I just blogged about Freshbooks the other day. In the same “keeping things organized” vein, I’ve decided to invest the money in another Web-based service to keep track of everything to do with each of my clients, especially since I have added six new clients to my roster in the last few months. I’m excited to be working more and more, but with the ever-lingering “mommy-brain,” any tool I can use to fill in the mind gaps is invaluable.
How am I managing all the client “schtuff?” With Basecamp (http://www.basecamphq.com), a collaboration tool for internal and external client projects. I’m training all my clients to use Basecamp instead of sending me multiple emails so rather than sifting through Gmail to find the latest correspondence or searching my computer to resend a file that they don’t remember receiving, we can communicate through Basecamp and upload all the files related to a given project.
Here are the main features of Basecamp and how I’ve been using it:
1. Posting messages instead of all those emails.
The message board in Basecamp is like a Web-based forum. I post messages or ask my clients to post messages in their password protected project area. Then anyone on the team can make comments on a post that appear below the post. I’ve even gone as far as copy and pasting email correspondence into individual messages to put everything in one place for easy access.
2. To-Do lists designate tasks.
I love my paper to-do lists but when there are multiple projects and clients, paper is not a viable tool to share lists, assign tasks and check off completed tasks for everyone to see. Each time a task is posted and assigned, it is emailed to everyone assigned to the project so we are all in the loop. And seeing items the online To-Do list with a line through it as it is completed is rewarding.
3. Uploading files so everyone can access them.
How many times have I emailed a file to a client and they tell me they never got it? Or vice versa? Basecamp lets you upload PDF files, image files, word documents, spreadsheets - any file that is critical to our project. Anyone working on the project can download what they need when they need it.
4. “Writeboard” for collaborative documents.
I have to admit I’m not in love with Basecamp’s whiteboard feature - it requires you to use their “tags” to bold or italicize text rather than working like a Word processing program or the Google Docs editing tool. It does save your revisions which is helpful, but until they add better style capabilities, it is a bit of a bother. I’ll still use Google docs for collaborative editing of documents because I hate Microsoft Word’s tracking feature with a passion.
5. Overview Dashboard gives project activities at a glance.
You can view a dashboard of all projects that highlights the most recent activities like a new message posted or comment added. Or you can view a dashboard for a particular project. Either way, you get a quick, easy-to-digest glimpse of what is on your plate and the status of everything in the works. I let out a big sigh of relief when I see this feature because it reminds me of what I need to know at any given time.
Basecamp uses screencasts (videos demoing how to use site features) for anyone using any feature for the first time. I found them to be so much easier to follow than reading instructions so was up and running in no time at all.
I’m so picky about the applications I use. My truest test of an application’s worthiness is if I use something frequently. I’m using Basecamp daily and so far, all of my clients like it, too. There are other similar services out there, some free, such as Zoho, Google Sites and GoPlan.