Imagine putting together a 2000-piece, constantly moving jigsaw puzzle with a group of people with varying levels of experience and strategies for completing it.
That’s sort of what managing a project is like without a project management solution.
Tools like Gantt charts and time trackers help you create project schedules and map out project timelines, but they fall short in the areas of managing tasks in an activity stream in real time, or resource management.
In order to help you create a custom project plan to suit your unique needs, we’ve created this sampler on free project management software out there, and how to vet them, too.
What to look for in project management software
A project management solution should be flexible enough to work with your team’s style, but also rigid enough to keep your team members on track.
The best software solutions accomplish both, and should include the following features:
- Visual and intuitive user interface (UI). Basically, you should be excited to log in every day because your tool is just that beautiful and easy to use.
- Templates for every scenario. Chances are, someone has already created a killer workflow for the type of project you’re working on, so ideally your project management software should make it accessible and customizable.
- Views that work for you. Gantt, Kanban board, and more. Each team member should be able to toggle to the view that works best for them.
- Access from anywhere. You shouldn’t have to sit at a desktop computer to project manage. A mobile app is key for being flexible on the go.
- Automation of task management. Stop sending emails to give project status updates or pass the torch. Notifications should happen automatically.
Many of these features will be available in a free software solution, but no free option will address them all.Unfortunately, most free project management tools restrict teams in terms of the number of users, storage, templates, or access to a mobile project management app (if it even exists).
Free project management software options for every job type
Because you’re giving up something when you choose a free project management tool, you’ll want to cherry-pick the solution that has the best features for the type of work that you and your team do.
The following software solutions are broken down based on job type.
Free project management software for freelancers: Toggl Plan
If being a project manager is like juggling a 2,000 piece puzzle, being a freelancer is sort of like juggling a bunch of 500 piece puzzles at once, solo.
Ideally, your project management solution could keep you up and running with multiple clients, projects, and administrative task management (like sending invoices each month).
As a freelancer — and therefore, a very small team — you could probably get by with Toggle Plan’s free plan, which includes basics like tasks, milestones, timelines and reports, but you’ll have to do without:
- Unlimited users
- Recurring tasks
- File uploads
Free project management software for operations: Wrike
If you work in operations, we’d be willing to bet you’re an excel ninja. Finance, logistics, procurement specialists and so many more that we can’t list them all, you’re all the Lebron James of the spreadsheet.
Wrike’s free plan includes a spreadsheet view and other features like file sharing.
You’ll be missing out on the stuff that will really take your project management to the next level though, like:
- Task and subtask management
- Gantt chart views
- Excel integration
- More than 5 collaborators
- Enough storage (the free plan only has 2 GB)
Free project management software engineers: Backlog
Development teams and engineers usually use different tools for project management and for code. Backlog’s free plan attempts to marry the two for increased productivity.
The backbone of this claim is integrations with open source tools like Git, Subversion, and Wiki, but when it comes to actually managing umbrella projects and individual issues, you’ll have to do without:
- A Gantt chart or burndown chart
- Subtasking and building custom statuses
- Total storage of anything more than 100 MB
- Managing more than one project at a time
Free project management software for designers: Asana
When you’re reviewing images, landing pages, and videos, it’s important that you can see and comment on work within the project management tool.
Asana’s free plan allows designers to see the large thumbnails of uploaded files, but it leaves you wanting for:
- Time tracking
- Custom fields
- Unlimited projects, tasks, or subtasks
Free project management software for everyone else: Trello
Trello’s free plan is a generic, free tool that you could make work for most job types.
Without specialty features, it can likely be adapted to your needs with a little finesse, as long as you’re not a dedicated Waterfall enthusiast.
With this tool, you only get one view type, Kanban board, and you’ll be limited with other features:
- Number of tasks and boards
- Amount of automations
- Number of users
If you’re really looking for a game-changer, you’d be better off paying for something that provides you with all of the flexibility and features you need.
Real project management nirvana is never free
‘Free’ anything is never a silver bullet. To that end, 32% of executive leaders said it’s a top priority to choose the right technologies to invest in.
Luckily, there are options that fit within every budget that can really make a difference when it comes to meeting your deadlines and keeping team members happy.
In our opinion, monday.com checks all of the project management boxes with a refreshingly easy-to-use platform.
First off, it is built to be visually appealing. Assigned tasks are color-coded, assigned with photos of the people they’re assigned to, and can be presented in whatever way works for you, from a Kanban board to a Gantt chart to tables.
You’ll also never have to start from scratch. You can choose from over 200 templates as a starting point and customize them however fits best for you, your industry, and your team.
You’ll also never be stuck without access. Our mobile project management app allows you to project manage from anywhere, and the best part is that the cloud application comes with all the features included in the desktop app, so you’ll barely feel the difference.
Everything is automated, eliminating the need to send someone an email to let them know you’ve completed your task or project.
monday.com automatically lets others know when you’re done and that they’re next up in the workflow.
You can also automate recurring tasks, due date reminders, and task dependencies. Plus, you can make those automations specific to each board, so that workflows are specific to projects and teams.
When you do need to work in other tools, you won’t have to pull double duty updating both platforms.
We have over 40 integrations from different tools so that everyone on your team can access the same data.
And not to brag, but we can also help you replace a lot of those other tools if you’re not happy with them. CRM, content planning, tracking customer service tickets, we do it all.
We also store your files for you (and you can automate how they’re organized). If you do need to make changes, you can do so using that same drag and drop functionality.
Brands like the NHL, Zippo, Entrepreneur.com, Genpact, and so many more will happily share their stories with you. Or you can pop over to popular rating sites like Capterra and G2 to discover how much our customers love us.
Stop worrying, start working
Your project management tool should be the least of your worries. Whether you manage simple or complex projects, it should be there to do all the tedious work for you, leaving you and your team free to be creative and make the magic happen.
A free project management tool could help, but without core features, it’ll quickly become a headache for your team.
For the best results, look for a project management tool whose features give you freedom in the number of users, task management, automation, and integrations. To further support your work, seek out tools that include templates (so that you never have to start from scratch) and mobile project management apps so you can work on-the-go.
If you’re interested in project planning that includes all of these features, plus a gorgeous UI, plus great storage, plus custom-built apps for your needs, and so much more, check out monday.com.