7 best free project management software for small businesses on a budget

Discover the top 7 free project management tools on the market today for small businesses on a budget, and unlock success without breaking the bank.

Our Research

Our expert team of writers and researchers rates project management software against the factors small businesses care about most - value for money (for both small and growing teams); depth of features; ease of use; quality of templates and ability to customise them, plus help and support when problems need resolving.
Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Startups.co.uk is reader supported – we may earn a commission from our recommendations, at no extra cost to you and without impacting our editorial impartiality.

Navigating project management software can feel like a daunting task for any small business owner – but fear not, as we’ve sifted through the options and unearthed the cream of the crop.

Our top pick? ClickUp.

From rebuilding their interface this past November, to the introduction of their new AI features this February, the company is now the best free choice for small businesses looking to scale their businesses without breaking the bank.

But could another software potentially suit your business needs better? And is it worth upgrading for the additional features to save time or other precious resources? Let’s find out by exploring our other top picks, all tailored to better 🔍align with your budget.

Best free project management software at a glance

The best free project management software in 2024

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Jira Work Management



Best for

Overall free project management

Best for

Sole traders

Best for

Deadline-driven teams

Best for

Larger teams with external collaborators

Best for

Small tech teams

Best for

Real-time collaboration with remote teams

Best for


Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?
Free trial?

ClickUp Free

  • Startups logo
    Best for scalability Startups' top pick
4.7 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

ClickUp has made a name for itself as a modern, all-in-one platform in recent years, after being founded in 2017. We awarded ClickUp first-place in our research as a result of its huge list of features that surpasses big-name players like Asana and Jira.

We were impressed by Clickup and the volume of its information in its “List” view. (Source: Clickup)

ClickUp Free Pros:
  • ClickUp Free has a project message board for internal communication to tag users in relevant conversations
  • ClickUp Free includes Gantt charts so users can see how tasks and deadlines align with each other
  • ClickUp Free permits an unlimited number of users so that any size team can use the app
ClickUp Free Cons:
  • ClickUp Free's features are capped at a certain number of uses per month, such as a 100MB storage limit
  • With ClickUp Free, no onboarding assistance is available - a significant drawback for those that aren’t experienced with PM software
  • ClickUp Free does not offer a calendar view, so you can’t plan for tasks on a weekly or monthly basis

ClickUp promises a ‘free forever’ payment option and it is certainly possible for businesses to get by with the feature-rich ClickUp Free for a long time.

Its collaboration features are especially outstanding. By consolidating various communication tools, like task comments and user tags, ClickUp Free becomes an effective team working tool that means you won’t have to spend hundreds on third-party messaging apps.

As well as this, the ClickUp Free tier has a huge array of both essential and advanced features including:

  • Custom views
  • Portfolios
  • Goals
  • Mind maps
  • Dashboards
  • Spreadsheets

As an added bonus, Clickup Free didn’t present a steep learning curve for users. It provides a lot of easy preset functions, such as employee management templates and productivity workflows, so our testers were able to hit the ground running after a relatively quick onboarding.

However, during testing, we were frustrated by the speed of the platform. The app became unresponsive frequently, particularly when importing data. One tester had to manually add in dates and milestones to a project, which proved time-consuming. As a result, we gave ClickUp Free an okay ease of use score of 3.9 out of 5.

We also would have liked to see more integrations available with ClickUp Free; specifically for marketing. While rival brands like Trello, Asana, and Teamwork connect with third-party apps like HubSpot for free, ClickUp lags behind in this area.

What's new for ClickUp?

Like many project management systems, ClickUp has been making a lot of advancements which can be found in their 2024 release notes.

And just this week (week of 13th February 2024), they added features and improvements such as formula field calculations in lists, grouping views by task type, updating task types on mobile, and Singapore data hosting.

ClickUp Pricing

When reviewing ClickUp pricing, we found that startups could feasibly use the free tier for their full first year in business without needing to upgrade, as its average price across all pricing plans are very competitive.

Pricing begins at just $7 per user when billed annually ($10 per user when billed monthly) for Clickup Unlimited, which unlocks unlimited storage and larger monthly allowances. Here’s the full pricing by tier:

  • ClickUp Free – $0
  • ClickUp Unlimited – $7 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • ClickUp Business – $12 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • ClickUp Enterprise – on request

ClickUp Unlimited costs around £10 per user, per month when billed annually, and this unlocks an unlimited number of uses of important features like dashboards. Our experts say it’s the ideal investment for scaling companies taking on more projects or commissions.

While this article predominantly focuses on the free features provided by each provider, it’s important to also highlight ClickUp’s recent advancements in the realm of artificial intelligence.

On January 30th, 2024, ClickUp unveiled ClickUp Brain, a groundbreaking leap in AI technology. ClickUp Brain harnesses knowledge from an entire organisation’s workspace, streamlining processes and eliminating redundant tasks.

ClickUp Brain comprises three integral components: AI Knowledge Manager™, AI Project Manager™, and AI Writer for Work™, collectively enhancing efficiency by automating mundane tasks and empowering you to allocate your valuable time towards innovation and leadership.

While it can be seamlessly integrated into any plan for an additional $5 per member per month, you also have the option to explore its potential through a 💸 complimentary trial period.

Is the ClickUp Free plan worth it?

Yes; for startups that are in the very early stages of growth, ClickUp Free is excellent value for money. It allows you to create an unlimited number of tasks, and has lots of premium features (eg. Kanban boards) that are only available with the more advanced plans of rival software like monday.com or Wrike.

That said, users can only create up to five spaces per month with ClickUp Free, which means teams with more than three employees will likely quickly outgrow the free tier. We recommend startups ugrade to ClickUp Unlimited as soon as their budget can afford to ensure the tool doesn’t end up limiting hiring plans.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“Setting up a project in Clickup was a quick and easy process. Users can input all the details without going through multiple menus or needing to navigating the platform.

“One pain point is data import. One tester was waiting in a ClickUp ‘queue’ for at least four or five minutes while trying to upload data. If we had seen a progress bar then we would’ve felt a lot better. Without this, it was a frustrating process.”

monday.com Free

  • Startups logo
    Best for freelancers Startups' top pick
4.7 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

The monday.com free plan provides a premium organisational tool for sole traders or those running a business part-time, who want to test out a number of apps before they invest in a budget option.

The platform’s ease of use score is a huge 4.5 out of 5 according to our research, largely due to a familiar and intuitive interface that means every tab, button, and feature is where you’d expect it to be. New users will be able to master it overnight.

We were able to flip between multiple dashboard views quickly, giving us lots of flexibility over how to manage our test projects. (Source: monday.com)

monday.com Free Pros:
  • monday.com Free boasts an online whiteboard for brainstorming ideas - handy if you’re in the early stages of planning a project
  • monday.com Free includes a custom widget builder so you can display specific information relating to a task, such as a deadline
  • monday.com Free has a form builder to gather information (ClickUp Free does not have this feature)
monday.com Free Cons:
  • monday.com Free has no onboarding assistance, 24/7 live support, or live chat available, so users will struggle if they encounter an issue
  • monday.com Free does not come with preset project templates. Its free plan is for task management only
  • monday.com Free does not offer any integrations with CRM, marketing, reporting, or communication apps

Those who are just starting out, perhaps by going freelance, will like monday.com for its simplicity. It is an incredibly easy-to-use platform that encourages creative thinking and problem-solving with its online whiteboard feature.

During our ease of use testing, we discovered that the more complex features (ie. budget tracking) require workarounds, which can take a while to grasp. Sometimes, the monday.com free plan explained the workarounds via its knowledge base but other times it didn’t, leaving us in the dark at points of the test process.

Sole traders won’t need to worry about this problem as they are more likely to be using the platform for day-to-day tasks than long-term project management. Comparatively, group work is not really catered for in the free tier of monday.com.

Projects with multiple collaborators or stakeholders will struggle with the lack of dashboards, or a team instant messenger, to monitor colleagues’ progress. Both of these are, by comparison, available on ClickUp Free for no charge. Of course, if you spend on monday.com, then you unlock a huge number of features that make it far better suited to team work.

What's new for monday.com?

monday.com helpfully lists all of its latest release notes and software updates on its website. Most helpfully, in January 2023, it introduced a new feature called WorkCanvas – a collaborative digital whiteboard that connects directly to monday.com and allows teams to visually brainstorm, map out, and work together on anything!

monday.com Pricing

While monday.com calls its freemium tier Free Forever, there is a time limit for how long businesses can use it. While the ClickUp Free plan could realistically be used by a business forever, monday.com users should upgrade to the Basic plan once they have more than two team members.

Luckily, monday.com pricing is very fair. monday.com Basic provides teams of 3+ employees with an attractive and colour-coded view of a larger project timeline through monday’s famously customisable templates – and all for a low monthly cost of just £8 per user, billed annually:

  • Basic – £8 per seat, per month (annual billing, minimum 3 users)
  • Standard – £11 per seat, per month (annual billing)
  • Pro – £17 per seat, per month (annual billing)
  • Enterprise – bespoke pricing

Is the monday.com free plan worth it?

Small businesses can use the monday.com free plan to demo the platform. Naturally, monday.com’s free plan is not a sustainable solution for businesses due to its two-person cap, however. Teams of three or more should upgrade to the lowest-tiered plan, monday.com Basic, to gain access to monday’s wealth of customisable templates and project management tools.

Use the time to train staff members on basic tasks, and migrate any project data. That way, when it’s time to upgrade to monday.com Basic, you can start using the software from the minute your contract begins.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“monday takes a highly customisable approach to project management, enabling users to add as much or as little detail as they want. Most of what you create on a monday ‘board’ can be edited in a matter of clicks.

“When creating charts, our testers found it all super easy. The design was really nice and user friendly. But then we couldn’t organise things by date. In fact, during testing, a couple of niche situations and examples that would be helpful for teams didn’t work at all.”

Teamwork Free Forever

  • Startups logo
    Best for client services Startups' top pick
4.6 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

As its name suggests, Teamwork Free Forever is an outstanding project management software for working in a specific task force or department. It gets a very acceptable score for features of 3.7 out of 5, largely due to its unique focus on tracking staff time. That makes it an excellent tool for SMEs working to tight client deadlines.

We were able to easily set up a budget for our project in Teamwork – a feature Jira, monday.com, and Asana all lack in their free plans. (Source: Teamwork)

Teamwork Free Forever Pros:
  • Teamwork includes time-tracking per employee (not available with Asana or monday.com)
  • Teamwork permits task dependencies, so your whole team is kept aware of their unique responsibilities
  • Teamwork has an impressive ease of use score of 3.9 out of 5, thanks to its preset templates that make it easy to build a project
Teamwork Free Forever Cons:
  • Teamwork Free Forever lacks preset project templates which can save a lot of time in early planning stages
  • No spreadsheet view available, meaning Teamwork Free Forever is not a good choice for companies dealing with large datasets
  • Teamwork Free Forever does not have a community forum, so busineses cannot get help and guidance from fellow users when in a bind

Time tracking is a very valuable tool for small businesses which is why a lot of PM systems (including Asana and monday.com) only host this feature on their paid-for plans.

Teamwork Free Forever is the anomaly, offering this plus lots of other managerial-specific functions that can help SME users to meet deadlines by optimising their resources. For example, Teamwork’s ‘milestones’ feature alerted us when a specific target has been hit (or missed) by another team member.

One thing we were surprised to see missed off the list of free Teamwork features was a team instant messenger. For a brand that prioritises team-working, Teamwork Free Forever users can only send emojis or files to other team members. Plus, they’ll have to pay a special additional charge for the privilege.

What's new for Teamwork?

Teamwork is so transparent with its release notes that it actually has an update tracker, where users can check what’s currently under development. In January, they launched six new enhancements to their time log modal, logging your time is easier, faster, and more intuitive than ever before. It’s now also easier than ever to find and assign teammates to time logs. Need multiple people added to an entry? Teamwork states, “Whether it’s one person or multiple, you’ll find this experience snappy, simple, and streamlined.”

Teamwork Pricing

Users who upgrade to Teamwork Deliver for £9.99 per user, per month (billed annually) will find it an expensive leap compared to scalable rivals like ClickUp and monday.com.

However, the upgrade does get you access to billing and invoicing – two crucial resource management areas that will save a lot of time and money for SMEs.

Here’s how the other Teamwork plans stack up:

  • Teamwork Free Forever – £0
  • Teamwork Starter – £5.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Deliver – £9.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Grow – £19.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Scale – bespoke

Is the Teamwork Free plan worth it?

Like monday.com, Teamwork Free should not be thought of as a long-term PM solution. It is definitely not the most full-featured free plan for SMEs. Particularly when compared to rivals like ClickUp, it is hugely lacking in project creation areas like preset templates and custom project templates – plus, there’s a pesky three user limit.

Teams with more than three employees will need to upgrade to the next plan up, Teamwork Standard, to ensure your software is not only available for a certain percentage of team members. To support a larger team base, Teamwork Standard will also give you access to a team messenger tool.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“Teamwork provides a very good experience when it comes to monitoring the progress of a project. Most notably, it has a number of preset charts, including a burndown chart, project health, and workload planning.

“One of the key areas of improvement that was identified in this testing stage was the placement of their budget management features. I added a custom field because I couldn’t see a dedicated field for adding budgets. Not too time-consuming, but it would be nice to have dedicated features for this.”

Wrike Free

  • Startups logo
    Best for teams with 10+ employees Startups' top pick
4.5 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

Wrike’s features are mostly centred around delivering complex and high-volume projects that require large teams. Having recently updated its freemium platform to allow for an unlimited number of users, SMEs with a lot of junior workers to manage would benefit most from this system.

We were able to easily add guests (internal and external) to review our project – great for working with stakeholders. (Source: Wrike)

Wrike Free Pros:
  • Wrike Free permits both external and internal collaborators thanks to its Guest Access feature - the only brand on our list to do so
  • Wrike Free has both task comments and a project message board, making it easy for managers to instruct employees on their day-to-day tasks
  • Wrike Free receives a high ease of use score of 4.1, outperforming Jira, and ClickUp
Wrike Free Cons:
  • Wrike Free does not have any Gantt charts or time-tracking features, making it difficult to track project progress
  • Wrike Free is lacking CRM or marketing integrations, making it poor for planning sales campaigns
  • Wrike Free does not have an automation builder, meaning users miss out on lots of potential time-saving moves

Wrike Free 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, which neither Jira, Teamwork, Trello, or Teamwork offer.

We really liked how in-depth the platform when it came to task management. We were able to create sub-tasks of sub-tasks, making complex project management with a lot of collaborators run much more smoothly than if we had been using a more stubborn format like Excel or Google Sheets.

Wrike Free’s more sophisticated tools do sacrifice some fundamental PM functions. We gave it a score of just 3.7 out of 5 for features due to its poor collaboration features (no instant messenger is available in the free version) and complete lack of dashboard tools.

We were also disappointed to find out that Gantt charts (the staple feature on Wrike’s paid-for plans) are not available for free. This also means users lose access to Task Dependencies (the ability to make a task’s success dependent on another’s); a useful prioritisation tool.

What's new for Wrike?

Like ClickUp, Wrike has unveiled a new set of automations and triggers to make things easier for project managers. In January 2024, they introduced their long-awaited Dark Mode, as well as updates on their Table View, Request Forms, easier automation integration abilities, and new charts and templates that you can add to your Dashboards.

Wrike Pricing

Customers can get by with the Wrike Free platform if they are planning a short-term project. However, if your company deals with regular commissions and tasks, the lack of features will start to limit staff.

Here’s how Wrike’s pricing plans look (charged in $):

  • Wrike Free – $0
  • Wrike Team – $9.80 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Wrike Business – $24.80 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Wrike Enterprise – bespoke

Upgrading to Wrike Team for $9.80 per user, per month (pricing is only available in US dollars) brings a significant uplift in functionality with users then able to access features like Gantt charts and dashboards. Our complete guide to Wrike pricing has more information on how much you should expect to spend.

Is the Wrike Free plan worth it?

Given Wrike’s low cost, we would recommend small businesses upgrade to Wrike Team to take advantage of the many core and advanced project management features that it provides.

Chief amongst them being a Gantt chart, which can be very helpful for large teams needing to prioritise resource management and calendar planning (monday.com only offers this on its Pro plan). You’ll also get preset widgets, the ability to create dashboards, and task dependencies.

It’s worth noting that all of these features are available for free (although with a limited number of uses) with ClickUp. SMEs that want to take advantage of these tools might consider trialling them first with ClickUp Free.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“Wrike provides a straight-forward way of setting up a project. It also has dedicated features for tasks, milestones, and dependencies. This enables the user to organise their project quite quickly.

“When I started to get into some of the more detailed functionalities of things, it became more complicated and I felt like I was running into dead ends. In this area, Wrike is mainly let down by its automation builder. It’s not easy to find – as it is buried amongst system settings – and it proved harder to use than other platforms.”

Jira Work Management Free

  • Startups logo
    Best for developer teams Startups' top pick
4.5 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

Data is at the heart of Jira’s platform, which massively outpaces any competition when it comes to reporting and analytics. However, Jira’s more complex interface is primarily a development and engineering tool and while it can be used by other industries, we wouldn’t advise it for anyone without software experience.

Jira dashboard

The Jira dashboard condensed all of our project management information, making reporting and analytics easy. (Source: Jira)

Jira Free Pros:
  • Jira Free has burndown charts for a graphical representation of work left to do versus time
  • Jira Free has an above average storage limit of 2GB per account, per month (Teamwork only offers 100MB per account)
  • Users can access and create Gantt charts with the Jira Free plan; really useful for resource management
Jira Free Cons:
  • Budget management features are not available on the Jira Free plan
  • Jira Free does not have any resource management features. Managers will struggle to keep longer projects on track
  • Jira Free is only suitable for teams of up to 10, so larger teams will struggle

Compared to all other brands on this list including our number one choice, ClickUp Free, Jira Free is the undeniable champion for data reporting. It had every feature we analysed including a custom chart builder for users to measure any project metric.

Workarounds are necessary for just one area: tracking budget. Jira Free lacks a dedicated budgeting feature so we had to use custom fields to display budget info. Thankfully, with this approach, updating budgets on Jira is as simple as filling in a field on the task screen.

Less tech-savvy users will likely encounter a steep learning curve with Jira Free. Whilst it has a clean interface, during testing we found we had to carry out a lot of menu-diving to complete basic project tasks, such as setting up a simple missed deadline notification. Ultimately, we gave it a fairly average ease of use score of 3.2 out of 5.

What's new for Jira Work Management?

As per the latest iteration of Jira’s “Update Matrix,” refreshed in January 2024, the platform introduces several noteworthy features, such as the ability to always view the oldest or newest comments first, updating descriptions for multiple issues simultaneously, enabling the addition of watchers during issue creation, and enhancing security measures by storing database passwords in HashiCorp Vault.

Jira Work Management Pricing

Away from the free plan, Jira’s prices remain cheap for business users. Jira Standard is priced at $5 (around £4.04) per user, per month when billed monthly (costs are only available in US dollars) which is just cheaper than monday.com.

This payment uplift gives you some additional features beyond the free plan, including more customer support options (live chat and email). You’ll increase your user limit beyond 10, which will be essential for growing businesses, plus benefit from more data storage.

Here’s how Jira’s pricing plans look (charged in $):

  • Jira Free – $0
  • Jira Standard – $8.15 per user, per month
  • Jira Premium – $16 per user, per month
  • Enterprise – bespoke

For smaller businesses with under 10 users, we’d recommend sticking with Jira Free given how minimal the benefits are for upgrading.

Is the Jira Work Management free plan worth it?

Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees should absolutely stick with Jira Free. The platform is an excellent way to save money before you’re ready to start growing your team.

Our analysts could only spot three areas where Jira Free differs from Jira Standard: user limit, data storage limit, and automation limit. None of these will stop you from managing a project, so we think the freemium tier is good value for SMEs – although you might need to spend money on another file storage system like Google Drive to plug the gaps.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“Jira allows for basic task management to be conducted quite quickly. It also enables sub-tasking which is useful for scenarios where an issue arises – users can organise new tasks underneath the task where the issue arose.

“Users are likely to encounter a learning curve with Jira. Data import was not fun. I tried to fix it in various different ways by going back to the original Excel sheet, but I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of an error message that Jira kept showing me.”

Asana Basic

  • Startups logo
    Best for remote working Startups' top pick
4.5 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

Asana is a great free choice for SMEs with fewer than 15 employees. Its USP is definitely its huge library of free integrations (we gave it a score of 4.7 out of 5 for third-party apps) for teams to design a bespoke solution. That makes it the ideal option for remote teams needing a workspace to manage every aspect of their project online.

Asana’s dashboard tab is a good reference point for finding data to get a quick pulse on the progress of your projects. (Source: Asana)

Asana Basic Pros:
  • Asana Basic integrates with CRM, analytics, and marketing tools so users can share data with their existing software
  • Asana Basic's calendar view offers a time-bound view of projects (great for sales staff working month-to-month)
  • Asana Basic has an unlimited number of projects available (ClickUp permits only 5, while monday.com permits 0)
Asana Cons:
  • Asana Basic does not allow guest access, which makes client work more difficult for agencies
  • Asana Basic does not offer Gantt charts on its free plan, making it more difficult for managers to balance multiple projects at once
  • Asana Basic does not allow users to build dashboards within the platform. Users will need to download a third-party app for this function

Amongst Asana Basic’s excellent real-time communication tools is a project message board to instantly share comments and ideas (unavailable with Trello or Jira Work Management) which makes it brilliant for a team working in today’s age of hybrid offices. We’ve shown what it looks like above.

Alina Cincan is the Managing Director of Inbox Translation, a translation agency. Cincan told Startups: “The comment function allows us to share ideas, add files, and keep track of everything pertaining to that task or project in one place. If someone works on a task I’m involved in then I get notified, which helps me to be on top of the projects I’m interested in.”

During testing, we found that Asana Basic doesn’t offer much scope for workarounds if you’re trying to complete a task which the app doesn’t currently boast a set feature for.

That said, it has made some improvements since 2023: standout being project budgeting. Previously, Asana Basic wasn’t able to track a budget effectively. Plus, its existing spreadsheet functionality lacked formula capability. Now, users can add a budget to tasks, and use formulas to calculate total costs spent.

What's new for Asana?

Asana’s recent updates, as of February 2024, bring several handy features for users. These include Capacity Plans for better project staffing, Jira Cloud Comment Syncing for easier collaboration, and Gmail Sync to link emails with tasks. Admins can now customise new user onboarding, and users can review their 2023 usage stats. Collaborating via Microsoft Teams is now smoother, and the Gantt view allows for applying multiple filters. A new Rule Builder also makes workflow management more flexible. (All of that just in February, phew!)

Asana Pricing

Asana’s free plan certainly holds its own against rivals like monday.com, but it doesn’t have the complex features that ClickUp boasts, such as subtasks for divvying up responsibilities, which teams of 5+ employees will find frustrating.

Here’s what you’ll need to spend for Asana’s paid plans:

  • Asana Basic – free
  • Asana Premium – £9.49 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Asana Business – £20.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Asana Enterprise – bespoke

Asana Premium is the best way forward for larger companies with a lot of collaborators. The cost is £9.49 per month, per user when billed annually (£11.59 billed monthly).

Is the Asana free plan worth it?

Yes; it’s certainly possible for microbusinesses and sole traders to use Asana completely free forever. It has an unlimited number of tasks, projects, and team messages, meaning for basic, day-to-day task management it’s unlikely to hamper growth.

Asana’s free Basic version allows up to 15 users to collaborate, and we would recommend it for larger, remote teams. Being able to add CRM, marketing, accounting, and reporting integrations makes it a brilliant solution for those needing a virtual workspace they can use to manage their daily tasks, together.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“Asana makes it straightforward to setup a project. It provides dedicated tools for setting up common project aspects such as tasks, milestones, and deadline date.

“I prefer the layout of monday.com, however. Asana feels like it’s been zoomed out, and I felt I had to scroll endlessly every time I wanted to add a new task or milestone. It just made it harder to visualise my project information.”

Trello Free

  • Startups logo
    Best for day-to-day task management Startups' top pick
4.5 out of 5
  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Functionality

When it comes to simple, easy-to-use project management software, Trello is some of the most popular.

Its user-friendly kanban-board interface lets you keep an eye on your daily tasks and coordinate your overall planning, without over-complicating things. We recommend it to those working on day-to-day tasks rather than long-term projects, such as PR agencies.

Adding a task in Trello was super easy to do – but we did miss a few of the dashboard views available with ClickUp and Wrike, like Calendar or Gantt. (Source: Trello)

Trello Free Pros:
  • With an ease of use score of 4.1 out of 5, Trello is universally liked as an intuitive system that simplifies project management
  • Trello Free comes with preset, aesthetically-pleasing templates. These make creating a project easy compared to brands like monday.com and Teamwork
Trello Free Cons:
  • Trello Free does not offer the ability to create spreadsheets or Gantt charts. Its projects can only be viewed as kanban boards
  • Trello Free does not support document editing or any integrations with third-party document editors

Trello 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 that apps like ClickUp Free provide. For those looking to find their feet with an easy bit of software, however, we think Trello Free is the best option. Users can get:

  • Kanban boards
  • Assignee and due dates
  • iOS and Android mobile apps
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Marketing and CRM intergrations

Adding a task is done using a simple pop-up form (pictured above) which can be tailored using custom fields. Because there’s no particular field which asks for specific project information (eg. deadlines), we did find it frustrating to edit all of this information again when duplicating tasks.

What's new for Trello?

Trello is very popular for mobile use, as its back-end is simple to use even if your smartphone is outdated and clunky. In August 2023, the platform unveiled Trello Dark Mode, a new feature that lets you change the brightness. So, if you’re dreaming up a new project at 10pm at night, you won’t be kept awake by the blue light of the Trello board.

Trello Pricing

Trello has had a major shift in its pricing in the past 12 months, becoming dramatically cheaper than what it was in the recent past. Trello Standard, the platform’s second-tier, now costs £4.15 per user, per month when billed monthly (£4.99 per user, per month, billed annually).

Here’s the full Trello cost breakdown, by plan:

  • Trello Basic – free
  • Trello Standard – $5 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Trello Premium – $10 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Trello Enterprise – $17.50 per user, per month (billed annually)

However, Trello Standard offers little more than an uplift in user allowances from 5 to unlimited. Trello Premium ($10 per user, per month) has more features for your money but these are all available for zero cost from other platforms, like ClickUp Free or Wrike Free. Switching providers is better value for money when looking to upgrade.

Is the Trello free plan worth it?

Yes. We recommend Trello business users stick with the free plan, rather than upgrading to a paid-for tier. Trello is so great with features that you won’t be missing out – making it a great, bargain choice for single users that want to manage their project tasks on a Kanban board. If you’re looking to implement any add-ons (or as Trello calls them, “Power-ups”) however, some come at a small additional cost.

The one reason you’d need to upgrade to Trello Standard would be for the ‘guest access’ feature, as this is the only tool that isn’t available with the free tier. You can read this one of two ways: Trello’s free plan is incredibly generous, or its paid-for plans are noticeably lacking.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, Senior Researcher, says:

“Trello excels in basic task management. It has a simple interface where most things can be edited via a click of the mouse. It doesn’t overcrowd its interface with too many buttons, which makes navigation easier compared to rivals.

“Trello is less competitive with the more in-depth aspects of project setup. In fact, the platform was not really suited for project management. I found it unnecessarily convoluted when it came to setting task dependencies. For this, you have to create a checklist within the card itself, which is very time-consuming.”

How does free project management work?

Like paid-for plans, free project management systems have lots of useful features for managing workload. However, a free software tool is more limited as, for obvious reasons, companies want you to upgrade to a paid-for plan to access more sophisticated features.

For example, ClickUp’s freemium plan only gives users 10 automations per month. Meanwhile, its lowest-tiered plan, ClickUp Unlimited, has no cap.

However, free plans will definitely give you access to project dashboards. These are essentially a virtual workspace when you can see every task that needs to be completed, as well as who is responsible for its delivery. Some free platforms allow other team members to be added to dashboards so you can collaborate.

What types of businesses should use free project management software?

Free software plans are not meant for long-term use. They can help you to scale-up your business by delivering on a successful project, but once a company takes on multiple clients or employees, users should upgrade to unlock more sophisticated tools aimed at delegation and collaboration.

That said, freemium tools are good choices for:

  • Sole traders and those who might be running their company alongside a full-time job. monday.com Free is our preferred plan for this type of user.
  • Startups that can’t commit to a long-term, expensive contract but need a tool that can enable them to take on new contracts.
  • Small businesses based offline that need to manage projects irregularly, such as a restaurant wanting to organise a seasonal calendar of events during Christmas.

Of course, it’s not only about size or budget. Purchasing any new business technology requires you to assess the goals of your business to get the most of your investment.

If you are looking to collaborate better with your team, or to find a smarter way to monitor the resources spent on a project each month, then you will need to factor these considerations into your research.

What makes a good free project management software?

Free software often has limitations on the number of users, which can prove irritating for SMEs with larger teams. For this reason, we picked out the best free options for project management software based on how they go against these expectations.

These are:

1. Number of available features – freemium options tend to be close-fisted when it comes to PM features
2. Security – cyber-attacks can be particularly costly for SMEs, but security is not often the focus for work management tools
3. Gentle learning curve – important for small firms that are new to using PM software and want to get to grips with a freemium version
4. Number of users – user limits are common for freemium software and can be tricky for small businesses with fluctuating team sizes
5. Integrations – communication or marketing add-ons are often only included in paid-for plans as they bring so much benefit to business users

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:

Final verdict

Our top-rated free project management software is ClickUp Free, an extraordinarily generous software freemium that compromises on very little in terms of features. Larger teams will need to watch out for the cap on its more advanced tools, but overall we think ClickUp is a strong, accessible choice for any startup with ambitious growth goals.

Project management software is a particularly confusing market to navigate, with a lot of new brands emerging very suddenly and all claiming to bring the most benefit to users.

To speed up the process, we have crunched our research into an easy-to-use 🔍cost comparison tool that will give you direct quotes from the most suitable providers in just one minute. Just tell us a couple of details about your company’s needs, and we’ll do the rest.

Free project management software: our testing methodology

We have spent over twenty years working with SMEs to provide them with up-to-date advice on the best software to buy for business success.

To find the top project management brands for SMEs, we picked out eleven PM systems using five specific metrics which small business owners told us were most important for their needs and requirements:

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

We then used our results to come up with an overall ranking, recommending the top project management software options for small business owners.

How did we find the best FREE project management software?

By collaborating with an independent analyst and interviewing real-life business users, we were able to carry out a month-long investigation into the top platforms based on the top four concerns of today’s business owners and project managers.

These are:

1. Cost factors measuring the affordability of each brand’s pricing plan against the average small business budget, including hidden fees.

2. Ease of use measuring how easy each product is to use. These scores were awarded via independently-organised testing sessions, during which six participants put each system through its paces.

3. Features available for task management. Can users carry out all of the core functions of project management? What about more complicated capabilities like automation?

4. Collaboration options for team-working, measuring how easily users can allocate work to colleagues or work together on the same task.

Once we had narrowed down our list of criteria, we then matched each problem with the tool we know performs best in each area to find our ultimate list of the top free project management platforms for SMEs in 2024.

What’s new for 2024?

In our latest round of research into the project management market, carried out in July 2023, we analysed the top providers specifically for free plans. Based on the results of our most recent research round, we have said goodbye to one project management brand that previously ranked but now underperformed (Zoho Projects).

Two brands have also moved up the ranking (Teamwork and Wrike) in recognition of their superb templates and excellent AI offering, respectively. We also:

  • Explored complex features in more depth (not just whether the platform includes them, but also what workarounds are available and if you can purchase them for an additional cost
  • Awarded a score to each platform based on its AI project management, and how simple they were to master
  • Chose 5-6 employees to carry out 20 tasks to test a project management or work management feature, and score how simple it was to use

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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