In January 2022, I left my 9-5 job to become a full-time entrepreneur. To start making money as quickly as possible, I decided to start consulting and doing freelance work. After getting my first client, I started to question if I made the right decision.
Ironically enough, finding clients wasn’t the hardest part. I had an okay network, freelancing friends that could refer me to work they couldn't take on, and I did a lot of cold email outreach until I found a few companies that were interested.
After about a month after leaving my job, and taking some time to recover from the burnout I had experienced working in tech, I got my first freelance writing gig.
I was ecstatic.
Then, the company I was going to work with asked me how I wanted to get paid. And this was the first time I realized that I actually didn’t really know how to approach the financial part of freelancing.
I told them they could pay me via Stripe or send me a check. Absolute face-palm on my end. I didn’t know what I was doing.
I got no response from the email and assumed that they would follow up when I completed the work — another mistake.
So, I got to writing.
When I was done, I contacted the company and sent them my work.
They responded with “thanks, this looks great!”
Then, radio silence.
I waited a few days, thinking they would email me about my money. But, nothing happened. I felt dumb. I just spent an entire day writing for this company and I got nothing back.
So I called my friend that runs a successful freelance business and told her the story. She told me I had to send them an invoice so I could get paid. I didn’t even know what an invoice was.
I thought companies just knew how to pay freelancers the same way they pay their employees.
This is how inexperienced I was about this space.
I questioned if freelancing was the right decision, and even started thinking about going back into the corporate world. But I knew there were successful freelancers out there and that this was just a part of the learning curve. I had to get over my fear of finances.
One of the most powerful things a mentor told me earlier this year was that if I wanted to be a successful freelancer, I had to completely change my mindset around money.
He said, “there’s no such thing as ‘making money.’ You don’t make money in business. The only entity that can make money is the government — they can print more when they need it. They are the only ones that make money. As a business owner, and really everyone else besides the government, you ‘take money.’ Stop saying you want to make money and instead figure out how you’re going to take money from businesses.”
At first, it sounded a bit off-putting. “Taking” seems to have a bad connotation associated with it. At least it did with me.
But I started to figure out what he was saying. In my whole working life, I’ve actually been offering a service and taking money in return. From my first job stacking shelves in a warehouse as a teenager, all the way to my tech job in Silicon Valley. I made a contract with these companies that I was going to take X number of dollars from them in return for X type of service I was going to give them.
I realized that if I wanted to be successfully self-employed, I had to create a system that would make it easy for me to “take money” in return for my services.
I also realized that I had to get extremely organized around how I did this — from sending proposals, contracts, invoices, and doing taxes.
That’s when I discovered that a tool like Hello Bonsai could help me create this system.
So, in this article, I’m going to explain what Hello Bonsai is and how to create a system that gets you paid for your work.
In this article, we’ll go over (click to go to each section):
- What is Hello Bonsai?
- Who is Hello Bonsai for?
- How do you use Hello Bonsai?
- Essential Hello Bonsai features
- Hello Bonsai pricing plans
- Pros and cons of Hello Bonsai
Okay, let’s get into it!
What is Hello Bonsai?
Used by over half a million freelancers and agencies, 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. Started in 2016, with just $120K in funding, Hello Bonsai has become a popular tool for freelancers to manage their entire service-based business.
Given the current state of the economy, and the rise of remote work, many individuals are leaving their traditional 9-5 jobs to freelance and live on their own terms. With this, comes a rise in the freelance workforce.
The issue many early-stage freelancers face is project management and learning how to bill clients properly. After all, if you’re not sending invoices you’re not getting paid. And if you’re not getting paid, you can’t pay your bills.
Hello Bonsai makes it easy for people to build individual careers by bridging the gap between companies and individual talent. They’re building solutions to help support the future of work and make it globally distributed.
From billing to taxes, Hello Bonsai has it all. In the rest of this article, we’ll go over exactly who Hello Bonsai is for and some of the critical features freelancers should look for in a freelance project management software.
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:
If you want to read, continue scrolling down to learn how to use Hello Bonsai.
Create a free account
The first step to using Hello Bonsai is to create a free plan. You can either sign up via your Google account (my preferred method) or create an account.
Once you sign up, you’ll go through an onboarding process that will ask you a few questions about the type of freelance business you plan to run.
You’ll be asked questions like, “what type of work do you typically do?,” “which of the following best describes your business?,”what type of business do you have?,” and ”what can we help you with first?”
As you can see, Hello Bonsai has a whole suite of tools for different use cases. If you’re not exactly sure what you need help with at this exact moment it’s okay. The answers you put in your onboarding process are just for Hello Bonsai to get to know you better. If you decide that you want to change your type of freelance work or what you need help with first, you easily can.
Your answers don’t limit how you can use Hello Bonsai.
Once you finish the onboarding process, you can start your free 14-day trial. Upon starting your trial, you’ll be sent to your freelance dashboard. It looks a little something like this:
From here you can decide what to do next.
Send a client proposal
Now that you have a Hello Bonsai account created, you can start by sending a client proposal.
Client proposals are important because they’re the first step to closing a potential client. A client proposal will let your client know exactly what you intend to provide to them, along with pricing options.
In Hello Bonsai, on the left sidebar, you can click on “Proposals” to get started.
Once you’re in, you can select from multiple proposal and contract templates.
They have everything from generic templates, digital marketing templates, consulting templates, design templates, and many more. There’s a good chance you’ll find the exact proposal you need for the service you’re providing.
Once you select a template, you’re promoted to an editor to further customize the template to your needs.
You can edit all the content on the template, change up the designs, and customize fee structures.
Regarding how you want to charge a client, you can choose from single option, packages, and multi-select options — giving your client a great user experience to pick and choose exactly what they want you to work on.
Once you have your proposal ready to go, you can click on “Send Proposal” and have the client proposal you created in Hello Bonsai sent directly to your potential clients’ email address.
This will give you a professional look and help build trust with your client.
Manage your projects
Once you send a proposal, it will be tracked within the “Proposals” tab of your Hello Bonsai dashboard.
This will make it easy to track all the proposals you’ve sent and the status of each one (if a client has accepted it or not).
You can also head over to the “Projects tab” to see all of your projects that are in progress — giving you an easy way to track all of your projects for different clients.
On the theme of project management, you can also keep track of all of your clients by clicking on the “Clients” tab on the left sidebar.
Here, you can use Hello Bonsai like a CRM and see all of your clients, access client onboarding forms, set up workflow automations between you and your clients, and even create a customized client portal.
The Client Portal feature gives your clients the ability to log into your projects and keep track of everything — from documents, payments, and project status.
This is an awesome feature that helps you look more professional, while giving your client a great user experience while working with you. However, you will need to upgrade to a Workflow Plus plan to get access to this feature. I’ll talk more about plans and pricing below.
Once you’ve decided with a potential client what the scope of your work will look like, and how much it will cost, you can head over to the “Invoices” tab on the left sidebar.
Depending on how you structure your pricing, and when you decide to bill your client, you can set up multiple payment options.
When clicking on “Create Invoice” you’ll have the option to set up a single invoice (for one-time projects), recurring invoices, subscription invoices, and bundled invoices.
This gives you a lot of flexibility in how you want to price and package your services.
Similar to editing the proposal before it’s sent out, you can edit all of your invoices as well.
Once your invoice is ready to go, you can either send it directly to your client or schedule it to be sent at a later date.
Now the important part, getting paid.
Hello Bonsai gives you several payment options to get paid from your clients.
You have three options for receiving payments from clients — using Bonsai Payments to accept credit cards and ACH payments, Stripe, or PayPal.
All of these options give your clients flexibility in how they want to pay you.
Using Bonsai Payments will allow you to easily see all of your revenue in your client dashboard. You can also set up payouts to go directly to your bank account.
The time it will take for payouts to reach your bank account will depend on your location of business. If you’re located in the US, you can use Instant Payouts and have payments sent to your bank in as little as 10 minutes. However, this method will cost a 1.5% fee of the payout amount.
The other option is to use Standard Payouts, which will send payouts directly to your bank account within two business days.
Expenses, accounting, and taxes
Hello Bonsai is more than just a “sending invoices and receiving payments” platform. They also have a feature called Bonsai Cash — a business bank account made for freelancers and small businesses.
Bonsai Cash will make it easy to track business expenses and do your freelance taxes all in one place.
As your service-based business grows, organization is a must. It’s very easy for your finances to get messy and give you a headache during tax season.
On top of that, there are a lot of tax benefits when it comes to being self-employed. You want to make sure that you are always tracking the expenses needed to run your business so you can deduct them from your taxable income. Please note that none of this is financial advice.
In Hello Bonsai, you can easily track everything from marketing, outsourced labor, meals, office, fees, and many more expenses.
This is where Hello Bonsai becomes essential for any freelancer or small business. Not only does the platform help you send proposals and invoices to clients, but it also helps you manage all of your finances.
Using a platform like Hello Bonsai to track your income and expenses will give you peace of mind knowing that your finances are tracked properly. It will also set you up for success when the time comes to pay your taxes. Tax season can be stressful for a lot of people. But if you’re properly managing your finances, it should be a breeze.
Essential Hello Bonsai features
As you can see Hello Bonsai has many features and benefits for its users. Not only does it make it easy for any freelancer to run their business, but it also creates a great user experience for clients as well — helping you retain more happy clients.
Here are some of the essential features that make Hello Bonsai great:
Send proposals and invoices
I mentioned this earlier, but Hello Bonsai has great features around sending proposals and automatic invoices. They give you a lot of flexibility in how you want to structure your client projects, whether they’re one-time interactions or recurring subscriptions.
All of your proposals and invoices can be easily customized to your exact workflow and services, and they offer a lot of proposal templates you can choose from.
Time tracking and task management
Depending on your payment structure, you can set up time tracking for each project you work on. This will be important if you decide to bill at an hourly rate.
Whenever you want to work on a project, you can select the “Start Timer” button in the navbar of your dashboard and a time tracker will automatically start.
This track time will directly translate onto your invoice so you can accurately bill your clients for the amount of time you put into their projects.
On the theme of tracking, you can also use Hello Bonsai as a task management system similar to Trello or Asana.
Here, you can set up details for each project and all of its deliverables. It will allow you, and your clients, to easily see the status of each project and bring more visibility between the freelancer-client relationship.
Bonsai Payments and Cash
Another essential feature of Hello Bonsai is how you collect payments. Or, if you read the beginning of this article, how you ‘take’ payments (wink).
Bonsai Payments will allow your clients to pay you via credit card or ACH payments. And once you’re paid, the money will show up in your dashboard. From there, you can have these payments sent via “payouts” to your bank account of choice.
The last, powerful feature of Hello Bonsai is Bonsai Tax. This feature allows you to track all of your income and expenses and makes it easy to save money on taxes.
Every business owner knows how much of a headache this can be if you’re not organized with your finances. And for me personally, this is a huge selling point to using Hello Bonsai to manage your service-based business.
Instead of bouncing around spreadsheets and bank accounts, you can use Bonsai Tax to track everything in one centralized place.
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 would 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
Of course, every platform has its pros and cons, let’s talk about it.
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
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine.
But, 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.
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