I have tried pretty much every accounting app that’s recommended for entrepreneurs, from free programs like Wave and all-encompassing apps like Quickbooks. Which is why I feel comfortable sharing with you that I believe the best accounting app for small business is Bonsai. It’s easy to use, the interface is clean and intuitive and, at the end of the day, everything works how you’d expect it to.
Unfortunately, that’s something I can’t say for some of the other best in the industry apps. If you’re looking for something to begin (and grow) with this is it. So, let me share with you the ins-and-outs of Bonsai and why I love it so much.
What is Bonsai?
Bonsai is an all-in-one project suite that allows you to run your freelance business. It can handle everything from sending a proposal and signing a contract to submitting invoices and managing your expenses.
I mostly see it as a small business accounting app, but there are a few extra bells and whistles that are available to you. It essentially makes your workflow easier because you can manage most (but not all) of it right within the system.
It’s also reasonably priced. With plans starting at $19 USD per month, when I first started my writing practice it was something reasonable that I could afford. Plus, it has a modern interface that works intuitively—so while you might be new to the program, you won’t be completely lost.
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The first feature I ever really utilized through Bonsai was their invoicing—and today it’s probably what I spend the majority of my time in there working on.
Bonsai invoicing is simple, yet powerful. Compared to other programs I’ve worked in, they have more capabilities like payment terms (seriously, payment terms seem to be missing from A LOT of places) and being able to bill in multiple currencies.
Payments can also be collected in a variety of ways. Most recently, Bonsai added their own payment system. Clients can pay via credit card and it gets dropped into your bank account directly—which, as someone who is already working in a ton of programs, makes life SO MUCH easier.
Bonsai also integrates with PayPal, so clients can use it to pay right from your invoice.
This feature is something I LOVE about Bonsai. It’s brand new and I was one of the people who asked them to add it, that is that you can now add income from other sources into Bonsai so it can be counted on your dashboard and in your overall accounting.
To use the other income feature, I believe you need to have Bonsai’s Workflow Plus subscription that costs $29 USD—this is the plan that I have and I can vouch that it’s worth it for me.
If you’re already a Bonsai user with an upgraded account, you can access this feature through Accounting > Income. Then you simply add the income and it’s reported!
Contracts and proposals
Both Bonsai’s contracts and proposals features are available to all paying Bonsai members and are incredibly simple to use.
The proposal feature allows you to send a detailed proposal to a prospective client (or current one) for e-approval. These proposals are not fancy marketing proposals, they’re very much text-based documents. They have the following pre-built sections:
- Context and objectives
- Fee structure
- Why me
You fill out these sections and send out your proposal. You can also create pre-made templates that you can simply edit and send. These are NOT pretty like those that you’d see in Honeybook, there is no “brochure” feature and you’ll need to be in contact with a client before sending one out (they’re not cold pitch proposals).
The contracts feature allows you to build, send and sign a contract with a new client. They have pre-built contracts that you can slightly modify, or you can make your own.
These contracts (like any other contracts) should definitely be reviewed by a lawyer or legal professional to ensure their validity. Contracts vary by region so you’ll need to make sure that you’re using something that is OK in your jurisdiction.
Expense management and tax prep
I’ve found that some of the tax prep features aren’t terribly helpful for me as a Canadian. But I happen to LOVE the expense management capabilities because they do ultimately help me prepare for my annual taxes.
All of that said, Bonsai has a tax add-on feature for $10 USD per month that I have. That’s because I REALLY wanted to be able to import my credit card and bank account expenses, that way I could classify them and package them up for my accountant.
If you are a US-based freelancer, the tax add-on might be a a great purchase for you simply because they help you find tax breaks and other savings where you might be able to save genuine cash that will be valuable to your business.
Time tracking and tasks
I’m a big advocate for tracking time, despite the fact that I don’t work hourly. That’s because it helps me know how profitable my business really is. And, if you’re of that mentality, Bonsai is a great tool for you.
Bonsai allows you to track your hours related to each client. However, it’s best for those that work hourly because you’ll be directed to add a dollar amount to each hour (though I think you can get around it).
If you do bill hourly, their time tracking feature will allow you to ensure that you bill your client directly for the hours you work. You can then add those hours right to your invoice with the simple click of a button.
You can make your time tracking even more effective within Bonsai by pairing it with tasks. You can add a task to a client’s project then track your time using a stop watch-like feature on that task. It’s a great way to avoid manually entering a bunch of time.
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Bonsai review: room for improvement
Let’s be honest, no program is 100 percent perfect. There are definitely a few things I would change, add or improve to make it that much better for my business.
Bonsai touts itself as an “all-in-one” program, but to be honest, I don’t use anything on the client management side. I don’t email clients from the platform, except to send them invoices.
And while I’m trying to use their task management system to make my workflow easier. It’s really doesn’t function how I need it to. I use a separate project management, CRM and communication system. Right now, Bonsai works best for me on the accounting side.
I would also LOVE to see a more Honeybook-like proposal and brochure system. Something that’s more visually appealing and customizable so I can talk to brand new prospects, instead of those that I’ve already primed the pump for with an external brochure.
Lastly, I’d love to see more Canadian tax support and a dashboard that can show a converted figure in a currency other than USD.
But these are all wish list items. Right now, I truly believe that Bonsai is the best accounting app for small business and would highly recommend giving it a try.
Is Bonsai the right accounting app for me?
I can’t tell you that Bonsai is the right small business accounting app for you—that’s for you as the boss to decide. But I can tell you that it’s the right one for me and my business.
Bonsai does everything that I need an accounting app to do. A few of my favourite features that mean the most to me and my business, include:
- It’s easy to use
- It has a modern interface (seriously, non-modern doesn’t work for me)
- Creating and sending invoices is a breeze
- Collecting payments in multiple currencies is also a breeze
- It’s affordable
It doesn’t hurt that Bonsai has exceptional customer service and they take feedback seriously. When I first started out with Bonsai, I shared some features that would have made my life easier and some have been implemented (which you can’t say about every app).
The best part is that Bonsai offers a 14-day free trial, so you can see for yourself if it’s what your business needs. Go ahead, try Bonsai for free.
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