A consideration for many project managers is whether they’re better off working for a small to mid-sized organization or a large multinational one. But just admit that at any workplace you will have to manage multiple projects at once, delegating tasks, and collaborating across teams is difficult on a good day, but can become downright impossible when unforeseen obstacles get in the way. Your employees’ stressful, confusing and oppressive experience can be caused by miscommunication, misunderstanding, bad-planning or inefficiencies. This can lead to major losses over time. But we see light at the end of the tunnel: there are plenty of free project management software options to keep your team on-track without breaking the bank. To streamline your process and ensure everyone on your team is on the same page, take a look at these seven exceptional free project management tools.
Even if you have a small team (fewer than 4 people) and you are on a tight budget, and you are willing to compromise on some exceptional features, then a free product may be right for you. Alternatively, paid commercial project management software that offers a free plan (aka “freemium”) gives small teams a budget-friendly access point to the software. If you find you need additional functionality or more users, you can upgrade to a paid version.
To help you increase productivity and boost revenue, we’ve curated some of the best project management tools for small businesses currently available.
The best project management tools for small businesses to increase productivity right now
Marketing and the strategy behind it are the lifeblood of your business, ensuring that revenue flow is healthy and consistent.
While many aspects of small business management can benefit from better project management tools, your marketing staff will definitely get a boost from tools that make their job easier.
In fact, many of our recommended tools can encourage better internal communication amongst staff and between separate departments to aid in developing targeted campaigns and stay on top of metrics and goals with greater accuracy.
Some of the largest start-ups in the world, like Dribble, Uber, CNET, and Kickstarter rely on these technical helpers to keep their staff on target, so using them puts you in good company.
In researching our list, we made sure our picks were heavy on features that are important to small businesses, such as:
- Functionality and ease of use
- Free or sensible pricing options
- Ability to integrate with other systems
- Ability to be accessed remotely
Without further ado, let’s start our tour with one of the most recognizable names on the list: Evernote.
Evernote is a fantastic app that functions as a clearinghouse for ideas, documents, and workflows.
Not only can you grab and save ideas from online sites in clearly organized folders to prompt creativity and idea generation, but you can also design and store templates within the app to further streamline your process.
Best of all, their premium subscription offers team storage, where any member that has access can save and retrieve all aspects of a particular project.
Anything new that’s added to your team’s space is automatically shown front and center, in what they describe as a “virtual bulletin-board for your team.”
And companies like Swiss conglomerate Migros know the value of this simple, but incredibly useful, tool.
As the largest supermarket and retailer in Switzerland, Migros needed a team to keep their marketing on trend with the food and restaurant industry.
Using Evernote’s apps that spanned web, desktop, and smartphone, the team was able to easily manage and coordinate interviews and data from German, French, and Italian-speaking sources.
Each team member could keep their own photos, sketches, audio recordings, and diagrams shareable with other members for fast access and accurate real-time data, making it easy for Migros’ marketing to stay fresh.
Basecamp works hard to bring everything small businesses need into one neatly-designed package with tons of useful features.
You can store and retrieve documents with a simple drag-and-drop, manage schedules, conduct real-time group chats, and even invite clients to be a part of the process without dealing with learning-curve aggravation.
Plus, with features like check-in that allow you to ask your team members basic questions at a specific time each week, you can pare down meeting times.
Some businesses that use Basecamp to keep their teams in-the-know include Groupon and Harvest, but the software boasts thousands of devotees.
Trello is a wonderful tool for marketing teams, as its visually-oriented “card” system lets team members track each part of a project as it flows through to completion.
Boards can be set up with trigger events in any way you need them. Here’s an example of this in action:
You can see how easy it is for teams to set up individual project flows and for managers to get a quick overview of project statuses from any department.
Cards are moved using drag-and-drop, making keeping things up-to-date supremely easy, while multi-tiered pricing means you don’t pay for what you don’t need.
Best of all, Trello integrates seamlessly with Evernote, Slack, Jira, Google Drive, and other software. Companies that use Trello include National Geographic, Adobe, the British Red Cross, and others.
Slack has wonderful workflow possibilities for every business, but marketers will love its user-friendly integrations.
Email marketing, in particular, gets a boost from the Slack workspace, as Slack seamlessly allows you to manage email campaigns directly from your Slack command center using minimal keyboard commands.
With integrations for most common marketing apps and tools, Slack can give marketing professionals real control and sharing options with their team, including performance metrics.
Besides fostering collaboration, Slack offers savvy marketing teams a great way to keep on top of changes in direction.
Conversations are automatically archived and indexed, so information is available when you need to reference it. Having a cohesive space for team collaboration and cooperation is a wonderful way to nip problems in the bud or share successes!
Slack’s clean, easily-integrated format makes it a winner among the best project management tools for small business.
Companies that use Slack include NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs, Zapier, Emma, Benefit Cosmetics, Autodesk, and more.
Flow is a project management software that offers a simple, beautiful user experience (UX), and powerful tracking and integration.
Kanban boards allow managers to track entire projects, team tasks, manage resources, collaborate with teams, and integrate with other purpose-driven software, like Slack.
Marketing teams will love the way Flow allows them to share project milestones for feedback, as in the example above. In this way, an entire campaign can be vetted, edited, and even changed on-the-fly for faster production.
Here’s an example of a marketing team’s roadmap for several goals as seen through the Flow workflow model:
Companies that rely on Flow to help them stay on track include Shopify, Bumble, and TED.
Asana gives project managers several ways to visualize their workflow, from Kanban-style boards to other bright visuals that keep marketers and other teams on track.
The example, above, shows the status of several projects at-a-glance, showing which are on target, how close to completion each is, and assigning each a priority level.
Having these metrics at your fingertips allows for quick re-assignment when necessary to avoid missed deadlines.
Asana’s pricing is flexible, but at a minimum of $9.99 per user per month, it might be a bit steep for smaller businesses.
They do offer a free trial, however, so you can explore the product for 30 days to see if it’s worth the splurge for your business.
Asana is used by the New York Times, Deloitte, Red Bull, the United Way, among others.
Now that you’ve gotten a taste for what these elegant tools can do for your small business, all that remains is to choose the one that is the best fit for your staff and your business goals.
If you’re on a tight budget, check out the tools that have a free option like Slack, Evernote, and Trello. If you decide they’re on target for your needs, you can always upgrade on down the line if you need more features or if your business expands.
Most of our other recommendations have a free trial period that you can use to determine if the tool will provide all the functionality you require. Remember, you’ll be saving money by using a project management tool that helps organize tasks and streamline processes.
Any way you look at it, these project management powerhouses represent some of the best project management tools for small business on the market today.
Why not take a risk-free trial, capture some of that power, and take your small business to the next level of success?