Corrina Thurston is a wildlife artist, entrepreneur, speaker, and author working out of Vermont, USA.

I’m a chronically ill artist. This means I have a limited amount of time to work on my art business because of my lack of energy.

It’s inconsistent for me, so one day I might be able to work a full eight hours, and some days I’m in bed, unable to work at all.

I became a business not quite two years ago, and during that time I’ve discovered a   number of ways to make myself more efficient, productive, and build up my art business despite my limited time.

Here are 7 tips to help you do the same:

Prioritize the things that actually move your business forward.

This is one of the most important things you need to learn in order to grow your business in an efficient way. The difficulty here is figuring out what is going to help your business and what won’t.

Sometimes you have a great idea and for some reason, it’s a flop.

That happens; it’s okay. But if you’re continuing to donate artwork to places for the “exposure” without any money coming to you or any guarantee of payment, and your business isn’t growing because of it, you may want to rethink your strategy.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try things because you should. You’ll never know if something will work unless you try it. However, don’t keep doing the same things if you’re not seeing results. Prioritize projects and activities that are definitely going to push your business forward above all else.

Generate Passive Income

Passive income is income derived from products that don’t take any energy from you in order to fulfill an order.

For example:

Ebooks

PDF tutorials

online courses

wallpaper downloads

craft design downloads, etc.

If you have limited time to spend on things like packing, shipping, printing labels, and making products for your orders, passive income is the way to go. It’s good for any business, but especially to help you bring in money while you work on building your business in other ways.

Learn your unique working style and leverage it.

You may not realize it, but your body and your brain prefer to work a certain way. Figuring out which way your prefer gives you the first step to being your most efficient and productive self.

Do you work better with music playing?

A little bit of chaos around you?

Or are you better off with silence because otherwise you get distracted? Maybe you’re like me and need silence while doing one thing and music to keep you pumped up while doing other tasks.

Do you function better when your studio is organized or a little cluttered?

Do you work best when you work for hours, or is it best that you take breaks?

Experiment to really find out.

Set achievable goals.

A lot of people set goals and then fail to achieve them. It’s not that they’re bad goals necessarily, it’s more likely they were too overwhelming. There’s a difference between what I call a “Summit Goal”, which is a bigger goal, and what I call a “Step Goal” — goals that build on each other in order to reach your “Summit Goal”.

If you have a list of goals you’re trying to accomplish and you don’t know where to start or how to go about it, it’s likely the majority of your goals are Summit Goals. This is great, but you may need to write down your Step Goals for each one to make a path in order to reach them.

For example, if you want to have a solo exhibit at a gallery, which is a great Summit Goal, you’ll have to go through these Step Goals (and more) to get there:

research galleries

learn submission guidelines

create cover letters

create a portfolio

create a resume/CV

research who to contact at each gallery

make business cards, etc.

Keep track of your artwork.

Knowing exactly where your artwork is and who has what is critical so you don’t waste any precious time searching and trying to figure out if the piece you want to add to a contest or put at a gallery is actually available.

If you keep track of your artwork with tools like Artwork Archive, you don’t have to worry about this.

If you make sure all of your pieces are ready to hang as soon as they’re finished, in a place that’s easily accessible, you also have much less work to do for upcoming exhibits. Have business cards ready, have your about the artist statement ready, have your work ready to hang and easily accessible so things go smoothly.

Limit your distractions

This one may be common sense, but I find I sometimes have to turn off my Internet so I stop getting notifications from social media and email in order to focus. If family members are being loud, closing the door with a little sign that indicates you don’t want to be disturbed might help.

Keep sprinting ahead, despite your fears

As a business owner, you don’t have time to worry or give your fears attention. Instead, you need to sprint right over them and keep doing what you need to do.

Do you get nervous sending out emails to gallery owners? That’s okay! Just don’t let it stop you from doing it.

Have you been invited to give a speech and you’re anxious about how it’ll go? That's completely normal! Just don’t let those fears keep you from pursuing the things that will move your business forward.

If you’re a professional and you’re putting yourself out there like you should, reaching outside your comfort zone, you’re going to have fears. What you need to do is acknowledge those fears and then move on quickly because you don’t have time to waste!

If you want to learn more detail about these topics and more, check out Corinna’s new book, How To Build Your Art Business With Limited Time Or Energy.


Corrina Thurston is a wildlife artist, entrepreneur, speaker, and author working out of Vermont, USA. She specializes in detailed, vibrant colored pencil drawings of animals. She began drawing in 2010, two years after falling chronically ill, and taught herself to draw while mostly bedridden. Now she's on proper long-term treatment and what started as a therapeutic outlet has now blossomed into a career.