Today’s post shines light on one of the most common WordPress questions noobs and pros ask all the time. What is the real cost of building a WordPress site? Well, to solve this conundrum, I will begin with a short tale because stories are…well…great. Ready? Good.
If you will indulge me, please read the next para in that British accent we all love.
This one time, I scored myself a reseller hosting account with a popular host in Middlesbrough, UK. After racking my brains for a couple of days, I decided to go into business offering dirt-cheap WordPress hosting. I mean, what else could you do with a free reseller hosting account?
WordPress is Free
I put together a WordPress site and initiated marketing. Long story short, things were looking good by many standards because – on the very first day – I received six prospects from my neck of the woods. That’s sort of a big deal considering I shared the link on my Facebook profile only once.
The only problem? They were wary to commit since in their understanding – all the six of them – WordPress (and everything that comes with it) is supposed to be free! One of the prospects, a lady, was so worked up she labeled yours truly a con artist for charging a yearly fee for WordPress. That’s right, she totally forgot about the hosting part.
She went as far as pointing me towards WordPress.com, but before I could explain I wasn’t charging for WordPress but hosting, she was gone. Poof! Vanished into thin air just like that.
“Stop conning us guys, WordPress is free!” Wherever you are fair lady, I wasn’t conning anybody and I was doing it solo. There were no other guys involved. I learned my lesson, shut the whole thing down and sold the reseller account for rent money. What? Life just is.
Building Websites Using WordPress Costs Money
It will cost you money to build a professional self-hosted site using WordPress. You need to consider costs such as a domain name, hosting, design and so forth before setting out on your WordPress adventure. Without a doubt, you can begin your blogging voyage for free at WordPress.com, but the flavor of WordPress you get there is severely limited in functionality and style.
You also have to put up with forced adverts and a subdomain (i.e yoursitename.wordpress.com) until you upgrade to one of their premium packages, and, boy oh boy, are they ridiculously pricey or what!? If you want all the same flexibility and options of a self-hosted website you’ll need to spring for a VIP package – we are talking about $5,000+ per month people (not counting a hefty setup fee to boot)!
Start with a Plan
So, what is the real cost of building a fully-fledged WordPress site? Well, it all boils down to you and the features you need. Remember, you must start with a plan that answers some basic questions such as:
- What is the purpose or goal of your website?
- Who is your target audience?
- Who is your most ideal customer (also known as the persona)?
Your plan will inform every activity on your WordPress site, including development, content strategy, marketing and so on. At the end of the day though, and as long as we’re talking costs, you will either set aside time to do everything yourself or spend money on hired hands. The choice is yours.
All in all, here’s a breakdown of the most common costs you’ll incur creating a WordPress site:
- For starters, you need a domain name such as wpexplorer.com
- A web hosting account where your website lives
- Developer fees or a budget for premium WordPress themes and plugins
- Content generation
- Marketing spend, obviously
- Some education on WordPress
- Maintenance services such as backup and security
- Personal time that comes with an opportunity cost
With that summary whetting your appetite, let’s dig in and look at the finer details.
Outline of WordPress Website Costs
As stated earlier, WordPress may be free but your website itself isn’t. Here’s a roundup of the costs.
Domain Name: $15
SSL & Domain Privacy: $8+
Your domain name is how prospects find you on the web. Think of it as the business address for your digital shop, portfolio, agency, store etc. Now, your domain name can be anything you like, just ensure it’s appropriate for your customers, catchy and memorable. You know, something you can probably make a tagline out of. Keep it at three words max.
A typical .com domain goes for about $10-15 bucks per year (depending on the registrar you use), which is on the cheaper site. You can also get a .net, .org, .biz, .guru or dot anything else you fancy, just keep in mind the prices vary. Some web hosts will even hook you up with a free domain for a whole year because you rock, but subsequent renewal charges will come out of your pocket.
Then we have complementary add-ons such as WhoisGuard (privacy) and HTTPS because you can’t put a price on anonymity and security. HTTPS is, in fact, a must have if you’ll collect sensitive data on your website. By the way, it is also a Google SEO ranking metric nowadays so yeah, secure your sites guys. HTTPS can cost anywhere from $0 (with Let’s Encrypt) all the way up to $960 per year per domain, and on top of that added domain privacy or WhoisGuard will cost about $8 bucks per year per domain.
Note: Some web hosting packages such as shared hosting don’t support HTTPS, so check with your hosting company first to avoid disappointment.
There are domain names and extensions that cost a fortune, but you are good to rock the party with a typical affordable name fix. After all is said and done, even though a domain costs between $15 and $100 per year, check both the initial registration cost and the yearly renewal lest you are stuck with an expensive option.
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Web Hosting: Share, Managed & Others
In the past, we looked at how to choose the best WordPress hosting. Additionally, we have covered this topic numerous times, which means you ought to be well-covered in this area. For this very reason, I will keep this section short, but if you haven’t read our previous posts, here’s the juice:
- What You Need to Know About Managed WordPress Hosting
- How to Choose the Right WordPress Hosting
- Recommended WordPress Hosting
Choosing the perfect hosting for your WordPress site, again, depends on you and the features or the level of performance you need. A small personal blog requires lesser server resources as compared to a multi-author blog that serves millions of page views per day.
In the same light, different WordPress hosting packages come with difference features and varying prices. Let’s begin with the cheapest and most common type of web hosting.
Shared Hosting: $2.95+ per month
If you’re starting out with a personal blog and would like to test the waters, shared hosting costing about $5 bucks a month is an ideal solution for you. The features are limited, you get less power and are more prone to security threats because you share a server with a million and one other sites.
Bluehost $2.95 Shared Hosting
With our exclusive link just for WPExplorer readers you can get a shared hosting plan from Bluehost for just $2.95 per month for the first year (and renews at just $7.99/mo after that). This includes a FREE domain name, 1-click WordPress installation and great 24/7 support. Plus they have a 30-day money back guarantee, so you’ve got nothing to lose!
Managed WordPress Hosting: $20+ per month
This type of service specializes in WordPress sites and is optimized for huge amounts of traffic making it ideal for small to medium-sized websites. These guys focus entirely on WordPress, which means you get high-level security, more power and exceptional support among other things.
Managed hosting prices vary with each host, as do the features of each package. You can find managed WordPress hosting starting at $15 (or less in some cases during promotional periods), but typically packages will be in the $20-30 range. We host our websites with WPEngine and have never had a problem.
WP Engine 20% Off plus 2 Months Free Hosting
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Media Temple 2 Months Free Hosting
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Of course there are tons of other hosting options. Other high-cost and powerful hosting options include:
- Virtual Private Servers – Virtual machines that offer you super-user control over the web server. They are extremely powerful but come at a greater cost. Average cost is about $75 bucks a month. You don’t share server resources with anyone, but you share the physical hardware with others.
- Dedicated Servers – Here, you rent a web server all by yourself. You don’t share any resource, including the physical infrastructure with anybody else. You’re the boss, and you play in the big leagues since the asking price is about $150 bucks per month.
You can expect to pay about $90 to $150 per year for a shared hosting account. If you go with managed WordPress hosting, the amount goes up to about $360 to $1200 per year. Overall, and considering all hosting options available in the market, you can pay between $90 and $10,000+ (yes, you read that right) per year depending on your needs. Free hosting is a definite no-no.
Design and Functionality
You definitely want your WordPress website to stand out if you’re to put the competition in its place and make money. Here you have two options. You can:
- Roll up your sleeves (or hire a developer) and build your site from scratch complete with built-in functionality which halves your reliance on plugins, or
- Purchase premium WordPress themes and plugins and make modifications
Either way, you spend time or/and money.
Custom Web Design: $3,000+
The pricier of the two options, building a custom WordPress site has its pros and cons. Top on the pros list is you get a bespoke design that is completely custom-made for your brand – colors, personal tastes, style etc. With that plan we talked about, you can flesh out your design exactly how you see it with your mind’s eye.
Secondly, and more importantly, you can get faster load speeds if you or the developer knows his stuff and doesn’t cut corners with your inbuilt functionality. Great coding wins big all the time.
The main con, of course, is the price and time factor. Custom built WordPress themes and sites don’t come cheap. They also take a long time to build. According to Nathan B. Weller, who published a really nice pricing guide for WordPress at Elegant Themes, you can expect to cough up between:
- $3,000 and $6,000 for a custom WordPress theme
- $6,000 and $15,000 for a custom WordPress website with built-in plugin functionality
- $6,000 and $20,000 for a custom WordPress eCommerce site
- $12,000 and $60,000+ for a custom WordPress app
On matters pertaining the price, he further adds:
This approach works best when expertise, vision and budget all line up. Clients, you will want to make sure that this is the solution you actually need before dropping this kind of money – and check references!
In a nutshell, it’s evident a bespoke WordPress site is out of the ballpark of many beginners with tiny budgets. It’s a great solution, yes, if you have the dough, but if you need a cheaper and relatively faster solution, we’re glad to point you to premium WordPress themes and plugins.
Premium WordPress Themes: $2+
Since WordPress came into being a decade or so ago, we have seen the WordPress theme and plugin markets grow in tremendous ways. We have experienced the birth of themes and plugins of all kinds, shapes and sizes.
We have one-page wonders that are completely out of this world, enormous themes that are like double-edged swords because they ship with bloat from here to Timbuktu, and sharp elegant WordPress themes that are graceful to work with. I’m talking about gracious themes such as:
- Best Landing Page WordPress Themes
- Education, Learning & Course Management WordPress Themes
- 30+ Best Gardening & Landscaping WordPress Themes in 2016
- Recommended WordPress Themes
In general, premium themes start at $2 on Creative Market or $13 at Themeforest, while theme memberships from websites like Elegant Themes and Themify start around $70. You can even get impressive WordPress themes like Total for under $60. Also checkout our WordPress coupons page – we have exclusive deals for many of the popular WordPress theme stores so you might as well click a link and save yourself some cash.
No matter what theme you choose take your time to look through your options. Don’t just buy a theme because it’s pretty (although it should be) – make sure you look at theme features, plugin compatibility and the quality of the author’s support before you make your purchase.
Premium WordPress Plugins: $5+
Then we have premium WordPress plugins that let you add any functionality to your website with a single couple of clicks. Everything from SEO to social sharing to e-commerce and administration among others. We’ve dealt with this area extensively with awesome posts such as:
- The 20 Best Drag and Drop Page Builder WordPress Plugins
- 30+ Best WordPress Widget Plugins for (Almost) Everything
- 10 Best WordPress Multi-Author Management Plugins
- Recommended WordPress Plugins
Premium WordPress plugins are relatively affordable (starting at just $5 on Codecanyon) and easy to configure. Of course, the more complex the plugin the higher the price so prepare yourself for some sticker shock when it comes to e-commerce plugins and extensions that are often over $100.
Note: If you’re on a tight budget, or bootstrapping sounds great, you can get free WordPress themes and plugins at the WordPress.org theme and plugin repository respectively. You get limited functionality with free options, alright, but you can still grab some nifty plugins and themes on there. You just need to dig a little deeper.
Site Maintenance Services: $5+
Building your WordPress site is great, but it is only the beginning. After launching, you need to maintain your WordPress site, which comes at a cost. For instance, you need security and backup solutions in place should the bad guys strike. Other maintenance task to consider include updates, upgrades, spam, tune-ups, and broken links among others.
You can keep your WordPress site in good shape yourself, which takes up a lot of time, or you can outsource.
For WordPress backups, you can use third party services such as:
- VaultPress, which handles backups and security for as little as $99 per year
- Backup Buddy, currently prices at $80 for a 1 year single site license
- BlogVault, which starts at $89 bucks a year for small businesses & bloggers
- Or any of the other services and plugins we outline in our best backup services guide
Top WordPress security services include:
- Akismet, which starts at $5 bucks per month (but is also included in the $99 VaultPress membership)
- Sucuri, which offers award winning security starting at $199.99 annually
- iThemes Security (free, but the pro version begins at $80 per year with 25% discount on signing up
- WP Security Lock (begins at $147 per month)
And if you don’t want to manage your daily WordPress maintenance (updates to WordPress, themes, plugins, etc) you can also hire a company to do that for you too. Checkout our article on the best WordPress maintenance services to learn more.
Marketing & Advertising
Hitting the publish button for the first time will send waves of excitement up your spine, but this will quickly dissipate if no one comes to read your content. You need to invest time and money in marketing to get your content, hence your offer, noticed.
You need SEO, great content and newsletters among others to get the word out there. While you can do marketing cheaply or for free, it takes a lot of time to get results.
Search Engine Optimization: $69+
You have to tune up your post for search engines, which, if done right, will bring you a lot of targeted traffic. You can use premium plugins services or free options, even though the latter will take up more of your time. SEO plugins and tips to consider include:
- Moz offers a ton of great free SEO tools, but their Pro service (starting at $99 per month) offers tons more (there’s a 30 day trial if you want to try it)
- Yoast SEO, which is free but the premium version will set you back between $69 and $1499 per year depending on the number of sites
- For tips on managing and improving SEO on your own check out:
Content Generation: $50+ per article
I won’t lie to you mate, creating effective web content on a regular basis is no easy task. Ask me, I do it for a living, but I can’t complain because – bills. That and I derive a lot of pleasure from writing. Can we say the same thing about you? Yet, you’ll need fresh content to woo Google and sell your products/services.
If you’re short of time or can’t write a single paragraph without a kitten dying, you need to invest in website and hire a freelance writer. You will pay a tidy sum depending on the complexity of your topic and the writer you hire, but don’t cry foul; it’s all worth it. Multi-author blogs perform way better than solo missions since you:
- Get articles from experts
- Regularly update your blog, and
- Save time for other tasks
Good posts begin in the $50-80 range, but more established writers (often with larger social followings and a lot of awesome blogs knocking on their door) will charge $150+ a piece. You could structure a monthly contract with your writer to get the most bang out of your buck. Alternatively, you can get down to work and write your own content. Just like dancing, writing get’s easy once you get your groove on.
Forms + Newsletters: $39+
You need forms to collect information from your readers. Think of your hire form, your contact page, surveys and newsletter sign ups, and what the last two can do for your email marketing campaigns. Here, you have a couple of options such as:
These tools combined with an email service like MailChimp, Aweber or Mad Mimi can help you create a useful subscriber list. And since we are talking about marketing, here are more posts for thy pleasure:
- WordPress Marketing Trends: A Focus On Higher Touch Sales Process
- Facebook Tips and Tricks to Work Its Magic for Your WordPress Site
- How to Drive More Traffic to Your WordPress Site
WordPress Education: $0+
Before you can use WordPress to build and run your website, you have to learn the ropes. The amount of money and time you spend here depends on the things you’re looking to learn. And the scope is wide with subjects such as WordPress blogging and development making the highlights. We have a collection of free WordPress tutorials and resources right here on WPExplorer, but there are tons of options like WP101, Lynda, Treehouse and others if you’re looking for guided video courses to learn from.
Cost of Your Time
Whether you hire contractors or do it yourself, building and running a WordPress website will take a huge chunk of your time. This is especially so if you’re doing it full-time.
Working with and in WordPress is easy stuff, but like every other commitment in life, it will take up your time. If you currently make $20 bucks an hour, but need 2 hours each day to work on your WordPress site, it will cost you $40 bucks a day.
Even if you don’t earn a cent and are looking to turn the tables with a WordPress site, there’s the opportunity cost to think about. One way or another, you will spend time and/or money on your WordPress site. How much exactly? It depends entirely on you and what you wish to achieve with your site.
The Final Tally
All together, if you choose Managed WordPress hosting, a reasonably priced free theme and a few key plugins you’re looking at just over $1200 to run your website the first year. This isn’t taking into account any content creation (which will cost anywhere from a couple hundred to over a thousand each month if you outsource), marketing costs (which will vary based on where you advertise, which key words you target, etc.) or additional plugins for e-commerce.
So for around $100 per month (plus your time) you can have your very own super awesome WordPress powered website with all the bells and whistles. Not too bad right?
The WordPress platform is 100% free. It’s an open source project made possible by a community of developers, bloggers, translators, designers and more.
Building and managing a professional WordPress site, on the other hand, comes at a cost. You will put in hours and spend cash to build a successful website using WordPress. Don’t fret none though, it’s all worth it and in the end it really doesn’t cost all that much. It’s a great adventure and one of the best experiences you will ever have.
Did this post answer all of your questions? Do you have a suggestion or recommendation you’d like to make? We would love to hear from you as an esteemed member of the WPExplorer community. Please don’t hesitate sharing in the comment section below. Thanks in advance!