent if it’s not so high up on the resume.

      1. Maggie*

        I had to move bc of my husband’s work during the Great Recession, and it took me years to break back into my current industry in the new state. Licensing took forever, funding was down, there were fewer opening bc of the recession. I had to work in another industry for a time to get by financially. So now my resume has three sections: Education, Experience, and Expertise. The first 2 are exactly what they sound like, but the third section are specific technology skills I gained at an assortment of jobs in the other industry that are really valuable to my current industry. It’s served me well. Interviewers briefly ask, “Oh, where’d you learn that?” and I answer honestly, but the focus stays on my skills and not the old job. Something similar might work for the OP.

        1. Maggie*

          TL;DNR summary: I’ve found employers value your drive to stay employed AND respect your desire to not do what you were doing just to get by. Put them both on the resume.

        2. Raina*

          LW here! Thanks for that idea! I do think I might toggle my resume a bit to see what that would look like. I’ve also had a variety of jobs over the years with a lot of interesting skills gained, but jobs that are over 10 years ago, so they get lost at the bottom of my resume.

          1. Quantum Hall Effect*

            What if you played with putting your Etsy shop second instead of first in chronological order? That way the highlight would be on your most recent full-time position with the effect of framing you, the candidate, as a person who holds typical full-time positions with the Etsy shop as a secondary. Putting your Etsy shop at the top, while technically correct since it is technically your most recent position, frames you as a person who primarily runs an Etsy shop.

            1. RunningShoesAndSchoolID*

              I work for my husband’s business while also holding a full time job. I’m currently job hunting, and I put my husband’s business second so that the eyes are drawn to my most relevant experience. When asked, I definitely mention it and speak to how it adds to my skills in my field. The only time it gets weird is when they request a letter of rec from my two most recent employers. I’m like, he better speak highly of me or else he’s not getting dinner or clean clothes!

            2. Raina*

              I could try that, but my Etsy experience is more relevant to the jobs I am applying for than my previous food & beverage job. The last 8 years until Covid, I was a bar supervisor and I feel leading with that may get me overlooked by more traditional office jobs.

              1. Quantum Hall Effect*

                That’s a valid point! On the hand, if you aren’t getting good results, maybe changing things up for a bit is worth trying. As Amaranth points out, you can use the cover letter to highlight the relevant skills, and also to tie together the skills from both experiences that apply to an office job.

              2. Selena*

                If the Etsy experience is your main selling point it’d let that stay on top. Your original mail made it seem like talking about all the things you learned at Etsy was just a way to justify doing that job while searching for a job that resembles the one you lost last year.

                I think you just need to find a way to make clear that Etsy is really on the backburner for now and won’t interfer with the new job. If you are very enthousiastic about your store and talk about how you liked building it out than it might seem like you wouldn’t really want to scale it down.

                What you did with setting up your own bussines is what MLM drones claim to do. They lie because your experience is way more valuable than theirs.
                I guess it’s possible that there is sometimes confusion when you talk about having a 1-person salesbusiness (because MLM’s instruct their downline to pretend to be their own boss and hide the MLM aspect).
                But that should be quickly cleared up when it’s clear you sold several different brands and made a decent profit from sales (as opposed to making most money through recruiting new members)

          2. Amaranth*

            Cover letters would be a great way to highlight relevant skills that might not be at the top of your list, maybe with ‘I look forward to using my skills in x’ and then they can ask more about how you obtained those as part of the interview if they don’t read down.

  2. BRR*

    Would it work to explain that sales increased during the pandemic but are now returning to pre-pandemic levels? I think this would work especially well if your store sells something that was in high demand during the pandemic like face masks.

    1. pope suburban*

      Yeah, I would think that saying you’re planning to scale it down in response to demand would make perfect sense to most people. The pandemic changed a lot for a lot of people/industries, and we’ll all be making a different set of adjustments as we continue to (hopefully) adapt to a way of life that will probably more closely resemble the way we used to live. Someone who would balk at or disapprove of that is probably not someone you’d want to work for anyway, not if they’re that suspicious of you or unaware of norms/trends.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Another way to frame it is to say that it has scaled down (of its own accord like), and OP is not planning on doing any aggressive marketing to prevent this: it has been a pandemic stop-gap and she’s now interested in employment once more.

        OP: I for one will not be going back to shopping in stores. I love the stuff I find on Etsy, it’s much easier to find organic (relatively) local vegan produce there than in shops. Organic local and vegan here is prohibitively expensive and while I believe in supporting local businesses and voting with my wallet, I do need some money left in that wallet. I love Etsy businesses!

    2. BRR*

      Also if your previous role strengthens your candidacy for the jobs you’re applying to more than etsy, I think you can either list etsy second on your work history even though it’s not the most recent or place it in its own section lower down on your resume.

    3. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I’d only be wary of the implication that if sales began to go up again it would mean the focus would shift back to the Etsy business and away from the job they’re interviewing for. Alison’s suggestion of saying they’re ready for it to revert back to a “hobby level” is more in line with planning to keep it low-key.

      1. rachel in nyc*

        that would be my concern. I like Alison’s language. Or a simple, you ramped it up out of necessity when you were laid off (furloughed?) from your previous job while you waited to go back to your day job.

    4. Raina*

      LW here. My increase was due to a lot of people being bored at home and online shopping, but also the adoptions of ‘pandemic pets’ (my shop does pet products). I do think that would be pretty easy to explain to interviewers, and I have used the uptick in orders in 2020 as an example of reacting quickly to unforseen events. Thank you for your advice!

  3. HereKittyKitty*

    I wouldn’t take it off either- what you’re doing is very impressive! I like Alison’s language here, but also the suggestion above that you can talk about how you’re scaling it down since the demand has tapered off since the pandemic.

  4. The Rural Juror*

    28,000 pieces sold since 2014. That is IMPRESSIVE! Way to go, LW!

    I would emphasize to interviewers that you’re ready to push your side business back to being on the side, and not front and center like it has been for the duration of the pandemic. Good luck out there!

    1. OklahomaMama*

      Indeed! I’ve been on Etsy since 2007. I tell people it’s the side hustle to my Muggle job ;)

    2. Raina*

      Thank you! The store was actually opened in 2010, so not quite as impressive. I was a co-founder, and me and the other owner split the store in two to manage them better, so I took full control in 2014 and we are now “sister stores” to eachother. :)

      1. LC*

        Don’t sell yourself short, that’s still amazing!

        Completely aside from however much time you spend actually making the things, you’ve been processing hundreds of orders a month, and that is impressive. Go you!

  5. RealPerson01*

    I was just thinking about this same type of question yesterday but with a cottage we rent out on airbnb. Different type of business, but still lots of skills that go into it.

    Any reason I’m not thinking of for why it shouldn’t be included?

    1. BRR*

      Just brainstorming here (not trying to start a debate) but there a some people who are against Airbnb because of what it has done to the housing market in certain areas.

      I imagine this is going to sound harsher in text than I intend but I’m not sure renting one property out is going to strengthen your resume that much. There are certainly many skills that go into it (customer service, marketing, maintenance etc.), but if you have other experience in those areas I would leave renting a cottage off.

      1. Pop*

        Yes, I see being a host on Airbnb as TOTALLY different than having a store on Etsy. The OP has a small business and uses Etsy as a platform to connect with sellers. Unless you’re running an entire *actual* B&B, and just happen to use Airbnb as a platform to rent it out, I’d skip listing it. It doesn’t have the same amount of work or air of legitimacy as a small business. You may be someone who pays taxes, has their property registered, etc! But there are many more hosts who don’t.

        1. ThatGirl*

          There are some people whose whole Thing is multiple vacation rentals that are on VRBO or Airbnb. But in that case it’s more of being a property manager and less of “Airbnb host”.

        2. ABBBBK*

          Politics aside, renting out an AirBnB is perceived to be more like having a rental house or renting a spare room. Sure, there are extra skills and responsibilities involved, but it’s not the same as having an actual business that you run (unless you have a lot of real estate, in which case you do run a business and it could be relevant). Most people don’t put land lording on their resumes.

      2. PT*

        I live in an area where we struggle with “problem” AirBnbs, too. Like someone putting a house on AirBnb in a quiet, residential neighborhood and then kitting it out to rent as an illegal nightclub, where there will be loud music, drunk people, and the occasional violent altercation in the street at all hours of the night every weekend.

        There was one in my neighborhood and it took four months of dedicated work to get it shut down. The people who abutted said property were Not Pleased.

    2. Firecat*

      I work in finance and a lot of people own a condo or 2-5 that they rent out and manage. It’s not on any of their resumes because it’s not really a business. Unless you have a property management group you created and have employees in it’s not really the same. Listing on your resume that you manage a property that you rent out would get some confused looks from me and my colleagues since we don’t see that as particularly noteworthy.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Most of what you do is what a homeowner would do in terms of maintenance and houseguests. You don’t even have the marketing work.

  6. Mental Lentil*

    OMG, a level of success this high on Etsy means that LW has TONS of transferable skills and traits. Being able to prioritize, organize, and then follow through means a lot when I’m interviewing candidates.

    1. Raina*

      I’m the LW. Thank you so much for the kind words! My store definitely has given me a lot of skills that I think would transfer to a multitude of jobs. Hopefully I’ll eventually get an interviewer who is more familiar with the platform!

  7. Clorinda*

    Be sure to emphasize that the Etsy business predates Covid. You were successfully working both before Covid shut down your day job, so you know how to manage that balance. Make sure you say that.

    1. BigHairNoHeart*

      This is SUCH a good point, it’s demonstrable proof that you can handle the Etsy business while having another full time job.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, this will show you can prioritize and handle both. It lets you mention how you were able to ramp up during covid and how the side business helped you hone many skills which will be of use in a new position. You can also discuss how your business venture made you think about your career path and led to pursuing work in another field.

      Use Alison’s script and avoid giving lots of detail about how you are going to cut back on your side hustle. Just say “I am going to return to the volume of business I was at before my layoff period” and let it go.

      What you’ve done is really impressive. Good luck!

    3. Raina*

      Thank you for the advice! I do think that I could do better on making it clear that juggling both hasn’t been an issue for me in the past.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Juggling is a HUGE skill so yes, work on that!
        (as someone who can’t juggle to save her life, I admire you!)

  8. Annony*

    I think instead of citing your two employees, you could say that you did both previously and will scale back down to that level.

  9. justabot*

    Or something like I was so fortunate to be able to pursue this during the pandemic, but my focus now is using these skills in a role in x industry

  10. Fan of Etsy*

    Along the lines of what Alison said about it being a hobby, I’d focus on you being in front to control demand of your shop instead of focusing on how you have employees who can work more if demand increases.

    If they ask about the business, you can highlight why you’d prefer a “regular” 9-5 type job and then say that once you have a more regular job, you’ll know how many hours you’ll have available to dedicate towards your shop and can set limits on how much you’ll sell from your Etsy shop in terms of inventory and/or services offered so you’re not overextended.

    That might help alleviate concerns that you’d start working full time on your shop if business were to pick up. You still might but they don’t need to know that in the interview.

    1. Raina*

      As to your last point, I would have to double my present sales to be able to afford health insurance and taxes and after this many years (and my product not being terribly niche), I’ve realized that it will probably never be enough for me to not have another job. I will definitely start emphasizing more that I control the flow of business and I can literally ‘pause’ it entirely if I need to. Thank you for the advice. :)

    2. Paris Geller*

      Agree. I think the issue, OP, is when you go into details about how you have hired people to work on the shop, it makes it look like the Etsy shop is your primary job and you’re hoping the full-time employment you’re trying to land will be your secondary focus, even if that’s not true. I would do what I could to flip that around so that an employer knows you’re committed to full-time work (at least for the foreseeable future) and the Etsy store is your “secondary” job.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, this is what I have to do with indie publishing. I emphasize that it’s a side gig, it will probably remain a side gig, and that I’ve done it around full-time work for a long time, that it let me use X and Y skills from my prior work, and it’s taught me W and Z, which I can bring to my day job. It also demanded I learn new skills and those are R and T, yadda yadda yadda.

  11. PJS*

    Are you specifying that it is an Etsy shop? If so, do you think it’s the “Etsy” part that makes people not take it seriously? If so, just list the name of your business. It doesn’t matter that you have chosen Etsy as your shop platform. If you used Shopify or Big Cartel to sell online, would you say you had a Shopify shop or a Big Cartel shop? Just say that your business is Totally Terrific Teapots and that it’s a custom teapot business. I realize that doesn’t help with the concern over how you’ll do both that and the new job, but it could help with the concern about it being taken seriously.

    1. Malika*

      This is a very good suggestion. Leading with the business name and description of the development and achievements of the business is way more important information than the website the clients visited in order to make a purchase. Using Etsy as a platform is no different than Shopify. Building an online business from scratch and selling such a big amount of product are admirable achievements that have made the LW a very good job candidate! If they have been known for the quality of their product and great customer service, the hiring manager will jump at the chance for an interview.

      1. Raina*

        LW here. You are very correct and thank you for the compliments! I think only about half of the interviewers I’ve had actually know what Etsy is besides “oh, my friend has an Etsy store making Llama dioramas, but she’s only sold 3” and when trying to show that my store is fairly busy by Etsy standards, I get stuck in a catch22 where I have to prove I’m a busy store, but that I also have plenty of time for a full time job.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          You might want to stress how much of the 28,000 sales were during the pandemic?

    2. Bee*

      I dunno, it sounds like the OP’s biggest concern is interviewers thinking the side business will always be their primary concern, and I wouldn’t think making it sound more “legitimate” would help with that. Noting that it’s run on Etsy makes it much easier to demonstrate how it could scale up to support them during the pandemic but can also scale down to hobby level.

    3. Raina*

      I’m the LW. I do not specify that it is an Etsy store. I have it just listed as ‘Business Name, Owner.’ However, if you Google the business name, Etsy will be the absolute first result. I do have specifically listed that I “have cultivated thousands of outstanding online reviews” which might be making people decide to Google it even more than they previously would have, so perhaps I will take that line out. However, I am applying for a lot of customer serviced based jobs, so I think my 5-star reviews really speaks to my customer service skills. Maybe I will send a few resumes out without that line and see if it affects the reactions at all.

      1. F as in Frank*

        I would recommend leaving the clear result of thousands of outstanding reviews on you resume. It is exactly the type of result that shows what a great candidate you are. Keeping it in and using Alison’s framing of back to hobby status during the interview should work.

  12. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I had a manager with a side business owning and managing rental properties, and she missed a huge amount of work dealing with emergencies that came up in her side hustle. She ended up resigning, and I believe it was not voluntary. I can understand why interviewers are concerned, especially when they hear that your side business is large enough for you to have employees.

    1. AndreaC*

      Yeah, most of my interview questions about this would be to determine if your day job going to have your full attention during work hours.

    2. Raina*

      LW here. I 100% understand the concern from interviewers! I will most definitely take Alison’s advice to stop bringing my employees up. They are 2 SAHMs who only come and help when it’s busy and I pay them per piece and give a 4 day deadline when I need it done by (i.e. $3 per teapot and I need these 10 teapots done by Friday). Due to the nature of my side hustle, it has never affected my regular job, since there is no real ‘dog collar emergencies’ like there is in property management. I do my sewing at night and answer customer questions on scheduled breaks. My last job we were not allowed cell phones on our person at all (because restaurants) and I would just handle things before or after my shifts. I think I’ve relayed that fairly well in interviews, but it is definitely something to be very cognizant about, thank you for commenting!

  13. Abogado Avocado*

    OP: I think it matters less WHERE your small business markets its products than the fact that you own and operate a small business (and I say this as a very happy Etsy customer), even if it doesn’t provide you all the monetary support you require. You are an entrepreneur (!!!) and — as Alison points out — this has given you many management skills that a hiring manager should want in a job candidate. You also understand how your managerial skills contribute to the business’ bottom line because this allows you to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not. If your resume doesn’t list all the skills your entrepreneurship has helped you sharpen, it should because those make you a valuable candidate. Among other things, operating this business has helped you identify needs and fill them — and hiring managers usually want candidates who can identify gaps that should be filled.

    You sound terrific and I wish you lots of luck! (Although I wish you’d listed your Etsy shop because I’d love to do some shopping. . .)

    1. Machiamellie*

      I think we need a thread of Alison’s regulars posting their Etsy shops! :)

      1. Raina*

        I would love this thread! I love Etsy and buy everything I can from there. My ENTIRE wedding was from Etsy stores, even our wedding rings and my dress!

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I was just about to ask Raina whether she does dog harnesses because I’ll be needing a new one soon – my dog loves to play with other dogs who frequently maul his harness!

        1. Raina*

          RebelwithMouseyHair,

          I do! I saw below that you found my store already. Message me through Etsy about getting one. I only do them on a custom basis using your pup’s measurements. :) :)

    2. meyer lemon*

      Given the issues the LW is dealing with, I actually think calling it an Etsy store is probably beneficial, because lots of people do have them as hobbies and it shouldn’t be too difficult to explain that it used to be a hobby that was scaled up during the pandemic but will be scaled back down to make time for full-time work. (I agree with Alison that the “hobby” language will help put employers at ease, even if it’s not exactly how the LW sees it.)

    3. Raina*

      Thank you SO much for the amazing compliments! I do hope to eventually find a company who can see everything you’ve just commented above! I am definitely going to re-work that section of my resume to better represent what skills go into my store that don’t already overlap with skills from other jobs (I can probably take off the customer service aspect and focus more on inventory management and marketing because my other jobs are almost all customer service based).

      As for listing my store…is that allowed?? I don’t want to run afoul of any ad/spam rules here, so if a mod wants to let me know if that’s OK, I’ve got no problem linking it (anyone who knows me IRL would easily guess this is me.) For the record, I make ribbon pet collars and leashes.

      1. Tuppence*

        Just as a suggestion, perhaps the best approach on this site would be to give sufficient clues as to your business name and product to make it easy for the commentariat to find it, but without including the specific link… what you probably don’t want is for prospective employers to google your store name, have the Etsy result come up top, followed immediately by this page as the second result :)

        1. Raina*

          Ohhh, that is a great point that I didn’t think of!

          Let’s just say that if you Google “day dog collars Raina” my store should be in the first couple of results. :) :)

  14. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    OP, you could even just explain to them that sales kicked up a lot during COVID, when people were stuck at home and more apt to buying stuff since they couldn’t spend their money on experiences, like going to restaurants, movies, vacations, etc., but you see the world is shifting back to the new normal so the business, while still successful, is slowing down. Maybe also add in that you see this as a good opportunity too to get back to working with a team in a more structured setting and applying your skills to (whatever makes sense in the context). There does not seem to be anything alarming in mentioning the business slowing down, since it makes perfect sense in the wider context of everything that has been happening.

    1. Raina*

      That is a great point that any logical person would get that the slowdown isn’t do to bad business management, but the world changing back to normal now that people can shop in stores again. Thank you so much for your advice.

      1. With AAM on this*

        OP, I believe you are overthinking it!

        AAM has the perfect answer. You are getting interviews, so no need to tweak your resume (much less remove the mention to your thousands of outstanding reviews, such a great accomplishments).

        I’ve recently interviewed people for account manager jobs, and this is the kind of answer that would convince me that you’re not simply looking for a temp job while trying to scale your business:

        “It was great to be able to lean into it last year given how the pandemic affected the food and business industry, but I’ve set things up so that it only takes a few hours a week from me now and I’m ready to return it to hobby status so I can focus on a role like the one with you.”

        1. Raina*

          Thank you for the advice! I am always overthinking pretty much almost everything, so you are probably spot on that I am doing it here as well, haha.

  15. Pikachu*

    You could also say something like “With the pandemic, I had a unique opportunity to grow this business, and it helped me improve [X and Y skills related to the position]. Now, I’m ready to scale it back to hobby status and use what I learned to contribute to a larger organization.”

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Great answer!!

      The OP could also add that running an Etsy store has been fun and was very useful for income during the pandemic, but that their career goals are to do X and Y in Z industry, and that is their primary focus.

  16. JRR*

    If you choose to omit or deemphasize it for any reason, I don’t think you need to worry about the appearance of a 15-month employment gap. Especially a gap starting in March 2020 will be entirely unremarkable and self-explanatory to any reasonable hiring manager.

    1. Raina*

      Especially because my previous experience was in Food & Beverage, so everyone gets it. But I’m relying on the skills I’ve learned with my store to secure an “office job” so, overall, I believe it does help more than it harms. I just needed some different scripts of how the frame my store.

      1. insertusername*

        I think your ability to “pivot” during the pandemic when food and beverage was hit really hard is admirable, and now you are ready to pivot back to full time employment again, etc.

  17. Qwerty*

    Your defensiveness about it being a “real job” sounds like it is getting in your way. If you feel like it has been relevant work experience over the past year or so, then own that and explain how it helps and how you will balance your time between the two jobs. Almost every freelancer or someone who lists their side business on a resume gets asked about this – it isn’t a stigma issue, it is important for a potential manager to know where your focus will be during work hours or if you are likely to be burning yourself out. All you need to do is explain how you’ve been able to scale down your hours.

    Have you considered changing the timeline on your Etsy shop to reflect when it became your “main gig”? It might help make it more clear if you listed it as a job for 2020-Present, then in the first bullet point said something like “Founded in 2014, scaled up to full time work during 2020 to meet demand for face masks” (my phrasing is not great). This might help your interviewer auto-translate that the Etsy work was part time, then full time, and will soon be part time again.

    Also, sounds like a great point to address in your cover letter!

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Good point. Reviewing the life of the Etsy business in the cover letter is a great way to highlight the valuable skills gained there and get the information in front of the interviewers before the interview.

    2. Raina*

      LW here. Yeah, you are 100% correct that I am a defensive about it. Maybe I’ve gone to one too many pre-pandemic “small business owners” networking meet ups only to find myself surrounded by a plethora of MLM ‘business owners’ lol.

      I really like your suggestion to frame it differently in the context of when and why it became my only job. Thank you for your advice!

  18. A Feast of Fools*

    I co-own a small business that has five full-time employees. A lot of what I do for that business are directly applicable to the job I do now and every job I’ve interviewed for / worked at since starting the business back in 2003.

    I simply tell interviewers that, yes, the business took a lot of my time to get it off the ground but now I easily manage my piece of it in a few hours over the weekend and maybe a handful of emails in the evenings, and note that otherwise, it’s on autopilot for the most part. I also say, “I’ve never once had Small Business interfere with any of my full-time roles.”

    For some interviewers who just couldn’t seem to truly understand how little it would interfere, I said something along the lines of, “Some people garden in their free time, spending hours outdoors digging in the dirt on their weekends; I prefer doing something that I both enjoy *and* that makes me a bit of extra money.”

  19. Krabby*

    We recently hired two people at my company who listed Etsy businesses on their resumes. That work experience definitely did help push them over the top (both were customer facing roles) but I would also have been concerned if, when we asked about their future plans for those shops in interviews, they’d said they had employees who could handle it. That takes it from a valuable side hustle to a full time commitment in my mind.

    1. Raina*

      Thank you for the advice! I am definitely going to leave my employees out of it from now on. They are more like seasonal freelances than employees and my wording was really poor about making that clear.

  20. MCMonkeybean*

    I like Alison’s wording but I might phrase the end more like “so I can focus on something more stable.” I feel like that addresses a bit if there is any concern about whether you would regret returning to a regular job by including a reason why you would prefer to have a “day job” as your primary work and spend less time maintaining your store.

    I also agree with a few other comments I saw suggesting that if it is continually causing weirdness then maybe you could include it on your resume but don’t list it as the top thing. If you put it as an “other experience” or something it may cut down on that being the main focus while still allowing you to point to it some and speak to the skills it has given you.

    1. Raina*

      Thank you for the advice! I’ve used some version of that, but I could do better at emphasizing the fact that I absolutely need a source of income that is more reliable than Etsy. I replied to someone above, but I think letting employers know I can “pause” my store at any time I want will help as well.

      1. insertusername*

        I think consistent employment might be a good word to use in this instance. That while you valued having a successful online store to focus on during the pandemic when food & beverage opportunities were limited, with people turning more to in person shopping again, you are looking to return to consistent full time employment. And that your success with the online store taught you x, y, z and made you realize you had a skill set to go into job-you-are-applying-for instead of returning to F&B.

        You can always add something to tie the job skills together like, you truly have a passion for customer service and doing everything you can to ensure that customers have an enjoyable experience, etc or ease of booking/check out/finding what they are looking for, etc that you would also bring to this role.

  21. Snackers*

    Is the field you’re applying in Etsy adjacent? If so, I’d take the advice of leaving the Etsy portion out, and just list your store name. My field is Etsy adjacent, so we’re more familiar with the issues that can be associated with Etsy shops – and to be honest, on reading the title of the column I inwardly cringed. I never realized how negative the association was until just now! I don’t foresee all that many roles/fields where that would be a problem, so you probably already can tell if that is a possibility.

    1. Raina*

      Hi, LW here. Not really as of yet. I am also changing industries basically from what I did pre-Covid, so I am casting a wide net to where I am applying. The only Etsy adjacent business I may and try to apply to would be PayPal. I do only list my store name, not Etsy, but when Googled, my Etsy store will pop up first. I don’t bring up Etsy and refer to it only as ‘my online store’ unless the interviewer does first.

      Personally, I think the negative association has to do with the fact that there can be VERY successful Etsy stores right alongside not very successful stores, and almost everyone knows someone who has an Etsy store. So each person brings their own bias into it. If your cousin quit her regular job to sell llama dioramas on Etsy and is now broke because she’s not selling enough to pay her bills, that will color your perception of anyone involved in Etsy. So, I do feel the need to counteract that by bringing up the fact that I’m in the top 20 stores for my category, while also trying to say, ‘but I still have enough time to put in 40 here!’

      1. Snackers*

        I saw above that you don’t list it as an Etsy store, so that takes care of my concern. I like the other ideas you’ll incorporate too. The negative associations I was referring to are very different than what you mentioned, primarily centered on pricing, business ethics, etc. (not that all Etsy sellers have these issues!) I don’t see any questions arising with applying to Paypal.

  22. Former ops manager*

    If you’re looking for entry level positions then talking yourself up to the extent that you’re running a business and employing 2 part time staff is counter productive.

    Pitch your abilities at the level of the job you’re looking for. I wouldn’t take the Etsy shop off completely but I would downplay it to relevant experience for the role you’re seeking vs relevant experience for two levels up from that.

  23. Sophie*

    I wouldn’t take it off your resume. It shows what you’ve been doing with your time and that you’ve been productive! At one point, I had a blog and focused on that full-time for a period of time. When I decided to go back and re-enter my field, I included it on my resume (even though the blog was not related to my previous industry). I was able to talk about what I had learned and all of the new skills I acquired. Interviewers found it interesting. And I was able to find a job in my previous industry!

  24. Raina*

    Hello everyone!

    I am the LW and I just wanted to thank Alison for answering my letter and the great advice. I have a lot to think about in terms of reframing how I think I’m being perceived by people doing the hiring for the jobs to which I am applying. Where I thought I was showing I had my ‘side hustle’ covered, I was creating more questions than answers and I can’t believe I didn’t take into account how that would sound to an employer!

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment and I’ve already got some great advice and tips on how to present my Etsy gleaned skills in interviews.

    Please let me know here if you have any other questions about my letter that I can explain better. I hope everyone reading has a fantastic evening!

    1. Katefish*

      I don’t really have anything to add to the great advice, but your positivity is a joy and I wish you the stable day job of your dreams!

  25. Zen*

    I struggled with this in a recent interview (though I got the job!) wherein my 10-year freelance history was listed first or second on my resume, and gave the Big Boss on the interview panel the impression I had no time for an office job. In reality, I was dying to move away from ‘the gig economy’ in favour of stability — which I explained in the interview — so I’m relieved they believed me! Describe your side-hustle by the time you *want* it to take up (that is, much less!); you’re looking for the stability of a ‘9–5’.

    1. Raina*

      Congrats on getting yourself a stable job! Did you give straight hourly per week to them? I feasibly can run my store on about 15 hours a week, but I wonder if that would still be too much for some jobs?

  26. Squeebird*

    Honestly, someone just applied for a position with us who included their crafty side business on their resume, and it’s only made me want to interview them MORE. They included a link to their Instagram and I’m just drooling over their amazing work. So I would say, keep it in!

    1. Raina*

      That’s good to know! Are you in a creative field? I could see how it would be really beneficial to some of the more creative based jobs (like marketing). I’m actually trying to filter out that sort of work, because honestly, all my creative mojo is sapped by my business. I’m focusing on customer service, accounting and inventory based positions in my search.

      1. Squeebird*

        I’m in public libraries in fact, but we do hire from a wide variety of walks of life and some of our staff have really interesting hobbies and side things going on. In my opinion it just makes them more interesting people to work with, and they can really connect with patrons who share their passions!

  27. Lobsterp0t*

    Yeah. I think making it clear that you’re demoting the business back to enjoyable side hustle is the way to go.

  28. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Having hired 2 part-time employees shows experience with management and payroll /taxes.
    If you say you are returning to hobby status, prepare for follow-up questions about those employees. Offhand my first ideas are: Are you still going to be managing them? What’s the plan if one quits abruptly? How many hours do they work, and when?
    Similar to what Alison pointed out, he employer will want to make sure you are not managing your own employees on their time.

    1. Raina*

      I realize now that I used poor word choice in reference to my ’employees’. They are more like seasonal freelancers. There’s not much active management needed from me and they are both SAHMs, so have flexible schedules. I just message them a request (I need 10 teapots done be Friday, would you like to do them?) and they either accept or decline. None of that needs to happen during whatever business hours I would be working. Since my last line of work was F&B, cell phones were a no-no, so I was fully checked-in at my ‘day job’ while I was there.

      If one of them were to stop abruptly, I could easily train someone else up on the weekend and since it’s so flexible (they get paid per tea pot produced and can work at whatever pace suits them) I usually have no problem finding someone to help out if needed.

  29. HatBeing*

    Late to the game here, but years ago I brought someone in who listed their Etsy business at the top of their resume, followed by restaurant work and various odd contract jobs. They applied for a support role, but they interviewed better for our sales team so we took a chance and brought them on although they didn’t fit our ‘profile’. Three years later they are the star of our sales team and have completely re-written our sales playbook, focusing on building relationships over dials.

    Any business who can’t see the dedication and ingenuity it takes to run a successful Etsy store probably doesn’t deserve your hard work!

    1. Raina*

      Oh man, that’s so good to hear that there is hope! I’ve had office jobs in the past and I usually get great reviews and fast promotions, so I know I can do the work, just having trouble getting my foot in the door at this point. Thanks for sharing that anecdote!

  30. Erin*

    Re: Etsy. I’m of the mindset that to have a thriving Etsy store since 2014 that you were able to pay your bills with and hire 2 employees = a really awesome professional (and personal) achievement! Etsy is flooded with creators and artists, and each seller is responsible for every aspect of their business (finance, marketing, customer service, inventory of the actual product, etc). I find it impressive when people can successfully do this, and it definitely speaks to your professional skills & experience.

    I think Allison is definitely right on this one… maybe move it on your resume or refine the bullet points to reflect more about X than Y & Z. But I would definitely keep it on there. People who have successful home-grown & small scale side hustles have real experience & skill, and they are an asset to lots of companies.

  31. lilsheba*

    I wonder if people would be supportive if someone in this position had a witchy shop on Etsy? I hope so. Still has the same skill set.

    1. Raina*

      I think it would depend on the place and what level of witchy-ness of the product. Probably not more conservative industries, but I think the tide is turning on things like that and some places wouldn’t care about the content. There are some REALLY beautiful witchy items on Etsy!

  32. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    It might help when they ask about the Etsy shop to speak of it in terms of “Side Hustle” or “Second Stream of Income”. It might focus it as in addition to Full Time Job as in the way of Full Time Job in their minds more. Some places will actually see this as a bonus too. If you have the initiative to run a side business while working full time they will see you as more driven.

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