Best Project Management Software for Freelancers in 2021: Apps & Tools

If you’re working as a contractor or other type of freelancer, chances are you need some help tracking your work. In this roundup, we go over the best project management software for freelancers that will keep you on task – maybe even for free.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-07-25T22:07:15+00:00

Freelancers looking for the best project management software often get short shrift as most roundups — including our own — focus on businesses with more than one worker. With this overview of the best project management software for freelancers, though, we hope to remedy that situation and get you managing your projects and tasks like a pro, even if you are just a one-man band.

If you are working on your own — either as a contractor, employee or true wild card that gets work wherever you can — you have a specific set of requirements that we at Cloudwards are all too familiar with: between us, we have over a century of experience working from home offices and laptops all around the world.

Key Takeaways:

  • There are a lot of free apps out there, so there’s no need to pay for a project management tool as a freelancer.
  • If you’re running a small shop with a straightforward workflow, you’re probably best off with a simple app like Notion or Trello.
  • If you’re managing more complex projects or overseeing other freelancers, tools like Asana and nTask are probably the way to go.

We’ve picked five services, all of which offer a free plan, that should meet the needs of most freelancers and help you keep track of what you’re doing and for whom, and when it needs to be turned in. Our favorite is Notion, though any of the other four may meet your needs. We recommend taking advantage of the free plans of two or three options that strike your fancy.

  • Project managers commonly use software like Asana, monday.com or any other of the host of options on the market now.

  • Generally speaking, we think Asana, Wrike, nTask and Notion are the best free project management tools, though there are plenty of other contenders.

  • If you want to combine project management and tracking your hours, your best options are probably Notion, nTask or Asana.

What Makes the Best Project Management Software for Freelancers?

Our main criterion when picking good task management tools for freelancers is cost, or rather the absence of it: all our picks have a solid free plan (though we’re not blown away by monday.com’s, truth be told). If the free tier doesn’t scratch your itch, in all cases you can upgrade for a reasonable price, though nTask and Notion are by far the cheapest. Here’s a quick overview of our five top project management tools for freelancers.

  1. Notion — Simple yet powerful project management tool
  2. Asana — Powerhouse project management software
  3. nTask — Flexible task management with built-in time tracking
  4. Trello — For fans of kanban boards and mobile apps
  5. monday.com — A bit of everything

Next up in our criteria, we figured that most freelancers juggle many different tasks and need overview more than anything. Kanban boards and lists are the best way to achieve that, and all entries have a strong showing here. We left advanced features like Gantt charts and workload-balancing out of the equation because they’re generally used for larger teams.

Lastly, we wanted project management apps that can do a lot of different things, or at least let you use integrations so you can manage as much as possible from a single application. Though our picks all have different strengths and weaknesses, all of them have some kind of access to things like word processing, time-tracking and managing due dates.

On top of that, all of our picks have an easy-to-use interface and decent mobile apps. However, do note that if you want to do a lot of planning on Android or iOS, you may want to get ready for some mild frustration: most project management mobile apps aren’t that hot.

The Top 5 Best Project Management Tools for Freelancers

With all of the above criteria in mind, we selected the five project management tools for freelancers below. Our overall favorite is Notion, but we’re sure that if that doesn’t fit your needs, there’s another that will.

1. Notion

best kanban notion
Notion offers a very sober but practical interface.
  • Pricing: Free, or $4 per month for the Personal Pro plan
  • Website: www.notion.so

Pros:

  • Combines note-taking & planning
  • Great for creatives & marketers
  • Can create advanced documentation

Cons:

  • Lacks advanced features
  • Can’t track multiple projects

Notion is an interesting mix of note-taking app and task management solution that does something very few other hybrid tools do: it does a good job at all the parts it’s combining. As you can read in our full Notion review, it is both one of the best note-taking apps and a great way to wrangle projects.

It’s a solid pick for freelancers because it’s completely free, though you can choose to pay $4 per month — if paying annually — to get some extras, like inviting unlimited guests. That said, paying for it feels more like a way to support the developers than a fully fledged upgrade. 

Getting Organized with Notion

Another reason we like it is because it combines note-taking, task planning, writing and file storage. For example, you could plan projects using Notion’s kanban board and lists, then link from each task directly to a directory within Notion where you keep both written notes as well as any uploaded images. It’s a one-stop shop.

However, if you’re running more complex operations or are planning to expand your business, then Notion may not be the best pick, as it really only runs the basics. Its advanced features are rather lacking, and we wouldn’t recommend using it for more than scheduling straightforward workflows, or for use by people who don’t work with documents.

If you are the kind of person Notion has in mind, once you’re used to organizing things in pages and interlinking them wiki-style, you’ll be speeding along with both contract work and your own projects. Combine that with its great pricing and focus on freelancers, and it takes the win in this roundup. Check out the free plan and see for yourself.

Personal
  • 1 user only, Up to five guests, 5MB file upload limit
Personal Pro
  • 1 user only, Unlimited guests, Unlimited file uploads, Version history
Team
  • Unlimited users, Unlocks workspace, User permission settings
Enterprise
  • Advanced security features

2. Asana

asana colors
Asana offers a more complete project management experience than Notion.
  • Pricing: Free, or $10.99 per user per month for the Premium plan
  • Website: www.asana.com

Pros:

  • Lots of free features
  • Colorful, clear interface
  • Feels professional

Cons:

  • Pricey upgrade
  • Many superfluous options

We’ve placed Asana second here because, while it is the best free project management tool out there, it’s not as focused on freelancers as Notion is. That said, it will be the better option for some people reading this list, simply because it offers more robust features and functionality.

For one, it feels a lot more like a project management option rather than a notebook with some extra features bolted on. If you’re already used to using this type of software, then Asana is the better fit. It’s probably also better for people who are running more entrepreneurial projects, or who need to keep track of freelancers of their own (in which case, definitely check out our Asana review).

Manage Tasks With Asana 

Still, though, even lone wolves will find there’s a lot to like about Asana: it offers a number of views, including a great kanban board and a very easy-to-use list view, and using it feels very smooth. It also has some great integrations, like with time-tracking app Harvest, and is in many ways a lot more flexible than Notion.

The downside of Asana is its price, though: while the free plan will cover most freelancers, if you do need to upgrade, you’ll be paying top dollar. Plans start at about $11 per month, so your choices are either paying nothing or jumping straight to a lot. If you can’t work around the free plan’s limitations and don’t like the price, you’re going to have to look for something else.

Free
  • Up to 15 users
Premium
  • Price is per user. unlimited users, expanded features
Business
  • Price is per user. unlimited users, even more features
Enterprise
  • Custom pricing, advanced security features

3. nTask

ntask slider 3
nTask has a nice clean interface with everything in its proper place.
  • Pricing: Free, or $2.99 per user per month on the Premium plan (minimum three users)
  • Website: www.ntaskmanager.com

Pros:

  • Inclusive free plan
  • Cheap upgrade
  • Great built-in time tracking system

Cons:

  • No kanban board in the free plan
  • Lots of clicking around in the interface

In many ways, nTask would be a better pick for freelancers than Asana: the free plan is only a smidge worse than its rival’s, and its Premium plan is a lot cheaper, too. However, there are two issues that prevent nTask from scoring higher here: there’s no kanban board on the free plan, and the upgrade requires a minimum of three users.

That’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot to like here for freelancers. nTask offers great usability and functionality, and its free plan would be a complete project management suite were it not for the missing board.

The Kanban Can’t

As we explain in our nTask review, we’re not completely sure why something as basic as a kanban board has been hidden behind a paywall, but we expect it has something to do with enticing people to come aboard. At just $3 per user per month, nTask is the cheapest project management solution out there, or at least the cheapest one worth mentioning.

In fact, nTask is even cheaper than that, as its first three users only count as one, so to speak, which brings the initial cost down to just $36 per year for all three. While this isn’t a lot of money, we suspect it might still be a hurdle for freelancers, who generally prefer free stuff. Still, though, if you can live without a kanban board or can handle $36, we recommend giving nTask a spin.

Free
  • Maximum 5 team members.
Premium
  • Minimum 3 team members. First three users are only $36 per year for all three.
Enterprise
  • Self-hosted option. 50 team members minimum.

4. Trello

trello-review-slider-2
Trello is everything a kanban board should be.
  • Pricing: Free, or $3.75 per month for Gold membership
  • Website: www.trello.com

Pros:

  • A great kanban board
  • Great drag & drop functionality
  • Lots of integrations to choose from

Cons:

  • Add-ons limited in the free plan
  • Upgrades aren’t great

From famine to feast: Trello is the best kanban app out there, bar none. In many ways, it’s the perfect fit for a freelancer who just wants to keep track of tasks quickly and easily. If all you need are some cards you can easily drag and drop to get some overview for free, we recommend it before the others in this list — read our Trello review for more information.

However, that’s just part of the story for most freelancers, and when you step outside the board’s bounds, you’ll quickly realize Trello has a lot of flaws. For one, while it offers views other than the free board, it hides them behind a pretty pricey paywall: the Business plan is $10 per user per month, which puts it out of reach of most freelancers.

Trello Upgrade

Even if you do have the money, it’s questionable how useful it will be. The main draws are the new views and the unlimited integrations — called power-ups — but most of what a freelancer needs is already offered by Asana or nTask, and for free. Also, unlimited integrations are probably a lot more than most loners will need.

However, there is an in-between stage, called Gold, that offers two power-ups, and it’s a “membership” that will set you back $45 per year. If you like kanban boards as much as we do but you need some extra functionality, it may be the ticket. If not, we recommend you give Trello a pass.

Free
  • 10 boards, Unlimited users, 1 power-up
Trello Gold
  • Unlimited personal boards, 1 user, 3 power-ups
Business Class
  • Unlimited boards, Unlimited users, Unlimited power-ups, Added views
Enterprise
  • Enhanced security options

5. monday.com

monday-review-slider-2
monday.com offers a great interface with quick navigation.
  • Pricing: Free, or $10 per user per month for the Standard plan
  • Website: www.monday.com

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Great list view

Cons:

  • Free plan is limited
  • Upgrade is pricey for a freelancer

We end this list with the project management tool that we start most others with: monday.com. While monday.com is our overall favorite project manager, it falls short for the average freelancer for a few reasons.

Monday.com Free Plan

For one, its newly minted free plan offers just a list and a board. This makes it marginally more interesting than Trello, but unlike Trello, there’s no in-between when upgrading: either you go the whole hog and pay for the Standard plan, or nothing — the Basic plan is near useless as all it adds to the free plan is a dashboard and some extra storage.

That said, as you can read in our monday.com review, it’s a very nice list and a great board. Add to that some of monday.com’s more interesting integrations and you may have a winning option on your hands. However, compared to our other contenders, monday.com won’t scratch a freelancer’s itch nearly as well, earning it fifth place.

Free
  • Maximum users: 2, Kanban Board, & list
Standard
  • Minimum users: 3, Price per user, Expanded features
Enterprise
  • Enterprise-level features.

Final Thoughts

Freelancers don’t always have it easy finding the best project management software, but hopefully our list can help you at least narrow down the field a little. Notion is a powerful little package, especially for creatives, while nTask and Asana are more aimed at generalist users; we recommend that you try out the free trials if you’re still not sure which is the best pick for you.

What did you think of our list? Did we miss any important contenders that you feel deserve a spot? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.