In a Nutshell: Founders and entrepreneurs go into business to solve consumer problems and earn a livelihood. But the administrative details of running a sole proprietorship or small business can cloud their inspiration and cost extra time and money. When a solution arrives to alleviate their concerns, they flock to it. That’s what’s happened with Invoice Ninja, a sophisticated yet affordable invoicing and expense management solution that does what it’s supposed to do without causing problems. Since 2014, hundreds of thousands of small businesses have adopted Invoice Ninja as their go-to invoicing tool.
The best business ideas solve problems that founders themselves have experienced, and that’s the story of Invoice Ninja. Invoice Ninja is a robust, flexible, yet surprisingly affordable invoicing and expense management tool that more than 200,000 sole proprietors and small business owners use every day to ensure they get paid for what they produce.
The secret sauce that has led Invoice Ninja to its leadership position in the SMB marketplace is that it doesn’t get in the way of what the business owner is trying to accomplish. Instead, it does the heavy lifting needed to help businesses get paid in a way that builds brand identity and trust without unnecessary effort to get the tool to work.
The reason it works that way is because of how it evolved. CEO and Co-Founder Shalom Stark said Invoice Ninja is a natural outgrowth of solving pain points he experienced as a travel and tour company operator in his home country of Israel.
“I was exhausted spending my days doing paperwork instead of running my company,” Stark said.
Stark said he tried many of the solutions available at the time. But he found that they either couldn’t provide basic functionality, such as the ability to take a deposit on an invoice, or they tacked on so many extra features that they became unwieldy.
So he decided to do something about it. He partnered with a full-stack developer, Hillel Coren, and they built the first iteration of Invoice Ninja in a few weeks. Stark knew they were onto something.
“I knew from the first wireframes, tests, and feedback that it would be a home run,” Stark said. “Sometimes you see a product that’s so intuitive it’s almost a pleasure to use.”
From Open-Source to Software as a Service
No one would realistically suggest that invoicing customers is fun, but what’s worse is not getting paid. Invoice Ninja transforms a necessary but tedious part of entrepreneurship into an opportunity to achieve a positive brand impression and help make submitting payment less of a chore for clients.
After “building and building and building” with Coren throughout 2014, the team brought on a third partner, David Bomba, in 2015. With Stark as CEO and Coren as Chief Product Officer, Bomba took the CTO role and has become integral to Invoice Ninja’s continual growth and evolution.
Invoice Ninja was originally open-source software meant for self-hosting on company servers. Over time, the SaaS option picked up steam and now 85% of current customers log on through the web and use it as a service. Still, Stark credits the open-source community for enthusiastically supporting the project and providing near-immediate feedback around features and functionality.
Today, it’s essential software for freelancers, service providers, tech entrepreneurs, gig economy workers, and small business entrepreneurs who comprise the backbone of the modern economy and need tools that work. They use it to streamline and professionalize the payment process and make sending invoices and receiving payment for services rendered as pleasurable as possible.
“We’re talking about SMBs with a focus on the small,” Stark said.
To explain the support and loyalty of these customers, Stark asks us to imagine what it would be like to rely on an email client that was too complex for ordinary users. They’d constantly have to communicate with customer support to find what ought to be a simple solution. Those who use email daily know we don’t have to do that because email “just works.”
“You should be able to log on and have it be intuitive enough to quickly create an invoice and send it off,” Stark said. “Trying to get paid shouldn’t get in the way of your business growing.”
Save Money and Add Flexibility Through Integrations
Affordability is a relative term, but Stark bets free sounds good to many who use Invoice Ninja without paying a dime. The free plan supports 20 clients with unlimited invoicing, and Pro and Enterprise pricing significantly undercuts competitors. The Enterprise plan supports additional users, access permissions, document attachments, and bank integrations for categorizing expenses and running reports.
“For a freelancer, a guy trying to get a business going, or a mom-and-pop shop, the difference between paying us a few dollars a month and paying one of our competitors $69, $89, or $129 a month is significant,” Stark said. “To be honest, there’s no need for it.”
Those features work great for those who need them, but the platform provides all the essentials of an invoicing tool at all pricing levels in ways competitors don’t match.
For example, the most recent version of Invoice Ninja integrates with 20 or more payment gateways, which contrasts with the usual two or three competitors offer.
Users may deploy separate gateways for different payment scenarios and pick and choose for multiple geographic or demographic regions.
“Let’s say you have a great rate for Stripe in North America, but some users pay in euros, so you pick another processor to handle that,” Stark said. “You want to make it as easy as possible for a person to pay.”
Another advantage of the platform is it doesn’t play games with data access. Every user receives unlimited data, so there’s never a question of whether the platform will stop working at a crucial moment.
“Even when you’re generating the PDFs and importing transactions and expenses, your data requirements are not that huge,” Stark said. “Why are these other companies charging so much money?”
Helping Small Businesses Cut Through the Clutter
None of it would matter if the invoices the platform produced made people think they were dealing with a fly-by-night operation. But Invoice Ninja houses ready-made templates and provides easy logo import and invoice design features to help entrepreneurs with few resources to devote to branding attain professional results. For Stark, it’s a matter of achieving brand trust.
“With the internet these days and so much scamming going on, when people receive an invoice from a company they’re doing business with, they want it to look professional,” Stark said. “And when they click pay now, they want to see a client-side portal with everything organized, clear, and concise.”
Invoice Ninja can handle that. It offers 11 standard design templates that can match logo colors to other business and design details without a lot of guesswork or burrowing into settings. It’s the same on the client side, with no coding ability required.
“When you send an invoice, you don’t want the recipient to hesitate to pay it,” Stark said. “You did the work, honored the contract, and closed the deal, so when the invoice goes off, it should be a no-brainer.”
A global customer base agrees Invoice Ninja provides that. The platform works with dozens of currencies and languages and accommodates all the necessary taxation structures. Invoice Ninja can ensure a seamless experience from the moment the invoice goes out to payment, and from payment gateways to invoice design, taxation, and much more.
Meanwhile, the three-person team handles all customer support personally. That may sound like a big job, but Invoice Ninja remains true to its open-source roots on platforms like Slack, Discord, and GitHub, where users help users. Stark, Coren, and Bomba value their hands-on approach to support, stay true to the entrepreneurial mindset, and run a lean operation.
“We reinvest into our app, our users, and our company,” Stark said. “We don’t have fancy offices and omelet chefs.”