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.

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:
  • 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
Software
Best for
Free trial?
Rating (/5)
Verdict

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:

ClickUp

Best for: Number of available features

4.3 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    5
  • Integrations
    3.5

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.

ClickUp screenshot

Features

ClickUp 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 views
  • Portfolios
  • Goals
  • Mind maps
  • Dashboards
  • Spreadsheets
  • Gantt charts
  • Real time collaboration
  • Email
  • 100+ integrations
  • Proofing
  • Two-factor authentication

One 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.

Pricing

ClickUp’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
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
Free Trial

ClickUp Free

ClickUp Unlimited

ClickUp Business

ClickUp Enterprise

Contact sales

Free

£6.51 per member

£13.74 per member

Contact sales

Unlimited – but only 5 spaces

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

ClickUp 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.

Wrike

Best for: Number of users

4 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    4
  • Integrations
    3.5

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.

Wrike screenshot

Features

Wrike 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 apps
  • Task and subtask management
  • Time tracking
  • External and internal collaborators
  • Interactive board and spreadsheet views
  • Cloud storage integrations
  • 2 GB storage space per account

Wrike’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
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
Free Trial

Wrike Free

Wrike Professional

Wrike Business

Wrike Enterprise

Contact sales

Unlimited

5 to 200

5 to 200

Unlimited

Verdict

Wrike’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.

Asana

Best for: Remote working

4 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.5
  • Features
    4
  • Integrations
    4.5

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

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.”

Features

Asana 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 OneDrive
  • Unlimited messages to communicate with co-workers
  • Project overview option
  • Unlimited number of activity logs
  • Two-factor authentication for added security
  • Calendar, list, and board views

Pricing

The 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
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
Free Trial

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

Verdict

Asana 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.

Trello

Best for: Gentle learning curve

3.8 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    5
  • Features
    3.5
  • Integrations
    3

Trello screenshot

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.

No Brainer PR agency

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.”

Features

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. 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 boards
  • 1 Power-Up per board
  • 50 automated command runs per month
  • Assignee and due dates
  • iOS and Android mobile apps
  • Two factor authentication

Pricing:

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
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
Free Trial

Trello Basic

Trello Business

Trello Enterprise

Free

£7.24 per user

Contact sales

Free

£9.05 per user

Contact sales

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Verdict

If 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 Management

Best for: Security

3.7 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.5
  • Features
    3.5
  • Integrations
    4

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.

Features

  • Access to unlimited tasks and projects
  • Customisable workflows
  • Password policies to ensure maximum password security
  • All data is automatically encrypted so you can use public networks
  • Issue-level security so only specific users can edit and view projects
  • Session duration management to control how long someone views your projects

Jira 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.

Pricing

Jira’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
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
Free Trial

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

Verdict

Small 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 features
  • Cyber security – cyber attacks can be particularly costly for SMEs, but security is not often the focus for work management tools
  • Gentle learning curve – important for small firms that are new to using PM software and want to get to grips with a freemium version
  • Number of users – user limits are common for freemium software and can be tricky for small businesses with fluctuating team sizes
  • Communication – communication tools are an added expense more commonly seen in paid-for plans

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 functions for nearly every business need, including CRM, HR and project management.
  • 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 review

We’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 ClickUp

clickup-logo
ClickUp’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 unsatisfied
For the number of users, choose Wrike

wrike-logo
Freemium plans often limit the number of users available, which makes Wrike Free a good option for startups with freelance workers and shifting team sizes
For remote working, choose Asana

Asana
Asana Free is a favourite for collaborative teams thanks to its excellent communication tools. It works best for startups with remote working or nationally dispersed teams
For a gentle learning curve, choose Trello

It’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 program
For 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 charge
For the best project management software with a free trial, choose Monday.com

monday-com-logo-su
Perhaps 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.

Read our full review of the platform for more details.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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