Is WordPress Free? A Deeper Look Into WordPress Pricing and Reasons Behind It
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in the world.
It’s a highly customizable platform, suitable for many different website needs. Additionally, it’s highly scalable, making it a perfect fit for small personal blogs to large enterprise websites.
This CMS is also open-source, meaning that users get access to its source code for free. Thus, those who have sufficient coding knowledge can customize the software in any way they like.
Is WordPress free to use? Yes, but it has some premium features. This article will discuss what you can get for free and what you should pay to run a website using WordPress to figure out the necessary budget.
Is WordPress Free to Use?
There are two types of WordPress – WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The former is open-source software that’s free to use, while the latter is a hosted solution that offers a free plan.
When we discuss WordPress, we mainly refer to WordPress.org, the self-hosted WordPress version. This is the free CMS software developed by independent contributors that you can download and install on your web hosting to create a WordPress site.
Open-source is a development method that encourages open collaboration to make the software better. Therefore, the source code and documentation are available to the public for free to enable users and developers to use, improve, and modify it as they see fit.
WordPress.com, on the other hand, is a hosted WordPress service owned by Automattic. Instead of finding a web host yourself, WordPress.com provides these services for you. Similarly to any web host that offers WordPress plans, WordPress.com uses the WordPress software to provide a website creation platform for its users.
This makes starting a WordPress.com website relatively easy. Users simply create accounts and choose a plan to access the blogging platform and get a free subdomain. Also, a free WordPress.com plan is available, making it possible to create a small personal blog.
That said, the convenience of a free WordPress.com plan comes with a few compromises.
For example, instead of a custom domain like www.yourwebsite.com, it only provides subdomains, such as yourdomain.wordpress.com. The only way to use custom domains is by upgrading to a paid plan.
WordPress.com also puts advertisements on your site. Not only you won’t get the ad revenue, but these ads can make your site less appealing and less professional.
In this sense, Automattic provides a free WordPress.com plan as an entry for new users or beginners. When users need to scale up their sites or use a custom domain, it’s necessary to subscribe to a premium plan.
How Does WordPress Make Money?
WordPress.com makes money by offering hosted WordPress solutions at a price. Their premium plans range from $4/month for the Personal plan to $45/month for the eCommerce plan. In addition, WordPress.com earns revenue from ads placed on sites that use its free plan.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is not owned by a specific company. The domain WordPress.org itself is owned by the WordPress Foundation, a non-profit organization.
Thus, the foundation itself doesn’t make any money. However, many WordPress users contribute to WordPress by donating to the foundation.
Even so, the WordPress Foundation doesn’t pay the developers who work on the WordPress software. Instead, these developers make money by developing and selling WordPress-related products such as plugins, themes, or WordPress web development services.
What Can You Get for Free on WordPress?
You get three main items for free on WordPress – the core open-source software, themes, and plugins. Not only is WordPress free to download but you also get updates for the items for free. Now, let’s take a deeper look at each aspect.
Core WordPress Software
First and foremost, you get free, open-source core software. However, you need to have web hosting and a domain name to make it work, which we will discuss later in the article.
Once you’ve got web hosting, install WordPress directly from your hosting account or download it from WordPress’s official website and install it manually.
If you’re using Hostinger’s hPanel, simply navigate to Website -> Auto Installer and select WordPress. You’ll need to input the credentials and choose the WordPress version to install. Make sure to select the latest WordPress version available.
A WordPress theme is a pack of files that define the appearance of the site. It may come with page templates, typography, color options, and various customizable website elements and widgets.
There are thousands of free themes available for customizing your blog, eCommerce, and other types of sites. However, we recommend downloading free WordPress themes from the WordPress theme directory.
These themes undergo strict reviews by the WordPress themes team to ensure they meet the security standards. Avoid downloading free WordPress themes that are not available at the official WordPress directory.
In fact, if you get a theme from an untrusted source, you risk downloading a theme with malicious code or other vulnerabilities that attackers may use to breach your website.
Other than that, here are a few things to look for when choosing a free WordPress theme for your site:
- Responsiveness – most people browse the internet using mobile devices. Having a responsive and mobile-friendly theme makes your site look great on any screen size.
- Frequent updates – developers update WordPress themes with new features, bug fixes, and, most importantly, security patches. We recommend choosing a WordPress theme that has been updated in the last six months.
- Multipurpose vs. purpose-built – multipurpose themes suit various types of websites. That said, purpose-built themes help you quickly launch eCommerce, portfolio, or online magazine sites.
To install a WordPress theme, download it from the WordPress directory. Then, go to your WordPress admin panel and head to Appearance -> Themes, and click Add New to upload the theme files.
For example, take a look at one of the most popular free WordPress themes – Astra. It’s a multipurpose theme that offers 85 pre-made templates.
Once you’ve installed the theme on WordPress, simply import one of the templates and start customizing from there instead of designing the website from scratch.
A WordPress plugin is an additional code package that adds more features and tools to expand the functionality of a WordPress website. There are plenty of plugins for different needs, such as page builder, security enhancement, and contact form plugins.
Just as free themes, we recommend getting free plugins from the official WordPress directory. Also, look for the last time the developers updated the plugin to ensure it won’t have security or compatibility issues.
Let’s take a look at the Elementor page builder as an example. It enables you to customize the appearance of a site using an intuitive drag-and-drop editor.
This method is far easier for some people than using the default WordPress Customizer, where it’s possible to change the site’s appearance through the options on the sidebar.
WordPress updates are essential to keep your WordPress site safe from bugs and malicious attacks. Free updates apply to the core WordPress software, plugins, and themes. Also, some premium plugins and themes offer free updates for a limited time.
When an update for the WordPress core software is available, you’ll get a notification at the top of your WordPress admin panel. Alternatively, navigate to the Dashboard -> Updates section, where you can check if your core WordPress software, themes, and plugins are up to date.
We recommend running the core WordPress software update on a WordPress staging environment or a test site first. This helps you identify any compatibility issues with existing themes or plugins in a safe environment. Such issues can break a feature of your website, which you don’t want to happen on its live version.
What Do You Have to Pay for When Using WordPress?
You have to pay for a hosting service and a domain name to have a live WordPress website. Also, you may need premium plugins or themes to get extra features.
The following is a breakdown of the cost of using WordPress.
You need web hosting to use the self-hosted version of WordPress. Hosting companies provide the infrastructure such as server and storage space to store your website files and make the website accessible to visitors. Read our tutorial to learn more about web hosting.
Various hosting types are available, each with a different price range and suitable to a different traffic volume range:
- Shared hosting – the most affordable hosting type, with prices starting at $1.99/month. It uses one physical server to host multiple websites. This hosting is best suited for smaller websites with low to medium traffic.
- VPS hosting – uses a similar infrastructure to shared hosting, a single physical server to serve multiple clients. However, each user gets isolated server resources to improve reliability and performance. The prices range from $3.99/month to $77.99/month.
- Cloud web server hosting – the best option to maximize uptime. It uses a cluster of servers to ensure a server with issues is quickly backed up by another. However, it also costs more, with prices ranging from $9.99/month to $29.99/month.
- WordPress hosting – the service optimized for WordPress. It includes features like multiple PHP compatibility and an unlimited MySQL database. The prices for WordPress hosting range from $1.99/month to $9.99/month.
It’s worth noting that each hosting provider may offer different hosting packages. Thus, we recommend checking these aspects when choosing a web host for a WordPress site:
- Compatibility with WordPress – WordPress requires PHP 7.4, MySQL 5.6, and HTTPS support to run smoothly.
- WordPress auto-installer – this feature lets you install WordPress easily from your hosting account’s dashboard.
- Excellent customer support – 24/7 customer support and a knowledge base will be essential if you run into problems.
- Enhanced security – protect your website and visitors from cyber attacks by getting a hosting plan that includes an SSL certificate. Automated backup is a great addition too.
- Great uptime guarantee – make sure that the hosting provider guarantees 99.9% uptime.
A domain name is a string of letters, numbers, or characters that act as the address of your website. To get a domain name, you should find an available name representing your business and register it on a registrar – a company that sells domain names and handles the registration process.
The price of a domain depends on the top-level domain (TLD) chosen. There are plenty of extensions available, but the most popular one – .com – may cost $9.99/year. On the other hand, a domain name with a .net extension costs $12.99/year.
Another factor to consider is the domain registrar itself. While the difference won’t be remarkable, it’s worth checking the price of a domain name at several registrars to get the best price.
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Once you’ve registered a domain name, you’ll have to renew it every year. To save costs, look for a hosting provider that gives you free web domains for the first year of your hosting plan.
Premium WordPress themes come with more customization options, intricate web designs, and dedicated support.
In general, there are two kinds of premium themes – an expansion of a free theme, meaning that the theme uses the freemium business model or an exclusive premium theme that has no free version.
Let’s take a look at the previous example, Astra. While the free version offers 85 pre-made templates, the premium version has a total of over 150 pre-made templates to choose from.
Another significant difference is its white label feature. It lets you rename the theme and present it as a product from your brand. This feature is handy for developers who want to build and strengthen their brand.
When it comes to pricing, there are two models – one-time fee and subscription-based. That said, some premium themes adopt both pricing models to give more options for their users.
Take a look at Astra Pro’s pricing, for example. There are three plans – a basic Astra Pro plan and two additional plans that include page builder add-ons and plugins. These plans are offered both as a lifetime license and an annual subscription.
When buying a premium theme that offers several plans, check the detailed feature list and make sure you pick the right plan.
Unlike free themes, WordPress doesn’t have an official repository for premium themes. Instead, visit the theme homepage to see if there’s a premium theme version. To find it, go to the theme page on the WordPress directory and click on Theme Homepage.
Alternatively, browse the available premium themes on a theme marketplace like ThemeForest and Template Monster.
If you are looking for a premium theme on third-party marketplaces like these, be sure to pick one from a reputable developer. Check its reviews, documentation, and when was the last time they updated the theme.
Premium theme prices range from as low as $13 to over $200 for a lifetime license. If you opt for a subscription-based plan, prices start at $47/year and go over $100/year.
We advise you to check the inclusion of updates so that you don’t have to pay extra money to keep the theme updated.
Another tip is to carefully pick the theme so that you don’t have excessive features.
Developers often put many features to make their themes heavily multipurpose, customizable, and competitive. That said, this can cause theme issues such as significantly increasing the page size, which negatively affects the page loading speed.
Just as premium themes, premium plugins offer more features and customer support channels than their free counterparts.
Let’s compare the free Elementor plugin with its premium version – Elementor Pro.
The free version provides you with a drag-and-drop page builder, basic widgets, and basic templates.
Elementor Pro, on the other hand, includes features like a theme builder, pro widgets, pro templates, and motion effects like parallax scrolling and hover effects. The highest-tiered plan also includes VIP support through live chat.
Just like premium themes, premium WordPress plugins are not available on WordPress’s official directory. Therefore, get them from the plugin’s homepage or third-party marketplaces like CodeCanyon.
There are also two pricing models – subscription-based and one-time fee. The price for a plugin in CodeCanyon starts at $6 for a lifetime license. However, it can go higher, like Elementor Pro, which ranges from $49/year to $999/year.
Make sure to pick one from a reputable developer by checking user reviews and if it’s regularly updated.
It’s possible to design a WordPress site yourself, even without coding experience. However, heavily customized WordPress sites might need a tweak in the plugins or themes code, such as custom CSS. In this instance, you may need to hire a website developer.
The cost of hiring a WordPress developer varies depending on your needs and the developer’s experience. Hiring a developer to customize an existing WordPress site will cost significantly less than creating a custom WordPress site from scratch.
To stick to the budget, hire a freelance developer on platforms like Fiverr or Upwork. While there’s no fixed price, you can expect to pay hourly rates between $15 and $28.
Alternatively, hire a web development agency or web design service provider. In this case, you’ll pay for the service package necessary to complete the website’s project.
Support and Maintenance
When it comes to managing a WordPress website, you are pretty much on your own. Some of maintenance tasks include handling updates, implementing WordPress security measures, uptime monitoring, and speed optimization for your WordPress.
These tasks take a lot of your time that could otherwise be useful for expanding your business and investing in the site’s content.
If you want to get someone else to handle these tasks, there are two options – hire another team member or use a WordPress maintenance service.
WPBuffs is an excellent example of a support and maintenance service provider. It offers 24/7 website monitoring and emergency support, website edits, core files and database backup, and mobile optimization. The cost ranges from $66/month to $373/month billed annually, depending on the plan chosen.
Other maintenance providers may offer more specific services. For example, MalCare specializes in WordPress malware removal and security support, ranging from $99/year to $2999/year.
What Are the Benefits of Using WordPress?
WordPress is a highly versatile tool for creating a website. There are plenty of themes and plugins to make your site work and look exactly how you want. Plus, WordPress has a large community, so finding tutorials is easy.
Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of WordPress.
As free and open-source software, WordPress has a large community contributing to its development. They also help fellow users through WordPress documentation and forums.
The documentation and forums are divided into several categories, making it easy to find the topic you need. Some of the documentation categories cover installation, basic usage, and customization.
Similarly, forums are divided into bug reports, WordPress development, and feedback. Additionally, each theme and plugin has its own forum, where users can ask for help to solve site issues related to them.
WordPress allows creating various kinds of websites, even though it was built as a personal publishing platform.
First, let’s get back to WordPress plugins. There are over 58,000 of them in the WordPress directory to help expand your website’s functionality.
Let’s say you want to build an online store. Since the backbone of WordPress is a blogging platform, there’s no default way of creating a product listing, checkout page, and accepting online payment.
The WooCommerce plugin lets you have these features. Once you’ve installed the plugin on WordPress, there will be an additional WooCommerce section on your WordPress admin panel to configure the product listing, checkouts, and payment gateway.
WordPress themes help you gain versatility in terms of web design. There are plenty of web design possibilities with over 8,000 themes in the WordPress directory to choose from. Not to mention that each theme may include multiple pre-made template options.
That said, WordPress’s web design is not limited to pre-made templates – you have control over the placement of certain elements like headers, sidebars, or widgets. Themes also provide interactive features like parallax scrolling and hover effects to make your website more visually attractive.
Lastly, WordPress’s open-source nature brings impressive versatility. It allows everyone to open and modify the source code to make it work or look exactly the way they want.
For example, you download a theme because of its functionality, but you want to modify the look beyond the predefined theme. Simply add custom CSS by using the theme customizer or a custom CSS plugin.
Built-In Blog Features
WordPress is a blogging platform at its core, making it easy to integrate a blog into the website.
For example, a non-profit organization can use a blog to write articles about the organization’s activities, such as the blog available on the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) site.
Freelancers and bloggers make use of blogging to make money. Even for businesses, blogging is still important as a part of content marketing strategy. Having content with great search engine optimization (SEO) helps drive organic traffic to the website, consequently increasing the website’s conversion rates.
To scale up a WordPress website, you need to focus on hosting resources, themes, and plugins.
Start with shared hosting if you don’t expect high initial traffic to the website when it comes to the hosting service. As the traffic increases, you can move to VPS hosting to get isolated resources, more RAM, and storage space.
Alternatively, cloud hosting offers more scalability by adding more RAM and optimizing uptime thanks to the cluster of servers.
Once you get hosting sorted, there are still a few more aspects to consider to scale up a WordPress site. For example, the site may contain unnecessary code that is slowing down the website.
Additionally, optimizing the website speed can also be done in multiple ways, like utilizing a content delivery network (CDN), installing a cache plugin, and optimizing WordPress images.
Great for SEO
There are plenty of WordPress SEO plugins available to improve your site’s ranking on result pages. Yoast SEO is one of the most popular, making it easy to add meta descriptions, meta titles, and image alt texts. This plugin also analyzes your content draft based on desired focus keywords to improve on-page SEO.
In addition, it’s possible to customize the URL slugs for WordPress pages and posts to make them shorter and more SEO-friendly.
Not only is WordPress free but the self-hosted WordPress can be used as open-source software. In addition, you can use free add-ons like plugins and themes to create a website.
However, to have a fully functional and live website, it’s necessary to pay for a few other elements. A hosting service and domain name are two mandatory ones. Premium themes and plugins are optional but can make your website even better.
If you want to get someone to help create and maintain a WordPress site, you have to pay for the service separately.
To recap, here are the costs of some of the components necessary to create and run a WordPress website:
- Hosting service – starts at $1.99/month for shared hosting and goes up to $77.99/month for VPS hosting.
- Domain name – $9.99/year for a domain name with a .com extension, $12.99/year for a .net extension.
- Premium theme – starts at $13 for a lifetime license but may cost up to $47/year if you opt for a subscription-based plan.
- Premium plugin – from $6 for a lifetime license to $49/year if you opt for subscription-based pricing.
- Web developer – depends on the developer’s experience, but the average hourly cost is $15 to $28. If you pick a web design service from an agency, prices range from $399 to $999.
- Support and maintenance – WPBuffs offers WordPress maintenance services ranging from $66/month to $373/month when billed annually.
Now you have all the elements necessary to calculate the costs of creating a WordPress website. Good luck.
Read more about WordPress
Compare WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
How to Create a Multilingual WordPress Site
How to Login to WordPress Dashboard
Guide to WordPress Featured Images
Is WordPress Free FAQ
In this section, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about the WordPress CMS.
What Are the Best WordPress Alternatives?
The most popular WordPress alternatives include:
Wix – popular drag-and-drop website builder
Squarespace – premium website builder known for its high-quality templates
Shopify – an eCommerce CMS
BigCommerce – an eCommerce CMS for medium to large-sized brands
Is It Possible to Migrate a Website from a Different CMS to WordPress?
Yes, there are two ways to do it. You can either use a WordPress importer plugin or hire a professional developer. We recommend the latter if you have limited technical knowledge since the smallest misconfiguration can result in data loss or security issues.
Do I Need to Know How to Code to Use WordPress?
Can I Monetize My WordPress Website?
Absolutely! There are several common ways to monetize your website, including pay-per-click advertising with Google AdSense, affiliate marketing, turning the site into an online store, and creating a membership website.
January 11 2022
You did an excellent job! WordPress and many of its add-ons are free. Nonetheless, you'll need to spend money on both hosting and a domain name. Fortunately, entry-level free web hosting services, as well as moderately priced web hosting services, are readily available.
January 11 2022
Hello there, thanks for your input - you're completely right. We actually have an article on how much a website costs on our blog - if you'd like to check it out :)
May 05 2022
This is really interesting