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Jason Fried

About Jason Fried

Jason co-founded Basecamp back in 1999. He also co-authored REWORK, the New York Times bestselling book on running a "right-sized" business. Co-founded, co-authored... Can he do anything on his own?

Join our team: We're hiring a product designer.

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on Discuss

We’re looking to add another product designer to our team! We don’t hire for this position often, so we really savor moments like these. We’re eagerly anticipating hearing from you.

Besides design, your job is to make an undeniably positive impact on our company, our culture, our products, and our customers. As long as you make your best effort, and you love to learn, we will do everything we can to support you creatively and help you do the best work of your life.

Product designers at Basecamp are always working on different things. You may be working on polishing up an existing feature, pitching and designing something brand new, or fundamentally rethinking how we do something. You could be working on the web or you could be exploring designs and interactions for a native mobile app. Projects at Basecamp always start with design, so you’ll constantly have the opportunity to lead us in new directions. Challenge us! Push us! Be original and show us the way!

Besides having great visual taste, talent, and the right sensibilities, you must write well-structured HTML/CSS. Basic Javascript or Rails skills are a plus, but not required. Experience designing for iOS and Android is also a plus. Great writing skills are required.

We are not looking for someone who’s already expert in everything they do. We’re looking for someone great who demonstrates the interest, drive, and desire to keep learning new things and continually get better.

At Basecamp you’ll be working with great people. Friendly, talented, original folks from dozens of cities around the world. The people who work here have a wide variety of interests and interesting life experiences. You’ll have a chance to learn from some of the best people you’ve ever met. And we’ll get to learn from you. We’d love for you be part of our patchwork.

Working as a product designer at Basecamp is a unique opportunity. We have a small team, so you won’t be one of dozens. You’ll be one of a few, so your impact will be felt inside and outside the company. You’ll be working on a product that is used by millions of people. You will help drive us in new directions. You’ll help us see things we haven’t seen before, consider things we’ve never considered before, and bring fresh perspective to our team. Brighten us up and put a big smile on our customers’ faces.

You love to write, too. You understand that copywriting is design. The words matter as much as the pixels. Great visuals with weak words are poor designs. You should care about how things are phrased as much as you care about how they look.

We’re open to hiring the best person no matter where they are. If you’re in Chicago we have an open desk for you in our office. But more than half of our company works remotely all over the world, so you’re welcome to be part of the team no matter where you live. If you do want to relocate to Chicago we’re open to that as well.

How to apply

Send relevant work samples, and anything else that will make you stand out, to jason@basecamp.com. Extra effort and personal touches will be looked upon favorably. Show us how much you want this job and not just any job. Please include [DESIGN] in the subject of the email.

It doesn’t matter where you went to school, or if you even graduated. It doesn’t matter if this is your first job or your fifth. Doing great work and being driven to improve yourself and everything you touch is what matters.

If we think you’ll be a good fit, we’ll be back in touch with step two of the application process.

Giving less advice

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 20 comments

I’m often asked for advice. I’ve decided it’s time I give less of it. There are things I used to know that I just don’t know anymore. I should stop talking about those things – it’s unfair to anyone who’s listening.

If you want advice on product design, copywriting, reducing complexity, business strategy for a well-established small business, or building a team – happy to help. I know I can be valuable there because those are things I’m thinking about and working on every day. I’m current.

But if you want advice on how to start a new business, how to get your first customer, how to hire your first employee, or anything related to starting something brand new, I’m not your man. It’s been 15 years since I started my company. I just don’t remember what it’s like anymore. I’m out of touch.

Advice, like fruit, is best when it’s fresh. But advice quickly decays, and 15 year-old advice is bound to be radioactive. Sharing a life experience is one thing (grandparents are great at this – listen to them!), but advice is another thing. Don’t give advice about things you used to know. Just because you did something a long time ago doesn’t mean you’re qualified to talk about it today.

Think you’ll get a good answer from a 30 year old telling you what it’s like to be 15? Or a 20 year old remembering what it’s like to be 5? Shit, I’m about to turn 40, and all I remember about being 25 is that I wasn’t 26. How clearly do you really remember anything from 15 years ago? And how many of those memories are actually marred by time and current experiences? How many of those things really happened the way you recall them today?

If you want to know what it’s like to start a business, talk to someone who just successfully started one. If you want to know what it’s like to hire your first employee, talk to someone who just successfully hired theirs. If you want to know what it’s like to make an investment, talk to someone who just made a successful one.

While distance from the event itself can provide broader perspective, the closer you get to the event, the fresher the experience. If I want to know what something’s really like, I’d take a fresh recollection over a fuzzy memory. I think the same is true for advice.

Prophet: My first commercial web site design project (1996)

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 22 comments

With the big name change from 37signals to Basecamp, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic. So I decided to go back to the beginning and dig up some old work. Thank you Wayback Machine!.

Back in 1996, I landed my first web design freelance gig. I was still in college, so this was very much a part time endeavor. I learned basic HTML by viewing source and deconstructing other sites. I knew my way around Photoshop 3 just enough to be dangerous. So it was time to do some selling.

I looked around the web for sites that I thought I could improve. My interest was in finance at the time, so I reached out to a variety of financial sites. I often sent a short email to whatever email address I could find on a given site. Usually it was webmaster@domain.com.

I don’t have any of those original emails anymore, but they went something like this:

Hi there-

My name is Jason. I'm a web designer in Tucson Arizona.

I think your site is pretty good, but I think I can make it better. If you'd like, I'd be happy to put together a one page redesign of your home page to show you what I can do. It'll take about a week.

Let me know if you're interested.

Thanks!

-Jason

As you might imagine, hardly anyone returned my email. But a few did. And one of those folks was Tim Knight, the owner of Prophet Information Systems.

Tim took me up on the offer, so I whipped up a quick redesign idea for him. Unfortunately I don’t have that work handy anymore, but ultimately it was good enough for him to hear me out on a complete redesign.

I pitched him a full site redesign (which I think was a few “templates” and a home page) for $600. He bought it. Tim became my first ever web design client. He was the first person to really bet on me like that. I’ll never forget that.

I can’t remember if I met with Tim in person before I delivered the first few design ideas, but we met a few times during the project. His company (which was just him) was based out in Palo Alto. So I’d find some time to head out there on the weekends in between classes. Or maybe I skipped classes, I don’t remember.

We went back and forth via email and phone and finally we landed on something we were both happy with.

So here’s the big reveal. Here’s my first ever commercial web design project from back in 1996.

The home page / splash page looked like this.

When you clicked enter, you went to a menu page. Remember when web sites had splash pages and menu pages? It was such a simpler, clearer time back then. Here’s what the menu page looked liked:

If you clicked one of the links, you’d end up on a page like this:

One of the things I really miss about that era of web design was the “links” page. Most sites back then linked up other sites that they liked or respected. It was a cool mutual admiration society back then. Companies weren’t afraid of sending their traffic elsewhere – we were all so blown away that you could actually links to other sites that we all did it so generously. Here was the links page at Prophet:

Last, one of the other things I really miss about that era was the ability to sign your work. There was often an understanding between the designer and the owner that you could have a credits page or a link at the bottom of the site showing who did the work. So here was the credits page (“Spinfree” was my freelance name):

You can actually walk through the whole site using the Wayback Machine. Here’s Prophet Information Services as it was in October of 1996.

It’s fun to look back and see where you started, who took a shot on you, how you did, and where you’ve been since. I’m so grateful that Tim saw enough of something in me to give me a chance (or maybe he just saw a cheap $600 price tag ;). Regardless, it changed everything for me.

Tim also taught me a lot about technical trading, so not only did I get $600 and my first client, but I learned a bunch too. I was a finance major, so it was fun to get some real-life exposure to technical trading. They didn’t teach this stuff in school, and Tim was a good mentor. I couldn’t ask for anything more. In the years after, I did a few more site designs for Tim at Prophet. He was a great client.

Here’s Tim today on LinkedIn. He blogs at Slope of Hope. In 2010 he wrote a book on technical trading called Chart Your Way To Profits. And to complete the small world loop, Tim has a show on TastyTrade network which is based here in Chicago. Good times.

So what about you? Who gave you your first shot? Who was your first client? Care to share some (embarrassing) early work?

Big news

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 27 comments

Today, February 5th, 2014, Basecamp turns 10. What an amazing ride it’s been. And since nearly all our business comes from word-of-mouth, we owe it all to our customers. We are so thankful for what you’ve helped us build.

And on this special day, we have a couple very big announcements that will define the future of our company. Click that link to find out what they are.

These are exciting times. Fifteen years into our business, we are so grateful for everyone’s support. It’s been such a blast. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do together for the next fifteen.

Thanks for everything, everyone. Here’s to what’s next.

Bonus link: The original blog post in 2004 that launched Basecamp.

Picked up a great lesson from the book Turn The Ship Around. David Marquet, the author and nuclear sub captain, says you can’t empower people by decree. While you might be able to ask someone to make a decision for themselves, that’s not true empowerment (or true leadership). Why? Because you’re still making the decision to ask them to make the decision. That means they can’t move, or think, or act without you. The way to empower people is by creating an environment where they naturally start making decisions for themselves. That’s true empowerment. Leaving space, creating trust, and having the full faith that someone else will rise to the challenge themselves.

Jason Fried on Dec 24 2013 4 comments

Big: Know Your Company grows up and moves out.

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 22 comments

Back in June we launched Know Your Company, a tool for helping company founders, owners, and CEOs get to know their companies again.

A few hundred one-on-one demos later, we’re about to hit our 100th paid customer.

Because of Know Your Company, thousands of employees have a louder voice, and a hundred company owners have bigger ears. Employees are sharing things they’ve never been asked about before, and owners are hearing things they’ve never heard before. New insights come weekly, and more feedback is flowing in both directions. Things are changing for the better at Know Your Company companies.

Back of the napkin financials

From the business side, in just six months, Know Your Company has booked $390,000 in revenue (and is profitable). The pricing model is $100 per-employee one-time (once you pay for someone you never pay for them again). The smallest customer has 16 employees, the largest has 105. As existing customers grow or replace employees, about 20 new employees are added to the system every week. Customer retention is holding strong at 99% (unfortunately we’ve had one cancellation).

Referrals are healthy too – we get a fair number of emails from CEOs who’ve heard of Know Your Company from existing Know Your Company customers. Even more promising, we’ve been hearing from CEOs who heard about Know Your Company from their employees!

Growing up

What started as a hunch, then launched as an internal experiment, before ultimately becoming commercial product, has blossomed into a thriving business.

In the spirit of continued experimentation, we’re about to take it up a notch and try something we’ve never done before: We’re spinning off Know Your Company into its own business.

In January 2014, Know Your Company the product will become Know Your Company the company, separate from 37signals.

Meet Claire Lew, the new CEO of Know Your Company

The new company will be co-owned by 37signals and Claire Lew. Claire will be the CEO and run all day-to-day operations. We’ll be on the sidelines purely as advisors, ready to help if called upon. If all goes well, Claire will ultimately own more of the company than 37signals will.

So who’s Claire? Claire’s someone we’ve had our eye on for a while. They don’t come much sharper (and nicer!) than Claire. In fact, we originally contemplated hiring Claire to run Know Your Company from the start, but things just didn’t come together.

Claire went off to start ClarityBox, a consulting practice aimed at helping owners understand what their employees really thought. You can watch her talk about it here:

ClarityBox’s mission was similar to Know Your Company. We obviously saw the same kinds problems out there and wanted to help solve them in similar ways.

So once it was clear that Know Your Company had legs, and that we wanted to spin it off into its own company, Claire was the natural match to run it.

I pitched her the idea and she was into it. We hammered out a deal and related details in a couple of weeks and signed the formal agreement yesterday. We’ll be transitioning the company and product over to Claire this month, and she’ll run it completely starting in January. I’ve heard some of her initial ideas so I’m excited to see where she takes it.

Know Your Company

So if you’re a founder, owner, or CEO of a company between 25 and 75 people, and you feel like you don’t know as much about your company as you used to, it’s time to get to Know Your Company again. Claire will show you how.

Evaluating a redesign

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 14 comments

When evaluating a redesign, your first instinct is to compare the new design to the old design. But don’t do that.

The first step is to understand what you’re evaluating. If you just put the new design up against the old design, and compare the two, the old design will strongly influence your evaluation of the new design.

This is OK if nothing’s changed since the original design was launched. But it’s likely a lot has changed since then – especially if many months or years have passed.

Maybe there are new insights, maybe there’s new data, maybe there’s a new goal, maybe there’s a new hunch, or maybe there’s a whole new strategy at play. Maybe “make it readable” was important 3 years ago, while “help people see things they couldn’t see before” is more important today. Or maybe it’s both now.

But if the old design sets the tone about what’s important, then you may be losing out on an opportunity to make a significant leap forward. A design should never set the tone – ideas should set the tone. Ideas are independent of the design.

So, when evaluating a redesign you have to know what you’re looking for, not just what you’re looking at. How the new design compares to the old may be the least important thing to consider.

It’s a subtle thing, but it can make all the difference.

I think we sometimes overlook things we don’t realize we’re already good at or have limited experience with. You may be beating yourself up about not having good enough grades in biology to go to medical school while overlooking the fact that you’ve been working in your family’s hardware store over the summer for eight years and have an extraordinary sense of how to deal with people. That’s a skill that a lot of doctors in their 50s would kill for: they’ve never learned to understand and be empathetic towards others. People have all kinds of soft skills that you can’t train someone to have, but they beat themselves up because it’s not the thing they think they’re supposed to be good at.

Jason Fried on Nov 19 2013 4 comments

The person they’ll become

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 23 comments

One of the biggest challenges when hiring someone is trying to envision their potential.

Sometimes someone’s a sure bet. They’re the perfect person for the perfect project at the perfect time. Their pedigree is exceptional, their portfolio is stocked with amazing work, their experience is vast, they’re a confident interview, and everything just feels right.

It happens, but that’s not how it usually works. There are very few perfect people.

Instead there’s a lot of future perfect people. People who have the potential to become the perfect person in the perfect role if just given the right opportunity.

When I hire designers, I look for future perfect people. Some people have the potential, but they haven’t had the opportunities. Their portfolios are full of mediocre work, but it’s not because they’re mediocre designers. It’s because they’ve been given mediocre opportunities.

A lot of future perfect people are stuck in current mediocre positions. They just haven’t had the chance to do their best work.

While it’s a bonus to find that perfect person today, I find more it more rewarding (for me and them) to pluck the future perfect person out of their mediocre job today. I love betting on people with potential. When they finally get that chance to do their best work, they blossom in such a special way.

And as the owner of a company, few things make me prouder than seeing someone excelling in a way that their resume/portfolio/references wouldn’t have suggested they could.

The next Switch Workshop: September 27th in Chicago

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 8 comments

Customers don’t just buy a product — they switch from something else. And customers don’t just leave a product — they switch to something else.

The last workshop sold out in just a few days, so if you‘d like to attend, register now.
It’s in these switching moments that the deepest customer insights can be found. On the 27th of September, a select group of 32 people will attend a unique, hands-on, full-day workshop to learn about “The Switch”.

Most businesses don’t know the real reasons why people switch to — or from — their products. We’ll teach you how to find out.

The workshop will be at the 37signals office in Chicago. The cost to attend is $1200. The workshop will be led by 37signals and The Rewired Group.

You’ll participate in live customer interviews.

You’ll learn new techniques for unearthing the deep insights that most companies never bother to dig up.

You’ll understand why people switch from one product to another and how you can increase the odds that the switch goes your way.

And you’ll be able to put everything you learned to immediate use.

There’s only one simple requirement: You’ll be asked to bring something with you. It won’t be a big deal. Details will be provided one week before the workshop.

Spots are limited. Only 32 people will be able to attend and participate. Want to be one of the 32? Register now. We will see you on September 27.