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Hubspot CRM: Is it really free? Is it a good fit for your business?

Hubspot CRM markets itself as a free CRM solution for small businesses. But is it truly free? And is it really the best CRM for your small business? In this in-depth review, we’ll take an honest look at the pros and cons of Hubspot CRM, particularly for small business owners on a budget.

The “Free” CRM That’s Not So Free

At first glance, Hubspot CRM looks like an incredible deal. The base software is 100% free forever with unlimited users. For small businesses with limited budgets, this seems like a dream come true. But there’s a catch.

While the CRM itself is free, you’ll need to pay for many of the core features that make Hubspot a functional CRM. Things like email sequencing, meeting scheduling, advanced reporting – they all require a paid upgrade to a Marketing Hub subscription.

Without these features, you’re left with a very basic contact manager. No workflows, no automation, no insights. Just a static database to store your contacts.

The free version of Hubspot CRM includes:

  • Contact database with basic customization
  • Contact timeline for data tracking
  • Task management
  • Deals pipeline

That’s about it. Want to segment your contacts, create email workflows, view analytics? You’ll need to upgrade to a paid Marketing Hub plan which starts at $50/month for the Starter plan.

For small businesses, that recurring subscription fee can add up quickly. And Marketing Hub plans have annual contracts, so you’re committing for the long haul.

The Switch Tax of Hubspot CRM

Another downside of Hubspot CRM is something called the “switch tax.” This refers to the high costs and headaches associated with switching away from Hubspot to another CRM later on.

Hubspot makes it very easy to get started with their free CRM. But they make it extremely difficult to leave.

If you ultimately decide the free version isn’t enough and upgrade to Marketing Hub, you’ll be locked into their ecosystem. You’ll build workflows, integrate apps, and customize the platform around your team’s needs.

But what if you later realize Hubspot isn’t the right long-term CRM for your business? Exporting your data is a huge pain. Apps and automations won’t migrate over cleanly. And you’ll have to retrain your team on an entirely new platform.

This effective lock-in forces your business to commit long term to Hubspot, even if you outgrow the platform. It’s something to strongly consider before getting started with any CRM.

Hidden Costs of Hubspot CRM

Another consideration with Hubspot CRM are the hidden costs beyond the subscription fees. As your contacts and data grow, you’ll need to pay for additions like:

  • Email storage and sends
  • Contact database storage
  • Additional data retention beyond default limits
  • API usage beyond free limits
  • Premium app integrations

Little by little, these extras really add up. And they’re not optional – you’ll need them to properly run your business on Hubspot.

One example is email storage. Each contact in your database has an allotted amount of email storage. Go over the limit and you’ll have to pay per gigabyte. For context, 10,000 contacts with 50MB each would cost $1,000/year – just for email storage!

When you factor in all the extras, “free” Hubspot CRM gets very expensive. And again, small businesses take the biggest hit to their bottom line.

Clunky User Experience

Here’s one more drawback of Hubspot CRM, especially compared to more modern solutions: The overall UX and interface feels dated.

For an app that requires constant use day in and day out, first impressions matter. And from the moment you log in, Hubspot feels clunky. Text is small, menus are crowded, and pages lack visual appeal.

Perhaps more frustrating are the constant pop-ups and notifications cluttering each screen. While intended to be helpful, they mostly just create visual noise and slow you down.

The UI is also sluggish at times. Simple tasks like loading contacts take longer than you’d expect. This compounds with the cluttered interface to make for a frustrating user experience.

Again, for your team to actually use and enjoy a CRM, the interface needs to be clean, intuitive, and fast. Hubspot CRM consistently underwhelms in this regard.

Is Hubspot CRM Ultimately Worth It for Small Businesses?

Taking a step back, is Hubspot CRM worth it for small businesses on a tight budget?

It depends. The free CRM can certainly work for very early stage companies just getting started. The basics are there and you can’t beat the price of $0.

But know that you will quickly outgrow capabilities, run into limitations, and ultimately pay more in the long run. The “forever free” CRM turns out to not be so free when all is said and done.

As your business scales, migrating off Hubspot onto another platform will be painful. So consider whether it’s better to start with the right long-term solution now vs. having to switch later.

Alternatives like TeamWave provide a more transparent pricing model upfront. The CRM is still affordable for small businesses but packs more features from the start. And you get a modern, enjoyable user experience that your team will actually love using daily.

The Takeaway

Hubspot CRM isn’t necessarily bad. But the marketing hype doesn’t always match reality, especially for small business owners on a budget.

Before jumping in, carefully consider the long-term costs, limitations, and lock-in imposed by Hubspot CRM “free.” There are often better options for growing small businesses that deliver transparency and value.

The choice of CRM is a big one. And you want to get it right the first time to avoid the dreaded “switch tax” down the road. Research thoroughly, analyze your specific needs, and choose the platform that truly best fits your business now and in the future.

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