How Much Does it Cost to Start a WordPress Site?

Websites have become the business card and digital storefront of the 21st century. Every blogger, corporation, and nonprofit has its own site. And if you’re hoping to reach the masses, you need one too.

That’s where WordPress comes in—a free website builder that a large majority of businesses (and individuals) utilize. That said, “free” doesn’t tell the whole story.

So, what is the true cost of starting a WordPress website? In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about the associated costs of starting a WordPress website.

Is it Free to Start a WordPress Website?

Yes and no. The keyword here is start. Allow us to explain.

WordPress.org is a Content Management System (CMS) that is free and open-source. In other words, WordPress acts as a simple yet powerful tool for creating websites and blogs. Using the tool itself is completely free of charge. All you have to do is download the WordPress software, and you can build a professional website on your web browser or mobile phone.

So, in that sense, it’s free to start a WordPress website. There are no signup fees, no monthly membership costs, and no expensive courses required to understand the software.

However, once you’ve built your website, you’ll probably want to share it with the world. And that’s where the WordPress costs start to add up.

What Expenses Come with Running a WordPress Site?

Creating and maintaining a WordPress website doesn’t have to be expensive, but there are inevitable WordPress costs associated with website ownership of any kind. Let’s look at the expenses involved in running a WordPress site.

Web Hosting Costs

Your first website expense centers around web hosting. In order for your site to exist on the internet, it needs to be located on a server. Hosting providers rent server space to websites and often offer services to store and maintain data.

Think of web hosting for your WordPress website in terms of a brick-and-mortar store. Designing a site through WordPress is like renovating your business and setting up in-store displays; web hosting is what makes your site accessible to the public. A website without web hosting is like a boutique without a door—the storefront may look exceptional, but there’s no way for customers to get in.

There are two primary categories of web hosting: shared hosting and managed hosting.

With shared hosting, your website lives on a server alongside multiple other sites—sometimes hundreds at a time. Shared hosting plans can start at less than $5/month. However, there are risks involved with shared servers, including security threats and reduced website speeds.

Managed hosting generally involves a dedicated server, which means your site will be hosted on its own. These plans are more costly, but they typically offer faster load times, improved security, 24/7 customer support, and more. You’ll also benefit from automatic backups and updates. WP Engine’s managed WordPress hosting plans start at just $30/month.

Domain Name Costs

Another website essential is your domain name. The domain is the website address that customers type into a browser’s URL bar to reach your site. For example, our domain name is wpengine.com.

To continue the brick-and-mortar metaphor, a domain name is like a sign for your store. Customers can still access a signless business if they know about it, but it’s much harder to find. In the same way, a website without a domain name is accessible through its IP address (a string of numbers). IP addresses are long and unmemorable, which is why websites employ domain names as a stand-in.

The ideal domain name relates to your business or brand in some way—usually the company name or a related phrase. A domain name also includes a domain extension, such as .com, .org, or .gov.

You can purchase a domain name through a domain registrar such as WhoIs, GoDaddy, Domain.com, or Namecheap. Most domain names cost less than $20 annually, though more sought-after names can go for thousands of dollars. Some web hosting providers or CMSs like Squarespace also include a domain name with a hosting plan.

Themes and Web Design Costs

Web hosting and a domain name need to be factored into every WordPress website cost. From there, customization expenses are largely optional (though highly recommended). One way to personalize your WordPress website is through themes.

A WordPress theme is a downloadable template that influences the look and feel of your site. Your theme can dictate everything from backgrounds and colors to the overall layout.

If you’re on a tight budget, you can choose from thousands of free themes. But for more features and a professional look, you may want to consider a premium theme. Paid themes cost between $20 and $1,000, with an average price of around $200. You can also choose to update your WordPress theme or hire a designer to customize it later on down the road.

Plugin Costs

You can further enhance your WordPress website with plugins. A WordPress plugin is like an installable app that adds functionality to your site.

Countless free plugins allow for a fully customizable WordPress experience. As with themes, you can also opt for premium versions that bring another level of sophistication to your site. Paid plugins exist as monthly subscriptions or one-time purchases and range from $10 to over $500.

For some examples of what plugins do, explore popular paid and free options like:

  • All in One SEO – Helps you improve your SEO value through XML sitemaps, social media integration, and on-page analysis.
  • WooCommerce – Turns your WordPress site into an online store.
  • UpdraftPlus – Creates comprehensive backups of your website.

Custom Development

WordPress excels due to its ease of use—anyone can create a functional website, regardless of technical knowledge. However, as an open-source platform, WordPress is infinitely customizable to a programmer with experience in CSS and PHP. 

If you want functionality or a design element that a theme or plugin can’t deliver, you may need a web developer. Depending on the size of the job, you might spend between $125 to upwards of $5,000+. Alternatively, if your business plans to make constant changes to a custom theme, you might consider hiring an in-house web developer for website maintenance.

Are There Free WordPress Hosting Options?

As mentioned above, web hosting is an unavoidable part of creating a website. However, if you’re looking to keep your WordPress cost as low as possible, some services offer free web hosting, including WordPress.com.

Keep in mind that with free WordPress hosting, you get what you pay for. Free hosting plans almost always use shared servers, which can be slow and vulnerable to cyberattacks. You’ll also run into limitations around storage space, bandwidth, and monthly visitors. Furthermore, you won’t be able to collect ad revenue, and customer support is practically nonexistent.

For anything more than a personal blog, we strongly recommend investing in a paid plan via a managed WordPress hosting service, like WP Engine. 

What Do You Need to Build a WordPress Website?

By now, we’ve covered everything you’ll need to get started with WordPress. To summarize, building and running a WordPress website requires all of the following:

  • An idea – Whether a business website or a personal blog, every WordPress website starts with an idea. It’s wise to have some of the finer details in mind before building a website.
  • A domain name – Your domain name is your website’s address; purchase one that represents your brand.
  • A web host – Choose from shared or managed hosting, depending on your needs and budget.
  • A theme (optional) – Of course, you can stick with the default WordPress theme, but a unique theme will help your site stand out.
  • Plugins (optional) – Plugins are non-essential, but they drastically improve the WordPress site-building experience. Search around the plugin directory to find ones that work for you.

How to Set Up a WordPress Site

We’ve covered the complete process of how to use WordPress in another blog, so we’ll stick to a brief overview here. Follow these steps to start your WordPress journey.

Step 1: Register a Domain Name

Visit an ICANN-accredited domain registrar (such as Whois.com) and purchase a domain name. ICANN is a not-for-profit dedicated to Internet security; you can find a list of accredited registrars here.

Step 2: Choose a Web Host

Look for a reputable WordPress hosting provider that suits your budget. When you sign up for a managed hosting plan with WP Engine, we make the rest of the installation process a breeze.

Step 3: Install WordPress

The method for installing WordPress varies from host to host. Our process has been designed to be as simple as possible. In short, you’ll need to:

  • Sign in to your WP Engine User Portal and click Installs.
  • Select Add Install from the navigation bar.
  • Enter the requested site details.
  • Click Create Install.
  • Wait for an email with your credentials.
  • Log into your new WordPress installation through the email.

For a more detailed walkthrough of this process, consult our “Getting Started with WP Engine” guide.

Step 4: Customize Your Site

Now that you can access your WordPress site, it’s time to personalize it. From the WordPress dashboard, you can search for themes and plugins to install. You can also visit the WordPress Theme directory and plugin directory to browse the available options.

Once your website is up and running, the possibilities for creating an engaging, memorable site are endless.

Make the Most of Your Money with WP Engine

Ever wondered, “Is WordPress free?” Running a WordPress website isn’t free, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, either. If you register an affordable domain, use a free theme, and limit yourself to essential plugins, you can build a website on a budget.

With that said, if there’s one requirement to invest in, it’s managed web hosting. The trick is to find a hosting provider that gives you the best value for your money—like WP Engine. With a range of plans designed to suit every business, you can benefit from automatic backups, 24/7 customer support, state-of-the-art security, and so much more with WordPress hosting.
Make the most of your website-building budget, and contact us today!

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