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5 Reasons To Upgrade Your Free Project Management Tool To An Affordable Paid Plan

Category: B2B News

When is the right time to upgrade from a free project management system to a paid, yet affordable one? As practice shows, free software is a profitable but also a temporary solution, and it comes with limitations that won’t let it scale to the growing demands of your business. We’ve identified five of these limitations below, signs that tell you it’s time for an upgrade:

  1. Lack of flexibility
  2. Feature limitations
  3. Restricted integration capabilities
  4. Questionable security
  5. Unreliable support

While there is no universal answer to as when you should invest in paid software, there are many indicators that reveal the need to do so. For most managers out there, switching plans becomes critical when the freeware hinders your business from growing.

Project management tools are no exception to this practice, as the difference between their free and paid versions is substantial, to say at least.

What’s the actual cost of your free project management system?

Why paying for something that you can get for free? Good point, but not a very sustainable one.

Project management teams need development and innovation, and software plays an important role in that process. The idea of saving some money was easy to get head over heels for, but preserving money in the long run turned out to be a whole different story. The project management system seemed absolutely measured to everyone’s needs, and you didn’t question its capacity to serve you in the long run.

Now that you‘re spending to keep it in shape, you’re actually questioning this whole cost-effectiveness concept.

All hands on deck. A paid plan gives you the key features of visibility, analytics and intuitiveness as gleaned from the 3-pane Wrike dashboard here.

How are paid solutions better? Price tags, of course, don’t always guarantee improvement, but they build up a threshold of expectations free products can’t respond to. In terms of project management software, in particular, paid plans may allow for a larger number of projects or assignees, or grant customization options that are not available in the free version. As a result, you may be required to use several tools to complete your projects; and spend money and time that weren’t planned from the beginning.

What are the perils of using free project management tools? For starters, they tend to restrict users from integrating with other systems and applications, as vendors reserve this feature for premium users. Without the appropriate synchronization, free users are expected to transfer data between directories on their own. At the same time, maintenance costs are rarely accounted for, which means that the user has little to no control over the management of his data. Security implications are not excluded either, considering that it is the user who’s in charge of keeping the system up-to-date.

In fact, the best way to experience the stark difference between a free plan and paid plan is to sign up for a Wrike free trial here. The free trial gives you access to all features for a period of time, the better you can appreciate the full potential of this project management solution. These include full project planning and collaboration, rich work management with customization and executive reporting.

5 Reasons To Upgrade To Paid Project Management Tool

Put this way, upgrading to a paid plan is always desirable; but there are 5 specific scenarios in which it becomes compulsory:

1. Lack of flexibility

Are you really in control of your project management tool? Free project management systems (or their free versions) rarely let you choose between local deployment and cloud. They come as they are, and you’ve settled for not having the configuration possibilities of their paid counterparts.

Both deployment scenarios come with strings attached: If the solution is locally installed, you can get a dev team working around it until it fits in your line of work (note that this process can be significantly expensive). If running an open source program, on the opposite, you will either rely on volunteering developers to fix its bugs, or get it done yourself. Whatever road you’ve taken, it ain’t free.

When you pay for a project management system, you pay for flexibility. Against a reasonable price, vendors offer you several deployment options and license types to cater to your unique needs.

On the good side, there are systems where implementation is not tied to the price, as it is with our current leader Wrike. The cloud-based project management solution comes with setup assistance regardless of the plan you’ve chosen, and makes it really easy to update to a premium version. Its paid plans, however, offer more features that experienced project leaders require. You can read our Wrike review here for more details on its advanced features.

Going for a paid plan means full support also, especially in instances when you need help to install a desktop version like the Wrike for Mac and Windows app.

2. Feature limitations

Unpaid project management software is limited in many ways, and you should know really well what you’re signing in for. The first limitation, for instance, is the time span in which you’re allowed to use it.

What are the other limitations?

  1. Limited storage – Software producers do have an interest into making professional management accessible for small teams, but their agenda is always the same: they wrap up the best they’ve got in a bitsy package, and expect it to motivate you to acquire a paid plan. This is the reason why free plans can only be operated by a limited number of users, or are suitable for a limited number of projects/tasks. In the case of Wrike, for example, the number of active users depends on the plan you’ve chosen (the Free Plan is only suitable for 5 of them). The pricing, however, is flexible enough to allow you to raise this number from 15 to 200 (and eventually unlimited), depending on the size of your team. You can manage as many projects as you want in Wrike’s free plan, but you’ll only get 2 GB storage. The paid plans include 50 – 10 GB storage +15 GB video uploads.
  2. Limited project planning – To be fair, there are many PM tools you don’t have to pay for, and which still do an amazing job helping you map your work. And yet, you will rarely be offered the sophisticated modelling that accompanies premium projects, like breaking work down to several manageable units. Wrike approached this issue by giving free users a functional task management kit, but preserving the subtask breakdown for paying clients.
    Between other things, paid solutions help you come up with realistic expectations. They import data from other systems and model it as it arrives, and give you the clear picture of how you should allocate your resources. They also make planning easier with workflows and automation, and help users plan ahead of time.
  3. Limited visual means – Sharing media content is often restricted to paid plans only. If you upgrade, you can replace your basic spreadsheet views with time-sensitive and shareable dashboards, and let collaborators exchange multimedia files. As Wrike’s Professional user you can even video proof content at a reasonable price.
  4. Limited analytics & reporting – Another important feature free tools lack is professional reporting. They are not able to analyze the results of your work as they don’t track your time or expenses. What is more, they don’t offer the same variety of reporting templates, and they won’t let you export those to third systems.
  5. Limited customization – Unlike their free counterparts, paid project management systems let you make configurations. With the help of their advanced branding tools, you can turn your PM into a personalized and pleasant workspace.
  6. Limited access for third parties – Free project management tools that permit access for third parties are very difficult to find, as this is a feature reserved for premium users. If you want partners, clients, or external collaborators to be directly involved in your projects, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid alternative.

Here’s another paid plan dashboard example courtesy of, which gives you the essentials of project management tools. (

3. Restricted integration capabilities

Free project management systems are often difficult to integrate with an existing software network. In some cases, vendors provide only basic integrations with pre-selected products, while in others they limit access to the product’s API to premium users only. Since the tool can’t adjust to your line of work, you’ll probably have to change everything else around it to make it work.

Hence, insufficient connectivity options are a valid reason to upgrade to a paid plan. This won’t mean that you have to sign for an enterprise package, as in most cases the full list of integrations becomes available within the lowest paid plan. With Wrike’s Professional Plan, for example, you get to enjoy all advanced integrations for as little as $9.8 month, including Excel, MS Project, and RSS, and available API information for your developers. That’s more than a good deal, as all you get with the Free Plan are basic connections to your cloud storage systems and email providers. Note that Wrike also offers add-ons and extensions for Jira, GitHub, and Salesforce, and that those are free only for a limited period of time.

4. Questionable security

The security policies of project management vendors don’t differ significantly from one plan to the other. With a free plan, you’re pretty much entitled to the same protection standards as any premium user. Yet, there are a number of bonus safeguards that could inspire you to go premium.

Security between free and paid plans usually differs in IT controlled access management. Being a paid user sometimes accounts to being able to govern permissions within the system, and to build up your own access structure where everyone has a specific role. Meanwhile, the vendor will provide you with 24/7 monitoring of your progress, and perhaps offer repair guarantees and incident management in case your data is compromised.

Wrike’s diverse pricing structure gives us a clear picture of how that works. This project management system is definitely a role model of security, as it is both DSS (Data Security Standards) and PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant, encrypts sensitive data on all pages, and offers backup on multiple locations to preserve your work. And while it is difficult to think of a paid feature that could do a better job, Wrike’s premium users get to manage permissions within the system, and are entitled to SAML 2.0 Single Sign Up and Two-factor authentication.

5. Unreliable support

Getting a free project management system usually puts you at the very end of the waiting queue. The waiting time can be annoying, but that’s the only fair way for vendors to handle inquiries.

What should free users expect in terms of support? This depends on whether you’ve chosen a freemium or an open source tool. In the open source scenario, they’ll be provided access to an assistance library and FAQ pages where they can look for solutions on their own, or rely entirely on the user community to come up with their answers. Freemium is a slightly better option, as there is usually a support team in charge of handling their inquiries. The access to that team, however, may be limited to tickets or emails.

With some vendors, the channels for reaching out to support are the same for all users, but it takes a bit longer to get an answer if you’re not paying for it.

Once you upgrade to a paid plan, your vendor will guarantee 24/7 monitoring of your work, and a team placed at your disposal for just as long. Paid users can actually call an agent or chat with one within the system, which means they’re entitled to instant answers and solutions. Wrike gives them an additional advantage — premium teams receive expert training on how to use and optimize this system, and are provided insights and best practices that could streamline their work.

Some final thoughts

Is paying for a project management tool the right thing to do? With a free alternative that is too basic or inefficient, that’s pretty much the only thing left to do.

To help you decide whether you should upgrade to a paid plan, we compared the costs and benefits of running free project management software. As it turns out, premium plans can be a more cost-effective alternative, as they offer a variety of advanced features against a free plan. Wrike is an example of an affordable project management app that surely will give you more ROI than a free plan, plus it scales to growing business demands and can be customized to your workflows. To know more about its powerful features you can easily sign up for a Wrike free trial here.


By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

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