Bonsai Accounting Review 2024

Our Verdict

Firm favorite for simplifying financial management amongst digital creatives

Bonsai might not have all the features of a traditional accounting software platform–like double-entry accounting and payroll–but then, we don’t think it’s trying to be traditional. In the last few years, the rise of digital, remote freelancers has risen dramatically, and Bonsai stands as an excellent, forward-thinking solution for that demographic.

If you’re a freelance creative looking to get a handle on your finances, reduce bill shock when it comes to taxes, and save time on invoices, then Bonsai is definitely worth trying out.

Pros

  • Great for digital freelancers
  • Clean, intuitive user experience
  • Integrated CRM and project management capabilities
  • Easy to set up and use for beginners

Cons

  • Bookkeeping and tax assistance is not included
  • No double-entry accounting
  • Only one seat per plan

Bonsai Plans & Pricing

Bonsai offers three plans, each of which comes with a 7-day free trial that allows you to test out the software before committing.

While Bonsai Accounting will put you back at least a couple of hundred dollars annually, it’s worth remembering that your subscription is tax deductible, making it worth the investment.

Plan Starter Professional Business
Monthly Cost/User $21/month $32/month $66/month
Free Trial
Users 1 1 Unlimited subcontractor access
Double Entry ✅ – with integration ✅ – with integration
Manage Expenses
Reporting
Expense tracking
Profit and loss
Invoices and payments

Expense tracking
Profit and loss
Invoices and payments

Expense tracking
Profit and loss
Invoices and payments
Customer Support
24/7 chat support
Email support

24/7 chat support
Email support

24/7 chat support
Email support

Alongside these plans, Bonsai also offers two additions that can be purchased with any plan: Bonsai Tax, which costs $10/month, and a team seat, which also comes in at $10/month.

A quick word on the team seat. This is a feature that allows you to invite a collaborator to share your Bonsai account with you. If you’re a startup or small team, this feature will be for you, but we don’t recommend using it with the Starter plan because, as you’ll find out below, it lacks the integrations to automate payroll.

Starter – starts at $21 per month/year

For freelancers just starting out, or who want one platform for financial management and customer relationship management (Bonsai also offers a wealth of tools in this area), then the Starter plan is the way to go.

Instead of spending time hopping between Excel documents, PayPal, and other web pages to keep track of your expenses and invoices, Bonsai becomes your one-stop-shop for financial management, making the often overwhelming task of administration easy and centralized.

Saying this, the Starter plan has some downsides. Namely, all of the invoices you send will have Bonsai’s branding on them. Depending on how strong your brand values are, this could be a frustration.

Professional – starts at $32 per month/year

Along with all the features in the Starter plan, you also unlock the ability to remove Bonsai branding and put your own brand stamp on your invoice templates and client portal with the Professional plan.

Beyond that, the Professional plan comes with three valuable integrations: QuickBooks, Zapier, and Calendly. If you work with contractors or have people on your payroll, then these integrations will be a must to make the most out of the platform.

Last but certainly not least, the Professional plan’s stand-out feature is undoubtedly its automation capabilities. With this feature, you can set up automatic invoicing and invoicing reminders, which is a great time-saver for freelancers with monthly retainers or subscription customers.

Business – starts at $55 per month/year

As it says on the tin, the Business plan is ideal for businesses, particularly startups and small creative agencies. Alongside all the features found in the Professional plan, the Business plan also enables you to onboard and manage subcontractors.

Of course, this feature speaks more to Bonsai’s project management capabilities than its financial ones. However, for growing businesses looking for an all-in-one project management and accounting platform, Bonsai certainly has a lot to offer.

Bonsai Overview

Starting price $21 per month
Best for Digital freelancers looking to streamline accounting and project management in one platform
Customer support Online chat support and help desk
App integrations QuickBooks, Zapier, and Calendly
Security & Compliance PCI Level 1 Service Provider, GDPR compliant, PBKDF2 encryption
Payroll ✅ – through integrations
Reporting & analytics
Mobile app
Double entry ✅ – through integrations
E-signatures
Auto-alerts and reminders

Features

Now that we’ve covered pricing, the next step in our Bonsai Accounting review is to explore the platform’s accounting features. Here’s what we loved and didn’t love after testing Bonsai for six weeks.

Invoicing

Bonsai's invoicing and payment features

It has to be said that it’s hard to appreciate Bonsai’s invoicing and payment features without giving a nod to the rest of the platform. What makes Bonsai so appealing is, undoubtedly, how it auto-generates invoices based on any proposals and contracts you create.

The platform really wants to make the often painful invoicing process as touch-free as possible. As well as automatically sending recurring invoices for you, Bonsai Accounting autonomously sends client reminders, and you can even set it up to incur late fees should you wish to.

On top of that, we love the breadth of invoicing templates Bonsai offers, which is in line with some of the best invoicing software on the market. All of the templates look professional, with tons of color and style options. Plus, with the Professional plan, you can quickly and easily add your own branding to your invoices.

Payments

Bonsai's payments feature

Your customers can pay by wire transfer or you can enable Paypal and Stripe to connect to your Bonsai account, so your payments will transfer directly to these platforms.

Bonsai additionally offers a feature called Bonsai payments, which allows customers to pay via credit card, debit card, and bank transfer (ACH) directly into your Bonsai account. However, you’ll then need to transfer this money into your PayPal, Stripe, or bank account later on.

However, we noticed that if your clients pay by wire transfer, you will need to manually mark when an invoice is paid in Bonsai, as the platform won’t know when the money has entered into your account.

Secondly, all invoices incur a payment processing fee. Although, in the Settings tab, you have the option to pass on these processing fees to your client, so you don’t have to pay them.

Time-tracking

Bonsai's time-tracking feature

If time-tracking is the bones of your invoicing system, then Bonsai delivers another great feature with its time-tracking function, available within the Bonsai application, mobile app, and as a Google Chrome extension.

The time tracker is intuitive to use and can be found in the top right on the Bonsai home screen. Better still, we loved that Bonsai allows you to set up email reminders that prevent you from going overboard on your allotted time for a project.

When it’s time to invoice a client, you simply go to the project in question and select “Invoice Unbilled Hours”. At this point, Bonsai Accounting will automatically generate an invoice for you that’s ready for review and sending.

Bookkeeping and Tax add-on

Bonsai's tax and bookkeeping feature

For an extra $10 a month, you can make use of Bonsai’s tax and bookkeeping features, but whether you need this feature or not will depend on your company’s ingoings and outgoings.

For example, if you only send out a few invoices each month, and you don’t have many expenses, the bookkeeping feature might be unnecessary.

However, from a tax perspective, Bonsai’s analytics capabilities are valuable for every sole trader’s financial planning, giving you a real-time, accurate picture of your finances all year round.

With the Tax feature enabled, you’ll be able to connect your business bank account to Bonsai. Once you’ve done this, the platform will automatically import your expenses in real-time and categorize tax write-offs, so you maximize cost efficiency.

When it comes to tax management, Bonsai’s add-on really helps you to take charge of your financial planning. Instead of any unpleasant surprises on tax day, Bonsai helps you understand just how much tax you owe on a quarterly basis.

Bonsai Bank

Bonsai's business banking solution

If you’re a sole trader without a dedicated business bank account, Bonsai also offers customers in the US a business banking solution that connects seamlessly with its platform.

Just like any business bank card, you can use Bonsai Bank for online payments and even put it in your digital wallet. Just like providers Monzo and Revolut, Bonsai Bank allows you to put your income into different ‘pots’, making it easy to optimize your spending.

On top of that, Bonsai Bank users benefit from Bonsai’s ‘Instant withdraw’ feature, which allows you to transfer money from Bonsai to your bank account in minutes, rather than waiting days.

Integrations

We were pleasantly surprised by the number of integrations Bonsai offers. Many–like Slack and Google Mail–work to enhance the project management side of the platform. But Zapier and QuickBooks stand out for their financial management capabilities.

While some people solely use QuickBooks for their accounting needs, Bonsai can make the invoicing process more seamless and low-touch, thanks to automated features that let you easily turn unbilled hours into invoices and the recurring invoice capability.

With the QuickBooks integration, invoices and expenses documented in Bonsai will automatically be updated in QuickBooks, where you can perform payroll and double-entry accounting.

To do this automatically, you’ll need to make use of Zapier to create an automation that ensures invoices paid through Bonsai are updated in QuickBooks. While this took us a little bit of time to set up, to begin with (about half an hour), once the automation is in place, you don’t have to think about it at all.

Bonsai Customer Reviews

We wanted to see what other Bonsai users had to say, so we took a look on Reddit and TrustPilot to gain a deeper understanding of how customers felt about the platform.

On Reddit, a lot of users wrote positively about Bonsai, praising its breadth and depth of information resources that help freelancers understand the administration side of working as a sole trader.

Recurringly, we also saw users praise Bonsai for its ease of use and wide range of features.

A Bonsai Accounting Review on Reddit

In terms of accounting software, specifically, we noticed that some users preferred QuickBooks to Bonsai for bookkeeping. Likely, this comes down to personal preference. If you want features that connect project management to financial management then Bonsai is a great solution.

However, if you’re looking solely for an accounting solution, QuickBooks offers a solution at a similar price point.

On TrustPilot, users were similarly complimentary of the Bonsai platform for its intuitive interface and capabilities. As one user noted, Bonsai has saved them hours of time spent on administration each month.

The only negative we saw, which came up repeatedly, was the speed of Bonsai’s customer service response. Multiple users, albeit still a minority, gave one-star reviews because they couldn’t get in touch with customer support, or customer support failed to resolve the problem after they had an issue.

What is Bonsai Good for?

Bonsai is an excellent platform for digital freelancers and startups looking to centralize project management and accounting while benefiting from the power of technology automation.

While it doesn’t have the payroll functionality to appeal to larger businesses, for creatives that use subcontractors, freelance event planners, graphic designers, or writers, Bonsai certainly has a lot to offer.

Bonsai vs Top Competitors

Provider Bonsai QuickBooks Kashoo Wave
Best for Digital Freelancers Established small businesses Small businesses and startups Service-based small businesses
Starting Price $21/month $15/month $18/month (billed as annual payment of $216) $0/month
Free Trial 7-day free trial 30-day free trial 14-day free trial Free basic plan
Payroll ✅ – through integration ✅ (from $20/month)
Reporting
Mobile App ✅ – on iOS and Android ✅ – on iOS and Android ✅ – on iOS and Android ✅ – on iOS and Android

Bonsai vs QuickBooks

As we’ve mentioned, Bonsai and QuickBooks are less competitors and more complementary players. Whilst Bonsai is built to make creating and managing invoices easy for freelancers and startups, QuickBooks is a go-to accounting solution for small businesses.

The major difference between the two lies in the fact that Bonsai streamlines the entire administration process of running a freelance business, from drawing up a contract to sending an invoice. QuickBooks, on the other hand, focuses solely on financial tasks like payroll, reporting, and invoicing.

Read more about QuickBooks in our QuickBooks review here.

Bonsai vs Kashoo

Bonsai and Kashoo are geared towards slightly different audiences. Whilst Bonsai’s primary target market is sole traders, Kashoo aims to make accounting simple for small business owners with less than 10 employees.

While Kashoo has some functionality that Bonsai does not – like double-entry accounting capabilities – many freelancers won’t need this capability, so won’t miss it. Plus, with Bonsai offering features to automate invoices and set up contracts all in one platform, it stands out as the winning solution for freelance individuals.

Discover all the details in our Kashoo review.

Bonsai vs Wave

Wave is another popular double-entry accounting solution, particularly because many of its features are free. If you run an online shop, such as one on Etsy or eBay, then Wave is one of the best choices you can make. It allows you to import transactions from your bank account for free and offers intuitive dashboards that help you keep track of profit and loss.

Bonsai, on the other hand, is more geared towards freelancers who take on project-based work. With its ‘bill hours’ function and invoice templates, Bonsai is attempting to track a different type of sole trader to that of Wave.

Find out more in our Wave review.

How We Test Accounting Software

It’s our priority to give you unbiased, detailed advice about the different accounting software platforms we test. To do this, we test each provider for at least 30 days so that we can truly get to grips with the platform’s benefits and shortcomings.

  • Pricing – We compare the pricing of each software platform against a range of well-known players to gain an accurate picture of its affordability within the market.
  • Features – With our knowledge of the best self-employed accounting software platforms, we compared Bonsai’s features against other leading providers, assessing ease-of-use, reporting capabilities, bookkeeping, CRM integrations, and security.
  • Integrations – For each software platform we test, we assess the integrations offered and how they support the platform in helping the end user achieve their goals.
  • Automation – Efficiency and accuracy is typically the number one priority with accounting software. We test for automation capabilities across every feature, letting you know when a platform can enhance your productivity.
  • Ease of use – A platform that is difficult to use can be off-putting and become a time drain in itself. We approach the user experience of every review as if we have never used accounting software, judging how easy it is for non-technical users to get to grips with.
  • Third-Party Reviews – To gain an in-depth picture of a product, we combine our reviews with reviews collected from reputable third-party websites like Reddit and Trustpilot.

How to Choose the Best Accounting Software

When looking for the best accounting software, it’s vital to consider a few factors, including your budget, the features, and the level of customer support you need.

  • Price – Look at the price of the software both initially and over a several-year period. You want something affordable now, and will become even more affordable in the future as your business grows.
  • Features – Explore the features offered in each plan. You want a provider that can meet as many of your needs as possible, without you having to purchase additional software. If you’re debating between two plans with the same provider, make sure you don’t miss out on crucial features in a higher-tier plan.
  • Scalability – Mull over your long-term plans for your business, and think about whether this software has the flexibility to scale with you as you grow and gain more customers.
  • Ease of use – Any software you invest in should be user-friendly, intuitive, and pleasant to use. That way, you’ll be able to start benefiting from it right away, rather than spending working hours trying to learn how to use it.
  • Integrations – Make sure you can access the integrations you need within the plan you pay for. As for Bonsai, integrations are only available with higher-tier plans.
  • Customer support – If you get stuck, you want to have a customer support team you can count on. Make sure the provider you go for is easily accessible, ideally by 24/7 live chat.

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Hannah Pisani

Hannah Pisani is a seasoned writer with a keen focus on the intersection between technology and the evolving nature of work. Over the last five years, she has written content for numerous leading technology brands, including Microsoft, AWS and Oracle. She regularly contributes to international technology publications such as Silicon Angle, Cloudwards and Techopedia. Hannah's depth of knowledge encompasses HR software, cybersecurity, SaaS tools and marketing optimization. She thrives on leveraging her expertise to empower business leaders, guiding them towards informed decisions that optimize efficiency and drive productivity.