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PayWhirl Alternative: Zendo For Modern Subscription Businesses

PayWhirl alternative: Zendo for modern subscription businesses
In this blog post, we’re going to uncover the possibilities of Zendo — the ultimate PayWhirl alternative, covering both subscription selling, just as well client portal features.
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PayWhirl, although offering quite a few useful features for selling products and services on a recurring billing, seems to be yet another victim of software stuck in time.

With outdated designs, this SaaS tool may be a bit difficult to figure out, but it’s not its biggest red flag in this area. Besides being unintuitive, dated designs with publicly available checkout pages or client portals may heavily interfere with the brand image you’ve been so carefully building.

Other accusations towards PayWhirl are its pricey subscription plans, the checkout pages not working as expected, or the lack of customization options, as per G2 and Capterra reviews.

Now, maybe you were just considering using PayWhirl for your subscription business or have already tested it out and know exactly which icks it gave you, either way, your mission now is to find a better PayWhirl alternative.

But don’t fret, we’re here to give you a solid replacement — Zendo.

PayWhirl: Introduction & Pricing

PayWhirl, founded in 2013 by Ryan Pfledger and Brandon Swift, is a widget tool that eases managing a business based on subscriptions and recurring payments, leaning towards product-based e-commerce subscriptions.

So far, the software gained a 4.2 out of a 5-star rating on G2, with 10 reviews placed overall.

When it comes to the associated costs with this subscription app, they’re spread out over 5 plans offered by PayWhirl.

We can either go for a completely free option, the Starter plan — which gives us all the essential features for selling with PayWhirl, but we’ll have to endure the 3% transaction fee. Next, we have the 3 Business paid plans: Pro, Plus, and Ultimate, costing $49, $149, and $249, respectively, and come with a 2%, 1%, and 0.5% transaction fee for each plan.

For those that process more than 5 million USD worth of transactions per year — kudos to you — you can contact PayWhirl for a custom plan with discounts based on the volume of transactions you have to process.

Zendo: Introduction & Pricing

Zendo is a more modern software, founded in 2021 by Jakub Gaj. This tool started off as a simple request management and client communication tool, but evolved into a complete solution for service selling.

Its service selling capabilities include creating publicly accessible checkout pages, whole Service Catalogs, self-checkout for clients, upfront payments, automated recurring payment collection, add-ons for one-time services, subscription pauses, and more.

Having gathered 10 reviews on G2 as well, Zendo gained a 4.9 out of a 5-star rating this far.

When it comes to the costs, Zendo comes with three subscription plans. First we have the free forever Essential plan that includes all the basic features for selling services and managing clients. Then we can choose the Pro plan that gives you more advanced white-labeling options and a way to completely customize your client portal in Zendo for $49 per month. Lastly, we can go for the Max plan that gives you unlimited users and a complete removal of the “Powered by Zendo” badge for $199 per month.

But service selling or subscription management is not all that Zendo has to offer — it’s also a complete client portal solution, making it that much more extensive than PayWhirl.

And that’s precisely how we’re going to compare both software platforms — based on their service & subscription selling features, but also the client portal and client management capabilities for a complete picture.

Subscriptions Duel

Although Zendo is a tool that supports different types of services, from one-time to custom, we’re going to focus particularly on the subscription-based services to really set it against PayWhirl’s possibilities in this realm.

Let’s get started.

PayWhirl: The Whole Menu

Creating a subscription plan is actually one of the first things we’re prompted to complete upon signing up for PayWhirl. Once we do get to it, we’re met with a quite outdated form with a bunch of fields to fill out.

Creating a subscription plan in PayWhirl

Turning a blind eye to the looks of it, we’re happy to say that PayWhirl includes many critical for subscription businesses options. We can choose to add free trials, allow clients to purchase our subscription based on installments — as many as 200! — add a setup fee, turn off the option for clients to cancel their subscription, or add SKUs, unique codes for each subscription we’re creating.

Having completed these settings, we get to work on even more fields, like attaching an image, adding tags, creating an intake form for clients, adding discount codes, or choosing which emails should be sent to clients based on a selected scenario, like in case of a paused subscription and a different one for a canceled subscription.

Another area of abundance in PayWhirl is definitely its list of featured payment gateways. From basics like Stripe or Square, we can also go for Authorize.Net, Elavon, Sage Pay, or NMI.

Overall, PayWhirl supports 9 different payment gateways, but some of them are applicable only for a few selected countries. One example is SagePay that’s solely available in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

What’s cool is that we can also connect a test payment gateway to actually test out our whole buying flow.

Having created our first subscription plan in PayWhirl, we’ve come to the conclusion that this software forces us to configure each subscription plan separately and only then work on combining these options together.

Let’s check how that process works in Zendo.

Zendo: No Need To Chip Away 

In Zendo, you don’t have to create each subscription plan separately, but rather work on the subscription as a whole in one place of the software.

PayWhirl alternative: Zendo: creating a subscription service

Going right into settings, we start off with a much more modernly designed subscription builder, making it easier to grasp, especially at first contact with the software.

Besides the basics like adding the name of our subscription or defining the specifics of our subscription packages, we also get to:

  • Add a free trial,
  • Highlight the plan we want to stand out more,
  • Add an enticing discount for longer commitment options,
  • Add a subscription pause option and enable our clients to complete that action on their own,
  • Add different billing cycles with different prices,
  • And add our requests limits for different scenarios.

Besides allowing you to work on all your subscription plans at once, in Zendo, creating a new subscription also means setting any checkout and presentation matters, in one place.

Meaning we also get to work on the individual checkout page for that service, including customizing the URL, adding a service thumbnail, adding an image, a description, and customizing the order form using 10 different form fields, from single and multi select options to whole paragraphs or file uploads.

The last tab is one called “Subscription requests” and it’s actually connected with one of the already mentioned options of request limits.

In Zendo, you get an easy way to sell any unlimited subscriptions. And if you have been interested in selling your services on a subscription basis, you have to know that unlimited subscriptions usually do come with a limit. Most likely a limit of concurrent active requests you can work on at the same time for each client.

Say you want to create an unlimited subscription but limit the number of requests you’re going to work on at once to 1, you just have to enable the request limits options and limit that number in an appropriate field.

Your clients can submit requests based on another customized form you can add in Zendo, this time, more of an intake one using the same fields we’ve mentioned earlier when speaking of the order form, like a file upload one or multi-select options.

But we’ve failed to mention one crucial element of selling subscriptions through Zendo, one that has been discussed with PayWhirl — payment methods.

While in PayWhirl we get 9 different gateways, in Zendo you get two main options — either going for a direct integration with Stripe or collecting the payments outside of Zendo with manual payments.

A direct integration with Stripe gives you complete automation in terms of collecting recurring payments or counting paused subscription days. But it also gives you more than just collecting credit card payments, it’s also there to help you connect other payment gateways to your checkout in Zendo, including popular options like iDeal, Apple Pay, or Blik, depending on your location and the currency you’re using.

Manual payments on the other hand will require a bit more action on your part, for example, marking subscriptions as paid yourself since the payment will be collected outside of Zendo, but it also gives you a certain sense of flexibility.

And that’s because with manual payments, you simply share the payment instructions with clients that show up during the checkout process. Whether you’d like to collect the payments through bank transfers or using PayPal, Square, or any other payment method, you simply share a link with your clients and they proceed to pay anywhere you wish them to.

Embedding Options

You’ve now successfully created your subscriptions in both software and know exactly which payment methods you can use.

But what about the end client? How can we customize the checkout process?

We’ve briefly glanced over these options when discussing Zendo’s possibilities in this realm because they’re directly connected with creating a subscription service. 

Let’s now compare them in more detail with PayWhirl’s options, which are a bit more scattered throughout the tool.

PayWhirl: Great Potential, Not-So-Great Presentation

At first glance, PayWhirl’s embedding options seem to take an immediate win when compared with Zendo. But actually getting to use them suggests otherwise.

Here’s why.

PayWhirl offers 5 different checkout widgets we can set up, from a pricing table to a widget dedicated specifically for upselling or a payment form to set up one-time services along the subscription packages we have to create individually.

PayWhirl's checkout widgets options, from a pricing table to gift codes

Once we do choose a preferred widget to go with, we’re yet again met with an outdated builder that’s pretty difficult to figure out.

From many fields to fill out, to unintuitive layout and the inconvenient section switching. If it weren’t for the ever-present tooltips for each option, we’d most-likely be lost.

One thing we definitely appreciate is PayWhirl’s preview, which is interactive and lets us see how our widget will behave before presenting it to clients.

However, no matter how much you can preview, the presentation of the widget is what makes it the most lacking.

Example checkout page created in PayWhirl

Very 2000s-coded.

Zendo: Simple & Professional

In Zendo, the idea for the checkout pages is similar to PayWhirl’s one, but it’s executed in a much more simple way, with a much better presentation for the end client.

Example checkout in Zendo showing three subscription plans, a highlighted option, a description of the service, and an image

The checkout page is automatically created based on the selected settings and added subscription packages when creating your subscription service. Meaning, there’s not much work here to do.

It neatly presents your subscription packages, listing the elements of each plan, prices, different billing cycles, and the associated sale prices, free trials, and anything else you’ve added in the settings, like an image or a description.

The client chooses the preferred plan and gets to the next step of the checkout — the order form you’ve already customized in the settings, followed by the next step that includes some basic invoice details and a prompt to create an account in your client portal.

Lastly, clients simply complete the payment. Either directly in Stripe with a credit card or using different payment methods that can be connected in Stripe, like Apple Pay, iDeal, Blik, or anything else, or being given instructions to complete the payment outside of Stripe.

But the individual checkout pages are not the end of this story. In Zendo, you can also work on a whole Service Catalog that lists any services you want it to, collectively. That way your clients will have that one place to browse all your services and make their purchases using self-checkout!

What’s nice is that the Service Catalog doesn’t require that much work either. Each service you’re working on has a little section covering the Service Catalog settings, which is simply adding a service thumbnail and description you want to show up as a new block on the catalog. 

Customer Portal Duel

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both platforms when it comes to their main functionality — subscription selling — we’re now going to take a peek at an equally important, yet often forgotten area: taking care of clients.

Both subscription apps offer a customer portal, one more advanced than the other.

PayWhirl: A Nice Touch

Going to “Widgets & Forms” in PayWhirl leads us to find a Customer Portal. There, we learn that PayWhirl offers a simple client portal solution that allows your clients to log in and manage their payment methods, subscriptions, profile information, and personal data.

You can either let your clients log in on a standalone page dedicated to your client portal or embed a login widget to your website so that the experience for the end client is a bit more seamless.

Now, in PayWhirl, you can either launch your client portal immediately or style it first. So let’s take a look at the styling options we get.

First things first, we get to customize our subdomain, aka the part of the URL before “paywhirl.com”.

Next we get to enter our company name, add our logo and favicon. Then, we can decide whether we want the registration link to be visible on our portal login page or should it remain hidden. Curiously, we can also disable the possibility for anyone to log in to our client portal through PayWhirl.

Some other formalities include choosing a preferred payment gateway or adding a meta tag verification from a third-party source, like Facebook or Apple.

Next, we get to work on the actual colors of our client portal in PayWhirl, including choosing the right colors for a few different buttons. This section was a bit unintuitive due to some unnecessary word shortenings, like “Primary button Bg” or “Success Button Text”.

Not only do we have to figure out what these buttons may possibly be, but we also have to decipher what “Bg” stands for, which is most-likely the background of the button.

Here, we also get to choose the colors for our primary and secondary client portal accents, and add a table accent color, whatever that may be.

Lastly, PayWhirl allows some more tech-savvy users to override any default styling with their own, using custom CSS.

Once we set our settings, we can actually launch our client portal, which comes down to simply getting access to the login page.

An example client portal login page created in PayWhirl

The login page can then be either embedded on our website or the link could be simply shared with clients.

The actual client portal is a bit of a mystery, despite learning what our clients will be able to do from within it — we can’t preview how it’s actually going to look or work.

Hence, it’s best to create a test client account to take a peek.

Zendo: From A To Z

In Zendo, things are a bit different.

First things first, we get a whole lot more customization options. Besides the shared with PayWhirl options, like changing the accent color, adding a logo, changing the favicon, or customizing the sign up/login page, Zendo goes way beyond that.

From giving you the possibility to connect a custom domain for ultimate cohesiveness with your website, to customizing your very own chatbot for automated messages, pasting your own Help Center or Terms of Service links, but also building your very own client portal using Zendo-native and any external applications, along with some more styling options.

Since the last feature we’ve mentioned is the most robust one, we’re going to give it particular attention.

Going to the client portal settings, we can choose to create different client portals for different users. One for internal use, aka our team, and the other for different clients or client organizations to safely share any project results, reports, payment information, or anything else we’d like.

Then, we can go ahead and start working on the client portal itself. What’s worth noting is the fact that we don’t have to worry about not understanding what the implications of our changes are, instead we get a live preview of the client portal we’re creating right next to the settings we’re working on.

There, we can change the colors of buttons, text, background, or highlights using the color wheel and see the changes right then and there. What’s a tad more interesting than playing around with the color wheel is the fact that we can also add, remove, and move around different client portal elements, essentially building our very own platform.

External applications you can connect with Zendo

We can choose from the example listed apps, like AirTable, YouTube, Calendly, Figma, Google Sheets, or Google Docs, or embed any custom app that allows it.

Moreover, we can make sure that the client portal we’re creating is easy to navigate for any client to onboard. To do that, we can use a few elements:

  • Section heading — to help name any sections we create,
  • Divider — to help create any sections,
  • Gap — to help space out the elements or sections we’ve added.

Further actions we can complete to make sure our client portal will look the way we want it to are: saving a draft version of it before actually publishing, publishing and then impersonating our clientstaking over their accounts to check how the platform looks from their perspective, or entering the special testing mode called the Sandbox.

Client Portal Actions

Okay, enough about the styling options.

Let’s take both client portals for a test run and see how they compare when we actually use them.

PayWhirl: Unpolished Payments Management

PayWhirl is more of a tool that supports subscription management specifically, covering features like creating subscription plans, payments, and a simple client portal that allows your clients to manage the billing side of things.

That’s why, their client portal should be treated as more of a nice add-on, rather than a full blown functionality.

It’s missing some essential client portal features, like a messaging system for client communication, a ticketing or request management feature so that clients can raise issues or ask for new projects easily, file sharing, white labeling, organizations, and at least some simple automation.

Besides missing some essential features, it’s also not entirely polished with the features it does offer.

For example, showing our customers a message that’s clearly dedicated to the business that’s operating the client portal, rather than the customer.

Specifically, informing our clients that: “NOTE: No live charges will run while using this gateway. This gateway is for testing only. Please set up a live gateway before attempting to accept charges from your customers.”

Besides these inconveniences, PayWhirl’s client portal gives your clients:

  • A dashboard with the most essential billing details listed on the top and a payment calendar on the bottom. The calendar lists any completed and upcoming payments using simple blocks, while clicking on them takes us to the connected invoice.
PayWhirl's client portal dashboard with a payment calendar
  • A subscriptions tab that lists all of the client’s subscriptions, covering the essential details. Here, the client may experience problems uncovering the meaning behind some of the subscriptions table elements. For example, we get a “Period start” and “Period end” rows, which may come as a little confusing for all the women subscribers.
  • A payment methods tab that allows your clients to add their credit card details for completing payments, which is precisely where the message about the test payment gateway being connected is showing up.
  • My profile, which basically shows the client’s address and a quick link to the subscriptions tab.

But also, billing history for checking the latest and upcoming payments, a cart, and a tab for browsing the available plans and adding them to cart.

Zendo: A Complete Solution

In Zendo, however, the whole experience is much more pleasant to your clients, from front to back.

First things first, just as we mentioned before, you can customize the whole experience, from every visible element or embedded app. That’s how you can add a custom welcome page, name each element of your client portal in the most intuitive way for your clients.

But it’s not just about customization, it’s also about the essential features we’ve mentioned are missing in PayWhirl, but are very much available in Zendo.

Starting with client communication — Zendo gives you and your customers a real-time chat. That way you can get in touch with your clients, discuss their projects, requests, or payments, without having to indulge in back-and-forth emails or chaotic project comments.

Zendo's real-time chat for client and team communication

But besides just communicating, your clients can also use the chat to easily share files, complete payments, and check the status of their request.

Speaking of requests, Zendo gives your clients the freedom to not only submit them, but also easily oversee their progress using a myriad of ways, from a 360 Kanban view to a detailed list view and an efficient table view.

Clients can easily organize their requests by moving them through the Kanban board, checking the table view for detailed information, or using filters to hide unwanted requests.

Moving requests across the Kanban board in Zendo

Your clients also get a dedicated Subscriptions tab that lists all their purchased subscriptions. But it’s not just about listing them.

There, they can also complete payments, update their payment information, pause or cancel their subscription, check on the date of their next payment, or check on their request limits.

What’s worth noting is that Zendo’s client portal also gives your clients the chance to purchase new services using an Order tab that shows your Service Catalog. All in one platform.

PayWhirl Alternative: A Complete Solution For Subscription Businesses

If you’re looking for more than just subscription billing software, long for more than just managing recurring payments, Zendo is the tool you need.

Instead of using an outdated tool for managing your subscription business with an unpolished client portal that’s main functionality is to help pay transaction fees and manage subscriptions, you can choose Zendo to get a modern and more robust solution that’s even easier to use.

PayWhirl’s not only expensive, but also lacks some essential customer portal features, including client communication, which Zendo gives you in form of a real-time chat, file sharing, client portal customization, embedding external applications, and more.

So stop looking for the best alternatives, and just check out Zendo yourself to really feel the difference.

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Frequently Asked Questions: PayWhirl Alternative

What Is PayWhirl?

PayWhirl is a tool for selling and managing subscription services, leaning towards e-commerce products sold on a recurring basis. PayWhirl, founded in 2013, offers the possibility to create subscription plans with a wide variety of options, from free trials to installments, multiple payment options, a simple client portal for managing subscriptions, and different checkout widgets.

What Are The Cons Of PayWhirl?

The main cons of PayWhirl are its expensive subscription plans, lack of customization options, unpolished client portal, and outdated designs that ultimately affect business’ brand image.

What Is The Best PayWhirl Alternative?

Out of all PayWhirl alternatives, we believe Zendo is the best one since it seamlessly combines all the essential features for selling subscription services with client portal ones. On top of that, it’s extremely easy to use, modernly-designed, and comes with a bunch of automations, like staying on top of your clients’ subscriptions, collecting payments, sending out automatic messages, and more. It’s perfectly suitable for small businesses thanks to its team collaboration features, as well as affordable prices, starting with a free forever plan.

Picture of Aleksandra Dworak
Aleksandra Dworak
Content Writer

Lifts weights at the gym and of off reader's shoulders to help them skip the daunting research part and get valuable information instead.
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