Hello Bonsai Review Freelancing Software in 2021

bonsai for freelancers

For years I used a different project management and invoicing tool for my freelance business. Then after several other freelancers recommended Hello Bonsai to me, I decided to make the switch. Now that I’ve been using Bonsai for more than 6 months, I’ve gained enough experience with the tool to write an honest Hello Bonsai review.

So here’s my Hello Bonsai Review, which includes an overview of the software, its main features, the pros and cons for freelancers, and how it compares to other project management and invoicing tools. I do have some specific praises and criticisms, which you can explore below. You can also check out the Hello Bonsai website to learn more about the features and everything the tool has to offer.

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What is Hello Bonsai?

Hello Bonsai software is a tool that’s been around for 5 years, during which time they’ve helped more than 250,000 freelancers run their businesses. I call Hellobonsai a project management and invoicing tool because that’s what I originally started using it for. But it’s actually a lot more than that.

Unlike other tools, Bonsai is designed specifically for freelancers, and includes a collection of features that are valuable to our line of work.
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Is Hello Bonsai Still Good for 2021?

This project management app has been around for a few years now, so many wonder if it has all the latest features of competitors like Dubsado and other contract creation wizards. I think the answer is yes. Here’s an overview of the main features:

Proposal Templates

Probably the coolest Bonsai feature is their freelance project proposals. This allows you to create, send, and track responses to potential client proposals right from the platform. You start out by choosing one of their Bonsai freelance proposal templates.
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They have a lot of options to choose from based on your niche, such as:

  • Content writing proposal template
  • Social media marketing proposal template
  • Graphic design proposal template
  • And more

Once you’ve chosen the right project proposal template you can customize the document, adding in your services package, project details, and payment options. It’s possible to offer multiple service options for clients, so they can choose the option they want.

This feature offers a lot more than just proposal samples to customize and send to potential clients. Bonsai proposals are much more dynamic than traditional project proposal documents. Once you send it off, Bonsai will track and notify you when a client signs it electronically.

You can also create a copy of a proposal document and use it with your bid proposals on Upwork. I’ve you’d like a freelancer bid proposal sample PDF, I have several examples on my blog, including an Upwork proposal template and cold pitch emails.

Contract Templates

One feature I like to use a lot is their Bonsai contracts for freelance projects. Like project proposals, you can customize them based on your service offering then send them to clients to get e-signed.
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You can select your free template type based on your line of work (writing blog posts, web design, development, etc). Or you can create a blank contract for more specific services, like academic writing services. Having contracts with Hello Bonsai makes you look professional, helps set the standard for your relationship with your client, and helps protect you as a freelancer.

Time Tracking

Time Tracking is one of the main Bonsai app features I use, as I always like to monitor how much time I spend on projects for clients, even with fixed-price jobs. Time-tracking using Bonsai works on the web, on mobile apps, through a macOS app and a Chrome Extension. It’s easy enough to categorize time entries by client and project. I like that you get a dashboard overview of your weekly tracked time to see how hard you have (or haven’t) been working.

You can also track time spent on projects with collaborators and easily import your tracked hours to invoices for client billing.

Invoicing and Expense Tracking

Bonsai invoice is another feature I signed up for Bonsai to use. I like their invoicing system because you can accept quite a few payment methods (PayPal, Stripe, credit cards, etc.) and automatically send out reminder emails to clients. You can set a late fee percentage when you send the invoice, so clients are encouraged to pay on time.

These features are super valuable for freelancers, as Bonsai’s own research has found that 29% of freelancer invoices are paid late. This problem is (of course), worse for us women freelancers:

late freelance invoicesSo having an automated tool like Bonsai can help us ladies make sure we get our money on time. Accepting different forms of payment like PayPal or Stripe through Bonsai also encourages clients to pay. In fact, using Bonsai’s global payment options (PayPal, Stripe, bank transfer, etc.) helps freelancers get paid an average of 13 days faster, and have 3X fewer late payments.

With this tool, you can also import your hours worked into invoices to send to clients. So if you’re an editor doing proofreading jobs by the hour, you can automatically generate invoices based on your hourly rate and hours tracked editing. Hello Bonsai gives you an overview of your earnings over time, which I like because I’m a data nerd and find it motivating to see how much money I’ve earned.
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Hello Bonsai also has expense-tracking features that I haven’t used. But you can track expenses and bill your clients accordingly using this tool.

Other Features

Hello Bonsai has a LOT of features rolled into one, which is what makes it stand out from other bookkeeping and project management tools for freelancers. Here are some of the other main features you can take advantage of:

Projects & Client CRM

Hello Bonsai apps make it easy to manage your digital workspace and keep track of different projects you’re working on with clients. Whenever you create a project in their system, it creates a mini-dashboard where you can see all activity, tasks, associated project files, time tracking, invoices, and expenses:

Bonsai project managementHello Bonsai also allows you to invite other contractors to work on your projects, so you can all track time and manage tasks together. I haven’t used this feature, but it seems pretty cool!

Task Management

If you use a task management tool like Todoist or Trello, you might want to switch it out for Hello Bonsai’s internal task management features. One of the most important skills we freelancers need is the ability to pace out our deadlines and allot ourselves enough time to complete each project. Bonsai’s task management features help with this.

Bonsai time tracking featureIt’s easy to create tasks and deadlines, track time spent on each task, and prioritize your week. Instead of just tracking time spent working for individual clients or on certain projects, you can break down your time investment by task to make sure you stay on track for multiple projects. You can also collaborate with others using this task management feature.

Accounting & Taxes

I’ve already mentioned some of Hello Bonsai’s expense tracking and profit/loss features above. But what makes this software really unique is that it can help you prepare for filing taxes as a self-employed freelancer. Bonsai can send you reminders to prepare your tax return or make payments. It can also track your potential deductions and tax savings, and offer estimates of how much you’ll owe based on your income.

Unfortunately, Bonsai’s tax tool is a premium feature, so you have to pay an additional fee to access. However, in 2020, Bonsai launched a hub of resources to help freelancers with their taxes, including a self-employed tax calculator, deductions by work type, and a free ebook. So you can check out their Self Employment Tax Hub for extra help.

How Much Does Hello Bonsai Cost?

There’s a 14-day free trial and two different Hello Bonsai pricing tiers to choose from, plus some add-ons.

Bonsai Workflow

Cost: $19 per month

The basic plan includes:

  • Unlimited Clients & Projects
  • Proposals
  • Contracts
  • Invoicing & Payments
  • Client CRM
  • Project Management
  • Task & Time Tracking
  • iOS, Android, Chrome, & Mac Apps

Bonsai Workflow Plus

Cost: $29 per month

The premium plan includes everything in Workflow, plus:

  • White-labelled client experience
  • Client forms and questionnaires
  • Workflow automation
  • Subcontracting (client-mode)
  • Calendly integration
  • Client portal
  • Priority support

You can add multiple users to come on as collaborators for free, or invite users for full account access for an additional $9/month. If you want Bonsai Tax features for freelance work, add $10/month.

Pros and Cons of Hello Bonsai For Freelancers

Hello Bonsai reviews must include pros and cons. Here are the biggest benefits and detriments that stand out to me:

Pro Number 1: Data Import

So I had been managing my freelance time tracking and bookkeeping using another software for years before I switched to Hello Bonsai. I’m a stats nerd, so I didn’t want to lose all the data I had on income, time spent working on different client projects, long-term earnings per client, etc. Luckily, Hello Bonsai makes it pretty simple to import your existing time tracking and invoicing data into their system. So now I have years of client information and data saved in a software that I’ve only been using for a few months.

Pro Number 2: Templates

Bonsai’s freelance proposal templates are a really unique feature that you can’t find with any other tool. They really understand the needs of freelancers, and I’ve used their freelance proposal examples a lot to create documents, pitch leads and make agreements with my clients. I find it much easier to manage my writing jobs online using contracts. I feel more secure in my relationship with clients knowing we have a thorough, professional contract between us.

Pro Number 3: All in one solution

While other tools might have certain features that function better than what Bonsai online offers, there are zero comprehensive solutions. No other software really compares to the features that Bonsai has. Hello Bonsai replaces your invoicing and bookkeeping software, time tracker, e-signature software and task management tool, while also offering novel features that other software doesn’t, like dynamic proposals, contracts, and client management. If I switched from Bonsai to any other tool I’d be losing features, simple as that.

Con Number 1: Some glitching

I’ve noticed some occasional glitching when using Bonsai’s time tracking feature for desktop. Sometimes if I double click on the timer, it adds 10 minutes. Not sure if that’s a deliberate feature or not, but it can lead to some confusion. Also when I edit logged time, sometimes the timer doesn’t update right away. These glitches happen only occasionally and haven’t caused any real issues for my work.

Con Number 2: Client ID system

So, this is an unbiased review, so I have to mention one major problem I had with Hello Bonsai that almost made me quit in the beginning. Like I mentioned above, I imported my existing time tracking and revenue data from another tool into Bonsai. When I uploaded the CSV file I discovered that I must have an email address associated with each client to upload their info. This was a bit of a problem, since some of my clients were through Upwork and I never actually communicated with them through email. So I had to go through my spreadsheet and add a fake email to all these clients. Then once I imported, I discovered that Bonsai had categorized all these clients with the fake email address as ONE client.

I contacted customer support about it and they said they hadn’t run into this problem before, which is surprising, as lots of freelancers work on Upwork and don’t have their clients’ email. They suggested I replace the email I put with a UNIQUE fake email for each client. So I did, and re-imported my data, and all was fixed.

Con Number 3: Cost?

How much is Hello Bonsai? Is it worth the price? Another potential con of Hello Bonsai is cost. There are some other invoicing and time tracking tools out there that offer freemium versions or a cheaper option. Bonsai is more expensive than my old invoicing tool, Harvest. $19/month just might not be worth it to a number of freelancers. When I signed up for Bonsai, I decided I’d try it for a couple months, and if it didn’t seem worth the investment, I’d switch back to the cheaper Harvest. Once I started digging into all of Hello Bonsai’s features, I realized the real value of this tool and decided the price is well worth it.

Hello Bonsai Review: Final Verdict

I think Hello Bonsai is the best time tracking, client management and invoicing software for freelancers. That’s why I decided to write this review and describe these details. It’s also the only single software that includes the collection of features that it does. You can use 4 or 5 different tools to approximate the functionality Bonsai offers, but you’ll still end up missing features. Having everything in one software tool can help freelance businesses streamline many processes.

You can see for yourself by purchasing Hello Bonsai here.
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Bonsai is also the only tool that’s specifically designed for freelancers. That means they work hard to understand our unique needs and build software that can help us. Bonsai’s a pretty new tool, so I imagine they will roll out more features in the future that will make it even more valuable for freelancers. I look forward to testing them out!

I highly recommend Hello Bonsai to any full-time freelancer.

By the way, if this post has got you thinking about what to include in your freelance proposals, I have a free resource that can help you, which includes:

• 3 Cold Pitch Samples
• An Upwork Proposal Sample
• A Full Proposal Template

Check it out below:

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