Project Management guide

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Why Should I Use Free Trials in Project Management Software?

A free trial allows users to try out a product or service at no cost for a set period of time. A project management software free trial, therefore, refers to the ability to use the software for free for a time. The purpose of a free trial is to allow users to ensure it is the right option for them before making a purchase.

When shopping around for project management software, you may see several options with the word “free” in them. These options include:

  • Free project management software
  • Freemium software
  • Free trial of software

Free Project Manage Software

There are a lot of free project management software options advertised. Unfortunately, nothing is ever entirely free. The reality is that any so-called “free” tool or software is going to come with some hidden costs, such as:

  • Limited features and functionality
  • Usage limits and an inability to adequately scale
  • A lack of training and support resources
  • Greater potential security risks

Freemium Software

There are two common ways that companies structure freemium software models:

  • Reduced feature freemium model
  • Reduced usage capacity freemium model

The reduced feature model is designed to allow users to only access a limited set of the software’s features for free. To gain access to additional features, users need to upgrade to one of the paid software package options. 

A slight twist on this model is when companies saddle you with watermarks, commercials, or other brand advertisements as long as you’re using the free version.

The reduced capacity model, on the other hand, allows you to access all of the software features but limits the number of things you can do within the product or the number of people who can access it.

For instance, you may only be allowed to have five registered users or be limited to only two active projects at a time. The only way to increase your usage is by opting for one of the paid software packages.

Both freemium models potentially allow users to have some level of access to the software for free forever. Therefore, if you can operate within the provided limits, freemium software is essentially the same as free project management software.

Free Trial Options

A free trial gives you all the benefits of free software with no hidden costs but only for a limited time. When the predetermined trial period ends, you’re required to pay a subscription fee if you choose to continue usage.

Because it’s temporary, a free software trial allows you to try out and use the software without any costs before you make an important investment. This ability to access and try all of the software features, without any limitations, allows you to select the right system with limited risk or sunken costs, so you’re not tied into the wrong system.

However, not all free trials are built the same. There are two different free trial options that companies may offer:

  • An opt-in free trial
  • An opt-out free trial

An opt-in free trial allows you to sign up for the free trial without putting in any payment information up front. Payment information is only requested once you choose to convert from the free trial to a paid subscription.

An opt-out free trial requires payment information up front before you can access the software. This model typically starts automatically billing you at the end of the trial period if you don’t cancel your subscription by then.

As a user, and potential purchaser, an opt-in free trial carries the least amount of risk. With an opt-out model, if you forget to cancel before the trial end date, you’re automatically billed. In addition, some companies make the cancellation process needlessly difficult. Because of the much lower barrier to entry, more people tend to be willing to engage in opt-in free trials. 

Tips on Optimizing Your Free Trial

Many free trial periods only last 14–30 days, which is not a lot of time to fully test out a new project management software. The following tips can help you get the most out of your free trial so that you can adequately assess the software before having to decide whether it’s worth investing in.

  • Limit your options. If you’re in the market for a new software solution, the last thing you want to do is try out all of them. The best approach is to narrow down your selection to 1–3 potential options and then begin one free trial at a time.
  • Request a demo. Since you only have a limited window for testing out the tool, it’s important that you get up to speed as quickly as possible. Requesting a demo in advance of your free trial can show you how to navigate and use the software and cut down on training time.
  • Plan your evaluation approach. When narrowing down your selection, you likely created a list of important features or functions that you were seeking. For example, maybe for your business it’s critical that your software allows for the creation and use of multiple project frameworks. Therefore, this feature should be one of the first things you want to test during your trial period. Before beginning your free trial, it’s a good idea to list out every feature and function that you’re looking for in a software solution. You can then rank them from critical to “nice to have” and plan to test them all in that order. This approach will allow you to be confident that the system does everything you need it to before you making a final purchasing decision.
  • Involve your team. Involving your project team in the free trial has a number of advantages. It cuts down on testing time, as each team member can test a group of features or functions. It also allows you to receive multiple viewpoints to ensure all the important aspects of the software were considered. Plus, when you involve people in the evaluation process, you can achieve greater buy-in and adoption of the system.
  • Use real data. It can be tempting to populate the software with dummy data or fake projects and tasks in order to test it, but the best way to test the system works is to use real data. Using real data from your business ensures that the software will work with your unique requirements and not just simplified scenarios.
    In addition, populating real data allows you to understand how easy or difficult it will be transitioning everything into the system if you choose it as your new project management software.
  • Test integrations. If the software offers integrations with other tools and applications you use, you should connect them to see how easily they work together. The goal is to see whether the system can support how you work today or if it will require process changes. Think about how you work today and compare your flow to what the system can do for you. Does it make your everyday work easier?
  • Check out the resources. If a software solution was amazing, but the support staff was horrendous, would you still invest in it? Most people will likely say no. Therefore, as part of your free trial, it’s important to check out the vendor’s support resources, including live support, knowledge centers, community forums, and any other available resources.


Further reading
blog post

6 Questions to Ask When Evaluating the Best Software for Project Management

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The Costs of Having the Wrong Work Management Technology

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How Spreadsheets Are Costing You Time and Money