Hubspot free CRM limitations: 6 facts you should know
People rave about Hubspot’s CRM. And with a version that’s free forever, what’s not to love?
Take a deeper look into those reviews, however, and you’ll see a pattern. People who love Hubspot’s free CRM are normally marketing-driven, and many don’t have a dedicated sales team.
What about companies that are mainly sales-driven?
Let’s be clear: Hubspot works, and we’re man enough to admit it. But as soon as you get a team of reps working with leads through a structured sales process, things get complicated (or expensive).
So, can Hubspot’s free CRM work for your business? Or would your team be better served by a CRM platform with powerful built-in sales tools?
We’ve done the heavy lifting to research exactly what limitations Hubspot’s CRM has, as well as which businesses can use it and which ones should stay away. We’re about to dig into:
- Why is Hubspot offering a free CRM?
- Hubspot free CRM functionality: what’s included and what’s not
- Hubspot CRM limitations: 6 major limits you should be aware of
- Who should consider using HubSpot’s free CRM system?
- Who should consider avoiding HubSpot’s free CRM system?
- Real Hubspot stories: 3 companies who chose to leave Hubspot
Why is Hubspot offering a free CRM?
Hubspot offers a suite of different business tools, including marketing, sales, service, CRM, and operations.
While these are all paid, premium products, Hubspot CRM offers a limited version that is completely free, forever.
This is a smart move, considering the customer relationship management software market size was valued at $43.7 billion in 2020 and is only expected to grow from there.
So Hubspot’s free CRM is a basic tool that works—but its goal is to upsell you to paid versions of their product.
What's the difference between Hubspot free CRM and paid CRM?
According to Hubspot’s website, their platform is separated into 5 products:
- Marketing Hub
- Sales Hub
- Service Hub
- CMS Hub
- Operations Hub
Their free CRM is a collection of limited tools collated from each of these separate paid products. So, there is no standalone paid CRM from Hubspot—for higher-level features within the CRM, companies need to purchase one of the products listed above.
So, where's the catch?
The catch is simple: Hubspot’s free CRM has serious functionality limitations. The free tools that come with Hubspot’s CRM software work well for small companies, but when you need more features or automation, things get expensive (fast).
Here’s what real users are saying about it:
"Hubspot CRM is excellent, but they are modulizing features out, making it less powerful. I've brought HubSpot CRM to four different companies so far, but I am getting frustrated about how often HubSpot keeps trying to remove functionality and making me pay for this and that over and over to use basic functionality should not cost more.
HubSpot needs to stop removing features and putting them into new licenses that cost more money. I realize they need to make money but they're turning it into this nickel-and-dime situation that makes the system more complicated. It's starting to feel like a bloated mess."
“A potentially excellent business suite that is hobbled by its numerous pay walls. As long as your contact list is small, your email marketing frequency is sparse, and you don't need automations, you are good to go.
However, as your business grows, your contact list will swell up, your email marketing frequency will increase, and the sheer scale will make automations a must.
Most businesses must make the painful decision to abandon Hubspot and find new CRM suites with much more reasonable cost escalations. By then, you lost 1 to 2 months migrating, learning the new tools, and onboarding your team.
In all, a great tool for enterprises. Small businesses and startups, just stay away. You will end up regretting it just as your business begins to take off.”
For SMBs or startups that are looking to scale, the ‘free’ CRM just won’t cut it. For startup sales teams who want to scale outreach, upgrading to the Sales Hub to access basic automations and essential features becomes a must. Many teams find themselves on enterprise pricing with only a few users just to get the functionality they need.
The benefit for Hubspot is clear—eventually, free customers are forced to upgrade.
And that’s just the hidden costs for sales. The real value of Hubspot is seen when you’re using it as an all-in-one tool. But to do that, you’ll need to pay for all 5 of their products. For pro-level functionality, this implies a monthly cost of about $1,800, provided you have less than 2,000 contacts and 5 users.
Hubspot free CRM functionality: what’s included and what’s not
It’s time to get into the specifics.
Remember: you’re not just here to check off a ‘required feature’ from your list. You need to see how each of these features fits into your sales workflow and your team’s needs.
In the list below, we’re going to see exactly what’s included in the free Hubspot CRM, as well as the limitations of these lite versions of the paid features in Hubspot’s products:
General CRM features
- Contact management
- Contact website activity
- Tasks & activities
- Team email
- App Marketplace integrations
- Hubspot mobile app
- Historical sync
- Company insights
- Limit: Not all companies are supported
- Gmail and Outlook integration
- Limit: Only selected versions of Outlook are supported
- Shared inbox
- Limit: 1 inbox
- Reporting dashboards
- Limit: 3 dashboards, up to 10 reports per dashboard
- Email tracking & notifications
- Limit: 200 notifications per month
- Email reply tracking
- Limit: Using this data in reports and automation only available with Professional and Enterprise plans
- Email health reporting
- Limit: Does not include data-based recommendations
- Email templates
- Limit: 5 templates
- Canned snippets
- Limit: 5 snippets
- Limit: 5 documents, with Hubspot branding
- Facebook Messenger integration
- Limit: Send and receive simple messages and quick replies
- Custom properties
- Limit: 10 custom properties
- Marketing events object
- Mobile optimization
- Forms (including pop-up forms)
- Limit: 10,000 collected forms
- Email marketing
- Limit: 2,000 email sends per calendar month, with Hubspot branding
- Ad management
- Limit: Only allows 2 connected accounts. Website audience creation only.
- Landing pages
- Limit: Up to 20 landing pages with HubSpot branding. Simple templates only. Does not include custom domains.
- List segmentation
- Limit: 5 active lists, 1,000 static lists. Segmentation criteria can only include form submission data, contact property information, and email activity.
- Conversational chatbot
- Limit: Only for ticket creation, lead qualification, and meeting booking; No custom branching logic
- Live chat
- Limit: Hubspot branded
- Form follow-up emails
- Limit: Only 1 automated email per form
- Ad retargeting
- Limit: $1,000 spend limit. Only functions on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.
- Email scheduling
- Custom support form fields
- 1-to-1 email
- Limit: Hubspot branded
- Limit: 15 minutes of calling per user, per month. Not supported in all countries. Can only make calls, not receive calls.
- Limit: Not tied to a product library. Does not include eSignature or Stripe/payment integration.
- Meeting scheduling
- Limit: 1 non-customizable personal meeting link with Hubspot branding
- Deal pipeline
- Limit: 1 pipeline per account
- 1-to-1 email
- Limit: Hubspot branded
What’s not included
- No user permission levels
- No conversation routing
- No lead scoring
- No SMS
- No 1:1 support
- No email sequences
- No custom reporting
- No forecasting
Feeling a bit overwhelmed? We get you.
Let’s break down these limitations and see exactly what they mean for different aspects of your business.
Hubspot CRM limitations: 6 major limits you should be aware of
We’ve compiled a list of current feature limitations from Hubspot, as well as real user reviews. Here are the most important things you should consider when choosing a CRM solution:
1. Sales tools are limited in Hubspot CRM
Hubspot has always been a marketing-focused tool. They pioneered the idea of inbound marketing, and their tools are well set up for that style of business.
That’s why many sales teams complain that Hubspot’s CRM isn’t sales-friendly. And it gets worse in the free CRM platform.
Major limitations for sales functionality in the free CRM include:
- Only 15 minutes of calling per user, per month
- No inbound calling (you can't receive calls)
- Hubspot branding on emails
- Only 1 sales pipeline
- No email automation
Besides that, with only 1 shared inbox available, you’ll have to decide which team gets to use it. Otherwise, you’ll have a messy mixed inbox filled with sales requests, support tickets, and marketing email responses. Not ideal for a small team looking for a tool to make them more productive.
For basic tools to boost your sales process, like email scheduling, rep productivity reports, automated sequences, and custom reporting, you’ll need to pay for the Professional plan of the Hubspot Sales Hub (starting at $500 per month for 5 users).
As one user said: “You need to get both HubSpot’s CRM and Sales Hub to get similar functionality. For instance: Want to send an email sequence or get simple sales forecasts? You’ll need to buy the Sales Hub product too, which starts at $90/user/month with a minimum of 5 users. (HubSpot charges about double what other CRMs charge for plans with similar functionality!)”
If your sales team is an important function in your business, Salesforce, Zoho, Apollo, Pipedrive or Close are most likely a better option.
2. Marketing tools leave much to be desired
Everyone raves about Hubspot’s marketing tool suite. And for good reason—it’s one of the most powerful marketing automation tools on the market.
But the free version is seriously lacking.
Here’s what you’re really getting for marketing tools with the free Hubspot CRM:
- Hubspot branding across all emails, landing pages, and chatbots
- Only 2 social media accounts can be connected for ad management
- Only 5 active email lists
- Only 2,000 marketing email sends per month
- Landing pages are limited to a few very simple templates
That said, to get access to the features that Hubspot is famous for and execute powerful marketing campaigns, users will need to upgrade from the free version and pay for the Marketing Hub.
3. Custom reporting only available with paid plans and add-ons
Sales reporting is an essential part of any business. But Hubspot’s free CRM is extremely limited when it comes to reporting.
The lack of built in reporting - I get that they want to monetize the product, but it feels a little sneaky to hold back all reporting until you pay for the add ons.
On the Professional plan (starting at $500 per month), you’ll get 25 reporting dashboards and 100 custom reports. To increase those limits, you’ll spend at least another $200 per month.
4. Low-quality customer support for Hubspot free CRM users
Another major limitation of the Hubspot free CRM is the lack of customer support. In fact, if you’re not on a paid plan, support is practically nonexistent.
Free users have access to:
- Hubspot Academy
- Hubspot Community
- Knowledge Base
But no direct support with the company is available.
Even if you have a simple and straightforward initial CRM implementation, this is a problem since your CRM is the hub of your customer activity. When you’re facing an issue that involves your prospects or customers, you need an answer right away.
Without that expert help, you’re left searching for the solution on your own and your customers are the ones who will suffer.
5. API access has restrictions
The free version of Hubspot’s CRM gives limited API access. Restrictions include:
- 250,000 API calls per day
- 100 requests per 10-second API rate
Paid plans also have restrictions with API access:
- 500,000 API calls per day
- 150 requests per 10-second API rate
If you want to increase these limits, you’ll need to purchase the API add-on for $500 per month. This will give you:
- Up to 1,000,000 API calls per day
- 200 requests per 10-second API rate
6. Large contact lists can be costly down the road
One big perk that everyone points to is that the free Hubspot CRM offers 1,000,000 free contacts.
This sounds great in theory, but in practice can cost your businesses dearly in the future.
If your company is growing, you’ll eventually need to upgrade to the paid Marketing Hub. The catch is this: HubSpot’s paid plans have a much lower free contact limit.
As soon as you start paying for the Marketing Hub, all the contacts in your free CRM are automatically loaded into the paid system as well. And since the contact limits are much lower, you’ll likely have to upgrade to a higher pricing tier just to include the contacts you already have.
To have 1,000,000 contacts in Hubspot’s Marketing Hub, you’ll need to be on the Enterprise plan, which will cost you almost $10,000 per month.
It’s easy to find stories online of people who have been charged exorbitant amounts of money for contacts added to the Marketing Hub after using the free CRM. Read this account by Darragh Geoghegan, who now is VP of Revenue Operatations at EcoOnline, and who moved from Salesforce to Hubspot:
While it may not matter to large, enterprise companies with 7-figure IT budgets, these limitations can cost small businesses much more than they’re able to afford.
So, can your business work well with Hubspot’s CRM? Or are you better off looking for another option to start?
Who should consider using Hubspot’s free CRM system?
Not every business has the same needs or technical requirements. So, who can actually benefit from using HubSpot’s CRM?
SaaS companies with mainly self-service signups: In a self-service situation where little to no 1:1 contact is required to convert new customers, HubSpot excels. Their free CRM is perfect for storing essential contact records and keeping things up-to-date.
Inbound-focused teams: HubSpot was built around the idea of inbound marketing, and that’s where this tool truly shines. If you’re already using (or considering) HubSpot as an inbound marketing tool, the free CRM that comes along with it works well to keep track of bare-minimum sales data in real-time.
Small businesses with no dedicated sales teams: If you’re a small business that only deals with a few potential and current customers at a time, the HubSpot free CRM can easily fit into your workflow and help you keep data more organized.
Consultants and freelancers: Single-person businesses working to sell and provide services to clients with no plans to aggressively grow their business are an ideal fit for HubSpot’s free CRM.
Real businesses that love the free HubSpot CRM:
“HubSpot CRM is a great entry-level contact manager. Overall, I have had a great experience using HubSpot CRM. The program is very easy to use and is effective at managing my contacts. Not only is the product easy to use but it is also free as well!
Cons: While the features are limited and push you to acquire other HubSpot licenses, this is only a small con when you account for the product being completely free.”
“Using HubSpot CRM in my business has been crucial because it has enabled me to have a better understanding of what's happening. I highly recommend HubSpot CRM to someone who's just getting started with Customer Relationship Management or even a small business owner that wants to leverage a sale to manage leads and the sales pipeline and who wants to do so on a shoestring budget (since the tool is mostly free).
Pros: I really liked the fact that HubSpot CRM is relatively easy to use. Plus, there's the smartphone app: an excellent way to keep track of things and carry out tasks even when you're on the go.
Cons: The main con of HubSpot CRM, which is also true to other "freemium" tools, is the fact that certain features are only available in the paid plan(s). That's not an issue itself but the fact that the paid plans don't cost $10 or so each month but much more than that, may lead a user facing the question 'Do I want to invest that kind of money or should I look for a more inexpensive option?'
“Hubspot is absolutely great as a CRM so long as you plan to use another tool for actual deal flow—if your goal is to track names, contact info, notes, and docs, along with email traffic, Hubspot is perfect.”
Who should consider avoiding HubSpot’s free CRM system?
How do you know if you’re not a good fit for the free CRM from HubSpot? Here are some types of companies that may see better results by avoiding Hubspot’s free CRM:
Small businesses looking to build out a dedicated sales team: HubSpot simply isn’t friendly for the average sales rep. Also, with the limitations of the free system, a growing sales team will soon have to upgrade to a much more expensive plan.
Businesses that need sales automation: Automation saves your team time and allows them to run through repetitive tasks without wasting their time. The free version of HubSpot’s CRM includes no sales automation features, meaning teams that desperately need to save time will quickly be forced to upgrade to the Sales Hub.
Teams that need fast-responding support: HubSpot offers no 1:1 support for free users, so if your team is dealing with fast turnarounds and high stakes, this may not be the tool for you.
Sales teams that focus heavily on outbound sales methods: Since calling and emails are so limited in HubSpot’s free CRM, teams who plan to do a lot of outbound calling and cold emails to potential customers will quickly hit their limits.
Startups with funding and an aggressive plan to scale with the right CRM: If you’re a newly funded startup that’s aiming to grow quickly, it’s critical to start with the right CRM system to manage prospects and customers and develop deeper relationships. Starting with HubSpot now only means you’ll need to purchase expensive upgrades later or perform a difficult migration to a different CRM.
SMBs with dedicated sales reps who crave simplicity: One former HubSpot user put it nicely: “HubSpot has cool features, but for what we needed as a small sales team––it was too much.”
Real businesses that decided against HubSpot:
"When you start to grow and need more options, HubSpot CRM is quite expensive. Sure, you can look somewhere else, but it's not easy to migrate to another provider. So, if you want HubSpot, look in deeply, so when you need to upgrade, you believe you'll be able to pay their fees with no issues."
“It's clear that Hubspot CRM isn't built for a fast moving, largely phone sales oriented company like ours. It's perhaps better for something with a long sales cycle. For a sales rep who has 15 prospects he's working, not 200.
Nothing in Hubspot CRM was set up for the use of salespeople. First off, the permission settings are a joke. Either people have access to everything, or nothing. Second, tasks in Hubspot don't really have anything to do with the sales rep. Third is support. Often I call to ask how to do something, say to switch 1000 contacts and tasks over to a new sales rep, or something simple. I'm initially told that it's easy, then put on hold. Then I was told it's not possible. As if nobody at Hubspot has ever actually used Hubspot.”
“Behind the curve. One of the largest names in the business just doesn't seem to have the insight into their own industry to realize that CRM needs to encompass all methods of communication.
Doesn't handle email very well. Email happens in email software, like Outlook, Thunderbird, or Gmail. HubSpot doesn't seem to get that and seems like a glorified address book. To access the fancy stuff, you have to pay a ton of money, and even then they don't deal with email the way they ought to.”
Real HubSpot stories: 3 companies who chose to leave HubSpot
Why does HubSpot fail for some sales teams? What makes the difference for their success?
Let’s talk about three companies who chose to leave HubSpot’s CRM system behind after finding something that better fit their needs:
Audience intelligence solution startup Trufan brought on their first sales leader in 2020, who found himself stuck with HubSpot’s CRM. The startup discount had drawn Trufan in, but it didn’t work well for the outreach-heavy sales process of the team.
Here’s what they said:
I didn’t think HubSpot was scalable for what we needed today. It had quickly turned into a marketing automation system with a clunky CRM attached to it. For sales reps who haven’t used many CRMs, HubSpot is just too much.
In the end, the Trufan sales team decided to switch to Close CRM, an outreach-focused CRM built by and for sales teams.
What swayed their decision?
“Close is just so much cleaner than HubSpot, especially the tasks. It’s all in one place and easy to use. I don’t need to give my reps cell phones, Aircall, or Skype accounts. We like Close much more.
I save so much time as a sales leader. When I dug into HubSpot, I spent way too long looking for data that I can find in Close in 30 seconds. The Close team provided training, but I also could have learned this tool myself so quickly.
Plus, having sales, account management, product leads, and customer-facing teams under one CRM speeds up everyone’s days. We used to bounce between three different platforms. Smooth account management means we have no unnecessary customer communication.”
Australian-based coaching company Melanie Power has the goal of helping women in business market themselves and become their own CEO. Their small sales team of 4 reps works a mainly inbound process.
They were already using Close when a potential merger with another company forced them to unify their sales stack and transfer to HubSpot.
Here’s how their Client Success Director described the switch:
“We were so gutted to be moving off Close because it was so easy. HubSpot was just an awkward tool for our sales team. It was never as easy as Close, and we had to layer in JustCall as another dialer.
We never knew where to put the notes. Our opportunity notes never saved against the contact in an intuitive way. HubSpot has cool features, but for what we needed as a small sales team––it was too much."
When the merger fell through, the team at Melanie Power moved back into Close, and the team was ecstatic.
“Close just lays out everything we need so clearly and succinctly: notes, customer changes, our custom fields, and opportunity stats. It’s such a great central hub for our entire team, from sales reps to coaches working with clients. Multiple people can help our clients in one view: it’s so clean.”
Online startup accelerator Newchip works with startups to raise preseed and series A funds. Their team was working well with HubSpot CRM early on, but their outreach team started to hit ceilings with the platform that they couldn’t move past.
Here’s how the Chief Marketing Officer describes their decision to switch:
“We couldn’t afford to add all of our top-of-the-funnel leads in with contact-based pricing. And as we audited our number of dials, I decided HubSpot was not the right solution. We needed something better suited for volume of calls and email sequences. By making a few workflow changes and moving to a Close Professional license for this team, we increased our output 3x.”
Conclusion: Scale better with the right CRM for sales
The Hubspot free CRM has serious limitations for sales teams, including a low ceiling for calls and emails, limited automation, and practically nonexistent support.
If you’re an inbound marketing focused team with limited interaction with prospects and customers, HubSpot CRM can be a great option.
But outreach-heavy sales teams need a CRM tool that enables their workflow and gives them needed features to automate repetitive tasks and focus on selling directly to their most valuable leads.
It’s true: most HubSpot CRM alternatives aren’t free. But the price tag is worth it if you want a tool that can scale with your team and enable them to sell better.
Close is a CRM built for salespeople, by salespeople. It includes a built-in sales dialer, email automation, call and meeting recording, and the reporting that managers need to keep track of their team’s accomplishments and productivity.
Best of all, Close offers a CRM integration with HubSpot’s marketing tools, meaning you can sync this powerhouse marketing automation tool with the CRM that’s built for high-performance sales teams.
Still deciding on which CRM is right for your business? Check out our CRM buyer’s guide, complete with a checklist that will help you determine exactly what your team needs to succeed in a new CRM: