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What is Hello Bonsai?
In an interview with Hacker Noon, Bonsai’s founder Matt Brown explained the freelance tool was built to “handle the things that freelancers don’t like doing or don’t know how to do, so they can focus on the work they love and still get paid.
“That means,” Matt continued, “we streamline proposals, contracts, time tracking, invoices, expenses, and accounting designed specifically for digital freelancers.”
So what is Hello Bonsai? Hello Bonsai is an all-in-one platform for those who are self-employed. It allows freelances to track clients, invoice them, get paid, and do taxes.
Who is Hello Bonsai for?
Hello Bonsai is designed for the digital freelancer. Whether you’re a freelance web developer, web or graphic designer, marketer, freelance writer, or photographer, Hello Bonsai can help you create and manage your entire freelance business.
Many freelancers these days are knowledge workers — using their brains and skills to make a living. Unfortunately, many freelancers (me included) shy away from finances.
This can be tough, because, unlike a traditional salaried job, freelancing requires that you constantly bill companies to get paid. If you’re not well-versed in money management, sending invoices, and doing complicated freelance taxes, building a freelance business will be frustrating.
That’s why a tool like Hello Bonsai exists. So freelancers can focus on doing what they love most about their work, and let the power of technology manage their money.
If you’re thinking about starting a freelance business to sell services to companies, Hello Bonsai is a platform you should seriously check out. Almost all of my freelancing friends use Hello Bonsai for the backbone of their business.
How do you use Hello Bonsai?
If you want to watch a video, Arnau Ros has a great video about Hello Bonsai on YouTube you should check out:
Clients want to be assured that you know what you’re doing. They’re paying you for results, and they need to have confidence you can do what you say you can do.
By creating a proposal that is clear and professional looking you’ll stand out and look like you know what you’re doing.
Bonsai has a pool of proposal templates that you can use to get started.
Proposals define what you do, how you do it, and your pricing options. Bonsai’s proposals make it easy to layout different pricing packages that your clients can choose from.
Then if it all looks good, clients can approve your proposal after reading it, simply by clicking a button.
Bonsai tracks their approval automatically.
Contracts are boring but are critical to running a successful freelance business. Contracts are legally binding documents that your clients sign when they commit to hiring, and paying, you for your services.
But creating contracts is a pain in the ass. If you Google “freelance contract examples” there are thousands of different options.
How do you know if a contract was written and approved by an actual attorney, rather than a random person on the internet?
Bonsai has your back.
Their contracts are vetted by actual lawyers and have been used by hundreds of thousands of freelancers.
And Bonsai makes the process of creating your own contract super easy.
You can choose from default templates or create your own. Here’s the 4-step flow for creating your own.
First you fill out your location, the type of freelance work you provide, and your company name.
Then you define the specific services you’re providing for your client. In my case this is usually “creating, managing, and optimizing the Google Ads account”.
Then you enter your rates. It could be a flat fee, hourly, per word, per day, or many other options. You can also define a deposit, recommended for new clients without prior good payment history, and if there is a late fee or not.
Lastly you can choose to automatically create invoices and send them when they’re due, or to do it manually. Personally, I prefer to do this manually to make sure the invoice is accurate.
If you have time-based billing, or just want to measure exactly how much time you spend working for each client, then you should track your time.
Bonsai also makes this easy with their time tracking chrome extension.
Once you start the timer you can pick your client and set your hourly rate, if different from the default. The extension connects to your Bonsai account to pull all the relevant information you need.
Once your work session is complete the time will be saved to your Bonsai account and billed to the correct client.
You can also add hours manually if you track them a different way.
The best part about freelancing is getting paid. Seeing that money hit my bank account feels amazing every time.
It’s the direct result of all of my hard work. It’s the reason I freelance.
If you use Bonsai’s time tracking feature, then generating invoices is easy.
Simply select your client, the project you’re working on, and if it’s one time or a recurring payment.
For retainer engagements I’ve found recurring invoices to be lifesaver. Every month on the 1st an invoice gets sent out, and if enabled by the client, it can automatically bill their payment method on file.
Invoice sent, received, and paid. All within minutes, often before I even wake up for the day.
You can edit hours, provide discounts, add taxes, and include attachments on the invoices you generate in Bonsai.
Invoices can be scheduled to send automatically, or you can send them manually when you’re ready.
If invoices are the best part about freelancing, then taxes are definitely the worst part.
I live in the United States, so all of my tax experience is based on that.
I save 30% of each freelancing payment to pay estimated quarterly taxes, which is a real bummer.
But that’s just how it is.
Bonsai has a tax tool, which is an extra $10/month on-top of the base subscription fee.
I used Bonsai Taxes to calculate the exact amount of estimated taxes I owed for the first quarter of 2021, and it was really easy.
Taxes can be complicated so it was nice that Bonsai had a tool to make it easier.
Bonsai reminds you when quarterly taxes are due, keeps track of how much you paid already, and even lets you download your tax forms when it’s time to file your 1040.
There are also accounting features where you can link bank accounts and credit cards, and even generate a secure link to send to your accountant or bookkeeper.
By connecting a credit card Bonsai will start categorizing your expenses and calculate how much taxes you’ll save. You can recategorize them if it gets it wrong, but it’s a nice timesaving feature if you have recurring expenses every month.
Hello Bonsai pricing plans
Hello Bonsai has a free 14-day trial. Once your trial ends, you have a few different options for paid plans. Here is Hello Bonsai’s pricing plan (if you decide to pay monthly):
General Hello Bonsai pricing is as follows:
- Starter plan: $24/month, includes up to 5 projects
- Professional plan: $39/month, includes up to 15 projects, white-label client portal
- Business plan: $79/month, unlimited projects, collaborator and team seats, subcontracting options
All plans are generously priced, and count as business expenses. So, you can easily deduct your Hello Bonsai subscription from your income — making it a no brainer to use if you have some freelance income coming in.
You also have the option to pay annually, in which you’ll end up getting two months free because of the slight discount given on annual plans.
Here’s what pricing will look like if you decide to pay annually:
Note that this is what your monthly cost will come out to. However, you will be paying for the entire year upfront. So, if you’re on the Starter plan, you’ll pay $204 USD (which averages out to $17/month).
My honest opinion would be to start with a regular monthly plan, because you don’t know how much your business will scale. Once you have a few months of business down, and you know Hello Bonsai is the tool for you, consider switching to an annual plan to save money.
Pros and cons of Hello Bonsai
Pros of Hello Bonsai
Hello Bonsai has a lot of pros. Here are some of my reasons for using Hello Bonsai to manage your business:
- Look professional to potential clients when sending proposals and invoices
- Easily manage projects and tasks
- Use Client Portals to give clients a great user experience
- Multiple payment and payout options
- Expense tracking and doing taxes
- Hello Bonsai app for notifications
Again, these are my opinions on why I think most freelancers and small businesses should use Hello Bonsai.
You should always do your own research when deciding what client management platform to use.
Cons of Hello Bonsai
To be honest, there are a lot of pros with Hello Bonsai and I couldn’t think of many cons. Here are a few cons I’ve found with Hello Bonsai:
- Only available in English
- Payment options have geographical limitations
- Automated expense tracking only works in US and Canada
If you’re based in the US or Canada, then these cons shouldn’t be of too much concern. However, if you are based in a non-English speaking country, and you do business in a language that is not English, then Hello Bonsai may not be the best tool to use.
If you’ve decided to start a service-based business, and you’re located in the US or Canada, then Hello Bonsai is a platform I can’t recommend enough.
There’s so much functionality with this platform. It’s used by all of my freelancing friends and it truly helps you run a service-based business smoothly.
Oftentimes, when freelancing for the first time, it can be hard to know what to do (and in what order). From sending proposals, invoices, getting paid, and doing your taxes, all of these can seem daunting when all you really want to do is provide people with a service you’re passionate about.
Luckily, Hello Bonsai makes it easy to streamline all the admin stuff so you can continue finding new clients and improving your skills in whatever service it is that you provide.