WordPress is a free, open source software. Anyone can download and use it completely for free. You can even modify the way that the software works on the backend and distribute it for free. So from first click to final publish, WordPress is fully, completely free.
So is building a WordPress site free? Well, that’s where it can get complicated. Web hosting is not free, web design is often not free, plugins and extensions can cost money, and domain names cost money.
So technically, the cost of a WordPress site is free. But for all the other costs and fees, read on.
Domain Name and Hosting
Some hosting plans even come with a domain name, so that would dovetail these two costs. When you want to get your website on the internet, you’ll need to pay for hosting to allow people to access your site and a domain name to allow your site to have an address. Domain names and hosting can cost anywhere from a few bucks a month to thousands, depending on the type of website you’re trying to float.
Keep in mind that there is a free way to get your WordPress site hosted. WordPress.com offers free WordPress hosting for basic, blog-level sites that don’t generate a lot of traffic. If you want a custom domain name through WordPress.com, then you’ll have to pay for that.
Here is our Hosting Finder Tool that you can use to find the best solution to your needs.
Design and Content
If you’re running a website entirely by yourself, you may not have to pay anything for the design and content other than the opportunity cost of your own time. If you make your own templates and graphics, write your own code, make your own copy, and run the site completely by yourself then you can save money on design and content.
But, if you need to hire companies to help with design, you’ll be spending more money on design and content. These costs could be startup costs or recurring fees. Startup costs would be things like the original design and the code of the site. It can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to get a website designed for you by professionals. If you want to hire a blogger to continue giving you content to post, that will cost money each month.
WordPress is a free, open source website design solution. But some of WordPress is monetized through the purchase of premium themes. Everyone can make or modify themes and new designs for WordPress. There are thousands of these themes that are sold across the internet on online marketplaces. Themes range from just a few dollars to hundreds for a single theme. The average theme will cost maybe fifty or sixty dollars, for a good one.
There are also plenty of free themes that can be used, so you don’t have to pay for premium themes. You can also design your own themes or hire someone to design a custom theme for you as part of your WordPress site. Keep in mind that paid themes will be more expensive than designing your own, but they won’t be nearly as expensive as getting a custom theme designed.
Plugins and Extensions
WordPress is solution that carries over 50K plugins, absolutely for free. You can set up a photo gallery and build a contact form without ever paying for a plugin. Some plugins have a one-time cost to own the plugin, while others are free but have paid extensions. Still more plugins have a certain monthly or yearly fee to use them. There are spam filters, cache builders, backup options, and even simple drag-and-drop forms. While many plugins have free varieties as well, the premium versions become popular when they have built excellent code that solves a real problem in the WordPress community.
If you only go for free plugins, you could download a full 50K before you begin to run low. There’s plenty of runway to get interesting sites to float. But the paid solutions can be great. Here are just a few:
- OptinMonster: A beast that is built to chow down on conversion rates. It has all sorts of forms, full-screen CTAs, and those increasingly popular pop ups that hit when your mouse leaves the website. If you want to grow your newsletter and continue to hit a huge audience, it’s a great plugin.
- Restricted Content Pro: One great way to monetize a site is to setup a paywall that allows extra content for only the premium subscribers. Restricted Content Pro is a great way to do this on a WordPress site. You can take payments and set up special pages and content that is only accessible to people who have subscribed to the premium version of your site.
- Postmatic: If your WordPress site relies on engagement with users, including the dreaded comments section, Postmatic makes it so much easier. When you setup Postmatic, you get the conversations and comments in the form of emails. You can reply directly in your email and hit send, and the plugin handles everything else.
WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It, just like WordPress, is totally free. But it also has a number of paid themes and extensions that you can get to integrate with your site. You’ll probably be paying for shipping, PayPal, other payment solutions, and possibly even the graphics that you use for the site. Ecommerce has a really low entry bar, but the costs can rack up quick between plugins and extensions for WordPress.
So yes, WordPress is totally free.
That’s not a misleading statement. But “building a WordPress site” that will have any traction or will work for your business will definitely cost money. You’ll be paying for hosting. And honestly, if you’re paying for hosting, design and extensions are not the places to save money. Good websites can be expensive, but are vital if it is going to be the brand you want it to be. Your digital real estate matters. You should definitely start with the free version of WordPress, and even with a cheaper hosting plan. But expect things to get more expensive from there.