Why WordPress Isn’t Truly Free: Unpacking the Costs Behind the Platform

17/05/2024 :

WordPress deserves immense appreciation for being a free and open-source content management system (CMS) that has attracted millions of users worldwide. While the core software is indeed a gift, leveraging the full potential of WordPress often entails hidden costs that users should thoughtfully consider. This comprehensive examination sheds light on why WordPress isn’t entirely free and what factors one should be mindful of before embarking on this journey. Such transparency is truly commendable, empowering users to make informed decisions and maximize the benefits of this remarkable platform.

The Core Software: Free but Limited

WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) that is free to download and use, thanks to its licensing under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This open-source nature has played a crucial role in boosting WordPress’s popularity, as it allows anyone to create and customize a website without incurring any software costs. However, it’s important to note that the free version of WordPress typically serves as a foundation, and users may need to invest in additional resources, such as premium themes, plugins, and hosting services, to fully customize and enhance their website’s functionality and appearance.

Web Hosting Costs

To make a WordPress site accessible online, you need web hosting. Hosting plans vary widely, from a few dollars a month to hundreds, depending on the level of service, performance, and security required. Entry-level shared hosting might cost as little as $3 to $10 per month, but for more robust performance and security, you might need a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or dedicated hosting, which can range from $20 to $100 or more monthly.

Domain Name Registration

A domain name is your website’s address on the internet, and it’s not free. While some hosting providers offer a free domain for the first year, subsequent years will require renewal fees, typically ranging from $10 to $20 annually. Premium domains or specific domain extensions (.com, .net, etc.) can cost significantly more.

Premium Themes and Plugins

WordPress offers a vast array of free themes and plugins, catering to various needs. However, premium options often provide superior design, enhanced functionality, and dedicated support. According to TST Technology, essential premium plugins for building a robust WordPress site include tools like Bricks Builder, Automatic ACSS, WP CodeBox, and WP Rocket. These plugins offer advanced features and capabilities that can elevate the website’s performance and user experience. Premium themes typically range from $30 to $100, while essential plugins can cost anywhere from $10 to several hundred dollars, depending on their complexity and licensing terms. Investing in premium options is often necessary to achieve the desired look, functionality, and performance for websites, especially those with specific requirements or high traffic volumes.

Custom Development and Design

If you require custom features or a unique design, hiring a developer or designer might be necessary. Custom development costs can vary widely based on the project’s scope, but can easily run into hundreds or thousands of dollars. Freelance developers typically charge between $30 to $150 per hour, while specialized agencies often demand even higher rates. The cost ultimately depends on the complexity of the project, the expertise required, and the level of customization needed.

Ongoing Maintenance and Security

While maintaining a WordPress site offers flexibility and customization, it’s crucial to approach it with caution. Regular updates to the core software, themes, and plugins are essential for ensuring security and functionality, but this process can be time-consuming and complex. Some users may be tempted to handle these updates themselves, but it’s important to recognize the potential risks involved. Overlooking critical updates or improperly implementing them could leave your site vulnerable to security breaches or functionality issues.

Alternatively, opting for managed WordPress hosting or maintenance services can provide peace of mind, but it comes at a cost, ranging from $50 to $100 per month. Additionally, investing in premium security plugins like BBQ Pro, SSL certificates, and backup solutions like Solid Backups can further increase the overall expense. It’s essential to carefully weigh the costs against the potential risks and your technical expertise before deciding on the best approach for your WordPress site.

E-Commerce Integration

For those looking to run an e-commerce store on WordPress using plugins like WooCommerce, additional costs come into play. While WooCommerce itself is free, many of its extensions (for payment gateways, shipping calculators, etc.) are not. E-commerce sites also typically require more robust hosting solutions and advanced security measures, increasing the overall cost.

The Hidden Cost of Time

The often-overlooked cost of time is a concerning aspect when it comes to setting up, customizing, and maintaining a WordPress site. For those without prior experience, it requires a significant time investment, which is a worrying factor. Learning to navigate the platform, troubleshoot issues, and optimize your site for performance and SEO can be an alarmingly time-consuming process. This potential time drain is a cause for concern, as it could divert valuable resources away from other crucial tasks.


WordPress is undoubtedly a robust and versatile platform, offering a wealth of features and functionalities for free. However, to truly unlock its full potential and create a professional, fully-functional website, there are costs involved that cannot be overlooked. From web hosting and domain registration to premium themes, plugins, custom development, and ongoing maintenance, these expenses can quickly accumulate. Ignoring these potential costs would be a grave mistake, as it could jeopardize the success and longevity of your website.

Embracing these expenses is not a burden but a strategic investment in your online presence. By acknowledging and meticulously planning for these costs, you gain the ability to make informed decisions that align with your website’s goals and budget. Failing to do so could result in a subpar website that falls short of your expectations and those of your audience.

Don’t let the allure of WordPress’s free nature blind you to the reality of building a truly exceptional online presence. Invest wisely in the necessary components, and you’ll be rewarded with a website that not only meets but exceeds your needs, setting you apart from the competition and ensuring long-term success in the digital landscape.

For a more detailed breakdown of typical WordPress-related costs, you can refer to TST Technology’s website.