Not all projects are created equally. Some can fit in a one-pager, while others require lengthy documentation and input from several stakeholders. But no matter the complexity, their goal is ultimately the same: to be delivered on time and on budget, within the quality agreed with the client.
This begs not only for a skilled project manager but also for specialized tools that help with planning, budgeting, resource allocation, team collaboration, even time tracking. With so many project management tools out there though, it can be discouraging to even start looking for one.
To speed up the research process, here are the 10 best free project management tools to look after.
List of 10 best free project management tools for 2021
1. Paymo [ Get Started > ]
This platform is a top choice for all-in-one project management tools. Despite its apparent complexity, Paymo has an intuitive interface. It mainly consists of modules that help you plan & budget tasks, monitor progress, schedule resources, proof files, track time, and invoice clients. The reports and analytics are dense enough to provide a holistic and granular view of projects, depending on the context.
Many users appreciate the time tracking and invoicing add-on, saying they are much better integrated into the project management core compared to other much popular tools. It’s ideal for multi-department teams, but also for those who are just starting out with project management.
- Free plan – Up to 10 users, allows users to organize tasks in 4 different task views.
- Small Office plan – Costs $9.95/user/month, charged annually. Besides unlimited tasks, time entries, and invoices, it offers a Meta Kanban board, recurring tasks, and 50GB of storage.
- Business plan – Costs $15.79/user/month, charged annually. In addition to the Small Office plan, it offers plenty of features like Gantt charts, resource scheduling, employee leaves, and free onboarding.
Plan & organize projects in Paymo now!
For a business management software with a focus on CRM, pick Bitrix24. It has everything you need to start working right away: process management, internal chat, document collaboration. Despite feeling like an ecosystem, the interface can pose some difficulties for first-time users.
Bitrix24 offers a lot of CRM features that are otherwise paid in most project management tools. Some users have reported only a few useful apps in the marketplace that add value to the platform. This recommends it as a good entry point for a small team, but not for a mid-to-large one with established processes.
There’s a Free plan with limited functionalities, no seat cap. Paid plans start at $17/user/month for 2 users. There’s also a standard Business plan that costs $54.9.month for 50 users. On-premise installing is available as well, with different price tags for each plan.
Quire is a project management tool that helps project managers break down ideas into task lists. It uses Kanban boards and timelines to organize information more visually. Quire also boasts a powerful set of analytics like project hill charts and cumulative flow charts.
One common reason for dissatisfaction among users is the absence of robust mobile notifications and a desktop app on par with the web one. Thanks to the intuitive interface, it’s good for organizing simple tasks, larger ones will require more project management features like a calendar view.
For now, Quire hasn’t launched any pricing plans. The platform is free up for accounts of up to 35 organizations, 80 projects, and 30 members per organization.
Kissflow projects is a core offering of Kissflow. It contains basic project management features like lists, Kanban boards, and organizational matrixes for team hand-offs. The visual format is quite appealing, with custom task statuses that are easy to follow.
Many users complain about a lack of accurate reporting, with old data that can’t be retrieved if it passes a certain date. It also gets slow at a large number of tasks added, which caters it more to small teams with few monthly projects.
- Free plan – Limited to 3 users and 1 project, contains the list, Kanban, matrix views.
- Starter plan – Costs $35/month for 5 users and 5 projects; $5 for every additional user. 2FA available for increased security.
- Professional plan – Costs $60/month for 5 users and 10 projects; $10 for every additional user. Boasts an integration with the Office 365 Suite and unlimited storage.
- Enterprise plan – Custom pricing, annually charged only.
Redbooth is dedicated to helping teams communicate and deliver projects faster. It does so through rich task overviews and visual tracking tools – the Gantt chart being a great example. Too bad the free plan doesn’t support task dependencies for more accurate project planning inside of it.
The poor mobile app experience can be a detractor for most marketing teams, who might need more specialized tools to tackle parallel projects. But if you want to make the transition from pen & paper to a simple project management tool with tasks and due dates assignments, then Redbooth is the answer.
- Free plan – Limited to 2 users and simple task and due dates assignment.
- Pro plan – Costs $12/user/month and includes native time tracking and video meetings on top of simple task management.
- Business plan – Costs $18.75/user/month and comes with a resource scheduler and advances subtasks.
- Enterprise plan – Custom pricing, that includes a dedicated customer success manager.
TeamGantt combines the ever-popular Gantt chart with the benefits of team collaboration. It’s quite flexible, allowing you to omit weekends and specific work holidays from the actual timeline calendar. You can also schedule your team’s workload in advance and group tasks into specific clusters.
When you have several projects with a lot of tasks, it becomes hard to navigate. The collapsible menus will also make you miss certain tasks, when in fact you’ve just run out of screen real-estate space. Despite these drawbacks, TeamGantt is still a valid option for sharing project progress with clients.
TeamGantt boasts a Free-forever plan limited to only 1 Gantt chart and 3 users. There are two paid plans: Standard plan that is priced at $64.5/month for 5 users and includes workloads and baseline; while the Advanced plan is priced at $89.75 for 5 users, having time tracking and hourly budgets as extra features.
The main product in Teamwork’s portfolio is Teamwork Projects. And for a good reason. The tool acts as a centralized workspace for tasks, comments, milestones, calendars, and dashboards. Its strength lies in a broad task management system that covers all task planning and monitoring fundamentals. It doesn’t focus on just one industry vertical, hence it’s suitable for most small and large teams alike.
There are various user roles that once customized properly, can unlock team efficiency. The lack of a well-built time tracking module slows the overall monitoring process, according to some users.
- Free plan – Teamwork Project’s free forever plan includes basic project management without project templates though. Gantt charts as well.
- Deliver plan – Starts at €10/user/month, charged annually. Coming with 20 project templates, a team chat, and unlimited free clients
- Grow plan – Starts at €18/user/month, charged annually. Plus custom fields and a resource management module.
- Enterprise plan – Custom pricing, with priority support and onboarding training.
Toggl Plan strikes the perfect balance between visual graphics and details to stick with a simple task management tool. Users love the ability to drag and drop tasks, set task hourly budgets, and the overall vivid colors. Sharing projects is easy thanks to the public links for which you can choose a pre-set zoom level.
Where Toggl Plan has gaps is the milestones that are too simple, serving as a note on the timeline, with no possibility to link them directly to tasks. Other than this, the tool is a great choice for teams and freelancers who value planning more than other project management processes.
The Solo plan is geared towards solopreneurs, being narrowed to 1 user and unlimited tasks and timelines. The Team plan starts at $8/user/month charged annually, making up for recurring tasks, milestones, and a Toggl Track integration. The Business plan tops $13.5/user/month charged annually, allowing data exports.
Zenkit Base is the central puzzle piece in Zenkit’s Suite. It’s highly customizable, allowing users with different technical backgrounds to collaborate in a shared space. A great addition is the mind map feature that captures ideas along with files, comments, subtasks, and due dates. There are also wikis on a team level.
The free plan doesn’t allow you to add visuals to a task inside a Kanban board unless you pay. Although many users love Zenkit’s Base elegant design and versatility, the platform has a low storage limit on all plans.
- Personal plan – Limited to 500 items of any kind, 3 users, 5 workspaces, and 1 GB.
- Plus plan – Costs $8/user/month charged annually. Grants you the power to define user roles, add unlimited users, 50.000 items, and 20 workspaces. Storage is limited to 6GB. 2FA enabled.
- Business plan – Costs $21/user/month charged annually. Allows for 150.000 items, 500 workspaces, and advanced Gantt Chart features.
- Enterprise plan – Custom pricing, bulk discounts are available.
Avaza is a cloud-based project management tool that covers project management, time tracking, invoicing, and lately, team chat. Clients can collaborate with you on tasks, approve timesheets, and view financial information if given the right user permissions. They can also pay you directly via PayPal, Stripe, and Payoneer.
The sheer number of features and user permissions can be overwhelming to start with, the outdated interface doesn’t help either. It’s ideal for more seasoned marketing teams and professional services.
The pricing system is perhaps one of the most overly complicated ones. The Free plan provides 1 user who can have admin access and 5 with chat rights. For all paid plans, you need to pay different price tags depending on the 4 user roles. Avaza does offer though unlimited client access.
Criteria for choosing a free project management tool
Before you start searching for the best free project management tool, understand that there are certain criteria that will make your job much easier as a project manager. Here are six to pay attention to:
1. Task management
Tasks represent the building blocks of any project. Whether it’s a simple one with a short to-do list or a complex one that requires a dense project charter, they all work together towards a common goal. That is to bring the project to successful completion.
The manner in which you organize, prioritize, and delegate them will largely influence how fast you will deliver your projects. That’s why a good project management tool should cover the basic task management fundamentals: assigning tasks to multiple users, setting deadlines, and different levels of priorities.
2. Kanban boards
Kanban boards derive from the Japanese “Kanban” system, which originally focused on monitoring all production phases at Toyota. It implies a board and a set of cards organized into columns. Every card moves from column to column, providing a top overview of all task statuses through the project cycle.
Project managers and their teams can benefit from this heightened level of transparency, while also spotting potential bottlenecks if certain columns get too crowded. Online Kanban boards should allow you to add multiple columns for each project stage, offer a backlog, and include swimlanes to segment different tasks on the same board.
3. Team collaboration
No matter if you’re a team of 2 or 50, the success of your projects will largely depend on how well your team can work as one. Both in an office and remote environment. This translates into the ability to bounce off ideas quickly between one another in a shared context. Features that prove useful in this direction are comments, file attachments, team chats, even file proofing add-ons with mark-up tools for design assets.
4. Time tracking
Relying solely on your gut when managing project time estimates is just like searching for your keys with the lights off. Proper time tracking and access to timesheet data from previous projects will help you set more accurate hourly budgets and manage deadlines with more confidence. Search for free project management software with native time tracking. One that feels more like an addition to your current skills, not a burden.
5. In-depth reports
Relying on up-to-date reports puts you at the steering wheel of your project and team. You need to know what the status of each of your project in terms of the remaining hours, costs implied, and available resources to make sound business decisions.
Even though the majority of project management software comes with standard reporting functionalities, look at those who go behind project dashboards. Time reports for team performance, average delivery date/project, and billable vs non-billable hours should always be in close reach.
No project is an island. If you think about it, there are certain stages before and after the concrete start of a project. You meet with clients, then send them a proposal of your services that is accepted or not. During the project execution, you collaborate with clients and take into account upcoming suggestions. While upon completion, the project has to be invoiced so you get paid for your work.
Choose a platform that does the heavy lifting for you. One with plenty of native automation, not supported via third-party platforms. That works both on a personal level (like Slack, Google Calendar) but also for the overall business (like Salesforce, PayPal, Stripe).
Wrapping it up
We hope this summarized comparison can help you navigate the intricate project management software market much easier. Ultimately, you want software that acts as an extension of yourself, in the service of all the project stakeholders. Be they your team, collaborators, or clients.
If you want to start with an app that covers the full spectrum of work management, one that your team will actually be glad to use, try Paymo. With built-in budgeting, estimated calculations, time tracking, and professional invoicing, you can tackle every aspect of the project lifecycle. Take full control of your work.