Best free CRM software for small businesses

We analyse the top free CRM systems to find the best overall, and prove you don’t have to splash the cash to give great customer service.

Our Research

Our team of writers and researchers review CRM software by rating each product against the key features businesses care about: ease of use; value for money; the ability to scale, plus the depth of functionality and advanced options.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Free CRM systems are the ideal way for entrepreneurs to get to grips with using a CRM system without risking budget. But, as with any free technology, it has its drawbacks.

Often, small businesses have to compromise and pick a system based on what’s most important to their team. Is it lead generation, customer service, or ease of use? Thankfully, we've done the research for you to find the top free online CRM systems that can satisfy all of these needs:

Best Free CRM Software, at a glance

  1. Freshsales – best overall free CRM option as it has tons of features and capabilities for small businesses to take advantage of, even for zero charge.
  2. Zoho CRM – another strong choice for budget-conscious SMEs, thanks to its strong reporting tools.
  3. HubSpot Free – best for marketing and outreach – two key areas for generating new business.

Customer relationships can make or break a firm's success. Particularly in today's competitive market and ongoing cost of living crisis, understanding your customers' needs and behaviours is critical to boosting sales and, ultimately, profits.

To do this, you'll need a CRM system. But which is the best free choice for UK SMEs? At Startups, we’ve helped thousands of readers to answer this question over two decades using thorough and unbiased research methods.

We’ve tested dozens of free CRM products to pick out the top four options and rank them in the list below. Read on to find the best, budget-friendly solution for growing your own business.

Short on time? Skip ahead with our simple cost comparison tool to get bespoke recommendations from the top free providers.

What makes the best CRM software for small businesses?

After working with SMEs for twenty years, we know that you have to contend with different issues than you would with larger or mid-sized companies. Budget is one of the biggest concerns, and can often lead to users missing out on software features that are important to managing their business.

In collaboration with an independent researcher, we picked out eleven CRM systems using five specific metrics that small businesses need to consider:

  • Pricing – what are the best low-budget CRM system?
  • Functionality – what features will you get for your budget?
  • Usability – is it something you can easily learn how to use?
  • Customisation – will you have more creative control over your CRM system?
  • Help and Support – will you get guidance on setting up your CRM system?

How we evaluate and test free CRM apps

We then picked out the top CRM systems with a free plan, and carried out basic CRM tasks to judge how well each performed. These were:

  • Feature limitations eg. number of monthly emails permitted for free
  • Helpdesk eg. what help and support features were available for free
  • Marketing capabilities eg. if it is possible to send an email campaign for free
  • Sales functions eg. how long it took to upload a list of contacts

Top four free CRM systems for small businesses

Based on extensive analysis of the best free CRM systems on the market, involving thorough user testing and months of research, here are the top four options we would recommend to small business owners:

Swipe right to see more
0 out of 0

Agile CRM

Best for:

Functionality

Best for:

Customisation

Best for:

Marketing tools

Best for:

Sales

Score out of 5:

4.5

Score out of 5:

4.6

Score out of 5:

4.2

Score out of 5:

3.8

Verdict:

Freshsales’ huge list of features means there’s no end to its capabilities. Great for teams with complicated sales pipelines.

Verdict:

Zoho CRM’s free platform has generous reporting tools that beat even some paid tiers.

Verdict:

Hubspot is a comprehensive CRM tool that’s great for marketing and outreach – two areas that are important for business growth.

Verdict:

Strong data tools let you track customers and sales across multiple digital channels. Best for ecommerce firms.

We'll take a detailed dive into each of these choices, below. As well as explaining hat you get with the free tier, we'll explain the benefits of upgrading and costs of the paid plans. Of course, these aren't the only brands around – check out our guide to CRM examples to learn more about the latest software on the market.

1. Freshsales Suite: best free CRM with unlimited users

Freshsales Suite
4.5
Freshsales' huge list of features means you'll never be caught short when it comes to CRM.
  • Free trial? Yes
  • Brilliant customer support
  • Automated workflows make managing work easy
Summary Freshsales (formerly Freshworks CRM) organises your customer and sales processes into one easy-to-use platform – from sales and marketing to data management. It boasts a genuinely impressive list of features, including an advanced AI tool, and is unparalleled in terms of the number of capabilities.
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Freshsales Free: feature breakdown

Freshsales is one of the most robust freemium platforms currently available for CRM software. Lots of popular CRM brands claim they’re free, but then have caveats (just look at Zoho CRM's three-person user limit on the free plan).

Here’s a full list of Freshsales’ capabilities:

  • Account management
  • Activity timeline
  • Chat widget
  • Contact management (up to 100 contacts permitted)
  • Contact lifestyle changes
  • Data export
  • Data import (it took us six minutes to upload a list of contacts – that's 11 minutes faster than HubSpot)
  • Integrations with 28 Freshsuite apps
  • Migration from other CRMs
  • Phone app
  • Unlimited users
  • Voice notes

There's a lot to get to grips with here and it will be overhwelming for those who are new to CRM at first. However, the Freshsales help and support services are impressive. Users get free support guides and advice over phone, email, and online chat. Notably, the helpdesk is open 24 hours a day, five days a week.

Freshsales also guided us through the main set up including data import, email connection, adding users, and customising the pipeline. Because we were effectively signposted and given step-by-step direction, it was a much faster process than we initially expected.

Freshsales screenshot

How much does Freshsales cost?

For those who are thinking long-term, if you decide to upgrade to a paid-for Freshsales plan, Freshsales Growth is the lowest-priced payment tier and gives you access to both of these areas. Costing just £12 per user, it’s a good investment idea once you have inevitably outgrown the platform’s free tier.

  • Freshsales Free – £0
  • Freshsales Growth – £12 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Freshsales Pro – £29 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Freshsales Enterprise – £55 per user, per month (billed annually)

Be wary that Freshsales’ free plan doesn’t score well for accounting and ecommerce integrations – two key areas  if you’re planning to sell to or attract customers online. Freshsales Growth is the better option if you think you'll need these functions.

Is Freshsales right for my business?

Thanks to its generous feature list and unlimited user allowance, we recommend Freshsales to larger firms with 5+ employees that are experienced with CRM. It is a great choice for those with complex CRM requirements that want a system that fits into their customer management strategy, rather than the other way around.

Note: at the time of writing, Freshsales has made the Freshsales Growth plan free for a maximum of three users. This is an excellent deal to take advantage of if you're in a team of three or fewer employees.

Learn More About CRM Costs

Read our full guide to CRM software costs find out about the tricks, discounts and deals that the top CRM providers have to offer.

2. Zoho CRM: best free CRM for building reports

Zoho CRM
4.5
Zoho CRM holds a huge range of data that means it's best for small businesses wanting strong analytics and reporting tools.
  • Free trial? Yes
  • Excellent onboarding and support functions
  • Huge range of report types
  • Clever social media workflow function
Summary Intelligent design is the best descriptor for Zoho CRM - every one of its features focuses on user experience first, which also means you have excellent customisation options to tailor the software to your business' unique processes. It also permits customer service queries at its free tier, which is a generous oddity compared to its rivals.
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Zoho CRM Free: feature breakdown

Reporting tools are Zoho CRM’s main export, as this software offers users expert insight into customer and sales processes by analysing sales, marketing, and support across one digital tool. We found the preset dashboards particularly useful for displaying key metrics.

But its functions aren’t all analytic. Zoho CRM also helps users to monitor and react to findings in real-time. For example Zia, Zoho's AI-powered sales assistant, which scans emails to detect their level of urgency. Thanks to an update in May 2023, users can easily locate and bulk delete unused customer profiles.

Zoho also makes dashboards and reports highly customisable, which can support pipeline decision-making. For example, you can view all ‘deals’ (sales) on one panoramic Kanban board, should you wish. The interface is also drag and drop, which makes it easy to re-design each dashboard. For features, the Zoho CRM free tier offers:

  • Analytics reports
  • Calendar view
  • Customisable sales pipeline
  • Data import (this took us 7.5 minutes, slightly slower than Freshsales Suite)
  • Deal reports
  • Integration with Zoho Suite
  • Lead reports
  • Recurring revenue reports
  • Web forms

Zoho CRM screenshot

How much does Zoho cost?

There are downsides to Zoho CRM Free. Given its more complex functions, Zoho CRM has a much steeper learning curve than most of the other platforms on this list. Unlike Freshsales, Zoho onboarding works more like a set of short slides than a tour of the platform.

Plus, only three users are permitted, which means you won’t be able to share CRM duties across your company – a major problem for small businesses, which often need to share out resources.

Here's how the paid tiers of Zoho CRM stack up:

  • Zoho CRM Free – £0
  • Zoho CRM Standard – £12 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho CRM Professional – £18 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho CRM Enterprise – £35 per user, per month (billed annually)

We’d recommend small businesses view the freemium version as a trial, rather than a long-term software solution. Zoho CRM Standard is only £12 per user which is competitively priced.

Is Zoho CRM right for my business?

Owed to its superior reporting functions, we recommend Zoho CRM for scaling, sales-driven companies that were founded in the past two years and want to concentrate on cultivating a strong customer base.

3. HubSpot Free: best free CRM for email marketing

Hubspot CRM
4.2
An innovative marketing solution that's completely free.
  • Free trial? Yes
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Brilliant email marketing features that make it easy to attract new business
Summary Aimed at SMEs, HubSpot Free is an innovative CRM solution that offers lots of add-ons to supplement its core focus on email and marketing outreach. Because of this, it doesn't have as much feature depth as other products. However, advanced UX-focused tools like its live and historical data sync mean it's an intuitive and affordable CRM choice.
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HubSpot Free: feature breakdown

According to HubSpot’s State of Marketing report 2021, 64% of small businesses now use email marketing to reach customers and its likely many are doing it with HubSpot Free. HubSpot is often touted as having one of the most generous free tiers on the market.

The CRM app lets an unlimited number of users access tons of powerful features and manage up to one million contacts without paying a penny. There’s also email integration and inbox management, as well as auto-responses.

In terms of marketing and lead generation, users can also access chatbots and an email design editor – neither of which are offered by Freshsales, Zoho, or Agile CRM – so you can personalise your outreach messages with company branding. Other features include:

  • Accounting software integration
  • Custom dashboard
  • Data import/export
  • List segmentation
  • Social media integration
  • Visual sales pipeline
  • Website visitor tracking

HubSpot’s features don’t beat Freshsales’ in terms of scale. We also found it poor for data management – it took us 17 minutes to upload a list of contacts (Zoho took less than eight). In fact, the entire data import process was needlessly complicated and resulted in us having to re-upload the same dataset multiple times.

HubSpot Free

How much does HubSpot cost?

HubSpot Free is really only designed for marketing CRM, so it should be used by small businesses in conjunction with other free CRM products to cover all areas of customer management. For example, Zoho CRM for reporting and Agile CRM for sales.

  • HubSpot Free – £0 per month
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month
  • HubSpot Sales Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month
  • HubSpot Service Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month

There are a couple of other packages that are geared towards sales and marketing – however, these are quite expensive purchases for SMEs off the bat. You'll want to get used to the HubSpot Free platform before trialling any of the paid plans.

See our full Hubspot review for more

Is HubSpot right for my business?

We recommend HubSpot for new product-based SMEs that are working on building up brand exposure and awareness. Its email marketing tools are unparalleled and excellent for companies that are less than two years old and can't yet afford a social media or PR agency.

4. Agile CRM: best free CRM for online sales

Agile CRM
3.8
Agile is a CRM tool with all-in-one automation that’s focused on tracking, marketing, sales, and service.
  • Free trial? Yes
  • Helpfully automated features
  • Quick and easy to import contacts
Summary Agile is an excellent option for sales-driven SMEs, thanks to its impressive free tier which focusses on tracking and following up with clients through the sales, marketing and implementation phases of the customer relationship. Because of this, we think it's a strong choice for ecommerce companies.
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Agile CRM: feature breakdown

After originally phasing out all free plans in 2015, Agile CRM has re-introduced a freemium tier for users. All of the core CRM features are covered, alongside a generous number of 1,000 contacts permitted. Freshsales, in comparison, only allows up to 100 (although its boundless user allowance easily surpasses Agile's limit of ten).

In terms of a specialism, Agile works best for sales. It’s a sprint-based software, so you can capture information and data to manage clients throughout the entire pipeline. You’ll also be able to empower sales representatives with advanced features like email tracking.

Like Zoho, Agile CRM uses a system called ‘Deals’ to illustrate the sales pipeline. Using the custom data fields function, you’re easily able to add or remove as many stages and name them whatever you like on Agile CRM, so they can fully reflect your businesses processes. Other features include:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Custom data fields
  • Custom deal milestones
  • Email tracking
  • Lead scoring
  • Two-way email integration
  • Two-way telephone
  • Unlimited deals, tasks and documents

Agile CRM screenshot

How much does Agile CRM cost?

One drawback to Agile’s free plan is that it has a 10-person user limit (slightly more generous than Zoho's three). It’s a great choice for smaller teams, but you’ll likely need to invest in a paid-for plan if you’re looking to scale your company in the next six months.

The Agile CRM Starter plan costs around £7 per user (pricing is only available in US$) and unlocks marketing functions including SMS campaigns and web engagement, allowing you to track website traffic and view personalised behaviour reports.

  • Agile CRM Free – $0 per month
  • Agile CRM Starter – $8.99 per user, per month
  • Agile CRM Regular – $29.99 per user, per month
  • Agile CRM Enterprise – $47.99 per user, per month

Is Agile CRM right for my business?

Agile CRM is best-suited to ecommerce companies with 10 or fewer employees. Its lead scoring features make it a top choice for internet sellers that need an online CRM.

What is the best paid-for CRM system?

Want to know more about the best CRM tools for small businesses overall? Read our full guide to find the best low-budget and high-quality CRM systems on the market.

How does free CRM software work?

CRM software provides one central location for marketers and sales representatives to manage their customer and sales pipeline. It is a very useful tool for businesses. However, it can also be expensive. Sugar CRM, for example, is a mid-level CRM tool that costs around £1,000 a month to license.

Free CRM software offers a budget alternative. These systems are 100% free to use and can take care of many key CRM duties like contact management, marketing, and lead tracking.

However, because the CRM system is free, most brands will counterbalance this generosity by limiting the number of features or users a plan offers. Some free tools might include their branding (like HubSpot).

What types of businesses should use free CRM software?

If your company deals with customers in any way, you need CRM software. But, free CRM tools won't be best suited to every type of business.

Free CRM software is an excellent option for small or microbusinesses. These tools tend to lack certain key features, but companies that are just starting out and don't have lots of team members or a large customer database will find a free plans suitable.

Once a company starts scaling, it will need to begin paying for a CRM tool that can support larger growth objectives. For example, a free CRM tends to limit the number of users, while a paid-for CRM will allow an unlimited number of sales reps or marketers to use the platform.

Is a free CRM software enough?

When you’re just starting out as a business, it makes sense to choose a freemium CRM system to keep expenses low. However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the free versions of business tools aren’t sufficient for long-term use. It might better to find a low-budget option from our top CRM software for small businesses instead.

Here are some CRM features that a free tier generally won’t give you:

1. Lack of accounting functions. Accounting data is an essential to monitor things like invoice tracking, budgeting, billing, and ledgers. Due to how important this area is, most brands only offer it on paid-for tiers.

2. User restrictions. Unless you’re using Freshsales, most freemium tiers put a cap on your employees to ensure that, as your company scales, you are investing more in your providers.

3. No social media integration. Social media allows teams to leverage social information to understand and engage customers, gain market insights, and provide better customer service. It is almost never available for free.

4. Reduced customer service. We don’t just mean a help desk – as this list proves, brands like Freshsales have plenty of different customer service options for zero charge. Still, most paid-for tiers tend to keep their free customer service tools to the bare minimum.

Which is the best CRM software with a free trial?

monday.com
4.3
monday sales CRM is an all-in-one platform that enables business owners and sales teams to manage all their CRM functions in one central location.
  • Free trial? Yes
  • Ecommerce integrations offered - rare for a CRM tool
  • Excellent customisation means you won't have to redesign your existing CRM process
Summary Monday.com offers well-designed creative tools that make it an endlessly customisable CRM system, perfect for tailoring to clients’ needs. The app also uses a visually appealing traffic light system to help you track customers throughout the pipeline, and has over 200 dashboard templates, making it a particularly stylish tool to use.
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Zendesk
4.1
Strong business support tools and high-performing features make Zendesk a good option for SMEs providing specialist services
  • Free trial 30-day
  • Price from £15 per month
  • Long list of integrations
  • Excellent analytics tools
  • Unparalleled support services
Summary Zendesk is a powerful name in the business software market and it has a fantastic array of integrations, spanning across a huge range of categories including analytics and reporting, e-commerce, email and social Media, IT and project management, and tons more. Perhaps Zendesk’s best known feature however, is its excellent support tools. New users at any payment tier can utilise a vast library of handy materials including onboarding and adoption resources, guided learning paths, and on-demand training courses.
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Pipedrive
4.3
Functional CRM platform that's competitively priced.
  • Free trial 14-day
  • Price from £14.90 per user
  • Integrates with tons of third-party apps
  • Intuitive interface focuses on user experience
Summary We think Pipedrive stands out for its huge list of third-party add-ons and integrations – which makes this software a smart choice for small firms with lots of existing resources. The platform’s lowest-tiered plan costs £12.50 per user, per month, and gives you powerful features such as email integration, goal tracking, reporting, and forecasting.
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How we test CRM systems for UK small businesses

At Startups, it's important to us that the product recommendations we make to small UK businesses are useful, accurate, and based on thorough product testing.

We tested 13 CRM systems across seven main categories of investigation and 13 subcategories – all in all, we covered 84 areas of investigation. Next, we gave a ‘relevance weighting' to the final product category scores - this ensures the products' final ratings perfectly reflect the specific needs and requirements of Startups readers.

Our main testing categories for CRM systems are:

Features: the functionalities and capabilities provided by the CRM software, including contact management, lead and opportunity tracking, and task and activity management.

Help and Support: the assistance and resources available to users when they encounter issues or need guidance while using the CRM software.

Customisation: the ability to tailor the CRM software to suit the specific needs and processes of the organization, including customising fields, layouts, and workflows.

Scalability: the ability of the CRM software to accommodate the growth and changing needs of the organization, such as the capacity to handle a growing customer database.

Price: the cost associated with using the CRM software. It includes factors such as licensing fees and subscription plans.

Team Structure – Sales CRM: determining if a platform makes it easier to manage large sales teams, including team dashboards and team hierarchies.

Usability – Small Business CRM: assessing the simplicity of the interface, the ease of navigating through menus and options, and the overall user experience.

The Startups product testing process

The Startups product testing process diagram

Next steps

We’ve taken you through the top four free CRM tools for economical small business owners, examining what their freemium plans can give you, as well as what the pros and cons to each product are.

If you want a free CRM tool that doesn’t scrimp on features, try the Freshsales Suite.
If you’re looking to track and understand your customers better, use Zoho CRM
If it’s sales and marketing that you want to prioritise, choose HubSpot.
If you’re a sales-led company and need plenty of deal tracking tools, choose Agile CRM.

A freemium plan is great for startups or sole traders who are just starting out. But business owners should be aware that managing your customers is an important aspect of running a company and requires proper investment for long-term growth and success.

With this in mind, we’ve also told you about the best free trials available, so you can test the top brands without jeopardising your budget. And if you're still not sure? Use our simple online comparison tool to get bespoke quotes from the best providers in the industry.

Related reading

Free CRM FAQs
  • What are the best free CRM systems?
    Our research shows that the best free CRM systems are Freshsales, Zoho CRM, HubSpot CRM, and Agile CRM, as they are all generously full-featured and permit specialist software that matches even the paid tiers for functions like reporting and marketing.
  • What's the cheapest CRM software?
    Hubspot CRM is our top pick for affordability. Its free plan offers excellent features, and though its starting price of £38 per month may seem expensive at first, this is a flat rate, meaning Hubspot won’t charge you extra per user.
  • Is Google Drive a CRM?
    Google Drive is not a CRM. If you are using basic Google apps, then these are severely limited in comparison to specialist CRM software and only work well as a customer database. You might be able to use these platforms to store customer information, but you won’t be able to track or analyse the data you find without significant workarounds.
  • Does Google have a free CRM?
    Google does not currently offer a CRM product as part of its software suite, G Suite. There are some tools that integrate closely with Google, but their functions are limited and they can end up slowing you down rather than aiding you in customer management.
  • Is Zoho CRM still free?
    Yes, there is a free Zoho CRM plan. Other than that, you’ll pay £12 per user for Zoho’s cheapest paid-for CRM plan, Zoho Standard. However, there is also a free 30-day trial available for Zoho Standard if you’re looking to test out the added benefits that money can buy.
Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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