Basecamp, New York & Other Totally Unrelated Things

June 9, 2005

I'm in New York for, of all things, an auction at Sotheby's (it's a long story involving my husband and a Babe Ruth contract, but I'm sure you, too, have had it up to the eyeballs with sports, so I'll just breeze by all that). For the out-of-towner, NYC is like a jolt from a giant defibrillator. Everything perks up and picks up the pace. You find yourself moving more quickly and even talking faster. They should re-nickname it The Big Java.

This makes a change from earlier in the week, when the entire Marks clan was felled by a virus. All we could manage for four days was to sprawl together on the sofa and watch old Star Wars films over and over, with an occasional "Barbie's Princess and the Pauper" thrown in if the 5-year-old's threats to do her big brother bodily harm sounded serious enough.

I did manage to accomplish one useful task, however. And I stress useful. For a while I've been reading about the new online project management system, Basecamp. I've even run through their online tour and toyed with trying it out. But who has time? I'm too busy actually doing the stuff to figure how to input it into some complicated scheduling program. This is where viruses come in handy. They have a tendency to carve out that free time for you. So, clutching my box of kleenex, I signed up at the Basecamp site.

First of all, it wasn't complicated or difficult at all. Within minutes I had the whole operation up and running. And I was laid low with a virus at the time. I'll bet I could do it in under 5.9, given a more glowing state of health. My only difficulty was that I accidentally emailed one of my clients about half-a-dozen times while setting up a To-Do list. Fortunately she was good-natured about it, mainly because she'd recently put the entire project into serious delay by going into early labor. Now there's one for Andy Budd's list: Be wary of projects run by women carrying low.

But I digress. So far, I'm impressed with Basecamp. Being a one-woman show, I opted for the minimal account, which has a limit of three projects. I've no desire to be superwoman. I prefer working on one project at a time, although I give in to necessity and usually have two going at different stages. But then I thought how I could use the third allowed project as a sort of general, master organizing arena for the whole business. So I've already used up all three of my projects. I may have to upgrade to the next account level because, on the flight to NYC, I figured out how I could use Basecamp to manage the JCC sites (my longtime pro bono work or, as I like to think of it, my mitzvah-just-in-case-I-need-one).

I'm still in the early stages of trying out Basecamp, but so far my recommendation is that you should definitely take the 1-month trial out for a spin. If you're a beginner just starting out in freelance, you may think you don't need anything so sophisticated. But we small, new businesses may just benefit most from it. Using a project managment system like Basecamp shows clients that we're as professional and serious about our work as the big guys. (At least, my clients were impressed.)

I have a heavy work schedule coming up, so as soon as I get home, I'll be giving Basecamp some real abuse. I'll let you know how it stands up to it.