Best free project management software for small businesses Looking to get started with some project management software? Check out our guide to finding the best freemium option for your business. Helena Young August 9, 2022 9 min read Our experts We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by: Helena Young Senior Writer Our independent reviews and recommendations are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. We think the best free project management software option for SMEs is ClickUp. It boasts a full-featured freemium tier, scoring particularly highly for crucial team collaboration functions. Plus, it also has excellent discounts and deals available if you want to upgrade.The best free PM option for growing businesses is Wrike. Larger teams aren't often served well by freemium tiers and Wrike permits an unlimited number of team members – great for scaling firms.Asana is the best option for remote working – a big challenge for SMEs post-Covid – thanks to its outstanding real-time collaboration tools. 0 out of 0 backward forward Best for Free trial? Rating (/5) Verdict STARTUPS CHOICE ClickUp Wrike Asana Trello Jira Work Management Number of available features Number of users Remote working Gentle learning curve Security 4.3 4 4.0 3.8 3.7 Clickup is a budget-friendly project management tool for teams needing one app to focus all their work tasks, with a great free plan option, too. Affordable option that's perfect for teams of any size that want to be kept updated on project progress Great choice for SMEs with under 15 employees and a remote working policy. Trello’s simple user interface makes it a good option for less tech-friendly small businesses A smart choice for SMEs with 10 or fewer employees that want to focus on cybersecurity Project management can take up a large chunk of your day-to-day operations. Planning, allocating workload, reviewing progress – all of these require people and time, which are two resources that small businesses are often in limited supply of.That’s why increasing numbers of SMEs are purchasing project management (PM) software. Finding the right platform to use can be hugely valuable in helping you to streamline your planning and organisation processes, saving on time and effort.But as a small business owner, you don’t have time to try out every new software available on the market. How do you know which is best for your business, without breaking the bank?Freemium plans or free trials are a great way for companies to get to grips with PM software.Of course, there are limitations. Most free plans are designed for solo users or small teams, so growing workforces will find them less valuable in the long-term. However, newer brands are beginning to break that mould – ClickUp, for example, boasts a ‘free forever’ plan that offers an unmatched volume of free features, for zero charge.We’ve weighed up the pros and cons to pick out the top freemium plans from leading project management software platforms, specifically with small businesses in mind. For a quick overview, see the table below: This article will cover: ClickUp Wrike Asana Trello Jira Work Management What makes a good free project management software? Is a freemium project management software option enough? What is the best project management software with a free trial? Final review ClickUpBest for: Number of available features 4.3 out of 5 Ease of use 4.5 Features 5 Integrations 3.5 Try for free What is ClickUp?Founded in 2017, ClickUp is relatively new to the market, but has already made a name for itself as a modern, all-in-one platform. It follows the organisational structure of a workplace, with each workspace being organised into different spaces (the free tier allows up to 5 per workspace) where work is divided into folders containing day-to-day tasks. This simple format keeps project data separate, and allows different departments to customise their areas with their own specific project management style.FeaturesClickUp promises a ‘free forever’ payment option with the feature-rich ClickUp Free. This tier has everything you need to get started in terms of essential and advanced features. Here are just some of the tools available:Custom viewsPortfoliosGoalsMind mapsDashboardsSpreadsheetsGantt chartsReal time collaborationEmail100+ integrationsProofingTwo-factor authenticationOne downside to ClickUp is that the majority of its free features come with a monthly limit. The amounts permitted are generous, and shouldn’t matter for teams with fewer than 10 employees. But small businesses with a growing workforce will want to upgrade to ClickUp Unlimited, and should think of the freemium plan as a short-term solution.PricingClickUp’s free tier might be its biggest USP, but its higher-tiered payment plans are similarly low cost and high value. ClickUp Unlimited costs just £3.62 per user, per month when billed monthly (£6.51 billed annually), and this unlocks more sophisticated tools including cloud storage options like Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. 0 out of 0 backward forward Price Per Month (billed annually) You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance Price Per Month (billed monthly) Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option Users The total number of users for this plan level ClickUp Free ClickUp Unlimited ClickUp Business ClickUp Enterprise Free £3.62 per member £6.51 per member Contact sales Free £6.51 per member £13.74 per member Contact sales Unlimited – but only 5 spaces Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Compare ClickUp deals Compare VerdictClickUp Free is the ideal freemium plan for any small business thanks to the platform’s ‘free forever’ promise and unmatched list of features. However, growing firms will need to invest in the still budget-friendly ClickUp Unlimited for scalability. WrikeBest for: Number of users 4 out of 5 Ease of use 4.5 Features 3.5 Integrations 4 Try for free What is Wrike?Wrike was founded in 2003, and is one of the oldest PM software products in this list. Its features are mostly centred around complex and high-volume projects. Wrike’s biggest benefit is that it very recently updated its freemium platform to allow for an unlimited number of users, with no hidden caveats – making it one of the only PM software products to have no restrictions on the number of members. Scaling teams, or SMEs with a high number of freelance staff, would therefore benefit the most from this software choice.FeaturesWrike hosts all the essential features for a freemium plan. It also has a generous allowance for spreadsheet usage, making it useful for scheduling and monitoring work allocation.Web, desktop, and mobile appsTask and subtask managementTime trackingExternal and internal collaboratorsInteractive board and spreadsheet viewsCloud storage integrations2 GB storage space per accountWrike’s more sophisticated tools can slow the program down – even with Wrike Free – so teams with poor broadband capacity will struggle. Small businesses would need to make sure they have the proper IT infrastructure to cope before downloading Wrike.Pricing: 0 out of 0 backward forward Price Per Month (billed annually) You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance Users The total number of users for this plan level Wrike Free Wrike Professional Wrike Business Wrike Enterprise Free £7.10 per user £17.96 Contact sales Unlimited 5 to 200 5 to 200 Unlimited Try Wrike for free now Compare VerdictWrike’s design favours multi-project management and its Free plan is built for an unlimited number of members, making it the ideal choice for smaller startups using freelance workers. AsanaBest for: Remote working 4 out of 5 Ease of use 4.5 Features 3.5 Integrations 4 Visit What is Asana?Particularly when those involved are working remotely, collaboration issues can push projects off-course. In a 2015 survey by Clarizen, 62.3% of businesses said that communication was the biggest roadblock to project success in their organisation.Asana is one of the biggest names in the PM software industry. Its excellent communication tools include an internal chat feature, which makes it great for team working. There are other PM software tools with a focus on online collaboration, such as Basecamp, but Asana Basic is the most affordable option for supplying great remote-working tools completely free of charge. Alina Cincan is managing director of Inbox Translation, a translation agency. Cincan commented: “One of the best features in Asana is the ability to assign tasks to team members. I also like the comment function that allows us to share ideas, add files, and keep track of everything pertaining to that task or project in one place. Having the ability to create teams helps keep things organised. Another thing that’s worth mentioning is the fact that if someone closes a task I’m involved in then I get notified, which helps me to be on top of the projects I’m interested in.” FeaturesAsana Basic has a very strong list of tools, putting it behind only ClickUp in this list for the number of available free features. These include:File sharing integrations with Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDriveUnlimited messages to communicate with co-workersProject overview optionUnlimited number of activity logsTwo-factor authentication for added securityCalendar, list, and board viewsPricingThe biggest drawback to Asana’s free plan is that it doesn't have the complex features that ClickUp boasts, meaning Asana Premium is the best way forward for companies dealing with complex, or indeed multiple, projects. The cost is £9.49 per month, per user when billed annually (£11.59 billed monthly). 0 out of 0 backward forward Price Per Month (billed annually) You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance Price Per Month (billed monthly) Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option Users The total number of users for this plan level Asana Basic Asana Premium Asana Business Asana Enterprise Free £9.49 £20.99 Contact sales Free £11.59 £25.69 Contact sales Up to 15 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited VerdictAsana Basic is a great free choice for SMEs with under 15 employees. It offers a strong list of features with a focus on collaboration, making it particularly well-suited for those teams that are working remotely. TrelloBest for: Gentle learning curve 3.8 out of 5 Ease of use 5 Features 3.5 Integrations 3 Visit What is Trello?When it comes to simple, easy-to-use project management software, Trello is some of the most popular. Its user-friendly interface lets you keep an eye on your daily tasks and coordinate your overall planning, without over-complicating things. Its free plan gives you unlimited cards, activity logs, and users, and unlimited storage at 10MB per file. Lee Cullen is Client Director at No Brainer, a digital marketing agency based in Warrington. Cullen said: “Trello was actually one of the very first organisational tools I started using. The free version of the tool gives you lots of great functionality, and helps to keep everything in one place. We haven’t felt the need to upgrade beyond the free version yet, but it’s definitely something we’d consider.” FeaturesTrello is intended to have a gentle learning curve for new users. Because of this, it doesn’t have a lot of the more advanced features. For those looking to find their feet with an easy bit of software, however, we think Trello Free is the best option.Up to 10 boards1 Power-Up per board50 automated command runs per monthAssignee and due datesiOS and Android mobile appsTwo factor authenticationPricing:There are two different payment plans available from Trello. Small businesses will be most satisfied with the Business Class plan. It costs £9.05 per user when billed monthly, and £7.24 if billed annually. However, most of the features available in Trello’s Business Class plan are also available for zero cost from other platforms, like ClickUp Free or Wrike Free. For Trello Free users, switching providers is probably better value for money when looking to upgrade. 0 out of 0 backward forward Price Per Month (billed annually) You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance Price Per Month (billed monthly) Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option Users The total number of users for this plan level Trello Basic Trello Business Trello Enterprise Free £7.24 per user Contact sales Free £9.05 per user Contact sales Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited VerdictIf you’re not too confident using new software, or you’re in a customer service based industry like retail and hospitality, then Trello’s simple user interface makes it a good option for less tech-friendly small businesses. Jira Work ManagementBest for: Security 3.7 out of 5 Ease of use 3.5 Features 3.5 Integrations 4 Visit What is Jira?Jira Work Management is a cloud-based work tool that uses four different views to display your projects: whether as a list, a calendar, a board, or a timeline. Good security features are often missing from freemium plans, which makes Jira Free unique. The software is popular with mid-sized companies for its excellent bug and issue tracking tools, and its free plan offers the best security and compliance features on this list by a considerable margin.In 2019, the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report estimated the average cost of a cyber attack to be £11,000 – an unsurvivable blow for most startups. With this in mind, Jira’s free app represents a smart decision for small businesses that also want to prioritise cyber security for project management.FeaturesAccess to unlimited tasks and projectsCustomisable workflowsPassword policies to ensure maximum password securityAll data is automatically encrypted so you can use public networksIssue-level security so only specific users can edit and view projectsSession duration management to control how long someone views your projectsJira Free is also available as an integration with other project management software, including Asana Basic and ClickUp Free. We think the free plan is worth downloading as an extension for its impressive cybersecurity features.PricingJira’s lowest tiered payment option is Jira Standard. Its monthly billing plan is highly affordable at £3.63 per user, and would make sense for teams with more than 10 employees, as they won’t qualify for Jira Free. The annual billing plan is judged in tiers, which means it can be good value if you are close to the maximum number of users. 0 out of 0 backward forward Price Per Month (billed annually) You can typically save by paying for a year or more in advance Price Per Month (billed monthly) Paying monthly is usually the more expensive option Users The total number of users for this plan level Jira Work Management Free Jira Work Management Standard Free £363 (flat annual rate for 1-10 users) Free £3.63 Up to 10 Up to 10,000 VerdictSmall businesses are limited by the low number of users Jira Free provides. However, its excellent security ranking means that the platform is a smart choice for SMEs with 10 or fewer employees that want to focus on cybersecurity. What makes a good free project management software?Every business has different workflows and processes. But there are some priorities we keep hearing about from budget-conscious small business owners when it comes to the free versions of PM tools.For example, free software often has limitations for things like the number of users or features, which can prove irritating for SMEs with a particular need for those categories.We picked out the best free options for project management software based on five common requirements for small business owners, to help you find the best free software tool based the needs where they often underperform.These categories were:Number of available features – freemium options tend to be close-fisted when it comes to PM featuresCyber security – cyber attacks can be particularly costly for SMEs, but security is not often the focus for work management toolsGentle learning curve – important for small firms that are new to using PM software and want to get to grips with a freemium versionNumber of users – user limits are common for freemium software and can be tricky for small businesses with fluctuating team sizesCommunication – communication tools are an added expense more commonly seen in paid-for plans How can project management software be used effectively? Choosing the best project management software is only part of the process. The real change comes when you begin using it in earnest to focus your team's initiatives, objectives and responsible stakeholders.There's no “one size fits all” way of doing this, of course. Some businesses may enjoy working off a simple Kanban style board, while others will want to plan activities through Gantt charts, RACI indexes or even schedule work through calendars. Every project management tool has a different approach, and most will also offer a huge variety of ready-made templates that you can customise to suit the working style of your own team.We have a number of guides that can help you to understand some of the best ways to use project management software, including:Best Project Plan TemplatesFree Competitor Analysis TemplatesProject Management Methodologies Explained Is a freemium project management software option enough?It depends a lot on your business and how well established you are, but generally speaking, a free PM software option will not be enough for growth-oriented companies.The limitation of free software plans is that they are not meant for long-term use. They can help you scale up your business by delivering a successful project, but once you’ve reached a suitable level of growth, your needs will change. Then, you should look to find the right payment plan to unlock more sophisticated tools aimed at delegation and multi-project management.We think the listed products above are the best options for freemium models. But there might be a paid-for PM software which is more valuable for your business.Check out our free online comparison tool to find it. What is the best project management software with a free trial?While there are some great freemium options available on the market, the usual caveat is that you will obviously need to upgrade when it comes to long-term project management needs.There are plenty of affordable options available. ClickUp, for example, offers its lowest-paid tier at a cost of just £3.62 per user, per month when billed annually. But if you’re sure that project management is a must for your firm, you’ll want to test a few of the big names out first.Here are some of the most popular project management software solutions which have free trials available: Monday.com 4.3 Monday.com is an extremely versatile software with team collaboration functions for nearly every business need, including CRM, HR and project management. Try for free Free trial 14-day Price from £7 per seat Great customisation features Attractive interface for easy-to-grasp visuals Summary Due to its visual appeal and customisable progress tools, Monday.com has become a favourite among creative teams. It’s incredibly easy to use, even presenting templates to help with the layout of your project organisation. Monday.com’s payment plans are based on user tiers, which means greater pricing flexibility for fluctuating team sizes. It also has a great 14-day free trial for you to get to grips with the software before purchasing. Show moreless Basecamp 3.5 Basecamp helps you to manage projects without the fuss. It has fewer options than rivals, but it is incredible simple and quick to use. Free trial 30-day Price from £71.44 (flat rate) Easily-navigable platform Great for basic task management Summary Basecamp's tidy interface means it is very simple to use and well-suited for newcomers to project management software - particularly for team collaboration tools. At £71.44 per month, per business, it’s an expensive first-time investment, so the free version is a smart way to test out its impressive capabilities without overspending. Show moreless For more information on finding the best for your business, read our handy guide to the best project management software. Final reviewWe’ve picked out the best free project management software for you based on the above criteria. But in terms of the best all-round option for small businesses, we recommend ClickUp Free.Its truly inexhaustible list of features means that even if you’re not sure what you’re looking for from a PM software tool, you can be sure that ClickUp Free will help you to find it.If you want to learn more about ClickUp pricing, read our expert guide.For the number of features, choose ClickUpClickUp’s ‘forever free’ freemium option is the best on the market for features by far. There’s no stone left unturned, with everything from Gantt charts to personalised URLs meaning there’s no risk of feeling unsatisfiedFor the number of users, choose WrikeFreemium plans often limit the number of users available, which makes Wrike Free a good option for startups with freelance workers and shifting team sizesFor remote working, choose AsanaAsana Free is a favourite for collaborative teams thanks to its excellent communication tools. It works best for startups with remote working or nationally dispersed teamsFor a gentle learning curve, choose TrelloIt’s always daunting trying out new technology. Trello is the best choice for those on the first rung of the PM software ladder, looking for a simple, easy-to-use programFor security, choose Jira Cybersecurity is an important consideration for any SME. For those working on projects with sensitive information, Jira Free offers tight security and data protection for zero chargeFor the best project management software with a free trial, choose Monday.comPerhaps you're just looking to try before you buy? Monday.com is a great PM tool and has a 14-day free trial, so you can be sure before you commit. Startups.co.uk is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps Startups.co.uk to provide free advice and reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews. Share this post facebook twitter linkedin Helena Young Senior Writer Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.