Notebooks and spreadsheets have their uses, but managing relationships shouldn't be one of them. That's where customer relationship management (CRM) software comes in. CRMs can help manage all your current and potential customer touchpoints from email to phone to Twitter conversations. They can also help you track sales, organize contacts, automate tasks, manage projects, monitor social accounts, and even help control expenses.
But if you're just getting your business off the ground or working with a tight budget, dropping a high monthly fee on CRM software may be out of your reach. Fortunately, like some of the best things in life, some CRMs are even free.
To help you find the right platform for your business (and finally ditch the spreadsheet), we've tested several dozen free CRMs, narrowing it down to the nine best. Click on any app to learn more about why we chose it, or keep reading for more context on free CRMs.
The best free CRM software
Bitrix24 for all-in-one business capability
Zoho CRM for scaling your business
HubSpot CRM for businesses with a lot of contacts
Insightly for project management
Capsule for being easy to use
Really Simple Systems for sales forecasting
Agile CRM for marketing capabilities
Streak for managing from a Gmail inbox
Flowlu for financial records tracking
What makes a great free CRM?
It's hard to believe that a tool so crucial to your business wouldn't cost a cent. But these companies hope that once you invest time in their product, you'll be more likely to invest money in a paid plan down the road. Even if you don't, these CRMs offer free features, forever. Here's how we narrowed down the best free plans:
Robust free features. We only considered CRM software that include robust enough features on their free plans that you can manage the basics without upgrading. At a minimum, all of our best free CRMs include contact management, deal tracking, and task automation.
Easy to use. "Ease of use" is the most demanded feature from CRM users. We know this can be subjective, but in general, CRMs should be easy to navigate from the first time you sign on. The layout should feel similar to your email inbox with the most used functions (e.g., contacts, deals, reports, settings) accessible from any screen.
Has unique features. There are a lot of CRMs out there. Each of our included CRMs have features that set them apart from other free software.
Can integrate with other apps. Finally, we wanted our picks to integrate natively or with Zapier for other apps such as email, social media, calling, eCommerce, and marketing platforms.
Integrating your CRM with other apps helps you get the most out of your investment. Learn how to get started with CRM integration and ways to add automation to help your team be even more productive in your system.
Best all-in-one free CRM software
Bitrix24 (Web, iOS, Android)
Bitrix24 packages many features into their free CRM—unlimited contacts and deals, a product catalog, an online store, social media, and live chat, to name a few. For small teams wanting a powerful CRM for communicating with customers and with each other, Bitrix24 makes an excellent choice.
Within a contact record, you can create deals, quotes, invoices, and orders, all with a few clicks. You can email from a record, add tasks, set appointments, and record in-person meetings. The call and SMS functions require paid third-party apps, which are included in the integration options. But several vendors have free trials so you can test them out before committing to a paid feature.
One of the most interesting features, however, is the free online store. You can create a professional-looking store without coding, connect it to a payment system, and start selling online in as long as it takes to add products to your site. You can publish the store using a Bitrix24 subdomain (e.g., hanksguitars.bitrix24.shop) or by connecting it to your own domain.
Once set up, you can track orders, control inventory, and manage customers. Using a pre-configured template, I was able to publish a one-page eCommerce site in less than 10 minutes. It was surprisingly easy with clear prompts to walk you through the process without needing to reference a help article. There are some additional paid features available, but the free store is robust enough to get you started.
Bitrix24 Price: Free for 12 users; from $55.60/month for 6 users
Best free CRM software for scaling your business
Zoho CRM (Web, iOS, Android)
If you want CRM software that will keep up with your growing business, Zoho CRM is a smart choice. It's simple to use and relatively affordable if you want to upgrade to a paid plan. Its family of apps also provide plenty of options for expanding your business.
The free CRM features contact and deal management along with workflow automation, portal customization, and a document library. The free SalesIQ integration boosts your sales game with live chat, website visitor history, and lead scoring to help define a contact's sales-readiness. These conversations, history, and scores feed directly into a contact record, so sales reps have a complete view of any given contact.
Perhaps the most feature-rich app is Campaigns, which lets you create email campaigns using the contacts in your CRM. The free version—able to sync with the free CRM—has a surprising number of features, including pre-made templates, A/B testing, and social sharing. For example, if you want to promote a sale using your company Twitter and Facebook accounts, you can easily create the posts, schedule them, and then track views, clicks, likes, and shares within the CRM.
Email campaigns using CRM lists are also simple to create. To set it up, name your campaign, create an email from the templates, select recipients (from your pre-created CRM lists), send a test, then schedule. It's all very intuitive and can be done in less than 10 minutes.
In addition to these, there are apps for project management, surveys, analytics, and sales motivator that all integrate with the free CRM. Once you upgrade to a paid plan, the Zoho world opens up significantly with their finance suite, social manager, forms, and webinar apps.
Zoho CRM Price: Free for 3 users; paid plans from $12/month/user
Automate Zoho CRM with Zoho CRM's Zapier Integrations.
Best free CRM for businesses with a lot of contacts
HubSpot CRM (Web, Mac, Windows, iOS, Android)
HubSpot's CRM is free and not flashy, giving you just the tools you need to manage contacts and sell. You get unlimited users, and up to a million contacts, so you won't have to worry about limits. And it's all packaged in an easy-to-use platform that will feel like an old friend the first time you use it.
To get the most out of the CRM, first, connect your Gmail or Outlook 365 account, then add the Chrome email extension. This add-on tracks email opens, automatically pulls contact profiles into your email's sidebar, and provides sales templates you can insert into your emails. All your contact activity is then tracked in the sidebar and within the CRM contact record.
Contact records display everything you need to perform or view at-a-glance such as email records, calls, activities, tasks, meetings, and associated deals. There's also a section showing website activity, including when and what website pages your contact visited. This is easily installed in your website's CMS using a short tracking code.
To learn more about your site's visitors, you can easily create forms and pop-ups to gather basic contact info. And the included live chat and chatbot turn your site into a 24/7 sales tool, allowing you to answer questions, collect visitor info, and schedule meetings.
If you need to integrate other third-party apps like Slack or Mailchimp, the app marketplace includes over 100 free platforms and many more paid. Advanced features such as automated emails, goal setting, and lead routing are available in HubSpot's paid add-ons.
HubSpot CRM: Free for unlimited users; from $50/month if you add on the Marketing, Sales, or Service Hub
Automate HubSpot CRM with HubSpot CRM's Zapier Integrations.
Best free CRM software for managing projects
Insightly (Web, iOS, Android)
Insightly remains a popular CRM choice because of its no-nonsense approach to managing people and projects. The free version is designed for a two-person team, such as a start-up creative agency where both may be sharing sales and project management duties.
The Gmail add-on notifies you of email opens, saves conversations in a contact record, and lets you create tasks, leads, and projects. You can also get email notifications for items assigned to you or when records are updated. This is particularly handy if your teammate isn't in the same office as you.
Sales opportunities and projects are managed with linear pipelines you can customize to fit your processes. For example, if you're a marketing agency, you might have different project pipelines for creating a social media campaign, developing an ebook, or writing a case study based on what's required for each.
To help you automate regular projects or sales tasks, you can create an "activity set"—a template for a group of tasks that can be applied to contacts, opportunities, and projects. These tasks (e.g., "set up case study interview") will then automatically trigger once a pipeline stage is changed, cutting out repetitive tasks you'd otherwise have to enter manually.
Insightly Price: Free for 2 users; paid plan from $29/user/month
Automate Insightly with Insightly's Zapier Integrations.
Best free, easy-to-use CRM software
Capsule (Web, iOS, Android)
Capsule makes the management of contacts and sales simple because that's essentially all it does. But what it does, it does well and with the user in mind. This stripped-down approach is what makes Capsule so easy to use—and enjoy—right out of the box. For example, the uncluttered navigation has six buttons: Dashboard, People/Organizations, Tasks, Sales Pipeline, Cases, and Reports.
The easy customizations in Capsule also make it stand out. You can change the appearance by adding your logo and changing the color scheme to match your own. You can also add a few customizations to mirror how you do business. In People/Organizations, Sales Pipeline, and Cases, you can create an unlimited number of custom fields. For example, you could add an opportunity field with a dropdown that asks to classify the deal as new, renewing, or add-on.
Not to be confused with Tasks (but related), Tracks lets you set up a pre-created sequence of tasks that will automate what would typically be individual manual entries. One sequence might include tasks for follow up research, emails with case studies, and a second meeting. Tracks are added to the opportunity record, populate the task calendar, and can be added or adjusted in the record at any time.
Finally, you can customize each stage of your sales pipeline with a description, probability percentage, and days until stale. This last feature lets you set a limit on the number of days each opportunity can remain in a stage before it becomes highlighted orange (or "stale") in the pipeline and within the record.
Capsule Price: Free for 2 users; paid plan from $18/month/user
Automate Capsule with Capsule's Zapier Integrations.
Best free CRM software for sales forecasting
Really Simple Systems (Web, iOS, Android)
Sales forecasting is important. It helps companies make decisions for things like budgeting, hiring, compensation, and future growth. Really Simple Systems provides a sales forecast report with their free CRM that automatically calculates weighted and unweighted revenue for all of your opportunities. Here's how it works:
Since not every deal will close, the weighted calculation provides an amount based on the probability of its closing. If a rep had their first call with an opportunity, the probability of closing would be much lower because it's still in the early stages. For example, 20 percent probability of closing a $5,000 sale would be $1,000 weighted ($5,000x.20). By contrast, if this same opportunity were presented a proposal, its probability would go up to 80 percent and weighted at $4,000 ($5,000x.80).
This helps with forecasting because it gives an overall view of sales based on time in the pipeline and the probability of closing. Obviously, accuracy is key, and the biggest reason that forecasts fail is because of inaccurate and insufficient CRM data. To help with insufficient data, you can customize opportunity fields with pre-populated dropdowns (e.g., stages of the sales process) and make these fields mandatory before an opportunity can be created.
Similarly, the same customization options are available for activities, contacts, opportunities, tasks, and accounts, so you collect what's vital to your organization. One other handy feature is the history dropdown in the main menu, which shows a clickable link of where you've been and what actions you've taken.
Really Simple Systems Price: Free for 2 users; paid plan from $14/month/user
Automate Really Simple Systems with Really Simple System's Zapier Integrations.
Best free CRM with marketing capabilities
Agile CRM (web, iOS, Android)
Features such as campaign automation, email customization, and social media management make Agile CRM a legitimate, entry-level marketing platform.
Email templates are easy to create using the handful of pre-made forms. The WYSIWYG editor's drag-and-drop functionality for adding social links, images, videos, and others also makes it easy to start from scratch. If you wanted to create a video, for example, click the Video icon, enable your camera, and hit Record. Then send it in a quick email, add it to your template, or insert it into the landing page builder to publish it to your site.
If you want to automate your marketing, you can create campaigns for events like onboarding a new customer, advertising a sale, and other actions where you need to set if/then conditions. Conditions (triggers) could be a contact becoming a customer, a lead clicking on a specific web page, or a customer opening an email. You can also create campaigns using Twitter to send Tweets using similar conditions.
Agile CRM does, however, limit you to one campaign running at a time in the free version—upgrading to their paid plans increases the number of allowable campaigns. But it's a great option for a business just building up its marketing efforts.
Agile CRM Price: Free for 10 users; paid plans from $9.99/month/user
Automate Agile CRM with Agile CRM's Zapier Integrations.
Best free CRM for Gmail users
Streak (Gmail, iOS, Android)
Streak lives in your Gmail inbox, which means no extra app to log into or manage. For those wanting a simple way to manage their contacts and sales, having a CRM built into an already comfortable environment makes a lot of sense.
A few clicks installs the Streak extension, and from there, you're ready to start. Scrolling down your inbox, you'll see the orange Streak icon and "Pipelines," which is the backbone of the CRM. One click from here, and you can select premade pipelines or create new ones for sales, lead lists, processes, accounts, or anything else you wanted to track. Each of these can then be customized for things like stages, data points, and colors.
When you click on a pipeline, it opens where your email inbox lives typically. Click the Streak icon on the right side to open up the "Quick-Add" sidebar. Here, you can select contacts and companies—pulled from your email conversations—to add to your pipeline. Known contact and company info will auto-populate, saving you search time and providing a little more intel.
Within contact and company records, you can add notes, deal info (e.g., lead source, deal size, and close date), send emails, attach files, and perform other functions necessary for managing a relationship. With the built-in email tracker, you'll also see a timeline of conversations and get open notifications in real-time.
Streak Price: Free for 2 users; paid plans from $49/month for 1 user
Automate Streak with Streak's Zapier Integrations.
Best free CRM software for financial records tracking
Flowlu (Web, iOS, Android)
Flowlu positions itself as "business management software" because of features such as a CRM, invoicing, finance management, project management, and team collaboration. But where it shines as a free CRM is its ability to create quotes, track transactions, process invoices, and accept payments.
Within contact and organization records, you can create invoices, tasks, projects, estimates (quotes), and opportunities and see all associated transactions. And once an opportunity is closed, you can create and send invoices, estimates, projects, and tasks.
For example, after selling to a customer, you can create a customized invoice designating a payment method and then email it as a PDF. When payment is made, you'll be notified, and the invoice status will automatically change to "Paid." Payment methods include PayPal, Stripe, Square, and your bank account, which can all be integrated with Flowlu. After payment is made, a thank you email is automatically sent to the customer, and the payment recorded as a transaction in the invoice record.
You can then manage all of your financial records—invoices, estimates, payments received, and transactions—from the finance app. The invoice list can be customized to show what's most important—status, emailed, paid amount, and the like—and can then be filtered to show specific customers, payment status, and other variables. Revenue and expenses can also be tracked in chart format within the finance dashboard. Upgrading to paid plans includes advanced functionality such as financial planning, cash flow forecasting, recurring invoices, and more.
Flowlu Price: Free for 2 users; paid plan from $29/month for 8 users
Originally published in December 2014, this post is regularly updated with new selections and descriptions. Matthew Guay contributed to previous versions.