In Basecamp: A Freelancer’s Best Friend, DesignSessions calls Basecamp "a visually elegant and transparent tool created by designers for designers’ needs." The piece focuses on the time-tracking capabilities of Basecamp.
Big software companies have contributed collaboration tools that tend to be quite costly, and are either too large in scale with features that many designers don’t need, or else incredibly specialized and not flexible or adaptable enough. 37signals plays the “small and cool” angle with a visually elegant and transparent tool created by designers for designers’ needs, offering a range of features scaled across different price points. While it certainly facilitates project management for collaborative efforts on a larger scale, many freelancers have found it indispensable for keeping track of their work, even on solo projects.
One aspect users have described as a “godsend” is the ability to merge time-tracking with project deliverables, allowing you to set up milestones and to-do lists for a project and time-track as you check tasks off your list.
As a freelancer, keeping accurate track of your time and work is crucial to a well-run and lucrative business. If you’ve ever tried to estimate after the fact how long different phases of project took you, chances are you short-changed yourself, sometimes by quite a bit. Setting deliverables to a project is another best-practice that designers rely on to make sure they treat the client, and themselves, fairly. A client may come to you asking you to design, say, his corporate identity, but it’s up to you to break that down into the tasks you will actually do and the pieces you will deliver to the client, from the submission of research and concept boards, to the carrying through of the final selected idea across various media.
Basecamp’s ability to track and share progress against deliverables with a client cuts a ton of excess communication out of the process, while keeping the client on track as to the materials, information and feedback he needs to provide you with to get your work done. Accurate timekeeping also provides informed time estimates on future projects where you may be working to a fixed fee at the outset.
Do you use a 37signals product in an interesting or noteworthy way? Let us know.