2020 (and 2019) Year In Review

I prepared two versions of my 2020 review: one here which focuses on business goals and plans, and another, on my personal blog, which focuses on personal development.

I didn’t do a year in review for 2019 (in fact, I didn’t publish any blog posts after November 2019) , which would have been helpful as a comparison point to see where my head was before the world changed. I do have some record of what my goals were in 2019, since I use the 12 Week Year  format to establish, track and measure goals.

2019 In a Nutshell

  • Decided to specialize in building websites for small school/education-focused nonprofit industries
    • Created explainer video
  • Launched a Pro Bono Offering
    • Dropped idea for in-person Website Weekend event due to lack of interest from others to coordinate it with me
  • Began offering CPC advertising to existing clients
  • Attended Content Camp, Pressnomics and WordCamp Lancaster and WordCamp US
  • Ran in a RAGNAR-Style Relay Race
  • Mentored High School Student
  • Joined the Board of the Educational Theatre Company
  • Tried and failed to learn to play the piano

2020 Review

In looking back on a year that is often referred to as a “dumpster fire,” I used a template provided by RescueTime. I use this app to help monitor my activity online. I have the premium version so I can customize categories and get reports of how I spent my time. This is especially useful for me, because I am terrible at tracking my time manually using the Toggl app. According to RescueTime, in 2020, I spent 2427 hours online.

The RescueTime Year In Review Template is not about time, however. It is a helpful way to analyze the wins and losses for me personally and professionally, and tied into my goal planning for the first 12 week year of 2021 (1Q). You can view my review here.

Evaluating Priorities and Values

With the global pandemic wreaking havoc, and the increased national focus on the racial justice movement,  in 2020 I focused on my role as a citizen and business owner giving back to my community, rather than on growing my business. Like many others, I read a lot, listened a lot, and spoke out about my commitment to helping causes that were important to me. I participated in Get Out The Vote efforts, and donated more than ever before to organizations that support underserved communities and which promote racial justice. I made it clear that my company values the Black Lives Matter movement and gender equality. I reviewed policies and processes to help ensure we keep representation in mind when building websites and looking for new clients. I also offered discounts and free services to businesses which were struggling from the impact of the pandemic shutdown.

Getting to Know the School Marketing Community

In 2019, I chose to niche-down as an agency. In 2020, I reinforced the commitment to specializing in websites for small schools, camps and education-focused nonprofits. This meant investing in and getting to know this community. I reached out to consultants and agencies who also work with schools and who do not offer website services. I also reached out to some larger web agencies who service schools to introduce myself. As a small agency which only works with WordPress, I have a very specific target audience which may not be a good fit for larger agencies. So far, these efforts have not resulted in any new business. However, I have developed relationships with some wonderful new people I call friends, and have learned a lot about the unique challenges facing educational organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 In a Nutshell


  • Visited my daughter in Chicago for her 21st birthday
  • Attended women’s mastermind in Florida
  • Visited my In-Laws in Florida
  • Attended WordCamp Miami and met my amazing Assistant Lauren in person (got in one WordCamp before the Pandemic lockdown)
  • Helped plan and then cancel WordCamp DC
  • Visited my parents in South Carolina
Me and Design TLC’s amazing Client Service Associate, Lauren at WordCamp Miami

School/Camp/Nonprofit Niche

  • Tried some direct mail and cold calling to local schools (and confirmed this is not my cup of tea!) 
  • Invested in sponsorship of school marketing community
  • Reached out to and engaged with school marketing consultants
    • Joined a women’s school marketing consultant mastermind
  • Conducted 2 webinars for schools with other school marketing professionals
  • Featured in school marketing podcast to talk about SEO for schools 

Business Stuff

  • Hired an intern, now associate, to write my blog content and help with social media
  • Added WPHelp plugin to top sites to keep documentation on how things are built, etc.
  • Helped client Tiny Chefs pivot to online course offerings

2021 Goals

I love using the 12 Week Year format to create goals for my business and my personal life. I have played with a variety of formats for listing, tracking and scoring. I may try using my current task management app, ToDoIst for this, and am also looking at the newly popular ClickUp. After going down a rabbit hole with these two systems this week, I am going to stick with my tried and true Google Sheet method for now, as it is simple and I am used to it. One of the keys to the 12 Week Year is scoring your progress, which is not something task apps do (you can click “complete” but it doesn’t create a score)

My goals for the next 12 weeks include both business and personal development goals.

Business Goals

Gain One New Client in Niche

I am working with a marketing company to reach out to small school contacts to introduce myself and offer my services. I do not like cold calling and direct marketing, so hopefully with the guidance of an expert, I can work within my comfort level and get one new client this quarter.

Establish Design TLC and Tara Claeys as Authority/Expert for Schools/Education/Nonprofits

I will continue to look for opportunities to speak and teach within the school marketing community. I have some new ideas specific plans on the calendar. I will also promote an “Ask Me Anything” offering to provide free advice to the school marketing community.

Build Self-Esteem

I talk more about low self-esteem, something I have long struggled with, in my personal blog. I have done some research on approaches to improve one’s self-esteem. These focus on reflection and self-talk. It will take discipline and commitment to make progress on this lifelong thought process. I also want to be sure I am doing this for my own benefit and not to be more likable and fit in.

Explore Creative Expression and Limit Screentime

Creativity used to be fun. I spend so much time on the computer that I no longer trust myself to explore creativity that is not digital. I am joining a writing group (writing by hand!) and also continuing some yoga challenges to offer space for open, creative thinking. While I have separated from my spirituality lately, I am implementing a nightly prayer ritual called the Ignatian Daily Examen. This will hopefully be one more non-screentime practice that will inspire reflection and creative thought.

Give Back

I continue to find great value in participating in a local high school student mentorship program. I also started looking into additional mentorship/teaching opportunities through Junior Achievement and iThriveHer. 

My membership on the board of the Educational Theatre Company has started to take a bit more time, as the pandemic especially has increased the marketing needs and cut the staff. I have been employing some of the values/priorities that I identified into my input with this organization as well and look forward to seeing how it evolves this year as the shutdowns continue.

Lastly, I may explore a new idea for a volunteer organization this year.

Finding Hope in a Broken World

As I wrap up this review, sirens are blaring (I can hear them from my office in Arlington, Virginia) and the nation’s Capital is under siege. Over 350,000 people have died of the Coronavirus. People are distrustful of the media, the government and each other. It is hard to discern truth from lies and manipulation. Setting goals and finding motivation when faced with so much hatred and death is not easy. I intend to find acceptance of the space I need to manage stress, to forgive myself and others and to live with love and kindness.If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and best wishes for peace and happiness in 2021.

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