As WordPress is a popular website and blog platform, it might be confusing for some people to know whether or not it’s free.
WordPress has a free platform available to everyone. The software itself is free, but there are costs attached to it including plugins and themes. But all of the advancements made and information gained through the software — referred to as WordPress core — will always be free for you, and other people with WordPress websites.
Is WordPress Free? Key Points to Know:
WordPress is a free and open-source software (FOSS) created by a volunteer team. Anyone can download, edit, modify, and customize the software as long as they release it under the GNU General Public License (or GPL). And while using an open-source platform gives you instant benefit of being able to monetize your website by selling customized plugins or themes, being able to start up on FOSS gives you plenty of value that cannot be overstated.
It’s free to download the software, but you might be charged for:
- Premium support
- Updates of premium plugins/themes
- Premium themes
- Premium plugins
As a future WordPress developer, you’ll need to understand the two main meanings of “free.” One sense is that it’s a service you can instantly jump into and start building. The other is that it gives you freedom as an individual or startup business owner to make your own decisions. I’ll help you understand the many options available in terms of starting out with WordPress.
So, let’s get started!
The Two Meanings of Free Applied to WordPress
To determine whether WordPress is free, it helps to understand the two ways people often use the word ‘free.’
These are sometimes referred to as “free as in beer” and “free as in speech”.
As the first word people usually think of when they ask if WordPress is free, the answer often has to do with monetary value: free as in beer. However, this word doesn’t mean what it means elsewhere. A beer can never be free as in speech, either.
WordPress is a website creation platform. It permits anyone to publish content on their own blogs and websites, meaning you can publish whatever you like and reap the rewards from it without any restrictions.
So let’s look in more depth at the ways in which WordPress is free.
Free as in Speech
WordPress is the go-to software for many bloggers and website owners. As a result, it’s completely free to download and use. Once you have it, you can use it or amend it in any way that makes sense for your site.
The software is published under the GPL open source model, meaning it’s free to download, edit, and customize. It’s also available to be used without cost.
The main features of this license can be summed up as follows:
- You can use WordPress in whatever way you like with no restrictions.
- You can customize, add, or remove anything in WordPress with no restrictions.
- You can repackage, rebrand, sell, and distribute WordPress with no restrictions except that it is also released under the GPL license.
WordPress is open-source software. That third point means that you can charge for the code by building on it, altering it, and repackaging it. In other words, your clients can pay for code but you have to allow them to modify it themselves–as long as the product you create is also distributed under the GNU General Public License.
People used to dealing with software companies that aren’t open source may find our model to be mind-blowing. But, it’s true!
It took one programmer to create WordPress. When only one developer was working on the project after it originated, that’s when Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little started looking at what they could do with the code they had and make a new product–in 2003 they picked up b2/cafelog and made their own version of the blogging platform. Eventually, other programmers in the community became involved and it became a successful platform used for all types of sites.
If you want to customize WordPress, it’s best to “pack” your customizations in a plugin that already exists or create one from scratch. This ensures that when you update WordPress, your customized changes will be saved because they’re stored in the files of the plugin.
Some plugins are free, as in beer, and others may cost money. Regardless, plugin prices are all about equality.
Free As in Beer
Many people choose to switch their blog to WordPress because they don’t want to pay for software. They want it to be free, and it is! The non-profit WordPress Foundation was founded to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the software projects it supports. Its goal is to provide a stable code base for future generations of users and businesses.generations and also educate people about WordPress and related open source software by giving them educational materials. It does not make any profit from development or distributing WordPress. It’s all voluntary work.
WordPress has thousands of plugins, some of which you can download for free and others that you must pay for. All plugins are made with WordPress core under the open source GPL license. There are many ways to license your code so that you can adapt and modify it as you please. Now, you can implement the changes you need to in your existing plugin. You just have to write a plugin that extends the original one, or use someone else’s
Here’s the idea: WordPress, plugins, and themes are all open source and published under the GPL license. You’re free to work with them and adapt them. But when it comes to the financial aspects of your WordPress site, things get a bit more complicated.
If you want to run a website, you will need space on which to host it. Unless you have your own servers and the skill set to use them effectively, you should contact an experienced name in the hosting business like Kinsta. They’ll provide space on their server that you can use to start working on your WordPress site. They’re not hosting your site itself: they simply rent out space that is yours to use and customize as needed.
Servers can be expensive. They require physical infrastructure and support requirements. However, providing hosting won’t cost much. Compare this to website builders which provide a lot less flexibility with their costs.
So How Is WordPress Funded?
WordPress is a nonprofit foundation and hundreds of developers contribute to its codebase for free. This is possible because most of the code is open-source in nature, meaning it’s easy to use and adapt.
When considering hosting your website, it’s important to think about not just the cost of having your own domain name and hosting plan, but also the costs that allow large teams to collaborate on WordPress.
WordPress has been around for a long time, and companies, developers, and enthusiasts all benefit from it. Without the support of people like themselves, WordPress wouldn’t exist. They enjoy the software they’ve developed using it because they can earn a living using it and are proud to give back to the community by contributing to the codebase or providing support at their local WordCamp or meetup.
How to Get a WordPress Site for Free
WordPress.com is owned by Automattic: they host millions of sites on their own servers, and you can get one for free if you sign up for a free plan.
There are limitations to the free WordPress.com site, though. You’re limited with the themes you can use, you have no access to the code and your use of plugins is limited. Your site will be backed by ads over which you have total control.
If you’ve decided that WordPress.com is too limiting, or if you want to maintain a professional website, AffiliatePress is a great option for you. Whether you’re interested in blogging or developing your own portfolio site, we have AffiliatePress set up to provide exactly what you need for a trusted website designed for search engines.
If you’re determined to go with self-hosted WordPress.com, you can sign up for a premium plan. This offers more capabilities and a customizable domain name, but it doesn’t include access to the code that powers WordPress. If you’re paying for your site and you’re less likely to be able to customize aspects of it, then this may not be the option for you. It may be worth considering other options first.
When you’re starting out, the costs of owning a self-hosted WordPress site can be prohibitive. That’s why I often recommend getting a WordPress site and hosting it yourself. You’ll save money on support, in-site upgrades, and fees by not having to use someone else’s server.
Why It’s Worth Paying for WordPress Hosting
If you decide to get a self-hosted or WordPress.com site, there are some key differences to take into account.
Because WordPress is open source, anyone can run a WordPress site. The process to set up a WordPress hosting account will be transforming your website into something more professional and efficient. Out of the box, you still have a lot of plugins and themes to choose from. You control what goes on your site, including how it runs within the limits of any law restriction.
This gives you freedom in the “free speech” sense.
When you’re deciding whether to go with a self-hosted WordPress site or one that is hosted elsewhere, there are many factors to consider. For example, those in search of a quality website will appreciate the advantages of the self-hosted option such as better availability and content management features. Hosting for a self-hosted WordPress site was designed for professionals and does not reflect well on your brand’s overall image or require manual content review. It’s an opportunity missed when considering other sites out there that don’t offer these valuable features but do charge considerably more.
You think that a free WordPress.com site will be enough for you now. However, chances are it won’t meet your long-term needs in the future as you need more features or want to make changes to your website design. Fortunately, migrating from a WordPress.com site to a self-hosted one is easy!
What Aspects of WordPress are Free?
There are a few areas of your WordPress installation that are always free. Some are free from the beginning, while others can be either free or premium.
Some people worry that getting something for free sounds too good to be true. Feelings of lack can arise when you’re dealing with something that isn’t available elsewhere. We recommend using these themes and plugins only if they really are as life-changing and useful to your project as they were intended to be, or if there’s some sort of transparency sign that let’s you know the free version is not the only option.
There are other ways to find free WordPress code. Here I’ll go over the different aspects of WordPress, and show you a couple places where you might be able to get it for free.
Aspects of self-hosted WordPress that are (or can be) free are:
- Core software
Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
If you’re installing WordPress, always do so from the official WordPress download page.
Getting quality hosting is all about the support. You’ll want to make sure your hosting provider has support as part of their hosting package and can help with any WordPress installation questions you might have.
Our new white-label approval hub makes it easy for your clients to approve or reject topics and final articles. Simply send them the URL and they can take care of everything. You can even make changes to the blog content yourself, directly from the hub.
When it comes to learning how to manage your website, writing your own plugins and fixing problems with themes and plugins, you may find that you don’t need our help.
Free support is provided by volunteers, WordPress experts who are giving something back to the community. You won’t have to worry about paying for anything because you’re not; but, be aware that turnaround time might be a little slower than you’d like. Meditation optional.
With over 12,000 WordPress themes to choose from, you’ll never have to worry about finding one that fits your needs.
There are a variety of developers who create these plugins. These plugins include commercial theme developers, volunteer plugin developers, and the WordPress.com team. They all go through rigorous testing before they’re made available so you can be confident they’re well-coded and secure.
The WordPress theme directory is the only place where you can download and install free themes. You can either download them directly from there or access the Themes page in your site settings in order to install them.
At Theme Town, we believe that designers should be compensated for their efforts. If a theme is distributed officially, without paying or requesting money from you, it should be safe and secure to purchase. You can also check the developer’s User Profile page to see whether they are an Enterprise or Premium member.
WordPress offers thousands of free blogging plugins via its official directory. They range from small plugins that add a few lines of code to your site or dashboard, to vast, complex plugins such as WooCommerce which add a full-featured store to your site.
You may be curious as to why people would create a plugin for free, but that’s a good question. Free plugins are normally developed out of two motivations: either the developer wants it to reach more people or the developer just wants to see what the stick turned into over night.
- They’re WordPress enthusiasts who want to share their code and give something back to the community.
- They’re agencies which have built a plugin for use with their clients and want other people to benefit from the code (as well as maybe getting a bit of publicity).
- They’re professional plugin vendors who have built a free version of a plugin in the expectation that a proportion of people using it will upgrade to the premium version or buy add-ons.
Yes, you have to take a risk at using free plugins. But as with themes, it’s worth it if they’re done properly and they’re tested so they’ll provide your blog with added value. Plus, free plugins do get updated, adding to the value of them. In order to make sure that a plugin is good for your blog’s needs and connected to WordPress, when you install it, you get information on when it was last updated and whether or not it’s compatible with your current version of WordPress installed.
Regular updates are crucial for keeping your WordPress store up-to-date. Your admin screens include an update check button that allows you to update the software any time there’s a new release.
It’s a good idea to only push updates through your staging server before updating your live site. KiSta hosting includes a staging instance where you can test out updates without worrying about affecting your live site. If something goes wrong, you can deactivate or update the plugin and then switch back to your live site.
You’ll be able to update the WordPress core and free themes/plugins for free. Whether you can update a premium theme or plugin will depend on your plan. Some require you to pay an annual subscription and you’ll only be able to update them if that’s up-to-date, while others charge you once for lifetime access so you can keep it updated as long as possible without paying any more.
Aspects of WordPress That Aren’t Free
People who use the software are free to scratch a new paint job on WordPress themselves, or use a designer who can help. It’s difficult to imagine a piece of software this powerful that you could use for free. And since WordPress is so user-friendly to use, some newcomers are puzzled by the fact that such high-quality software comes with absolutely no charge. You might find it odd or wonder why people would pay for something like this when they can get it for free. But as open source software, WordPress core will always be free.
However, the cost of having a premium WordPress site is still an important factor to consider. How much you’re willing to pay will depend on the needs of your site, whether you want to use a free or premium plugin, and how prepared you are for the headaches that could result from using one.
Aspects of WordPress that you may need to spend money on are:
- Premium support
- Updates of premium plugins/themes
- Premium themes
- Premium plugins
Once again, let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
Paying for Hosting
If you’re opting for a self-hosted WordPress site, there are several things you’ll need to consider. One of those is what type of hosting you’ll need. There are various types that vary wildly in price and features.
Hosting a website has many benefits. You can have a self-hosted site, as well as a high speed and scalable web hosting solution with plenty of other benefits.
- The ability to install WordPress easily via your hosting dashboard.
- Access to DNS settings so you can configure your domain name to point at your site.
- 24/7 support.
- Regular backups.
- A guarantee against hacking and downtime.
- Commitment to speed, ensuring your site is as fast as possible.
When choosing your hosting provider, it’s important that they provide the following things. It can be tempting to choose cheap hosting without testing the quality of their service first, only to find that you’re experiencing slow load times or that they don’t offer much help when you need it most. Choose a professional site and make sure you pay for what you get!
Now that you’ve upgraded to the premium plan, you’ll have to pay for your hosting at the end of the day.
There are a lot of benefits to hosting your website yourself, such as the freedom you receive and the better investment.
Paying for Support
After all, hosting is your website’s foundation. If you want to succeed it’s important that you choose a hosting provider who can provide the help you need to manage your site and see it grow.
If you need extra support, or if the free channels aren’t enough, then you can buy premium support from a range of providers. For example, some will provide support in exchange for a subscription fee.
Paying for Themes
When you’ve narrowed down the list of free themes, it can be challenging to determine which one is perfect for your needs. If that’s the case, you should consider paying for a premium WordPress theme.
There are three main types of premium themes:
- Themes designed for ease of use, such as the Astra theme.
- Themes designed for extendability, such as the Divi page builder theme.
- Standalone themes sold via marketplaces such as ThemeForest.
Before you pay for a theme, take care to check that it meets your needs and that it’s safe to install on your site. Specifically:
- Check its license: is it distributed under the GPL?
- Ask other WordPress users and developers.
- Read reviews and articles that mention/review it
- Get personal recommendations.
- Check if there’s a free trial, money back guarantee, or any cooling-off period.
Paying for Plugins
For any features you find yourself lacking on your WordPress website, you may have to buy premium plugins.
A lot of businesses choose to use premium plugins, which can bring on some perks such as added features, support and customization.
When a premium plugin may be needed, these are the situations:
- When you’ve been using the free version of a plugin and realize you need the extra features provided by the premium version.
- When the free plugins don’t give you the functionality or ease of use you need.
- When you need to install a number of plugins all designed by the same developer who provides a subscription option for full access..
- When you want to add extra features to a free plugin by buying premium add-ons, such as the add-ons you can buy for WooCommerce.
If you try out a premium plugin, it can save you lots of time and give your site a big boost. When you decide to install one, be as careful as you would when choosing a premium theme. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure the company is legitimate before using their product. To do so, look for reviews and try asking some of the questions below:
- Whether the provider also has plugins in the plugin directory (disreputable companies won’t stay there for long).
- Reviews for the provider and the plugin.
- That the plugin is distributed under the GPL.
- What type of support will be provided to help you use the plugin and solve any problems.
- If there is a money-back guarantee. It’s very frustrating to install a plugin, realize it doesn’t do what you need and have wasted your money.
The most reliable way to get information about premium plugins is from personal recommendations. Search online for forums, Facebook groups, and conversations with other WordPress users. Ask around before you buy a plugin.
Paying for Updates
Most premium plugins and themes require a subscription for updates and support. The software is usually free to install, but you may have to pay again for the updated version of the software with active support.
There are some companies who only charge once for lifetime access.
Why not renew your subscription? There are always discounts and codes exclusive to annual subscribers available. Say you want to switch themes every month or next year, but don’t want to lose your content for that time. You’ll also get access to new releases before anyone else in case there’s a bug. And if there’s an update released for WordPress and a new version, you’ll get the update first.
Paying for Development
Free and premium themes and plugins are the best option when you need to create a website. If you can’t find anything that meets your needs or if you don’t have the time or skills to code your own, then hiring a developer is an option for you.
Your WordPress website can be customized in many different ways. The design affects the impressions visitors have of your site, and the features you want to use in WordPress regulate how efficient your investment will be. Other options include writing plugins and customizing your theme. It all depends on what you need, how much time you have left, and how much money you would like to invest.
WordPress is a low barrier-to-entry platform, which means you don’t have to hire an expert to get your site up and running. However, if you want a highly bespoke site that requires in-house expertise or you’re a business owner and don’t have the time or skills to build for yourself, then it might be worth investing.
This is not required. But some WordPress users may choose to upgrade to the add-on in order to unlock all of the site’s most powerful tools, including this tool.