One day, you're worried about sending out invoices, then the next day, you have to send a proposal to a new client, and you still haven't taken care of taxes for last year.
Sound familiar? This experience is probably relatable to a lot of freelancers and creators. Managing a business isn't easy and requires staying on top of a million tiny details across marketing, finance, taxes, and customers or clients.
It's not easy to stay ahead of all the moving pieces, so you start looking for tools that can help automate or make parts of your work easier. However, if you're using Quickbooks for taxes, Willa to send out invoices, and Canva for designs, it can get overwhelming quickly.
It's easy to overlook the value of an integrated platform that can serve you across different parts of your business. That's what sets Bonsai apart from many of its competitors. Bonsai is an integrated business management solution for creators, freelancers, and small businesses.
In this article, we'll go over the key features, who should use Bonsai, and our overall thoughts on why creators should or shouldn't use Bonsai. Let's get started.
What is Bonsai?
Bonsai is an all-in-one product suite that automates your business. Bonsai streamlines tasks like creating and sending out proposals, sending and getting contracts signed, staying on top of project management, issuing invoices, tracking expenses and time, and managing accounting and events.
The product is built around the idea of an integrated suite of products that work together to streamline complex workflows. By making sure all of these systems and tooling communicate with one another, Bonsai creates a lot of efficiencies.
Bonsai effortlessly gets your brand deals on autopilot and optimizes workflows to achieve higher efficiency by handling mundane tasks. You can grow your career as a full-time creator or a small business owner with Bonsai.
The platform was founded in 2016 by Matt Brown, Matt Nish, and Redon Gijka. Although it is a young company, it still has between 11 to 50 as of 2022. The company is headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States.
According to Crunchbase, Bonsai has raised $120k till September 2022. Bonsai is a Y-Combinator-backed company, and YC is the same organization behind generational companies like Airbnb, Reddit, and Instacart.
Building tools to cater to creators, freelancers, and small businesses is a vast market. Subsequently, it's a crowded space with many companies competing for your spending.
Bonsai is for Freelancers and Creators
Bonsai is a strong choice for creators, freelancers, and small businesses. Bonsai meets a creator's or freelancer's needs and allows them to focus on the parts of the journey they enjoy.
Bonsai, as a start-up, is still a young company. However, as of September 2022, over 200,000+ freelancers use Bonsai. Likewise, the product is popular, with more than 4 million visitors to the site monthly.
Top Features of Bonsai
Bonsai is a platform that offers an at-a-glance view without making you feel cluttered. The site seamlessly integrates essential features that enable you to view total income, project timelines, upcoming and overdue tasks, recent activity, and time tracking.
Let's dig into some of these core features of the platform.
You want to be assured that you will win new clients as smoothly as possible. With Bonsai, it's possible. The platform offers different templates allowing you to create impressive proposals for your clients.
Bonsai has templates for popular proposals, including graphic design proposal templates, business proposal templates, brand ambassador proposal templates, and data entry proposal templates.
The goal of a proposal is to let a client of how you'll solve their program and what you'll do. Yet, you also must impress the client and inspire confidence that you'll do a good job once they've signed your contract. Using a platform like Bonsai makes your proposals look crisp and professional, which can help increase your close rate.
Clients can also take the next step directly from the proposal you send.
Tracking your Time as a Creator
Time tracking is essential when you have time-based billing and want to evaluate how much time you should invest working for each client.
If your projects require you to loop in other people, Bonsai can also help track their time. This requires a more premium plan but can be valuable for more complex projects.
Contracts are a crucial part of running a freelance business. If things go wrong, you refer back to a contract, so you want to ensure you have strong, clear, and comprehensive contracts in place. These legally binding documents can hold up in a court of law.
Making sure you have a valid contract can be tricky. Many creators or freelancers are tempted to find a template on Google, as hiring an attorney can be expensive. While this might work for your first few projects, you likely want a reliable templated contract that you can trust and know intimately.
Bonsai provides users with many templated contracts. They've had attorneys go through these, so you can rest assured the contracts are thorough.
Creator and Freelancer Invoices
Bonsai makes invoices simple to issue and collect payment. You can set invoices on auto, collect partial payments, and receive payments worldwide without worrying about cross-border compliance. Regulations are often an overlooked part of doing business more streamlined, but Bonsai takes care of these nuances.
In reality, invoices are the least inspiring part of any business operations platform. You know you need to create an invoice and collect payment on it. As long as it's simple and gets the job done, that's where a platform can make creators' lives simpler.
Adding too many bells and whistles in invoicing can take away value. Bonsai keeps it simple.
Taxes for Freelancers and Creators
You know the saying, "there are two things that are certain: death and taxes." There's a reason that phrase has existed for so long: taxes are integral to running any business.
For taxes, Bonsai has a tool that you can use to calculate the taxes you owe quickly. It's an add-on to the core service, but if you weren't using Bonsai's add-on, you'd have to use another paid tool. Yet, in this case, Bonsai can pull your information, like invoices and cash flow, into your taxes input.
Another value-add that Bonsai provides users is letting you know when the quarterly taxes are due. Since creators are not paying taxes through an employer, they'll owe taxes on this later. You'll be required to make quarterly tax payments if the amount is significant, and Bonsai can help you be compliant. At the end of the year, once available, Bonsai allows you to download your tax forms when you are required to file your taxes.
You can also give access to your account to a bookkeeper or an accountant that handles your books or taxes.
Bonsai's intuitive project management features are best for creators and freelancers. You can upload files, create tasks, track time and expenses, chat with collaborators, and attach contracts and proposals.
Project management is one area where it may make sense to look at other, most robust tools like Asana. But, you lose out on the benefit of being able to use one platform to run your entire business.
Reporting and Budgeting
Bonsai also allows subscribers to pull profit and loss statements, which is functionality you would typically be able to access on a platform like Quickbooks. To access this, you need to have Bonsai's tax add-on service.
Bonsai offers three pricing tiers. Before deciding which plan is ideal for you, let's discuss them in detail. Here are all the plans Bonsai offers:
The first plan is a Starter plan for $24 per month, ideal for contractors or freelancers just starting their journey. Some of the features offered in this price plan include:
- Manage unlimited clients and projects
- Proposals and contracts
- Access to all templates
- Tasks and time tracking
- Expense tracking
- Invoicing and payments
- Client CRM
- Up to 5 Project Collaborators
The second plan is the Professional plan which is $39 per month. It's a better option for a fast-growing, independent business. The features include:
- Everything offered in the Starter plan
- Custom branding
- Client portal
- Forms and questionnaires
- Workflow automation
- Calendly integration
- Zapier integration
- QuickBooks integration
- Up to 15 project collaborators
Finally, the third plan is a good fit for larger agencies and businesses with more complex needs. The Business plan is $79 per month and includes:
- Everything offered in Starter and Professional plan
- Subcontractor management
- Talent pool
- 3 team seats ($9/month for additional seats)
- Subcontractor onboarding
- Provides accountant access
- Unlimited subcontractors
- Hiring agreement templates
- Connect multiple bank accounts
- Unlimited project collaborators
Additional Monthly Fee for Adding Users
It doesn't cost money to add collaborators. However, Bonsai will provide limited access and functionality to its users. You'll have to pay $9 monthly for full account access and company management if you want to give these additional users full access.
Bonsai is a great platform offering many features at a budgeted price. Still, if you want to explore alternatives, here are a few you might want to consider.
Pando Doc is a well-known contract management platform with many other features that make it comparable to Bonsai. You can use Panda Doc to build, sign, and track documents seamlessly. Like Bonsai, the platform is well-known for automating the business workflow. However, Panda Doc focuses more on contracts than the entire freelancer workflow.
Accelo helps all businesses manage their prospect for payments, enhance their visibility, and automate their work processes all from one place. The platform lets you share quotes, automate sales workflow, and track buyer engagement and approvals.
As a freelancer, with Proposify, you can streamline creating, sending, and closing contracts, proposals, quotes, and other sales documents. In the same way that Panda Doc focuses on the contract and signing aspects of building a business, Proprosify focuses on the proposal.
You should start seeing that most platforms focus on one part of the creator workflow more than others from these handfuls of competitors. Meanwhile, Bonsai has a more holistic feature set.
Bonsai: Should Creators and Freelancers Use It?
From customizable proposals to invoices, Bonsai offers a lot for creators and freelancers, all with an accessible user interface.
If you're getting brand deals regularly, brands may ask for proposals, which will ask for invoices. Bonsai takes care of all of this. The time tracking might be less relevant for a creator. However, for freelancers, time tracking and project management become more valuable. For instance, if you're a graphic designer, a writer, or a video editor, you might have some clients who pay hourly.
Besides an integrated offering that brings together a lot of disparate pieces of managing a small business operation, Bonsai is also scalable. So, even if you're getting a monthly brand deal and can make custom invoices on Google Docs, Bonsai will scale with you if you decide to offer UGC services to brands. The platform is robust in its features as you grow your brand and operations.