Top 7 free project plan templates for small businesses

Our list of the top free project plan templates will help SMEs to streamline the planning process for maximum gain — and all for zero charge.

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Few business projects can succeed without a solid and well-communicated plan, backed by clearly assigned objectives. That’s why our experts recommend using a project plan template as a smart solution that can (almost) guarantee a good outcome.

But there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to organising a project. The right project plan template will differ depending on your business ambitions, so it’s a good idea to shop around before you make your choice.

Luckily, the Startups team has done the groundwork for you. We’ve picked out seven user-friendly templates that will bring practical and profit-driven benefits to small business users.

Below, we’ll go through their unique advantages and expert elements to explain which one is best suited to your organisational or campaign targets.

Want to know more about our recommended PM providers? Read our guide to the top small business project management systems

Best project planning templates to use

Many SMEs rely on spreadsheets for project planning. There are even some decent templates for this available on Google Sheets. But these can also lack a lot of crucial functions, requiring complicated workarounds.

Project management software provides the most effective templates to supercharge your team and realise your objectives. Below, we’ve gathered top project plan templates for SMEs from brands including ClickUp, monday.com, and Wrike.

All are either available as part of a free plan or a free trial. And all are designed to eradicate the common project issues that small businesses encounter including poor communication and time mismanagement.

1. Roadmap template > ClickUp

Best for: implementing a long-term business strategy
Available with: free plan

This roadmap template from ClickUp is enormously helpful for working towards a main business objective.

Say you’re a software developer that’s planning a major update to your client’s app. You can use ClickUp’s Folder tool to organise tasks based on their due date.

ClickUp roadmap

ClickUp also permits an unlimited number of pre-built custom fields to highlight things like due dates and assigned users.

Meanwhile, the custom status tool describes the status of a task, helping to identify blockers along the way.

Overall, we think ClickUp’s template (click to give it a try) is ideal for growth-oriented SMEs working towards a specific goal.

2. Team objectives template > Asana

Best for: sales teams
Available with: free plan

Asana’s team strategy template organises short tasks according to their owner. We recommend it as a clever way for managers in growing firms to monitor staff progress against an overarching plan.

Users have the ability to post regular status updates in a simplified, list format. Colleagues that are struggling to complete a task will be tagged for managers to assist.

Asana team objectives template

Asana also allows you to connect each task to a specific target so that individual goals and responsibilities remain clear.

Agencies and sales teams will get the most from this template. It encourages team working and will prevent siloing across departments or client accounts.

3. Complex project with phases > Wrike

Best for: heavily regulated industries with set processes
Available with: free plan

Wrike’s template is perfect for small businesses working on complex projects that involve multiple phases — such as those that need to follow precise specifications.

For example, if you’re a real estate developer, you can download the Wrike template to organise your work into six key phases: assessment, planning, design, construction, relocation, and closeout.

Wrike complex project with phases template

Wrike’s customisable folders are organised into stages so you can focus all of your resources on one phase at a time. In each of these folders, tasks are listed by their due date, so your team is always clear on what the next deadline is to work towards.

Wrike also organises each project stage into a Gantt chart view. From this, you can see the role that each task will play in a phase, enabling you to closely monitor for potential roadblocks.

4. Marketing strategy > monday.com

Best for: marketing teams
Available with: free plan

PR and advertising campaigns often run over-budget or behind schedule. We think the format of this monday.com strategy template is a clever solution for marketing teams to avoid these two outcomes.

The template’s focus is on goal-oriented, brand-building tasks that are all viewed against a colour-coded timeline. There’s also a budget field for you to closely track your spending.

Marketing plan monday.com

Another strong feature of this template is the ability to set up text-based automated reminders.

Users simply need to type in an action — such as ‘remind me when this post is due’ — and monday will notify you if a deadline is imminent. Like the sound of these features? The template is free to try, and monday has dozens of others to choose from, too.

5. Scheduling template > Smartsheet

Best for: projects running six+ months
Available with: free trial

Smartsheet scheduling template

Time is of the essence in project planning. The above scheduling template from Smartsheet uses a Gantt chart format to present your project tasks against a strict delivery timeline.

Gantt charts give you a bird’s eye view of your team’s progress. They are useful for breaking down your project into phases.

We recommend the above template for construction firms, or other SMEs working on a long programme of work. Smartsheet has a free trial that means you can try this template for free, then make a call on whether to stick with it on one of the low cost plans.

6. Content calendar > ClickUp

Best for: social media managers
Available with: free plan

Today’s world is all about content. Social media posts, blogs, marketing emails — all of these assets can be scheduled using ClickUp’s content calendar template.

This great framework template from ClickUp maps out what is due to be published, when, and on what channels. Users can view the content schedule weekly, monthly, or even by year so you can input long-term plans for seasonal content.

ClickUp social media calendar template

The notes feature also means you can record the amount of engagement or traffic generated by a post.

Managers can reflect on content from a previous month to analyse its impact and, ultimately, gain a better understanding of your overall content strategy. Best of all? For single users and very small teams, Clickup (and this template) is fully free to use.

7. Productivity template > Trello

Best for: day-to-day task management
Available with: free plan

Not all project plans have to be about making big business changes. You might just want a template to keep yourself organised day-to-day.

Trello’s productivity template is our ultimate recommendation for this purpose. The kanban board layout lets you sort various duties into different columns.

Trello productivity project plan template

Each of these columns is customisable. You can organise them by due date, client account, or even personal and business.

We also like that you can choose from a range of beautiful imagery to personalise your dashboard with relaxing or inspirational scenery.

Project plan template FAQs
  • What should a project plan include?
    To stay on schedule, your plan should include a timeline. You should also accommodate for quality assurance, to ensure you deliver your project to the highest standard. Finally, make sure you download a project plan template to build your strategy from and save time.
  • What are the most popular project plan methodologies?
    Popular methodologies include scrum, agile, kanban, and lean. Each of these approaches offers a different perspective of your project and therefore has different benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Is there a project template in Excel?
    Microsoft Excel has three project plan templates, including a project timeline. However, Excel is not very functional compared to project management software. Users will miss out on key features including cloud collaboration and automations.
  • What is the best project management software?
    Our top-rated project management software is ClickUp. The all-in-one workflow management app is affordably priced, with a ‘free-forever’ plan to boot, making its impressive feature list and sophisticated integrations unrivalled in terms of value for money.

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Helena Young
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.

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