Best project management software for small businesses

We review the most popular project management tools on the market to help you find the best choice for your small business.

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
Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

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Managing projects as a small business is often far more complex than in large companies. Likely, you’ll be spinning multiple plates and acting as head of sales, marketing, and product. That’s where project management (PM) software comes in handy; to help small teams stay on track, work together, and stay sane.

But it’s a competitive market, with lots of different products available. To help you decide on a brand, we’ve carried out an extensive investigation into the seven best available platforms on the market. Here’s a quick summary of what we found:

Best Project Management Software for 2024

  1. monday.com – best overall project management software thanks to its fantastic templates and easy customisability
  2. Clickup – best for startups or small teams looking for a free solution for short sprint tasks
  3. Teamwork – best for customer service teams working with a lot of tickets and wanting collaboration features to support colleagues
  4. Wrike – best for agencies working on client projects or large teams that need to regularly present data in a clear and professional-looking way
  5. Asana – best for remote teams working on complex projects – such as software developers
  6. Smartsheet – best for SMEs moving from Excel or Google Sheets and needing to analyse large datasets
  7. Zoho Projects – best for early-stage startups wanting a scalable solution that can grow with your team

During testing, we reviewed the above PM software brands to evaluate their functionality, value for money, and ease-of-use. We really got our hands dirty. After downloading each system, we spent the day creating practice projects in an extensive test run that was as close to real life as possible.

Below, you’ll find our reviews of the top-performing platforms: their pros, cons, and costs. Read on for a simple breakdown of what each brand offers small businesses; and whether it’s worth downloading for your own team.

Best Project Management Software to choose

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Asana

Zoho Projects

Best for

Creative agencies or teams with multiple departments that need a focus on collaboration, without risking on budget

Best for

Startups or teams of fewer than 5 looking for a free PM solution for short sprint tasks

Best for

Customer service teams working with a lot of tickets and wanting collaboration features to support colleagues

Best for

Agencies working on client projects or large teams that need to regularly present data in a clear and professional-looking way

Best for

Remote teams working on complex projects – such as software developers – that want to take advantage of a fully-functional suite of tools

Best for

SMEs moving from Excel or Google Sheets and needing to analyse large datasets, such as those in accounting or healthcare

Best for

High-growth startups or ambitious small businesses wanting a scalable solution that can grow with your team

Price per user:
When billed annually

From £8 per seat, per month, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

From $7 per member (around £5.49)

Price per user:
When billed annually

From £10.99 per month, per user, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

From $9.80 per user, billed annually (around £8.14)

Price per user:
When billed annually

From £9.49 per user, per month, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

From £7 per user, per month, billed annually

Price per user:
When billed annually

From £3.20 per month, billed annually

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

Last updated July 2024

monday.com: best for creative agencies or teams with multiple departments that regularly collaborate

monday.com budget tracking

The monday.com business plan template is colour-coded using a traffic light system, making it immediately obvious when you’re in the red and a task is overdue. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose monday.com?

Due to its visual appeal and customisable progress tools, monday.com has become a favourite among creative teams. It has lots of customisable elements – including dashboards – that provide key insights, such as the status of budgets and projects.

Our testers found monday very easy to use. Unlike Asana, which walk users through the setup process in depth, monday.com throws users in at the deep end. Once I gave my board a name, I was essentially on my own, which might be a daunting for those who like a complex setup process. But I quickly got to grips after a swift, self-guided tour of the platform.

Another reason I like monday.com for teamwork is its helpful, colour-coded updates. These updates help managers easily track progress, showing them who might need support, as well as who has the capacity to take on more tasks. In monday:

🔴Red = I’m stuck
🟠Orange = I’m working on it
🟢Green = I’m done.

monday has a large arsenal of features (such as widgets, sub-tasks, and custom fields). monday.com’s clever design keeps everything in order and ensures you’re not overloading the team with information. Even when I added notes to a project task, it never took me off the page. Whereas Zoho Projects opened a new window each time.

What is monday.com’s biggest drawback?

monday’s biggest flaw is that its resource management features are only available on the highest-paid tier, monday Pro. If you’re an agency using the platform, you likely will already use software to track your timesheets. But monday doesn’t give you specific billing and time tracking tools, which could be an issue for companies working with clients.

💡 What’s new

In May 2024, the platform announced the launch of its specialist AI templates. These are amazingly helpful for automating specific tasks. For example, the feedback digest template will automatically summarise uploaded customer feedback and analyse it for sentiment, instantly tagging it as negative or positive to expedite complaint resolution.

Bella Adams, Head of Operations at Aura Ads, a video marketing agency, says:

“monday.com meets so many of our needs. We use it to manage monthly workloads, tracking inventory like cameras and mics, and even to schedule our shoots each month – I don’t think we’d survive without it. It’s super user-friendly and there are lots of templates to take advantage of, including content plans for marketing, Gantt charts for project management, and recruitment forms for HR.”

monday.com pricing

monday.com has a unique pricing model. Instead of charging per user, its payment structure is based on a set number of seats, with its Basic plan offering £8 per seat, billed annually. The seat number equates to the size of your team, and increases in the following increments:

3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 100, 200+

This means that even if you only have six people on your team, you’ll still have to pay for 10 at a cost of £130 per month when billed monthly. The closer you are to the upper limit, the better value your plan will be. This can be beneficial or frustrating, depending on your team size.

Once you know how many users will be added to your account, you’ll need to choose a plan. These are the tiers:

  • 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

If you’re unsure about what tier your business requires, SMEs can still try its 14-day free trial as a no-cost way to see which plan is the right fit for your company, however.

Clickup: best for teams of fewer than five wanting a free PM solution for sprint tasks

Example SMART goal action plan template for an invented jewellery business

We found ClickUp’s action plan template was the best way to track our progress towards a SMART goal. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose ClickUp?

Clickup is an all-in-one workplace app that is designed to replace any software you might need when running a business. The platform’s generous freemium plan provides unlimited users, spaces, and tasks, as well as nine specialist templates for different team departments including finance, marketing, operations, and IT.

Clickup Free members also have access to 20 advanced features – the most of any in this list – including custom views, Gantt charts, and real time collaboration with colleagues. It’s an excellent tool for micro-businesses, because it can genuinely function as multiple software subscriptions, all for a low monthly cost.

Clickup’s ample feature library offers real bang for your buck. Its resource management features will also help budget-conscious SMEs to keep on top of finances. During testing, ClickUp gave us a complete breakdown of each team member’s availability, and allowed us to track time spent on a task. Plus, it had the option to add a budget to each project.

What is ClickUp’s biggest drawback?

Data import was particularly irksome, with one of our testers being told that a simple data upload of around 100 files could take up to three hours to complete. Delays also meant that one of our testers had to manually add milestones and due dates into tasks, whereas monday.com pulls this information through automatically.

Another area where Clickup falls down is customer service. This is because Clickup has got rid of its 24/7 live support feature. Our researchers significantly marked it down for help and support in our most recent testing round as a result.

💡 What’s new

This summer, ClickUp rolled out “ClickUp Knowledge Management,” an AI-driven feature that collates company information across apps and files to build an official knowledge base for the company. For example, if I wanted to organise a weekly standup, ClickUp will review my previous meeting notes to suggest topics of discussion, to act as my very own virtual assistant.

Clickup pricing

Although we’ve ranked it highest for its freemium plan, Clickup’s pricing plans are also some of the most affordable on the market. Our researchers awarded it top marks thanks to its scalable pricing plans that won’t punish your business for growing.

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 (around £5.39) per user, per month when billed annually
  • ClickUp Business – $12 (around £9.24) per user, per month when billed annually
  • ClickUp Enterprise – available on request

ClickUp’s biggest sell is undoubtedly its free plan. Almost every dashboard view is included for zero charge, and you’ll even be able to use advanced permissions like guest access something monday.com doesn’t offer on either of its small business tiers.

Teamwork: best for customer service teams working with a lot of tickets

Teamwork screenshot

We particularly liked that, once a task had been allocated to a specific team member, the Teamwork software let us add their image to the card for instant at-a-glance accountability. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose Teamwork?

Customer service teams have specific PM requirements. They typically work with short tasks rather than large-scale projects, which means they need a system with standout time tracking abilities.

Teamwork caters exactly to this need. Its interface is kanban-based, giving users a simple column system to help them track tasks based on their billing amount, status, and deadline, and gain a clear view of project progress.

You can step in if a bottleneck is likely to occur, lowering the risk of your team losing money and wasting resources. At a time when firms are having to justify software spend, this will likely serve to strengthen cash flow.

As the name suggests, Teamwork’s toolset is complemented by a strong focus on teamworking features (standouts include task comments and a project message board). Its integration offering is also strong, with eight communication apps available to add-on, as well as marketing, finance, and data reporting integrations.

Our testing team highlighted the automation builder as first-rate. For example, we were easily able to set up an alert if a customer ticket was taking too long to respond to. Automations are especially handy for resource-stretched SMEs.

What is Teamwork’s biggest drawback?

Teamwork’s strong package for customer service agents is mirrored in its own offering. Users gain access to a suite of support options, including live chat, phone, and email support. However, our testers found its onboarding capabilities were lacking, due to minimal signposting during setup. Teamwork throws a lot of information at you. It’s likely that businesses will need to organise workshops to teach their team how to use the platform.

💡 What’s new

Teamwork makes regular updates to the platform. One I was particularly impressed by is the addition of multiple new board views to its ‘Planning Overview‘ feature. Through the change, you’re able to display each person’s allocated, completed, and estimated tasks on a bar chart, giving managers an instant understanding of their team’s or department’s workload capacity.

Teamwork pricing

Teamwork removed its cheaper, Teamwork Starter plan this year. It’s now a big leap for business owners to upgrade from the free plan to Teamwork Deliver (£10.99 per user, per month) and a move I’d only recommend to agencies as Deliver has some strong billing and timesheet tracking features. Other plans include:

  • Teamwork Free Forever – £0
  • Teamwork Deliver – £10.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Grow – £19.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Teamwork Scale – £54.99 per user, per month (billed annually)

Wrike: best for agencies or large teams working on client projects

Wrike gantt template

Our testers were pleased to find that Wrike offers a Gantt chart view for free. Whereas with rivals like monday.com, this premium offering is only available on a paid-for tier. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose Wrike?

Wrike is similar to Zoho Projects in that you’ll need to purchase a higher tier for anything more than the staple PM features, such as customisable views. I can’t say it has the best value for money in this list (that title instead goes to ClickUp). However, Wrike’s dashboards more than make up for this drawback.

Wrike’s impressive Office Timeline integration, which users can download free of charge, also automatically turns chaotic team messages into Gantt charts and timelines – giving you an excellent visual on your project progress and goals.

Unlike monday.com, Wrike permits guest access across every payment tier, even on the free Wrike plan. As a result, those working with outside stakeholders who need to share their projects externally can do so easily – improving cross-business communication and keeping clients happy.

Its free plan also doesn’t scrimp on security features, with both two-factor authentication and Google Authentication available. This is essential when working with clients, who want to know that their data is being properly stored and kept safe from cyber attacks.

What is Wrike’s biggest drawback?

It’s a small pain point, but it could create big problems. Wrike does not auto-save edits to its projects. On more than one occasion this caused our testers to lose data they had just inputted because they forgot to click ‘Save’.

While this shouldn’t put SMEs off Wrike completely, it’s a notable issue that could lead to challenges, particularly in larger teams where multiple people are editing a dashboard at once.

💡 What’s new

In our July 2023 testing, we found Wrike has one of the best AI assistants on the market. Teams can record voice notes to ask Wrike to carry out an action, such as creating or assigning tasks. And all of these AI features are available on the free plan (unlike Smartsheet and Clickup, which make you pay for the privilege).

In June 2024, Wrike added a major update to this USP by rolling out generative AI functionality across all paid accounts. Users can ask Wrike to summarise long discussions or create content in one click, from marketing text to a meeting agenda.

Wrike pricing

Wrike is the only project management software in this article that does not offer a monthly billing option, making purchasing an annual commitment for startups. It also does not have a refund policy for cancellation. Here’s how Wrike’s pricing plans look:

  • Wrike Free – free to use
  • Wrike Team – $9.80 (around £7.60) per user, per month when billed annually
  • Wrike Business – $24.80 (around £19.20) per user, per month when billed annually
  • Wrike Enterprise – pricing not shared publicly
  • Wrike Enterprise – pricing not shared publicly

Asana: best for remote teams working on complex projects – such as software developers

Asana’s huge library of templates includes this timeline blueprint to plan a conference. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose Asana?

Asana is a major player in the PM market, allowing for a simple and easily navigable overview of a project or campaign. It offers a strong set of features that include excellent co-working tools. Like Teamwork, it offers a chat feature for team messaging, making it easy to collaborate with colleagues remotely.

Certainly, Asana’s USP is its huge list of sophisticated integrations. Asana out-performs its rivals by being one of the only brands to permit third-party CRM and communication extensions. The former is naturally especially handy for customer service teams, who might have large data sets they regularly need to import.

We also found Asana incredibly easy to use. The platform has a huge range of project templates which you can instantly being populating rather than building one yourself (although custom fields are available on the premium plan). Plus, if I ran into trouble, the Asana help centre is built into the platform and provides plenty of walkthrough guides to find a solution.

What is Asana’s biggest drawback?

One drawback I’d flag for SMEs with a strict hierarchy is that the lower tiers are limited when it comes to management features. Advanced elements, like personal time tracking, aren’t available, whereas rival Clickup offers this as a free extension.

Another issue that kept appearing during our testing was Asana’s interface. Compared to the clean, white space of monday.com, Asana’s display can look a bit busier, which makes it slightly harder to absorb the information being presented.

💡 What’s new

One recent rollout that I think small businesses should know about is the smart status feature. Particularly if you’re working remotely, it can be hard for the entire team to stay up to date on a project status if someone has been off sick or away on leave. This tool will automatically summarise what’s happened in a project during a specific time frame, so everyone can get up to speed on any notable changes.

Lucy Shrimpton, founder of The Sleep Nanny, a sleep consultancy business, says:

“Asana is an excellent tool for organising projects. It’s really intuitive and user friendly, and great for working with remote teams. As my team has grown, I’m making it the absolute hub of my business, where all systems and processes lie.”

Asana pricing:

In terms of price, Asana sits firmly in the middle of the cost spectrum. However, its payment tiers have increased slightly in 2023, and as a result our testers have marked it down considerably on value for money.

  • Asana Basic – free to use
  • Asana Premium – £9.49 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Asana Business – £20.99 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Asana Enterprise – pricing not shared publicly

Asana’s cheapest plan costs £9.49 per user, billed annually (£11.49 billed monthly). Compared with budget options like Zoho Projects and Teamwork, that’s a significant uplift – but worth it if you’re a remote team as you’re essentially paying for a virtual workspace.

Smartsheet: best for spreadsheet lovers that need to analyse large datasets, such as accountants

Smart

Smartsheet is designed to appear similar to Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel. It had a very short learning curve for our testers, who liked how easy it was to turn table information into a Gantt chart. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose Smartsheet?

Smartsheet differs from competitors because of its familiar spreadsheet format, which is essentially a collaborative, online version of Microsoft Excel.

Like monday.com, Smartsheet has a lot of customisation tools for spreadsheets, including conditional formatting and changeable column types. However, Smartsheet’s are more advanced and specifically designed to manage large datasets with thousands of cells.

Smartsheet’s interface is not the prettiest design, but its table view does drastically simplify complex project schedules. This USP is complemented by Smartsheet’s more intelligent reporting tools, such as Gantt charts. These are only available with higher paid accounts for other platforms, for example monday.com.

It’s also very simple to switch between views on Smartsheet. Our testers were able to upload their data and then instantly flip between a Kanban board and Gantt chart to enable project monitoring from a variety of angles.

What is Smartsheet’s biggest drawback?

Naturally, Smartsheet is easy to master for those with experience using spreadsheets. Teams without much experience in this field will struggle to adapt to Smartsheet’s singular focus, though, which is why some of our testers reported that the platform as difficult to use.

Smartsheet’s advanced features are also strictly limited to number crunching. Its AI tools can generate formulas, but that’s about it. Smartsheet also does not offer any time tracking tools, which is a big problem for teams working to lots of tight deadlines. We recommend it for long-term deliverables, such as accountants managing payroll.

💡 What’s new

Smartsheet isn’t as prolific as brands like Asana and monday.com when it comes to major product updates. However, it does make small, nifty changes to the platform designed to aid the user experience. For example, at the end of June it made a few tweaks to its bar chart presentation designed to make viewing data easier for users. Small, but no doubt useful.

Smartsheet pricing

Smartsheet does not offer a free plan or trial. It has made some pricing changes in 2024 which have made it a more scalable platform for SMEs. Alongside raising its cheapest paid account to £7 per user, per month (billed annually), it has dropped the price of its Smartsheet Business plan to £15 per user, per month, down from £19.

  • Smartsheet Individual– £7 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Smartsheet Business– £15 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Smartsheet Enterprise – pricing not published publicly

There are some caveats to the above. Small businesses with more than 10 employees must upgrade to the Business plan. Smartsheet Individual also only offers 20GB of storage, which will be an issue for teams storing hundreds of large spreadsheet documents.

Zoho Projects: best for high-growth startups wanting a scalable solution

Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects displays information in a similar format to Wrike. This means it lacks the aesthetic of monday.com, but is easier for viewing large sets of data. Credit: Startups.co.uk.

Why choose Zoho Projects?

Zoho Projects is a generous app available at a low price; an ideal combination for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. It boasts multiple collaboration features such as team-wide calendar, instant messenger, project message board, and task comments.

There are also some small but mighty features within Zoho Projects that make the setup process much run more smoothly. For example, Zia, the platform’s in-built chatbot. For basic queries, users can ask Zia questions about tasks, issues, and automations, and the platform will come back with helpful prompts — although our testers did find that Zoho’s clunky interface meant they were sometimes overloaded with information from Zia.

Another advantage is that Zoho Projects is a cheap, long-term investment for business users. Even if you hire a lot of new starters, you won’t be punished for scaling up because Zoho’s costs increase at a gradual pace, which is great for early-stage firms or those running a side hustle, who don’t want to be migrating data to a new platform in a year’s time.

What is Zoho Project’s biggest drawback?

Understandably, Zoho’s super cheap pricing means some areas suffer as a result. I’m not impressed that Zoho doesn’t offer onboarding support, live chat, or phone support with any paid-for tier, which could be an issue if you need complex technical support.

Our testers also found the user interface difficult to acclimatise to. Feedback from the team was that Zoho was clunky and outdated, potentially leading to a slower adoption rate for teams new to the software. Any time our testers edited a column in Zoho, it opened a new pop-up; a small issue that nonetheless proved frustrating.

💡 What’s new

The newest version of the platform, Zoho Projects 8.0, was released in January 2024. It has a more intuitive and streamlined user interface and allows users to make bulk updates on Gantt charts. It can also automate tasks like performance reviews, quality assurance testing, or inventory audits, speeding up tasks for specialist departments.

Zoho Projects pricing

Racing ahead of its competitors, Zoho Projects performed well in our research for value for money, owed to its low starting costs and scalable tiers which mean its a close competition between Zoho Projects and ClickUp in terms of affordability.

  • Zoho Projects Free – free to use
  • Zoho Projects Premium – £3.20 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho Projects Enterprise – £7.20 per user, per month (billed annually)

Zoho is more scalable than Clickup, however. The latter’s pricing jumps very quickly between tiers, while Zoho fees change incrementally. That means your growing business won’t be punished for taking on new hires – a big incentive for fast-growth startups.

How we test project management software for small businesses

We tested 14 project management software to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, customer support, features, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to small UK-based businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in five main categories of investigation and nine subcategories – in fact, we covered 51 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs of our Startups.co.uk readers.

Our main testing categories for project management software are:

Customer Score: external customer opinion; the feedback and ratings given by customers who have used a particular project management provider. Also, the market position and reputation a project management tool holds.

Features: the functionalities and capabilities offered by the project management solution, such as task management and team collaboration.

Customer Support: the assistance and resources provided by the project management solution provider to users, such as phone support and email or chat support.

Usability Testing: we get people just like you to test out the products to focus on evaluating the ease of use and user experience of the project management solution.

Cost Factors: the financial considerations associated with using a project management solution, including licensing fees, subscription plans, and storage and user limit.

The Startups product testing process

The Startups product testing process diagram

How to find the right project management methodology

Alongside having the right software, you also need to ensure you use the right PM method to plan and execute your campaign. 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 understand some of the best ways to use project management software, including:

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 reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

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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