2021 Year In Review

Tara Claeys Goals
Tattoo reminding me of my friend, Mitzi and my many other wonderful friends, and also reminding me to treat myself like I treat my friends.
Anniversary in Asheville
30th Anniversary in Asheville, NC

2021 Review

Last year was hard. The novelty of isolation wore off. Life was supposed to return more to normal, but it never really felt normal, and maybe never will. I was a bit less motivated to make changes, and that’s ok, because I am pretty happy with my routines and habits. I lost two loved ones to cancer in 2021, and a focus of the year was on helping to love and care for them as they were dying. This experience strengthened my already deep awareness of my own mortality, and the need to have a purpose in life beyond my own happiness and contentment. Kindness and inspiring and serving others continues to be top of mind for me, as described in this poem I wrote after my father in law passed away on December 31. 

My word of the year in 2021 was “accept.” This meant accepting myself as I am. Accepting things I cannot control. I think I was able to incorporate this word into the outcomes and changes I made during the year.

2021 Business Goals

Close One New Client in Niche
Admittedly this was a very conservative goal – I ended up with 11 new clients in my niche!

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

This is not a very measurable goal. I do think that my name is “out there” more within the small school community. A couple of new clients found me on a Google search, on LinkedIn and via word of mouth. I would like to have more leads coming my way, but I am happy that most of the leads I get are extremely targeted, which I think means I am niching properly.

2021 Personal Goals

Build Self-Esteem
I made some improvements here, and will always have work to do on accepting that I am not always included when I want to be, and not being included doesn’t mean people don’t like me!

Explore Creative Expression and Limit Screentime

Besides the writing I accomplished, I didn’t really limit my screen time and still spend too much time on Instagram and Facebook. I don’t spend a lot of time in one sitting, but I do look for a few minutes a few times a day, when I could be reading or doing something more creative. I enjoy looking at Instagram in the evening before I go to bed, but would be better served by taking social media apps off of my iPad so I can just go to the Kindle app and read a book instead.

Lose 5 Pounds

My average weight is definitely a few pounds less than it was a year ago – probably not a full 5 pounds, but I am happy at my current weight and would be happy to maintain this weight.

Give Back

It is important to me to help others and share some of my good fortune with those in need. In addition to pro bono work, I continue to mentor a high school student and donate to a variety of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping those in need and making the world a better place.

2021 In a Nutshell

family photo
Grateful to spend time with my children at the end of 2021 in California & Florida
family photo
My parents were able to join us in California for a belated Thanksgiving
family photo
We spent a final Christmas with my father-in-law, who passed away on December 31

School/Nonprofit Niche

  • Invested in LinkedIn Marketing with a firm that specializes in generating LinkedIn Leads
  • Launched the Mindful School Marketing Podcast with Co-Host Aubrey Bursch 
  • Participated in School Marketing Summit
  • Conducted monthly “WordPress Lunch & Learn” workshops for schools from June-November

Business Stuff

  • Hired a developer to help build new websites and support existing clients with development issues/needs
  • Hired social media assistant to post weekly on social media channels
  • Created 7 new school websites and 4 new nonprofit websites for new clients
  • Increased net revenue by approximately 50%

Personal Stuff

  • Struggled *less* with self-esteem and worried to *a bit less* about what others think of me
  • Continued volunteering with college readiness mentorship program
  • Ran a bit fewer miles than 2020, but still ran a lot (881 miles vs. 975 in 2020)
  • Ran in a relay race on the GAP Trail and a trail race
  • Participated in PZ Pack Peloton Power Zone Challenges, and increased engagement with Peloton App (92 hours)
  • Lost a couple of pounds and maintained healthy weight
  • Got the COVID vaccine!
  • Learned how to make better pizza in my new pizza oven
  • Continued to appreciate and enjoy having my husband working from home
  • Joined writing group and wrote some free form poems on my own
  • Traveled to Asheville, NC with my husband to celebrate our 30th Anniversary
  • Traveled to Chicago for my daughter’s college graduation
  • Saw Brandi Carlile live at Wolftrap
  • Participated in an impactful retreat with a women’s school consultant mastermind group
  • Attended the wedding of my college BFF’s daughter in North Carolina
  • Got a tattoo
  • Traveled to California with my husband, and visited with my children and my parents, as well as college friends
  • Traveled to Florida to visit my in-laws and spend time with my husband and kids
My beautiful friend, Mitzi Prince, passed away on 10/24 after battling pancreatic cancer
Wonderful, impactful retreat with a fabulous group of women!
Reunion with college friends in Sonoma

2022 Goals

“If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” I feel like many things in my life are in a good place, so I don’t really want to change much, just get better at a few things I struggle with. There is enough that is out of my control – it is reassuring to identify things I can control and positive impacts I can have on myself and others.

I continue to use the 12 Week Year process to plan out goals and tactics. I am starting the 2022 year a bit late, but am happy to have been able to take the time to give my goals some thought and to be realistic and strategic. I revisited the habit advice from James Clear by beginning his 30 Days to Better Habits Email Course, which helped me focus on specific, small steps to reach my goals. Here is a view of my first 12 Week Year goals for 2022.

Business Goals

I really hate projecting goals for new business and revenue. 2021 was my best year ever, and I can’t really identify what I did to get there! My overall business goal for 2022 is to continue engaging where I engage, and accept and appreciate new business opportunities. The last two years I invested in some marketing efforts that, with one exception, did not directly lead to any new business. My strategy continues to be to do good work, to be helpful and create content related to small schools and nonprofits. I only take on 1-3 projects per quarter, and I am already full for the first quarter. We’ll see what happens from there!

Continue to position Design TLC as a WordPress agency for small schools and nonprofits

Producing content for my own marketing is not my favorite thing to do – I avoid it as much as possible, and prefer to hire people to help with this. I would like to be more strategic and do a better job of planning content and may reach out to find opportunities for guest posting and being a podcast guest.

Outsource for support: Find and hire an experienced website designer/contractor to kick off new projects

I am not burned out, however I am looking for some fresh ideas and would like to take some pressure off my schedule. I love the design and development process, and I enjoy being involved in all aspects of a project. I would like to outsource some of this work to experienced professionals, while still having the ability to dig in and edit and work on the designs and development. I view this as an opportunity to give up some control gradually, working to a point where my agency has resources beyond me, so that someone else could take it over in a few years. 

If I am able to find some skilled support for design, my next step will be to also outsource some project management. I have a good process in place so I think this could be easier to outsource when the time comes.

I am starting to think about retirement. While I am not sure what this looks like for me (and it is a few years away), I think it might be scaling back to a couple of pro bono projects per year so I can keep my skills active without the pressure of running a business.

Increase Prices

I am increasing support plan pricing in 2022 for new clients only. I raised my minimum website fees in 2021, and I expect my proposals in 2022 to be higher since I will be outsourcing more work.

Personal Goals

Be a more positive and kind person

In this era of political discord, false information, climate change and COVID, it is very easy to have a negative outlook. It’s important to have well-placed anger; however, anger takes a lot more energy than happiness. I am inspired by Michelle Frechette‘s consistently kind and positive approach, shared abundantly on Twitter, and by her #365Compliments goal. I consider myself to be a kind person most of the time, but I really disappoint myself when I fall short and speak or act without thinking about how it might come across or make someone feel. I am going to continue my pursuit of “Ultimate Kindness” this year by taking Michelle’s compliment-a-day idea (sincere compliments only!) and only posting positive things on social media.

Embrace Creativity

My word of the year for 2022 is CREATIVITY. I used to be so much more creative before the internet and computers! Looking back at some of my stationery pieces from the late 90’s/early 2000’s (I need to digitize/catalogue some of these!), I feel disconnected from that person whose creativity I admire. I would like to rediscover that part of me.

I started writing in 2021 with the Bewliderness Writing Group. This is a casual online writing group, with no feedback or analysis. It is very freeing to just write what is on my mind, based on a prompt from a poem. This also leads into some more focused writing which I am publishing on my personal blog. Since my explorations into learning to play an instrument have largely failed, writing seems to be something I can do without having to learn a new language or motor skill. I would also like to do more creative things this year – perhaps start knitting? And, once COVID makes it safe, I plan to return to the theatre to experience creative expression on stage from the audience – in plays, musicals and concerts and to visit the wealth of museums in the DC area.

Maintain existing exercise and nutrition habits. Pay more attention to water and sugar intake

While I have struggled with my body image for most of my life, I am honestly content with my body. Last year I had a goal to lose 5 pounds. I lost a couple of pounds, and am happy with my weight. I started doing intermittent fasting during 2021, and also added some dietary supplements to my routine, all of which I feel have helped me maintain my weight, and in general feel better. (I used guidance from the Galveston Diet which includes intermittent fasting and daily Magnesium, Vitamin D, Omega 3 and fiber supplements.) The one thing I haven’t paid much attention to is my sugar intake, and I also need to be more attentive to drinking more water. I have often professed my love for jelly beans – I also love cookies more than the Cookie Monster! I have found a slightly decreased desire for these foods since I have been taking the supplements, but once I start eating sugar I find it hard to stop. I need to change my beliefs about myself – that I am powerless when it comes to candy and cookies. If I can’t have it around, I should throw it away and avoid it in the first place. I think I will feel much better if I keep track and limit sugar intake to under 25g per day. I have a habit of filling 3 water bottles every morning. During the holiday break, I got out of the habit, so am happy to be restarting that, which makes it easier to consume enough water throughout the day.


It probably seems morbid to be motivated to put my things in order after the death of close loved ones, but that’s one of the reactions I have had. I don’t want my family to have to dig around to find things, to have to deal with piles of stuff that they don’t want or need and that I no longer need now anyway. I am going to tackle a different room/closet/cabinet each month of the year and be disciplined about getting rid of things.

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