Hello Bonsai bills itself as an all-in-one freelancing solution for the world’s best creative freelancers (actually, their name is simply Bonsai, but their website is HelloBonsai.com).
But with so many freelancer invoicing apps or other productivity tools out there for freelancers these days, it begs the question:
Is Hello Bonsai a good fit for you as a freelancer?
In this in-depth Hello Bonsai review, I’ll dive into the good, the bad, and the “just okay” about the platform that claims it’ll help you “put your freelancing on autopilot.” I’ll also include a few voices and opinions from the freelance community—real freelancers who have used Hello Bonsai to run their freelance business.
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By the end of this Hello Bonsai review, you’ll know whether or not it’s a good fit for you and if you should sign up for Bonsai or not.
In full transparency, we are an affiliate partner with Bonsai. I’ve done my best to not let this influence my review below and, to keep things completely balanced, we’re also affiliate partners with a bunch of Bonsai competitors. If you click a Bonsai (or competitor) link in this article, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The short answer: should you use Bonsai?
If you are short on time or don’t want to get into all the details of this Hello Bonsai review, then I can tell you right now whether or not you should use the Bonsai freelance suite:
YES: If you’re a freelancer with a fairly simple business, not a lot of over-complicated projects, and a modest budget, then you can try Bonsai completely free using this link.
NO: If you’re an agency with lots of complicated projects all running at the same time or you’re a freelancer hoping to massively grow, then you should try another invoicing app. (My top recommendations are at the bottom of this post.)
For those who want a more comprehensive review of the Bonsai app, here we go:
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What is Hello Bonsai?
Before we go too deep into the Hello Bonsai app, let’s talk about exactly what it is and why it exists.
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? Is a tool (tool or suite of tools) whose purpose is to help you run your freelance business more efficiently.
Reviewing Bonsai’s Top Features
With that intro, let’s dive in to the full Hello Bonsai feature review. From what I can see, Hello Bonsai started by first offering primarily two tools: Contracts and Payments.
Since then, they’ve added an entire suite of resources for freelancers who want to run their business on autopilot.
The Bonsai freelance features which we will review below include:
- Invoices & payments
- Recurring payments
- and Reporting.
It’s no wonder the HelloBonsai website lists proposals first in their list of features. I’ve looked closely at a LOT of freelancer tools and not many of them do proposals justice like the Hello Bonsai app does.
Sure, there’s the stuff you expect: upload all the details of the proposal, customize with images and your logo, etc.
But once the proposal is finished, this is where Bonsai shines.
Within your proposal, you can create various packages for clients to pick from to increase your profit through upselling.
The Hello Bonsai app will also notify you once your client has viewed your proposal so you’re not sweating it out checking your email every 5 minutes to see if they respond (I know you’ve been there too).
Once your client does take a look right within the Bonsai app, they can approve the proposal with one click and you’re ready to go!
For more about Bonsai Proposals, visit the HelloBonsai website.
Contracts with Hello Bonsai
In addition to handling proposals extremely well, Hello Bonsai has a great interface for freelance contracts.
First of all, they have pre-vetted legal templates for your contracts which means you don’t have to hire a lawyer and incur that extra cost.
Secondly, all you have to do is input all your company and project information and, like magic, the Hello Bonsai app will generate a well-written, professional contract for you so you don’t have to worry about writing in legalese.
Since Hello Bonsai is available from any device that means you can create, edit or sign these contracts no matter where you are or what you’re in the middle of.
The coolest feature of it all? Once the client contract is signed within the Hello Bonsai app, they auto generate any invoices you’ll need for the project and queue them up.
That’s probably why the HelloBonsai website boasts that a Bonsai freelancer typically gets paid 13x faster.
Time-tracking using Bonsai
For many freelancers, tracking our time is critical—particularly if you have multiple clients and multiple projects all happening at once.
And while there are lots of freelance time-tracking apps on the market, it makes way more sense to use a time tracker that integrates with your invoicing tool.
It just makes everything far more automatic.
If you decide to go with Hello Bonsai for your invoicing tool, you’ll also get time-tracking built in. Win-win.
With the Hello Bonsai time-tracking tool, you can track your hours with a single click. Or if needed, you can input your time manually.
Bonsai will also help you send really quick invoices based on your unpaid hours. So if you have 70 hours built up under one client and you haven’t sent an invoice yet, all it takes is a quick review and you can submit those hours to be paid.
On the downside, it’s definitely not the most robust time-tracking tool I’ve ever seen. There are definitely a few other time-tracking apps for freelancers on the market that do a better job.
But it’s a fantastic option if you want to keep everything consolidated within one app.
Hello Bonsai Project Management
Alas, here’s where the functionality of Hello Bonsai begins to fall just a bit short.
I was excited to see what the Bonsai app could offer in terms of project management. But when I really started to look into it, I’m afraid there’s no real project management aspect to the Bonsai freelance suite.
I was confused because there’s this page which calls itself “project management” but if you look closely, it’s called “Project Management Time Tracking” and then goes on to talk all about time-tracking instead of project management.
Diving into the app cleared it up just a bit. Basically, when you click on a project, you can see a basic overview of the project itself which is really slick.
From there, you can add tasks to each project, see how many hours you’ve spent and billed on each project, review notes, etc. It’s actually pretty nice.
Where Hello Bonsai does fall short is on the “managing multiple projects together” front. There’s no kanban option, no timeline option, nothing like that. So really, it’s more of a task manager than a project manager.
If you like simple, sortable, filterable to-do lists, then Hello Bonsai is a good fit for you. If not, you may want to try a different option from our list of project management app for freelancers.
Expenses with the Bonsai App
Tracking expenses is critical to your freelance business since overspending can put you out of business very quickly.
Plus, when tax season rolls around, you’ll wish you had a nice itemized list of expenses you can use for deductions and other purposes.
With Hello Bonsai, you can do some basic expense tracking, but I have to say it falls a bit short of some other tools I’ve used.
For starters, it doesn’t seem to have a receipt scanner—which isn’t a huge deal for some people, but for others saves them from a shoebox full of paper at the end of each year.
I also tried to connect my bank and it wasn’t available to connect. While I half-expected this due to the small size of my local credit union, I just have to say: Freshbooks (a top Hello Bonsai competitor) can connect to my small bank.
Unless you want to enter expenses manually, this may not be the best tool for you.
Bonsai Invoicing & Payments
This next section is where I expected Hello Bonsai to absolutely shine. And they didn’t disappoint: Bonsai Invoicing is so cool!
First of all, the Hello Bonsai app will auto-generate invoices for you based on proposals or contracts you build in their system. So, in literally seconds, you can send an invoice to your client.
In the “project” tab I spoke about earlier, you also get notified when a client sees your invoice and they can let you know when they plan to pay it.
Plus, Hello Bonsai automatically follows up with clients who forget to pay their invoices (or intentionally delay payment) so that you don’t have to waste time following up every week.
That’s a load off.
Directly from any Hello Bonsai invoice, your client can pay using the usual options: PayPal, ACH, Credit Card. And then: they can also pay using Bitcoin. Nice.
Recurring Payments with Hello Bonsai
I love that Hello Bonsai has embraced the culture of recurring payments for freelancers by including it in their invoicing tool.
If you have a client you want to bill every month, for example, you just change their invoice from “one time payment” to “recurring” (or my personal favorite “recurring with auto-pay”).
The Bonsai app will automatically send your client their invoice every month (and if it’s set to autopay, you get your money right away).
Reports available in the Hello Bonsai App
I’m sad to say, this is also a section where Bonsai falls short for freelancers. While the Hello Bonsai app does have some basic income/expense reporting for accounting purposes, I really wish this data-driven company had some cooler reports.
For example, wouldn’t it be cool if I could see my average hourly wage over time? Ideally, that goes up.
Or if I could see the average amount of time it takes to get an invoice paid from the time I send to a client? Or the average duration of a project in any given category or client folder?
That could be really cool.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but I personally feel like they could do a better job with their freelance reports.
What real freelancers say about Hello Bonsai (Good and Bad)
Okay, enough about what I think. What are other freelancers saying about Hello Bonsai? I reached out to a few large communities of freelancers which I’m a part of (including Millo’s own free FB group) and got some nice responses.
Freelance designer and artist Amy Kumo shared this with me:
“I use it for my backend – many of my clients are hourly (non-retainer) and it’s easy to use the timer feature and convert those hours straight into an invoice.
“I also use their contract builder. The only time clients interface with it is to pay invoices.
“I use Asana for my client-facing project management system as well as my own task manager for things like content building; I like the simplicity of just having tasks within projects and that’s it, no bells and whistles.”
She seems to have noticed the somewhat-lacking project management features as well but unlike me, it doesn’t seem to bother her too much.
And have to agree: converting those timer hours into invoices with one simple click is super awesome.
Sam Ochoa has been researching freelancer tools for his business and, in his opinion, Bonsai looks promising but has come up a bit short:
“Bonsai has an amazing look and feels great for designers but they gave me some delivery issues and the white labeling is expensive to get and wasn’t actually white labeled so I kinda passed on them.”
József Juhász feels the same way: “I tried it but found it lacking in some areas other than proposals.”
But freelance marketer Joey Berrios told me he has used Hello Bonsai for a while without any issue. He particularly enjoys “the templated proposals and contracts, as well as multiple payment options for clients.
“I used to struggle with contracts because I constantly altered them to fit the client.
With the built-in legalese, it makes it easy to create something with maybe 5 qualifying questions.”
Conclusion: should you sign up for Hello Bonsai?
After all of this talk, the real question still remains: should you sign up for Hello Bonsai? Is it the best freelancer tool for you right now?
Here’s my take:
If you’re a freelancer with a fairly simple business, not a lot of over-complicated projects, and a modest budget, then you can try Bonsai completely free using this link.
If you’re an agency with lots of complicated projects all running at the same time or you’re a freelancer hoping to massively grow, then you should try another invoicing app. If you want to try something else, you can review my top picks below:
Best alternatives to the Hello Bonsai App
If after reading this review you aren’t sure Bonsai is the right choice for you, there are other quality options available out there.
Here are just three of my top recommendations:
Far and away, Freshbooks is the best competitor to Bonsai on the market today. Where Bonsai falls short, Freshbooks shines.
Freshbooks is also a bit more capable of growing with you as your business gets bigger. They’re dumping a lot of time and investment into adding new features and growing with their customers.
Another solid Hello Bonsai alternative is Honeybook. Originally built for freelance photographers, this invoicing tool has come a LONG way in the last year or so—making it a really nice alternative to the Bonsai app.
Last on my quick list of Bonsai alternatives is And.co. Owned by freelancing platform Fiverr, Andco was built with creative freelancers in mind. And since they’re owned by a rapidly growing company, they’re adding new features and improvements all the time.
What did you decide?
If you made it this far through my Bonsai review, bravo. You’re a real trooper. That was a lot of information.
And I’d love to hear what you ultimately decided. Did you sign up for Bonsai? Did you decide to go with a Bonsai alternative? Are you still investigating? Have more questions?
Let’s chat in Millo’s free FB group! I can’t wait to hear from you.
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