My Experience Of Claiming Child Tax Credits

In early September my wife gave birth to my second child, Jack. Shortly after I decided to check if we were eligible for child tax credits, and it turned out we are. So I started to look for the child tax credit form – but it turns out, it isn’t available to download on the web, you have to phone a number.

That’s a bit odd, I thought.

So I phoned them up on my lunch break, after 6 minutes being on hold I decided to give up and phone back when I wasn’t in a rush.

So I started typing this blog post 20 minutes into being on hold to request a form to be sent out. I couldn’t help but think that 20 minutes on the phone is a long time, and if you’re not on some kind of plan it could perhaps cost a fair amount of money. I also thought how stupid it was that they wouldn’t let people just download it online. It just feels like it’s punishing a lot of people who are hard up enough as it is.

After 24 minutes (a little into this blog post) I had my call answered, they requested a few details such as my National Insurance number, date of birth and address and that was it, very quick. A form would be sent out. I asked why they didn’t put the form online – I was told that they had done that, but it was open to abuse.

Open to abuse?, Why make me wait 24 minutes? Surely they could automate the taking of national insurance numbers etc. They automate the receptionist for god’s sake (I’ve had trouble with that before, but that’s a blog post for another day). Or alternatively, why not make people enter those details on a website and then do the verification process (which is done on a computer anyway when you call up) and then let someone download it for free, without having to spend 24 minutes. You could also hard code their details on to the form so it 100% isn’t open to abuse.

I would hazard a guess that it takes 24 minutes because a large percentage of people will either: run out of time, run out of battery power, or become frustrated – thus reducing the tax credits bill for the government.

Yorkshire Warrior 2014

The Run from Hell

You should have all known a blog post about this would be coming.

Last Saturday 12th April, my good friend Dr. Cumbor and I took part in Yorkshire Warrior 2014, a 10 mile obstacle run from hell. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, except there was a LOT of mud!

Registration

We started off at registration, where we had to pin our numbers on our chests and write them on our foreheads – I also opted to add some face camo, which didn’t really have the desired effect, I ended up looking like I was taking part in some festival rather than a warrior…

Once that was done we waited for our wave time, and at about 10 minutes before our start time the warmup began…

The Run

The run started off with some gentle fields, a quick crawl under a cargo net and over a few hay bales, at this point I was kind of thinking “this is pretty easy”. Then came a few hundred metre wade along a river, a bog, a very steep hill and then some fire to jump over – so it quickly got harder. Running when you are soaked through and your covered in mud is a bit harder as it weighs you down.

Some of the later obstacles included an electric fence, a crawl under barbed wire and a 1km run through a pitch black tunnel – I can’t remember much else (I must have blocked it out because it was so horrible!)

Dr C’s GoPro

Dave actually was wearing a chest mounted GoPro camera, and he uploaded this 2 hour footage (sped up):

All For A Good Cause

I managed to raise just over £220 for Epilepsy Action, which was nice. At the time of writing you can still sponsor me, so head on over if you still want to!

Finish

Dr C and myself got a time of 3 hours 9 minutes, to be fair though we did spend a long time queuing, which was a shame.

Dr. C and I after finishing the Yorkshire Warrior 2014

If you haven’t done anything like this before, I’d highly recommend it.

National Well Being

A while back I switched over to Engineered Marketing for my marketing/business related posts, which leaves me this blog for other things.

One thing I’ve been becoming more interested in is politics, since becoming a home owner and a father I’ve started to become more concerned with how our politicians run our country. I’m kind of between parties at the moment after previously voting Conservative I’ve begun to go off them, this is largely because they have made a lot of decisions that I believe to be immoral.

Happiness Is More Important Than GDP

With that said, I watched David Cameron’s TED talk before he came in power, and what he said was very interesting, and I hope he starts to actually do it, although I imagine “politics” will prevent him doing so. For those of you that haven’t seen it, it’s below, in summary he says that we should concentrate on people’s happiness and well being as metrics and not GDP. Totally right.

The Main Issues (as I see it)

So in the last 2 years they have been measuring national well being, you can see the May 2013 national well being release here. There are a couple of things on there that I want to point out and discuss, and these are:

  • Only 60.9% are somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their amount of leisure time.
  • 36% of adults participate in 30 mins of moderate intensity sport, once per week (just once, whereas it should be at least 3 times per week).
  • 78.5% of people are Somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their job (leaving 21.15% not happy in their job, more than 1 in 5).
  • 65.6% of people are somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their health (increasing the strain on the NHS).
  • 18.4% show some evidence indicating probable psychological disturbance or mental ill health (nearly 1 in 5!).
  • Only 60.1% rated their anxiety “yesterday” as medium/low (so 2 in 5 appear to be experiencing high anxiety levels).

Now to me, I believe, that these are all linked in some way.

So here are a few of the things I think could be considered:

Make It Easier For People Of All Ages To Switch Careers

Many people are unsatisfied with their jobs (around 2 in 5), why don’t we make it easier for people to change careers, not just those that are 25 years old or younger. Apprenticeships should be available to older people as well.

If we make it easier for people to switch careers then we are likely to find more people satisfied in their job.

Reduce Working Hours

Why can’t we reduce working hours? Apparently, according to an EU study, after 37 hours per week any increase in working hours by 1% leads to a decrease in productivity of 0.9%, practically cancelling out any increase in productivity. Interestingly, it has also been found that a decrease in working hours does lead to an increase in productivity. France decreased their working hours to a maximum of 35 hours per week, the rest being overtime. They appear to be doing about as well as we are currently in nearly all the economic metrics that I looked at, but I believe the French are probably happier (from personal experience). This publication recommends a 21 hour week, imagine what else you could do with your time!!! With the time saved people will most likely:

  • Be more satisfied in their job (although not a massive increase I think this would increase)
  • Experience less anxiety and stress
  • Will have more leisure time
  • Will have the opportunity to do more exercise if they wish (I currently exercise 5 times a week, but it’s still a real battle with all the other responsibilities I have).
  • Will have more time to recover from the physical stresses of work, such as sitting down all day, doing repetitive work or manual tasks.

Tax Relief For Fitness Classes, Gyms And Personal Trainers

For any money you spend on going to the gym, fitness classes and personal training, provide tax relief. Exercise is one of the best ways to improve your health, by providing tax relief on these types of things it’ll help grow the fitness industry and it will also reduce the strain on the NHS (which is reactive, not proactive). Exercise is also proven to reduce stress and depression, so it would help improve some of the other national well being metrics.

Labour Need To Embrace This, Not Ridicule It

Labour, according to the BBC, ridiculed the national well being survey as “statement of the bleeding obvious”, which I think is a backwards step, I think it would be great for politicians to make decisions based on this survey rather than their “gut feeling”, which usually leads to all kinds of mistakes. I think if Labour changed their approach and started looking at this survey more closely they will find the policies they need to win the next election. Hell it beats asking stupid questions such as “Why I’m Labour” (my God, if you don’t know who you are, how can I state that I agree with your beliefs!!!)

A New, More Improved Domain Name

Hi all

Just a quick update, I’ve changed domain names after catching davidwhitehouse.co.uk via snapnames.com, it was a bit of a surprise as I didn’t even expect it! Anyways, if you are currently linking to me, you’ll have to make a quick change from www.david-whitehouse.org to www.davidwhitehouse.co.uk.

Or if you have my email address stored in your address book you’ll need to update from [email protected] to [email protected]

I’m still hoping to get whitehouse.co.uk, sadly they didn’t take my offer of £1,000! I’m not sure it’s even worth that, but maybe I’ll get it in time…

If your wondering about how changing domains affects your Google rankings – it doesn’t as long as you follow their simple guidelines.

Joining The IDM

Last month I took the step to further my career by joining the IDM as a member. The entry requirements are quite high, but I was fortunate enough to pass the diploma which allowed me to become a member without having 6 years experience!

I’m a strong advocate of the IDM, the first time I heard about them was after looking up copywriters on Wikipedia, I figured if I needed to improve I should try and learn from the best. There I heard about Drayton Bird, who has written a number of books and is also a Fellow at the IDM. Then I heard about the IDM through a contact, and decided that although I had a fairly strong background in Internet marketing, without knowing much about offline marketing and understanding how to combine the two I’d be at a disadvantage.

From now on I’ll be using the “M IDM” honorific after my name in my work related communications. I’ve often thought these are a little pretentious in the past, particularly with people adding BA (Hons) after their name. But the reason I’ll be using this is two fold – one it helps grow awareness of the IDM, and secondly it helps establish that I’m not just making things up as I go along – it builds trust. So if you see my email signature with “David Whitehouse M IDM” on it, it’s not because I’m trying to show off!

Rank Checking Your Google Ranking

Introducing Authority Labs

Rank checking can be one of the most time consuming, tedious tasks there is – if of course you don’t know how to do it quickly that is. The first time I did a rank check I counted everything manually, it took literally hours – very boring!

Then I learned how to use Advanced Web Ranking, which was a great solution, but sadly it has become increasingly problematic. So last month I set out to find a solution to my problem, and I’m happy to say I’ve found it!

I discovered Authority Labs through a client at work, who had found that they supplied Raven Tools with their rank checking service. So I checked out their plans and prices and I’ve found that they have plans for as little as $24 per month (around £15), but if you don’t need as much as that you can simply sign up for the 30 day trial and then if you don’t pay to use the service they simply let you use a free plan which is limited to 1 website and 10 keywords – perfect for my needs.

Here are the rankings I’m tracking at the moment:

Checking my rankings on Google

It is however a great solution if you’re an SEO and you want to track keywords for multiple clients, or alternatively if you are an in house SEO or a business owner and you have perhaps a lot of website or keywords you wish to track.

The thing that I think makes Authority Labs so unique is that they allow you to tag keywords – so say you sell bedroom furniture and you have two sets of keywords, one for beds (say the keywords are: bed, divan bed, double bed) and one for wardrobes (say the keywords are: pine wardrobe, oak wardrobe, shabby chic wardrobe) you can then tag these keywords with beds and wardrobes respectively and see a visibility chart for them. In my example I’ve tagged my brand (for my name), marketing (for keywords containing “marketing”) and seo (for keywords containing “seo”):

Tag your keywords

So for $24 (£15) per month to track 100 keywords over 10 domains, you can’t really go wrong. So head on over to Authority Labs and signup!

(Disclaimer: I DO get commission if you signup through these affiliate links, however I think its a product worth using otherwise I wouldn’t have recommended it).

Announcing My First FREE Tool: Optimal – Get A Report On Your Website

I’ve been having a play around lately and managed to come up with a quick way for me to give you some simple advice on your website.  I’ve created an easy to use tool called Optimal.

It’s still in the early stages of development, so if you notice a bug or an improvement that can be made, or if there is anything you don’t understand, please let me know.  I’ll be making additions to it overtime, I hope to assess sites speed and also link out to various resources where you can find out how to fix each problem.

For now, please check it out and let me know what you think.

Thanks,

David

 

 

Passed With Flying Colours!

Hi all, this is just a quick blog post to let blog followers know that I have successfully passed my course in direct and digital marketing with the Institute of Digital and Direct marketing.

IDM Graduate Logo

I’m extremely proud :)

I’m hoping to be accepted as a full member (as soon as my wife lets me pay £185 – the annual membership fee)!

What this essentially means is that I can competently create a full strategic marketing plan – I have little experience, but I’m willing to drop my asking price for my early clients. So if you feel your business needs a bit more direction, you have a budget of at least £500 per month available for marketing, you are passionate about what you do and also have great ambitions for your business – then please get in touch.

Base CRM – CRM Software For The Small Business by Future Simple


Base Value Partner Program Badge

Simple CRM by Base

 

 

After spending sometime using Capsule CRM (which became to clunky to use) and Highrise (which is to simplistic and doesn’t have nearly enough advanced features for sales) I have finally found Base by Future Simple. Funnily enough if you look for it on Google, you can’t find it! There is in fact another CRM called Base, which looks like it was designed in the 90’s – do not confuse the two!!! You’re looking for the one at FutureSimple.com.

I discovered Base CRM whilst looking for a CRM app that worked on my Android – Base had the best reviews and after I signed up I could see why. It has an Android app as well as an iPhone app – for all those Anroid users out there I can’t tell you how much of a relief this is, I’m sick of tired of online software with just an iPhone version, letting the Android users put up with a mobile version of their web page.

The Sales Funnel

First up it already has a well thought out sales funnel process which you can customise if you wish (you probably won’t). It’s simple to customise and the actual reporting system is also simple, but at the same time extremely useful. Here’s a few screenshots from my account:

Base CRM Funnel Report

This is a great way to estimate the value of leads – we can see here that of the leads I get, 20% are unqualified – that means I don’t want them. We can work out what percentage of leads actually result in a deal – in this case 4/10 (or 40%). If we apply this to the average value of these leads (£437.50) we can estimate the value of the lead, in this case 40% of £437.50, which is £175. So now I know that each lead I get is worth £175.

I can now use this as a goal in Google Analytics (or other web analytics tool) and from this have a basis to calculate my ROI for my advertising campaigns. Anyways, onto the rest of Base’s cool features…

Reasons For Lost Deals Report

This report is great, when you lose a deal you have to enter a reason – this is some brilliant customer insight that you can feed back into your business when trying to improve your sales process, your marketing or even your product. Anyways, here’s mine (actually I’ve not lost any yet so I had to make some up – but you get the point):

Reasons For Lost Deals

There are a load of other reports, but these are my two favourite – on top of that I think we’ll see some more useful ones coming out as they improve, they have a great user based feedback system using User Voice – so any features suggested get voted on and if they get enough votes they get implemented – great huh?

Other Features

So what else has it got?

Well you can integrate it with your website for starters – I didn’t fancy this because I’m obsessed with my Google Analytics and they won’t let me redirect to a thank you page, but naturally I’ve requested the change so hopefully they’ll be making that improvement shortly. But still, if you don’t pay much attention to Google Analytics, then the web form integration is ideal.

Again they’ve got a very intuitive system for adding contacts (companies or individuals) and you can check back over past sales. All data can be exported (or imported) if needed, and they have a special import facility for those using Highrise, Basecamp or Salesforce – so switching to Base CRM Is Easy.

Check It Out – It’s Free!

Anyways, I suggest you check it out, because after all it is free and it’s a shed load better than all the other CRM systems out there.

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this blog post when I was trialling Base CRM, since then I have referred enough people to earn myself a free account, so any further referrals may end up earning me commission if they end up subscribing to Base CRM. I just thought it was best I cleared that up :)

MailChimp – The Best Free Email Marketing Software – And a Great Aweber Alternative

MailChimp

I’ve been using MailChimp for just over a year now, and I’ve been very impressed. I originally switched from Aweber, but decided
that I couldn’t justify paying the monthly fee for Aweber – and I was right to.

MailChimp is perfect for my needs, to be honest I’ve not got many subscribers – the most I had was around 600 or so for a gaming website. If you are considering creating a newsletter for your business then I would highly recommend MailChimp – it’s free if you have 2,000 or less subscribers, so there is no risk for you to try and build up a mailing list.

Here are some of the cool things you can do with MailChimp:
[list type=”thumb-up”]

  • You can add people via your website, via their hosted form, via the admin system or even through their ipad application
  • Capture people’s first name, surname and date of birth and then send them personalised emails, especially on their birthday!
  • Segment customers into groups, such as customers and prospects, or perhaps by their interests or spend
  • Setup autoresponders – emails that get sent to recipients based on predetermined criteria such as “opened this campaign” or “7 days after signup”
  • Adding coupons – this allows you to add physical coupons you can print off and then scan in with an iPhone app when they bring them to your business – it then includes these in the email analytics reports!
  • Split test emails – you can test different subject lines or different body text to see what difference this makes to your open rates and click rates
  • Create an RSS to email campaign which automatically sends out blog posts or news articles from your website to the email newsletter.
[/list]

Plus much more, the possibilities really are endless, plus they have some amazing webinars you can watch when you sign up that teach you how to do all this and more!

You can signup to MailChimp now and get up to 2,000 subscribers free, forever!.