Finding the perfect accounting software is crucial for your brand new business but it can be a bit of a challenge. If you’re fresh into your entrepreneurial journey and aren’t terribly familiar with accounting practices, looking for software can be overwhelming. For new freelancers and consultants, I highly recommend Hello Bonsai.
I’ve been working with Hello Bonsai for over two years and while there are a few drawbacks (we’ll get to those), all-in-all when it comes to being a brand new entrepreneur, it’s ideal. It has everything from invoicing capabilities to a built-in CRM database and pre-built contracts. For new business owners, it’s a full accounting department in one.
What is Hello Bonsai?
Hello Bonsai (its real name is just “Bonsai” but everyone refers to them as Hello Bonsai because of their website, so we’re going to go with that) is an all-in-one freelancing software for creative entrepreneurs. It’s designed specifically to help freelancers run their businesses using (almost) just this platform.
It essentially covers every financial and business aspect of your business. Hello Bonsai helps you to manage your client process from on boarding to off boarding. From signing contracts and sending invoices to managing your expenses, it’s a really great tool for brand new entrepreneurs.
Full disclosure: I am an affiliate of Hello Bonsai—though I’m an affiliate to a lot of apps and tools—but this doesn’t affect my review. More than an affiliate though, I actually use Hello Bonsai, so my review is based on over two years of experience using the software.
While Hello Bonsai started with just two services—contracts and invoicing—but have since expanded their services. I’ve been using it since the relatively early days when it really was just contracts and invoices and have seen growth. So, let’s go over their best features in detail:
Invoicing is going to be your most-used feature as a freelancer. You’ll want to be prepared to send a lot of invoices out each month, and Hello Bonsai makes it really easy. Some of its great invoicing features include:
- Automated invoicing
- Invoicing by projects
- Automatic reminders for missing payments
- Built-in payment features
I really like the invoicing feature through Bonsai, it makes life as a freelancer really easy. However, there are a few things that I don’t love about their invoicing:
- You can’t record invoices from other programs easily—I have a few clients that require payment directly through PayPal and I have to do a separate invoice in Bonsai and don’t have the option to note that it was paid out of the program.
- You need to turn off automatic reminders manually which only comes up as an issue when I’m “double-invoicing” so I can record my PayPal invoicing. I would much rather have to turn ON reminders instead of off.
- You can’t do write-offs after the fact. I would love to be able to write off late fees occasionally, but once an invoice has been sent you can’t seem to be able to make that kind of changes.
- It only connects to certain payment systems. As someone who works with clients overseas, I would love to be able to connect with a program like TransferWise.
When all is said and done, invoicing with Hello Bonsai is incredibly easy. If you’re a brand new freelancer, it’s really easy to get the hang of. You don’t need any accounting knowledge to get a handle on it.
One of the reasons I ended up going with Hello Bonsai in the beginning was because of the contracts feature. While I would highly recommend going with contracts from an actual lawyer that you know and can personalize them for you, I also know that’s WAY out of the budget for most new freelancers. In lieu of that, Bonsai provides pre-vetted legal contracts.
You should never start working with a client without a contract, it can create a whole host of issues, but creating contracts can be super complex if you’re not a lawyer (and who is these days). Hello Bonsai has pre-made contracts for a number of creative projects like writing and graphic design—and, for the record, I have law firm clients and most of them have signed the contracts without too many changes.
The contracts feature is probably my top feature when it came to choosing this program, simply because it made my life so much easier as a confused, overwhelmed newbie business owner. That said, I would HIGHLY recommend reading the contract over with a fine-tooth comb. I typically take out any non-competition clauses and such to make sure I don’t have any headaches to deal with.
Not only does Hello Bonsai help you create contracts and firm up the actual onboarding part of the client process, but it can ALSO help you with the proposal process. They have pre-designed proposals for projects like design, consulting and writing.
When it comes to building the perfect proposal, you can build in your own branding with a banner and a logo. It makes it easier for potential clients to identify and get to know your brand. From there you start to build in the actual details of your proposal, your project timeline, pricing scheme (you can give multiple options—this is an additional paid feature) and an introduction to you.
While this doesn’t create a particularly fancy proposal, what I do like about it for new entrepreneurs is the fact that it makes it easy. So often we never send that proposal because it’s not perfect but this way you simply fill out the sections and it’s good to send.
Accounting & Expenses
Hello Bonsai has two other features that are super helpful to new entrepreneurs: Accounting and Expenses. This helps you do exactly what you think it does, manage your overall accounting and expenses.
Expenses: You can hook Bonsai up to your business credit card and bank account where it will pull in all of your expenses, and help you categorize them. You can even hook expenses up to particular clients so that you can add it to an invoice if you need to.
Accounting: The accounting section gives you an overview of all of your accounting. You can basically take a bird eye view of your businesses financials. Which, as a new entrepreneur, you really should be doing on a regular basis. Your businesses financial health is incredibly important.
Bonsai: The Negatives
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies when it comes to Bonsai’s functionality. There are a few areas where it really does fall short. Though, at the end of the day, nothing can be perfect.
Hello Bonsai has a built-in project management piece and it honestly kind of sucks. I only use it as an accounting function when it comes to creating my invoices because it really just doesn’t meet my needs.
The project management piece is supposed to help you create projects and manage tasks. But, at the end of the day, I would recommend using something like Trello or Airtable, which are WAY more effective.
While the accounting feature lets you take a look at your financials over time, at the end of the day, that’s about where the reporting capabilities of the program ends.
It would be really nice if there was a way to pull great reports, but even to find the hours I worked in one month for a client (or over time) is a real pain in the ass. You have to dig as deep as you can get.
Hello Bonsai Pricing
Bonsai has two monthly paid plans:
- Workflow $19 USD per month
- Workflow Plus $29 USD per month
Workflow Plus adds a few additional features including sub-contracting, customization and branding, and their brand new feature client forms (I haven’t tried this particular one yet).
In addition to the regular plans, they have a few add-on features that you can get if you’re looking for something more specific:
- Accounting & Tax Assistance for $10 per month
- Partners for $9 per month
Comparing it to other like software it’s about the same and really affordable. It really can be considered the whole package for new entrepreneurs.
The Verdict: Should You Use Bonsai?
Hello Bonsai is not going to last forever for you, but in my opinion it is a great program for brand new entrepreneurs. If you have a very simple business, then Bonsai can work fantastically for you.
It is a simple to use and completely affordable program, which is why I went for it in the first place. I really like it because it’s easy to pick up on and works how I needed it to. If you’re looking for function, ease and aesthetics, then this might be the best program for you.
However, if you have a more complex business this software probably isn’t going to be heavy duty enough for you.
Ready to try?
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