Whenever you think about building a self-hosted WordPress website the first cost estimate that comes to mind is ‘FREE,’ but what is the real cost of running a WordPress website? Hint: Free isn’t the right answer.
WordPress Core Software
Yes, WordPress is open-source software maintained by some paid employees and a legion of volunteers and made available to the public at no charge. By keeping the core software free and having thousands of volunteers (aka the WordPress Community) maintain and improve it, there is little wonder why WordPress became the most popular CMS (content management system) in just 10 years. Today, one-quarter of all websites are built on WordPress!
Monetizing WordPress: Themes and Plugins
Just because the core software is free doesn’t mean that no one is benefiting financially from WordPress. In fact, thousands of people are making a lot of money through it. There is a huge market for themes and plugins that provide enhancements over the basic WordPress functionality. While there are a number of free themes, most themes worth using come at a licensing cost of $35-100 per year. Many plugins, including some of the most popular and useful ones, are free while other plugins take a hybrid approach and offer basic features for free and charge for an enhanced version. Finally, some plugins require you to purchase a license in order to use any of the plugin functionality. A typical website might have 15 plugins of which all but 2 or 3 are free. Those few that come at a cost are typically about $30-70 per year each.
If your website includes an ecommerce capability (shopping cart) with a payment gateway that accepts credit card payments, there will be additional variable and fixed monthly costs — primarily for credit card processing services.
Backups and Updates
A website is a living organism that requires periodic care. This includes updating software (WordPress, theme and plugins) and backing up the site so that nothing is lost in a crash or hack. Prices for such services are all over the map, but you should expect to pay at least $350 per year. Buzzquake offers a WordPress Care Plan for $365 per year.
Domain Name and Web Hosting
There are monthly costs associated with the companies who provide the domain name and hosting for your website. Domain names cost about $15 per year and web hosting costs between $5 and $40 per month, depending on services, server speed, and the level of technical support offered. We highly recommend SiteGround hosting configured specifically for WordPress websites.
WordPress is designed to allow laypeople to make changes to their websites. In our experience, however, only a small percentage of our customers want to do this work. Most ask us to update their websites for them at an additional cost. Even if you intend to update your site yourself, don’t forget to budget some money to buy stock images and consulting help, should you get stuck. Costs could range from $200 to $3,000 per year.
The cost for a domain name, web hosting, a care plan, and paid software such as themes and plugins can range from approximately $750 – $1300 annually, depending on the configuration of your website. With the addition of content changes, the total annual cost of running a website can range from roughly $1000 – $4500 or more depending on the complexity of your site and how much of the maintenance and content updates you are willing and/or able to do yourself.