2023 was an odd number year and I’m a fan of even numbers … but it was overall a good year nonetheless! I hit my stride with the pizza making (after several big fails – cue the toppings on fire inside the Ooni oven!) My word of the year was “Creativity,” and while I can’t say I adopted new creative practices, I did try a few. Design TLC also hit a great stride this year, with the relaunch of my website and a bigger, awesome team! I learned some new things this year and checked off a bucket list item (see the Personal Goals section for that!).
I’m ready for 2024, which is not only an even number, but also includes my favorite number 4!
2023 Business Goals
Goal 1: Be A known source for WordPress websites for schools and nonprofits
I launched a new website for Design TLC in 2023! With the help of the brilliant, heart-forward writer Michele Mercurio, I was able to more clearly define Design TLC’s mission and values. My friend and super-designer Evelyn Powers of Design Powers helped my with a design refresh that aligns with my identity, and my friend, photographer and author Betsy Withycombe, took some new photos. I am very proud of the new site and feel it communicates who we are as an agency.
As my business grows and we add more school and nonprofit websites to our portfolio and serve more clients, we have seen our reputation grow in the industry. In 2023, Tara attended 5 in-person conferences, and a couple of virtual events. In addition to presenting at conferences, I had fun interviewing conference attendees with my Mindful School Marketing podcast co-host Aubrey Bursch. I am grateful to strategic partners, who referred Design TLC to organizations that we loved working with – and some who we look forward to helping launch new websites in 2024!
I also committed to a more strategic approach to social media and blogging this year. As I review this part of my strategy, I am going to make some adjustments in 2024 to be more efficient and hopefully more effective. I am not convinced that social media is necessary for my business, but I do believe that being present on Linkedin has value for me in my niches.
Goal 2: Manage Budget and Track Time
Since I have spent most of my time as a solopreneur, I haven’t felt the need to be very budget-conscious in terms of profit and expenses. Now that I have a team, I realize it makes sense to better track the profitability of projects to ensure I am not losing money! This always makes me think of one of my favorite I Love Lucy episodes, where Lucy and Ethel make a delicious salad dressing. They go on TV to promote it and the orders come in like crazy. The duo feels so successful until they realize they are losing money on every jar!
I love Google Sheets, so it was a fun challenge to set up a very complex document that I use every month to create a report on total team time spent on each client, and matching that against their fees. This also helps me see when clients are not using their monthly time, or using more than the budgeted amount. Using the Profit First method, I also allocate income every month.
Goal 3: Outreach after conferences
Since I attended a few conferences, I thought it would be a good experiment to reach out via email. I tried this, even creating videos with some customized messages about their existing website, but received no responses. Cold-calling and outreach has never been something I enjoy or find brings results.
2023 Personal Goals
Habit Tracking and Daily Check Ins
There are a lot of little habits that I often forget, like taking a vitamin, drinking water, and taking time to be grateful every day. For much of the year, I used an app on my phone called Habit Tracker. It worked well but I got a little tired of it, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the reminder sounds, which became annoying. (I am very tech savvy and tried many times without success to silent these notifications!) When I used it, I was really good at checking things off every day and it did remind me to do some absic things I would otherwise not have remembered. I stopped and started a few times, and I noticed that when I stopped using it, I stopped doing the things it was set up to remind me to do.
In 2024 I would like to find a balance between habit-compulsion and habit-accomplishment. I may have had too many things, and the app may not have been the right fit. This taught me something I probably knew about myself already, but reinforced the confidence and comfort I get from checking off things on a list!
In 2024, I am trying a new app called Day One, which seems like a great tool for me, as it works and synca on all my devices. I can use this as a journal, a habit tracker, and for other notes to keep things organized and handy.
I continued my outreach to people in my life in 2023. For much of the year, I contacted someone weekly to tell them what they mean to me, and what makes them special. I am now doing this monthly, as I have a lot of names left on my list, but it takes more courage to reach out to many of the names on the list because I haven’t been in touch or don’t know them as well. It can feel awkward to send these messages, but it always seems to make the person feel good, which makes me happy, too.
I am admittedly feeling a lot of despair as we head into 2024, looking at the state of the world. I struggle with how to be effective with activism without spending emotional energy that only serves to create anxiety and hopelessness, which doesn’t help anyone. I want to stop looking at my activism as a means to an end, but as a practice that has meaning in and of itself, whether it advances progress or not. I can always find meaning in volunteering, voting, reading, speaking, calling, and donating, so will continue to do these things while finding reasons for hope and optimism.
Fitness and Health
This is probably the easiest goal for me to meet every year. I am committed to exercise, and pay attention to what I eat most of the time). I love the Pelton app and use it not only for the bike, but for strength training, yoga, stretching, meditation and running. I had knee surgery in March, and had not run for almost a year, so getting back to running has made me feel good, and reconnected my with my running friends. However, I am not as strong a runner as I used to be, and my ego is taking a hit for not being as fit as I was. I am being kind to myself, and patient, and also accepting my new baseline. I tracked over 20,000 hours on Peloton in 2023, so that’s not nothing!
I kept up my monthly hiking goal, which I will continue in 2024 as it feels good to be out in nature and take a break from work and my computer! The AllTrails app is a great way to keep a history of hikes, and find hikes near wherever you may be. There are so many beautiful spots not too far from where I live, and I can usually find someone to accompany me, especially when we end the day with a stop at a brewery or winery!
I feel like I used to be a lot more creative. This was before computers, when I did a lot of crafts and art by hand. After running a business that involved art and illustration, I welcomed the chance to use a computer and be more digital. While this has been really enjoyable and fruitful, the negative result has been the loss of desire and motivation to create things that are not digital. For 2023, I had a goal to do more writing, to work on a story for The Moth, read more books, to attend a live performance every month, and to explore other art endeavors. I once again participated in the Bewilderness Writing group, and also did some writing on my own (not as much as I planned). I took a colored pencil class on Udemy, which I enjoyed, but then didn’t really follow up with much practice. I also bought a guitar and started learning a bit of music theory, but I also haven’t made that a consistent practice. I really like working on websites and doing things on the computer. This, combined with a social media and Netflix/streaming habit, minimize the amount of time I spent on “hand made” creativity. I won’t stop trying, but also am giving myself some grace in understanding that I am still doing things that make me feel content and accomplished. I may explore a different type of art in 2024, perhaps with in-person classes.
The biggest creative feat of the year for me was a performance on stage at a Moth story slam. I have long been a fan of The Moth, and have attended local live events for the last several years. I had a goal to write a story, practice it and eventually hoped to get selected to tell my story at a live event. During COVID times, I read the Moth book about How To Tell A Story, and started working on several ideas for stories. Once live events recurred, I kept an eye out for an upcoming event that had a theme that fit my story (or vice versa), and started practicing telling the story out loud. It was fun to work on this project, and while it took a lot of courage to practice it in front of friends, I got helpful feedback. On October 5, I attended the Story Slam event in Washington, DC at the Miracle Theatre. I invited several friends, many of whom showed up to support me and cheer me on in the event I was picked. The Story Slams are for storytellers who have a story along the night’s theme, which they tell in 5 minutes or less. Anyone interested can put their name in the hat, and 10 people are selected at random throughout the event. I was lucky to be picked and performed my story to a wonderful audience. It was a highlight of my year and probably of my life! I don’t think I will tell another, as this was a milestone for me that I want to cherish as a unique event. If you have a local Moth event near you, I recommend attending and even coming up with a story to tell!
I will end my year in review with a recording of my Moth story: