Among the many platforms to create a professional-looking website, WordPress is the most popular one. But, you need to understand which WordPress version is for you – WordPress.org or WordPress.com. As they are different from one another, they require different investments.
You might be wondering – is WordPress free? The answer depends purely on which platform you choose.
In this article, I will discuss what WordPress is and the difference between the two versions. Also, I will discuss the costs of running a WordPress site.
What is WordPress?
Released in 2003, WordPress was built to be a platform for personal online publications. Early versions of WordPress were used mostly by bloggers.
Today, most people choose WordPress since it grew to be a lot more than just a blogging platform. Millions of sites on the web are powered by WordPress, as it allows us to create any kind of website – be it a blog or an official government site.
WordPress is a constantly evolving platform with more than 400 contributors involved in its development. They play a significant role in the availability of its themes and plugins, and of course, to the improvement of WordPress’ core itself.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
When creating a website with WordPress.com, you don’t need to worry about buying web hosting or a domain name. All you have to do is create an account, choose whether you want to use the free or paid plan and start customizing your website.
Also, running a self-hosted site means you need to manage it from top to bottom, from constantly updating your WordPress website to customizing and managing its themes and plugins.
In this article, I will discuss the main differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
If you decide that you want to use WordPress.com, you have to create a free account. With that comes a free subdomain, some of its themes, and 3 GB of storage for your new website.
To make your website look more professional and unique, you can upgrade to one of their premium plans. This allows you to get advanced features such as removing WordPress branding and using a custom domain.
Their monthly pricing – billed yearly – looks something like this:
- Personal ($5 per month) – you can use a custom domain.
- Premium ($8 per month) – monetization tools are included.
- Business ($25 per month) – installing plugins is allowed.
- eCommerce ($45 per month) – introduces advanced ecommerce features.
If you choose to opt to use WordPress as a CMS, you need to invest some money in your domain name and web hosting services to build a self-hosted WordPress website. The price does vary from company to company, but it costs somewhere around $10 per year for a proper domain name and as low as $1 per month for web hosting services depending on your provider. We’ll talk about this in more detail later on.
Themes and Plugins
Themes and plugins allow you to customize your site to your heart’s content making it more unique and helping it stand out from others.
As previously mentioned, only those with the WordPress.com Business plan can install plugins. You should consider this if you want to use WordPress.com for free. Not only that, if you want to tweak themes, upgrading to their premium plan is your only choice.
A self-hosted WordPress works a bit differently. You will have full control of your WordPress site, meaning that you can install as many plugins as you want to power up your website. Also, you can customize your design or tweak your theme. However, if you want more customization than using WP Theme Editor, some coding skills are required.
All of the content on your WordPress.com site belongs to you. However, under their Terms of Service, you agree that WordPress is allowed to redistribute your content for specific purposes. That means you should consider using this version very carefully if copyright is your biggest concern.
You may also lose access to your WordPress.com site if they, at any point, plan to shut down the service for a certain reason.
Nonetheless, you can be assured that your self-hosted WordPress site along with all of its content is your property and no one can replicate it without your permission. Not only that, you can keep your website as long as you don’t violate any rules of law.
This is the main difference between WordPress.com and WordPress org.
You can customize your site by adding and changing themes and installing plugins.
While WordPress.com allows you to change the theme and install plugins (again, that is for Business and eCommerce plan users only), you can’t make any changes to the structure of your WordPress.com site. This is because you have no access to the source code to modify it.
In the self-hosted version, you can make a fully custom website that makes it even more special and unique. Unlike WordPress.com, this version allows you to access the WordPress core to modify both the HTML and CSS files. You can even install your own custom plugins and themes. Keep in mind that you should always be careful when tweaking your theme via the Theme Editor. Modifying the theme’s code may break your site entirely.
Is WordPress Free?
Using WordPress free of charge is possible. However, it comes with a lot of limitations.
For example, you can own your very first website right this minute – if you want – using WordPress.com and post content without exceeding the 3 GB storage limit. Nevertheless, if you want to use a unique domain, you have to pay for it one way or the other. Not only that but in order to use plugins, you are also required to upgrade to at least their Business plan.
On the other hand, downloading, installing, and using WordPress.org software is free. However, without a domain name and hosting, you don’t have a website that would be accessible online.
So, why does WordPress allow you to use their services for free?
As previously mentioned, WordPress.org is an open-source platform involving many people as its contributors. Being open-source means, it is publicly accessible, and no particular party can have exclusive control over it.
WordPress is also licensed under GPL (General Public License), meaning that it is intended to be freely distributed.
Additional Costs for Running a WordPress Site
To begin with, making a WordPress site for free is completely acceptable. However, you can’t get the full experience of using WordPress this way.
For those who want to build an online presence for the long term, using a self-hosted site is always recommended. Investing money to gain better performance and functionality is really worth your while.
Here is what you need to prepare to run a self-hosted WordPress site:
1. Hosting Service
You need a hosting service to make your website accessible online. Web hosting companies allow you to rent spaces on their servers to store your website’s content.
Depending on your needs, you can choose the best hosting plan for your website. This is one of the benefits of using a self-hosted WordPress – that’s scalability.
There are different types of hosting as well.
Are you just starting out? In that case, shared hosting is probably your best option. This plan is offered at an affordable price with sufficient bandwidth for personal blogs or small to medium websites. Since it is mainly targeted towards beginners, shared hosting commonly offers a simple setup. Most hosting companies like Hostinger even offers a one-click WordPress installer.
Once you feel like scaling up, you can get a premium shared hosting service that usually gives more bandwidth, regular backups, and secure SSL certificate. Or, you can choose a fully managed cloud hosting service that offers better speed and better performance for a large scale project. Typically the two most popular options are Shared and VPS hosting.
Most hosting providers offer 24/7 customer support services too, so they will help you out if you ever run into certain issues.
When it comes to paid web hosting services, there is Bluehost that offers their services from $2.93 per month for their Basic plan; Dreamhost that costs $4.95 per month (Shared Hosting for WordPress) and SiteGround with their Startup plan for $3.95 per month.
2. Domain Name
A domain name is your online identity. Picking the right name that represents your website well is critical.
Using a custom domain is beneficial for branding because it allows you to have better recognition, especially if you use a short name that is easy to remember.
Adding to that, a unique domain name can build your trust towards your customers. For example, let us say you use californiacraft.com. If your website shows a collection of great handcrafted products, your visitors will trust the fact that you are the expert in such a niche.
When a search engine finds that your domain name matches the product that you are selling, you will have a better chance to rank higher on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP).
Having a custom domain offers the flexibility to choose a business-specific name too. For example, you can use .design for a design-related business or .travel for travel-focused websites.
Basically, you begin by choosing a domain registrar, checking the availability of the domain name you want and it will generate you a list of the best available options. Once you complete the checkout process and verify your ownership, the selected domain will be yours to keep.
Unfortunately, it is not a one-time purchase and you will have to pay periodically to keep your domain name available only to you, usually every few – one to three – years.
The price for each domain name varies from company to company. For the most popular top-level domains (TLDs), such as .com it starts somewhere around $10 or .net for about $8.00.
For ones that are less popular, prices are usually cheaper – .co for about $0.74 or .website that is somewhere around $0.99.
Some hosting providers usually offer bundled package discounts along with a free domain name. Usually, if you pick a certain hosting plan for at least a year. Of course, every following year, you need to pay for the renewal fee if you decide to stay with the same domain.
3. Premium Plugins and Themes
A huge collection of themes in the WordPress directory would is more than sufficient to make a professional-looking website. However, if you need a unique design or want better features such as a built-in SEO, you can buy a premium theme – either from WordPress itself or a third-party developer. Most premium themes provide customer support services too.
There are also free and paid plugins available that you can install on your WordPress site. While their pricing models do differ from one another, their main purpose remains the same – to improve your website with additional features.
Each plugin is different and offers distinct functionality options. For example, you can use the Yoast SEO Premium plugin to optimize your keywords and keyphrases. Premium plugins offer better support in case you run into certain issues.
Building a fully-custom website can be challenging if you don’t have the required skills. You need to either hire a web developer or learn how to code. If your budget is not too tight and you are determined to properly invest in your business, hiring a web developer might be your best solution.
When hiring a web developer, you have to decide whether you want your website to be made from scratch, or offer him to do a single specific type of job. For example, you want your web developer to make a template design and customize the theme for you or you want to hire him to fix any bugs that plague your website.
You have to consider every detail yourself since it will affect the cost when hiring a developer.
Adding to that, you need to decide whether you need a full-time developer or a freelancer. If you something for a short period of time or handling one specific area of your development, hiring a freelancer is a better option.
There are many places where you can hire a web developer, and Toptal is one of the best solutions out there. You can hire a developer anywhere from $60 per hour. For a full-time development job, it costs somewhere around $2,000 to $3,000 per week to get the job done.
Codeable.io is another great place that is designed to be a WordPress-specific freelance platform. The minimum rate at Codeable.io is around $70 per hour. Likewise, the famous Upwork will cost you from $8 to $97 per hour, depending on the developer’s skills.
Take Your Pick
WordPress allows you to create a nice and functional website. However, you may ask yourself – is it free?
With WordPress.com, you can start creating websites right away because you don’t need to think about things like owning a domain name, hosting services, or updates. Everything is well covered for you in one neat package.
WordPress.com offers its free plan and gives you an assortment of free themes, a subdomain name, and 3 GB of storage free of charge.
On the other hand, a self-hosted WordPress.org site requires you have at least a small budget. It should cover all of the essentials, such as finding a hosting service and purchasing a domain name. You might even consider buying premium themes, and plugins or hiring a web developer to handle specific tasks.
Now, you only have to decide whether you want to use WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress.org. Remember that the choice depends entirely on your vision and what kind of a website you want to build. Good luck!