You may have heard that WordPress is free and wondered how that can be. In fact, you may have even been confused after hearing that some people pay for all or some of their WordPress website. Can all that be accurate?
Let’s take a look at what’s free and what isn’t when it comes to WordPress and what that really means.
Is WordPress free?
First of all, yes, the WordPress software is free and open source. Of course, there are many different open source licenses. I’m not going to dive into licensing here, but you can read the specifics on the WordPress licensing if you’d like.
How is it free?
Automattic is the company that coordinates efforts for WordPress, although many, many contributors to WordPress work for other companies.
Essentially, hundreds of people donate their time and expertise to help with WordPress while also doing other things that make them money. Even Automattic doesn’t make money directly off the WordPress software but from services related to it.
Think of it like a nonprofit. Many nonprofits provide free services because people donate time and money. Any open source software is very similar. In fact, the WordPress Foundation is actually a nonprofit that was founded in 2010 to support the WordPress community.
Are all the plugins and themes free?
There are hundreds of plugins and themes available for free, both on the official WordPress.org repositories and elsewhere. But there are also premium plugins and themes that you pay for. Sort of.
I’m no attorney, but my understanding is that you can’t officially be charged for any WordPress plugin or theme. However, what most of the premium plugin and theme authors technically charge for is support and automatic updates.
Do some companies still charge outright for themes and plugins? Whether they’re supposed to or not, some definitely do.
So why do people pay for a WordPress website?
Many people want professional help putting together their website. Whether it’s better design skills, experience in your industry, technical proficiency, or marketing expertise, there can be any number of reasons you hire a professional to help with your WordPress website.
Sure, the software your website is running on is free. But the time and experience a professional brings to the table is what you’re actually investing in.
Does any other part of a WordPress website cost money?
At the very least, all websites need hosting and a domain name to actually be online and accessible by others. But the costs for those can be minimal if you plan to manage everything yourself. Or you can invest more for higher-end services if you want someone else to handle it all for you.
The investment for those services can run anywhere from a couple bucks a month up to several hundred dollars a month, depending on your specific situation. Keep in mind, you tend to get what you pay for.
So while WordPress itself is free, that doesn’t mean your WordPress website will be. If you want to do a lot of the work and maintenance yourself and are happy with your own design skills, it can definitely be cost-effective to build your own WordPress website. But you may find professional help is worth the investment.