Many merchants cannot use PayPal because of country restrictions, verification issues, or because their type of business has been deemed “high risk” by PayPal’s risk management department. As those who use PayPal would know, the ability to create “buy now” buttons, or prepare and email a professional-looking invoice right within your account is very convenient.
On the other hand, if you use PayPal’s main competitor, Stripe, it has no such invoicing or Express Checkout features built into the account dashboard. Stripe is primarily aimed towards developers, who use its APIs to integrate the payflow into their custom applications. But what if you’re not a developer and you want to use Stripe? Luckily many open source, self-hosted scripts integrate directly with Stripe and other payment gateways (such as 2Checkout, WorldPay or Authorize.net) for e-commerce or sending invoices to customers.
Best Open Source Application for E-Commerce: WooCommerce
WooCommerce is a plugin that integrates with a WooCommerce-compatible WordPress theme to enable you to turn your website into a full-blown e-commerce store. Besides hosted solutions such as Shopify, WooCommerce is the most popular e-commerce application used by small-to-medium businesses.
WooCommerce was originally developed as a project of WooThemes, one of the best known commercial WordPress theme & plugin developers who has been a major supporter of the WordPress project for years. Even better, WooCommerce has now been acquired by Automattic, the core developers of WordPress itself. Having passed third-party security audits by Securi, a cybersecurity consulting firm, WooCommerce is considered secure even for large, well-known online stores when properly configured.
Thousands of elegant themes are available for WooCommerce, with functionality such as a navigation menu showing the items that have been placed in the shopping cart, widgets for searching/sorting products, and sliders/carousels for promotions. Whether you’re selling digital downloads or physical goods, WooCommerce can be customized to your needs. Unlike Shopify, you are not limited to “approved” payment gateways or shipping carriers. Since WooCommerce is an open source project, any vendor can develop an integration for it unlike Shopify. Depending on the plan you have, Shopify marks up the payment processing fees if you use a third-party gateway (i.e. not Shopify Payments).
WooCommerce supports 93 payment options including PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, Authorize.net, First Data, WorldPay, Sage Pay, Moneris and more. See the full list of plugins here.
If you are thinking about starting an online store, or moving your existing storefront from a software-as-a-service such as Shopify, WooCommerce is a well-supported and extensible alternative to consider. Shopify has been under investigation for promoting dropshipping schemes that resemble work-at-home or “get rich quick” scams in an aggressive effort to increase their user base. While not an implication of guilt, anybody who has signed up for a Shopify mailing list or free trial will know they are very forward with their marketing practices. Why let a company be the gatekeeper to your profits, when you can instead build your e-commerce store on a time-tested, open source platform that you completely control? Do yourself a favor and make an upfront investment in getting WooCommerce setup on your own cloud instance, instead of relying on a software-as-a-service that can change its terms at any time.
Best Open Source Application for Invoicing/Time Tracking: Invoice Ninja
For service-based businesses, the payment solution you require probably revolves around e-mailing & following up with invoices until they’re paid, rather than an e-commerce shopping cart. One of the biggest challenges that solopreneurs and small businesses face is cash flow, and encouraging customers to settle receivables sooner rather than later. After all, uncollected invoices aren’t good for paying employees and vendors; only “cash in the bank” is.
Even with a relatively small team, managing multiple spreadsheets, and reconciling them with the statements of work and master service agreements you have with your clients can be a huge hassle. Invoice Ninja is a time tracking solution, in addition to an invoicing app. Simply set up your list of employees and customers so each team member can associate billable hours with Tasks, using Invoice Ninja’s intuitive web-based interface. There’s even a start/stop timer to help your team keep track of billable time down to the minute, if necessary.
Using Invoice Ninja, you can invoice your customers based on agreed milestones and deliverables, or based on an hourly rate depending on what your pricing model is. The system is flexible, allowing you to make adjustments to billable time before sending a final invoice to the client. Your customers will also appreciate the Client Area that Invoice Ninja provides. It shows a complete history of invoices paid in the past, in addition to outstanding invoices that are coming due. Never will you or your finance department need to manually email invoices to your customers again when they require them for their records. They can simply login to their secure account and download any information they need.
We all know how frustrating it is to chase tardy clients for payment when the due date has come and gone. On one hand, you want to maintain a good relationship with the client, but on another hand, both parties need to honor the agreement they committed to. Invoice Ninja helps you consistently enforce billing policies by tracking when a client opened an invoice, sending “friendly reminders” before the due date, and follow-ups when invoices become overdue. You can customize the text of any of these emails to suit your company’s tone, and automatically levy surcharges/penalties for late payment.
Invoice Ninja invoices are fully customizable, permitting you to add your company logo, colors, custom fonts, and header/footer text, to the template for PDF files that are generated on-the-fly as you input information for each invoice.
Invoice Ninja supports 40+ payment gateways including PayPal, Stripe, Braintree, 2Checkout, Alipay, WorldPay, Bitpay, NetBanx, CyberSource, Dwolla and more. Our experienced team can help you deploy Invoice Ninja in the cloud, and integrate it with the merchant gateway of your choice. We will do it securely to protect your customer’s valuable information, and ensure your business’ financial data is safely backed up automatically. Contact us today about trying Invoice Ninja for your business.