Best Project Management Software for Small Business in 2021

Running a company, no matter how small, can be quite the challenge. We’ve put together this selection of the best project management software for small businesses to help you keep things straight.

Fergus O'Sullivan
By Fergus O'Sullivan (Editor-at-Large, Writer)
— Last Updated: 2021-09-24T17:22:52+00:00

If you’re running a small business, you likely need some kind of tool to keep track of everything that needs to be done. After all, fall behind and that might be the end of your livelihood, as well as that of your employees. To help you pick the best app for you, we’ve put together this roundup of the best project management software for small business.

Key Takeaways:

  • For most companies, monday.com is a great project management solution. It’s easy to use, can do many different things and is affordable.
  • You can also do a lot without spending a penny: if you have fewer than 15 people in your team, definitely check out Asana’s amazing free plan.
  • For teams on a budget, nTask is a great pick, as it offers a lot for just a few bucks per person you sign on.

Though the focus here is very much on small businesses — up to 15 employees or so, depending on the industry — there’s considerable overlap with the more general ranking we made for our best project management software article. As can be expected, monday.com and Asana rule the roost, thanks to their ease of use and considerable feature set.

Though monday.com is a great option for most people, most of the time, there are plenty of other apps to choose from; there’s a little something for everybody out there. On top of that, most of our picks can be made to play nice with each other using no-code automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT, so you’re not limited to just one.

  • 08/25/2021

    Reworked the list using new criteria; added FAQ section.

  • Most decent project management apps have a free plan; Asana’s and Wrike’s are the best.

  • The most simple project management tool is probably monday.com, with Asana and nTask hot on its heels.

  • Not really. You can combine Google Tasks and Google Calendar to manage tasks, but it’s nothing like a dedicated tool. You can check out our guide on how to use Google project management tools, though.

What Makes the Best Project Management Software for Small Business?

Picking the best project management apps for small business is no small task: there are a lot of services out there, and all of them come with amazing marketing campaigns. It doesn’t help that some services promise to be one thing, but are actually another (read our Basecamp review for one example), or try to be everything at once, as you can see in our Podio review.

In the end, we decided to focus on whether our contenders have a flexible feature set, are easy to use and, of course, how all this stacks up against their pricing. However, this doesn’t mean that our top pick is also the best for you: every company is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

As such, we recommend that you read through the complete list and read the full reviews for all the project management apps you find appealing. Of course, you’re always free to drop us a comment below if you need more details.

The Top 5 Best Project Management Tools for Small Businesses

We managed to boil down our list to five services, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. All five are very versatile and offer good bang for your buck while also making sure you’re on top of what’s happening in your workflow.

  1. monday.com: Great overall small-business project management
  2. Asana: The best free project management tool 
  3. Wrike: Fantastic project management reporting features
  4. nTask: The best option for budget shoppers
  5. Airtable: Maybe the easiest project management software

We also have three honorable mentions that are less versatile than the top five entries but bring specific toolsets to the table. If your company needs a certain type of project management centered around Agile, boards or Gantt charts, be sure to check out our runners-up.

1. monday.com

A Great All-Round Planning Tool for Small Businesses

monday-review-slider-5
A colorful interface and great features put monday.com firmly at the top of this ranking.

More details about monday.com:

  • Pricing: Free, or $10 per user per month for the Standard plan
  • Website: monday.com

Pros:

  • Many useful features
  • Easy to use
  • Decent pricing

Cons:

  • Free plan isn’t very good

We kick off our list with our favorite overall project management tool, monday.com. We’ve praised it in many articles, not least of which is our monday.com review, for its great feature set and colorful, easy-to-use interface. This combination, together with its pricing, make it a great pick for any small business.

Monday.com has its list as the center of all planning. You enter tasks there, assign different qualities to them using color-coded tags — important for filtering them later — and then use different views to determine what is being done when and by whom. It’s a very elegant system, and we recommend you check out our monday.com tutorial for more details on how it all works.

Monday.com also scales well: while small teams can get by with just a list and a board, complex projects can be accommodated as well, as can the needs of companies that run multiple projects. It also offers some great time-tracking abilities and collaboration features, like chat.

Monday.com Business Pricing

If you’re running a small business, the Standard plan, which runs $120 per user per year, is probably your best bet. While it’s a sizable investment, it offers decent value when compared to most competitors, though nTask — our number four entry — is the best budget option. We offer an in-depth comparison of the different plans in our article on monday.com’s pricing.

One important thing to note in regard to pricing, though, is that monday.com’s free and Basic plan tiers aren’t very good: if you want a free solution or one tailored to tight budgets, you may want to look elsewhere. For anybody else, we definitely recommend you give the Standard plan a spin using the 14-day free trial.

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

2. Asana

Great Features, and an Even Better Free Plan

asana colors
Asana is just as colorful as monday.com, and comes with some extra features, to boot.

More details about Asana:

  • Pricing: Free, or $10.99 per user per month for the Premium plan
  • Website: asana.com

Pros:

  • Great free plan
  • Colorful interface
  • Great advanced features

Cons:

  • Pricey

Our second pick is Asana, and for two reasons. On the one hand, it’s the best free project management software out there, allowing up to 15 people to use a good chunk of its features without spending a penny. On the other, it has some amazing advanced features, making it a good pick for small companies that aspire to future growth.

The free plan is likely the biggest draw, as it’s just that good. Users get most of the features found in the Premium plan, but with a cap at the aforementioned 15 users and 1,000 tasks. Some smart planning can keep you under that limit, easy. We go into more detail in our article on Asana pricing, but do note that the free plan includes unlimited storage, which is generous.

Using Asana is pretty easy. It works much like monday.com in that you use the list to enter tasks and then sort them through different views. We like monday.com’s interface a smidge better, but that’s likely down to taste. What sets Asana apart aren’t its run-of-the mill features (read our Asana review for more on these), but rather its advanced ones.

Advanced Business Plans & Features

The Business and Enterprise plans include a number of really cool functions for larger companies, like setting milestones and plotting timelines. Though they’re likely not on the top of a small business’ list, it makes Asana an interesting option for a company planning for growth.

That said, these advanced plans are pretty pricey and, truth be told, so is the Premium plan, which is the upgrade from the free plan. With Asana, it seems you either pay nothing or a lot. Still, it’s good value for the money, and we recommend either giving the free version a spin or trying out one of the paid plans with a 30-day free trial.

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. Wrike

A Dull but Effective Project Management Solution

wrike custom workflows custom fields
Though Wrike doesn’t have the looks, it definitely has the brains.

More details about Wrike:

  • Pricing: Free, or $9.80 per user per month on the Professional plan
  • Website: wrike.com

Pros:

  • Solid free plan
  • Old-school feel
  • Great reporting features

Cons:

  • Not the belle of the ball
  • Tutorials are a bit short
  • Big jump in prices

Our third place is reserved for Wrike. At first, we were going to give the post to nTask for its budget plans, but then we figured Wrike’s great reporting features may be more useful for smaller businesses. If you like to quickly gather detailed information about what’s going on in your company, then Wrike may be the program for you; check out our full Wrike review.

Besides reporting, Wrike also offers a full suite of project management features, like a list, board and even a pretty decent Gantt chart, though nothing that would blow away a dedicated tool like our honorable mention, TeamGantt. It also comes with a spreadsheet view, which is great for old-school project managers but will likely puzzle people new to the job.

The downside to using Wrike are its looks, or rather lack of them. Even after you change up the main template and tweak some other settings, it’s still a bit drab to look at. Though it shouldn’t be a reason not to use it, we always feel a faint torpor descend when using it for any extended period of time. Your mileage may vary, but we prefer the pretty colors of monday.com.

Wrike’s Free & Professional Plans

That aside, Wrike is a solid pick, made even more solid by its free plan, which offers basic functionality for up to five users. Check out our article on Wrike pricing for the details. 

If you decide to go the paid route, the basic Professional plan is good value at just under $120 per user per year, but the Business plan is quite the leap at almost $300 per user per year. You can judge for yourself whether that’s worth it using the 14-day free trial.

Free
  • : Maximum of 5 users. Basic features.
Professional
  • : Price is per user. Plans for 5, 10 and 15 users.
Business
  • : Price is per user. No monthly option. Plans for 5 to 200 users.
Enterprise
  • : Plans for 5 to an unlimited number of users.

4. nTask

The Best Affordable Project Management Tool

best kanban ntask
nTask is not just cheap, it looks good, too.

More details about nTask:

  • Pricing: Free, or $2.99 per user per month on the Premium plan
  • Website: ntaskmanager.com

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Solid features
  • Good tutorials

Cons:

  • Navigation is a bit annoying
  • Privacy policy is a bit iffy

nTask is a little tricky to place: we like a lot about it, but it falls a tiny bit short in a few places, keeping it from the top spot. However, if you need a solid project management system that will cost you very little money, then nTask is probably the best choice out there. Read the details in our full nTask review.

nTask is filled to the brim with all kinds of features, some of which may come off a bit weird, such as the grid and gallery views — we have no idea what they’re supposed to achieve. Other than that, though, nTask offers a comprehensive set of tools that allow you to track and manage projects even with larger teams.

These include a kanban board, a Gantt chart, a list and a few other doodads. nTask also comes with built-in Agile functionality, which will come in handy for any team working within that methodology (though it’s no match for our honorable mention, Jira). The only drag to this excellent functionality is navigation, which can quickly become a clickfest.

Affordable Business Project Management

As we mentioned, though, nTask’s biggest draw is its price. At less than $3 per user per month for the Premium plan, there’s no cheaper alternative out there, especially considering it’s a pretty comprehensive plan. There’s also a free plan for up to five users, though it’s unsurprisingly a bit sparse. We recommend trying it out to get a feel for nTask.

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.

5. Airtable

Spreadsheet-Based Project Management

airtable slider 2
Airtable is extremely easy to use, thanks to a crystal-clear interface.

More details about Airtable:

  • Pricing: Free, or $10 per user per month on the Plus plan
  • Website: airtable.com

Pros:

  • User friendly
  • Excellent free plan

Cons:

  • A bit light on features
  • Advanced plans are very pricey

We close out our top five with Airtable, an interesting program because it’s old-school without looking that way. At its very essence, Airtable is a spreadsheet-based tool, but unlike, say, Wrike, it looks as fresh and modern as Asana or Trello, thanks to a very well-executed reskin. 

Unlike the top contenders on this list, the main input in Airtable is a spreadsheet and all views flow from there. While at first this may remind you of Wrike or Asana and the way they operate, there are some key differences. For one, there’s less room to add custom information; for another, the kanban board isn’t as responsive as those of dedicated tools.

Easy-to-Use Small Business Project Management

This is a small price to pay, though, as Airtable seems aimed at people who are uncomfortable using new software. It’s easy to use and everything is explained in a very basic way. This means that you may find some of the more advanced operations that Asana offers lacking, but it also means that you’ll have far fewer headaches coming to grips with it.

As you can read in our Airtable review, it comes with an excellent free plan that caps your activity, not the functionality. It’s a great way to get started with project management and it should be enough for small firms.

However, the more people you invite and the more you want to do, the more likely it is that you’re going to have to start paying for Airtable. The price increases are a bit steep, if we’re honest, and we’re not sure if the jump to the Pro plan, for example, is worth it.

Free
  • : All views (except Gantt), 1,200 record, 2GB file storage
Airtable Enterprise

    Honorable Mentions

    Next up are our three honorable mentions, each of which has a very specific function. While we don’t recommend any of these three as an all-purpose solution, they can be used for either a single purpose or integrated with another project management tool for maximum effectiveness.

    6. Trello

    The Best Kanban Board on the Market

    trello-review-slider-2
    We wish all kanban boards looked this good.

    More details about Trello:

    • Pricing: Free, or $10 per user per month for the Business Class plan
    • Website: trello.com

    Pros:

    • Great kanban board
    • Easy to use
    • Wide range of custom modules

    Cons:

    • Limited use
    • Upgrade is expensive

    Trello is one of our favorite task management software programs here at Cloudwards. This is because of its limitations rather than in spite of them: Trello knows what it’s good at — being the best kanban app on the market — and, until recently, stuck to it. We manage our editorial calendar with the free version of Trello, and so far it’s been easy to use and extremely scalable.

    The best thing about Trello is its kanban board. It’s responsive and intuitive (our Trello tutorial is proof of that), with plenty of negative space to help with overview. It has enough filters to make it searchable, too, so even if you have hundreds of tasks and cards you’ll be able to find what you need pretty quickly. 

    Simple Project Management With a Kanban Board

    It also has other features besides the board, but, as you can read in our Trello review, this is where it falls apart a little. A recent update added a built-in calendar and list to the upgraded plan, but they don’t work as well as we’d like. Also, full customization of Trello requires an upgrade, as you only get one integration on the free plan.

    That said, you can accomplish almost everything worth doing on Trello’s free plan, with the paid plan only unlocking those extra views and unlimited add-ons. However, at $10 per user per month, we’re not convinced it’s really worth it. Instead, you could always use Trello’s board for free and do more complex project planning with another service; everybody else is doing it.

    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

    7. TeamGantt

    Gantt Charts Galore

    teamgantt slider 2
    TeamGantt sets a high bar when it comes to Gantt charts.

    More details about TeamGantt:

    • Pricing: Free, or $19.90 per user per month for the first on the Standard plan
    • Website: teamgantt.com

    Pros:

    • Great Gantt charts
    • Excellent tutorials

    Cons:

    • Aimed exclusively at Gantt charts
    • Odd pricing

    What Trello is to kanban boards, TeamGantt is to Gantt charts. The whole program is aimed at these handy tools, with the list and the kanban board used solely in the employ of the bar chart and its dependencies. This makes TeamGantt great for Gantt aficionados, but renders it useless for anybody else, as you can read in our TeamGantt review.

    Simple Project Management With Gantt Charts

    Like with Trello, if you rely heavily on Gantt charts, accept no substitute. However, if you manage Gantt charts as part of a larger package of tools, then TeamGantt isn’t the best option as it’s very much a one-trick pony. You’re probably better off with Airtable or Wrike in this case, though monday.com and Asana also offer some Gantt chart functionality.

    Like the other entries on this list, TeamGantt offers a free plan, but it’s just the Gantt chart. To make the most out of it, you’re going to have to upgrade to the Standard or Advanced plan. We’re not huge fans of the way TeamGantt handles this, with the first team member costing more than each successive one, but it does get you an excellent project management tool.

    Free
    • : 3 users only
    Standard
    • : First person is $24.95 on the monthly plan, and $19.90 on the yearly plan
    Advanced
    • : First person is $29.95 on the monthly plan, and $24.45 on the yearly plan

    8. Jira

    A Project Management Tool for Agile Teams

    jira-review-slider-3
    A clinical, intuitive interface is Jira’s hallmark.

    More details about Jira:

    Pros:

    • Excellent Agile tool
    • Good board
    • Cheap

    Cons:

    • Very specific functionality
    • Few native integrations

    We finish up the list with a tool famous among software development companies and few others: Jira. Probably the best scrum software on the market today, Jira is steeped in the Agile methodology and will likely be useless to anybody not used to the practices and convoluted jargon of this project management philosophy.

    If you’re part of an Agile team, though, you’ll love Jira: it’s focused entirely on creating boards that can track issues and stories, though you can also repurpose them to act like regular kanban boards. As a standalone kanban board, however, Trello is a lot better (Trello and Jira are owned by the same company, Atlassian). For more details on how its boards work, check out our Jira review.

    Affordable Pricing for Agile Teams

    Another great thing about Jira is its generous pricing. A small team of up to 10 users can use it entirely for free, meaning it’s a great pick for small companies. The upgrade to the Standard plan won’t break the bank, though, costing just $7 per user per month. Only nTask is cheaper, and isn’t as good for Agile teams.

    Free
    • : Max. 10 users
    Standard
    • : Annual price is for 10 users; with more than 10, annual pricing changes based on the number of users. Monthly pricing changes with teams over 100.
    Premium
    • : Annual price is for 10 users; with more than 10, annual pricing changes based on the number of users. Monthly pricing changes with teams over 100.

    Final Thoughts

    We hope this article helps you find the best project management software for your business, or at least cuts down on your research to find the best fit. Finding a good solution often involves some trial and error, so we recommend you take each one you find interesting for a spin to see how you like it.

    What’s your favorite project management app? Did we miss one we shouldn’t have? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.