Four Invaluable Lessons From a Modern Success Story


I recently met an artist who’s doing such an awesome job of building momentum in her art career that I just had to share her inspiring story with you. Kimberly Adams’s vibrant, impressionistic landscapes are selling really well through two western Washington galleries, plus she’s been invited to join the online gallery, where several of her works have become top sellers. Dedicated to serving her fellow artists, she devotes a fair amount of time working for the board of a co-op gallery and chairing her local community’s monthly art walk. And thanks to the growing number of students attending her fine art finger-painting classes, she was asked to co-author an art instruction book that will be published in 2017. The extraordinary thing is that she’s managed to accomplish all this in—are you ready for this?—a little over two years!

Like so many others, Kimberly loved art even as a child, and initially studied art in college before switching to a more practical choice of a major: business. But after more than 20 years in the retail industry, she knew she had to make a change and return to her first love. “I found myself feeling unfulfilled,” she recalls. “Every year it became harder and harder to create the energy I needed to stay passionate about my career. I could no longer force myself to work in a job that didn’t reflect who I was as a person.”

Kimberly credits her successful transition to a career in art to two things: self-confidence and business acumen acquired from her many years in business. “The confidence is key,” she notes. “I thought to myself, if I could succeed in a career I didn’t feel fully engaged in, imagine what I could do if I pursued something I loved.” She knew the life of an artist would require a lot of work, but she was prepared for the challenges.

“The knowledge I gained in my corporate career has helped me accomplish goals as an artist, too,” she continues. “I’m strategic and purposeful.” In fact, Kimberly practices many of the techniques we talk about on this blog, and uses many of the same tools, including social media. But let’s focus on four of the “big picture” pieces of her approach:

1. Strategic planning. Before an artist can determine a plan of action for achieving her goals, she first has to clarify her destination, and that’s exactly how Kimberly started. “I think of the art world as a pyramid,” she explains. “At the bottom tier, you have artists selling a high volume of art at low prices, usually through art fairs and such. Knowing that I’m not that prolific, I decided I wanted to be in the next tier up, selling my work through galleries at a slightly higher price point. I aspire to an even higher place on the pyramid at higher prices, but I knew I couldn’t start there.” With that objective in mind, she dug in, did her research, and determined what steps she needed to take to reach her goals. “I looked at other artists in this category to see how they got there. What are they doing? What galleries are they in? What social media platforms are they using? I even reached out to a few of them to get their feedback and advice.” 

2. Branding. Thanks to her background in corporate retail, Kimberly also understood the value and importance of branding. “One of the things I noticed about successful artists is their awareness of their own brands,” she notes. From the beginning, she has worked hard at articulating a brand that’s completely authentic to who she is as an artist, and in reflecting that in every aspect of her marketing. For example, she recently hired a photographer to shoot new pictures of her to use in marketing. Many of them were beautiful, but for her website she selected the one that she felt best represented her personality and brand.

3. Goal setting. Here again, Kimberly uses lessons from her corporate experience and applied them to goal setting. “I set goals for each year,” she explains, “but then I break them down into smaller goals. For example, if I just say, ‘I want to be represented by another gallery,’ I might never get anywhere. So I break it down and decide that in the next 30 days I’m going to research a handful of galleries I’d like to make contact with, and in the next 90 days, I’m going to establish relationships with each of them, and so on.” Kimberly takes care to set goals that are reasonable but always result in career growth.

4. Metrics. Perhaps one of the most valuable practices Kimberly uses for growing her art career is measuring the success of each action. She says that artists have so many options available to them, but they have to pay attention to what’s working and to be willing to change what’s not working—the sooner, the better. Take social media, for instance. “In the beginning, I tried everything, including a blog,” she recalls, “but I did not see the same results from every activity. I’ve since realized that Facebook and Instagram are the right platforms for me, so that’s all I use.” Similarly, after publishing her first round of giclees and then discovering she wasn’t prepared to sell them effectively, she switched to an online print-on-demand service, and eventually signed on with Kimberly also uses basic business tools like a profit-and-loss statement to evaluate financial factors such as the price of her materials, other investments in the business, and price points to help her make smart, strategic decisions about the future. She adds, “I’ve also learned to never turn down an opportunity until I’ve tried it. Sometimes, even the smallest opportunities have turned into amazing milestones.”

Being strategic and purposeful is obviously paying huge dividends for this talented artist. And she adds, “When I put my energy into something that I deeply love doing, it doesn’t feel like I’m working hard. I’m not saying it comes easy, just that the opportunities and paths to take become clearer. I feel happier, healthier and closer to my family than ever.” 

I’m sure by now you’d like to know even more about Kimberly Adams, so please visit her website at (While you’re there, notice what a great job she’s done on that, too!) Any thoughts on strategic planning, branding, goal-setting, and metrics? Let’s connect!

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