In this article, I’ll explain what it costs to run a WordPress website – listing all the gotchas and caveats you may face.
Table Of Contents (T.O.C.):
- WordPress and hosting basics
- Domain registration
- Multilingual websites
- WooCommerce – webshops
- Other extra costs
- Promotions and “lifetime” purchases
- Expenses table overview
1. WordPress and hosting basics
Code is poetry– A Vogon proverb
We can all go to the WordPress.org website and download WordPress for free – it’s open-source software. However, if we want people all around the world to visit our website, there will be some costs, even though WordPress itself is free. How much money is that? That’s what I’ll try to answer in this article.
Since the year 2015, I’ve been making and maintaining WordPress websites (and WooCommerce stores), so I have a pretty good idea of what all the costs are. I’ll list all the costs by the order of importance i.e. necessity. In the end, I’ll make a table with a list and sum of all the costs. Let us begin. 🙂
2. Domain registration
I’ll just use one of the free domains– The second most famous last words, right after “The dragon must be asleep”
In order for you to see this website on bikegremlin.com, I first had to find that domain to be available and register it to myself. A separate article explains what domains and nameservers are.
A .com domain registration costs about $1 per month, and it is paid for a year in advance (so about $12 per year). I use and recommend Porkbun domain registrar. Other domain extensions (.uk, .us etc.) have different prices.
This article explains why I think registering a .com domain is a good idea.
Time flies– Vaya Con Dios
One thing we often overlook is the resource all the people are limited by: time. What do I mean by this?
Firstly, a WordPress website is not a set-and-forget thing! It requires constant monitoring and maintenance. This takes some knowledge, experience or paying someone to do it. For example, every update should be tested in a staging environment, before pushing it to the production (the “main” website). Otherwise, you risk having your website crash.
I wrote an article about hosting and website problems, and a series of articles on WordPress troubleshooting.
Why you should not allow WordPress auto updates (BikeGremlin forum link).
One of the most common WordPress-related problems I’ve seen are websites that aren’t updated and maintained for years.
Secondly, saving money on paid themes and plugins requires some programming knowledge and taking the time to write your own theme and plugins, as well as maintaining and updating them as new WordPress and PHP versions come out.
If you just want a website that works, and not to start doing programming for a living, the time invested into learning programming is not a very good investment – unless you really enjoy it.
If you have a backup plan, then you’ve already admitted defeat– A shortsighted donkey
Having website backups is extremely important, while often neglected in practice. I wrote a series of articles about making and automating backups.
How often should you make backups? It depends on how much data and work you are willing to lose – Murphy’s law says your website will crash one second before the next scheduled backup interval. 🙁
Another crucial and also often neglected thing is testing your backups. The worst thing is relying on backups that turn out to be useless once you really need them.
This requires some time and it boils down to cloning (or migrating) your website using the backed-up version.
I almost forgot: don’t rely on any backups provided by your hosting provider. That’s a nice to have extra, but always have your own backup copies – preferably two, on two different locations (the probability of two backup storages crashing at the same time is very low).
A good option is Hetzner Storage Box and it costs around $4 per month.
Cutting costs on hosting will bite you in the ass– Old Chinese proverb
Bad hosting leads to many problems with websites crashing or getting hacked. Choose a good, reliable hosting provider. On this website, you can read the reviews of hosting providers whose services I’ve used.
A vast majority of my websites are hosted with MDDHosting plaid reseller hosting platfrom. It costs around $30 per month. As soon as I find the same quality hosting (or better), at the same (or lower price), I’ll write about it.
Do not get caught on discounts for a yearly subscription (or longer for that matter). That’s risky. First, get a monthly, or at max a quarterly subscription, test and see if a hosting provider is a good fit for you.
Almost forgot: when you Google “best hosting providers” or something similar, you’ll get a ton of paid articles that are nonsense – disregard them.
In the article Making a WordPress site – Hosting, I’ve explained what “WordPress hosting” is, and whether a VPS is “more powerful” than shared hosting (a common misconception). Separate articles explain what is shared hosting, and what is reseller hosting (with all the pros and cons).
Good email infrastructure is the key to every victory!– Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
Many hosting providers offer a free SMTP mail transfer service, i.e. allowing your website to send emails using an address like: lawrence @ lawrencesdomain .com.
This service usually sucks. A reliable solution (if you wish your emails to actually reach the recipients) is using a hosted email service.
I use and recommend MXroute. It costs about $4 per month (charged for a year in advance, so around $45).
Emails often come as an afterthought, but they are very important for webshops.
Uhuhuhuh, this is an old-school website, I would change design by the way…– Old BikeGremlin website design review by Funky Marketing
You can go to wordpress.org and pick a theme for free. However, most options within every theme are usually locked until you pay. That is, if you want a nicer, more custom design (look & feel) of your website, you’ll pay. Either by paying a developer to write a theme for you, by learning and coding it yourself, or by paying for a premium WordPress theme version.
I use and recommend GeneratePress theme. It is very well documented, and it is stable and fast. The cost is around $5 per month (charged annually, so $ 60 per year).
In a separate article, I explained how to choose a good WordPress theme.
Can you make things go BOOM, or do you have someone on your team who can make things go BOOM?– Nathan Bennett
WordPress plugins provide various extra functionalities. I.e. they let your website do whatever you want it to do. Here’s a list of the plugins I use, with short descriptions of what each one does.
Paid plugin versions open many additional options. Some you might need, others maybe not.
The only plugin I’m currently paying for is The SEO Framework (TSF) Pro. Its price starts from $7 per month (charged for a year in advance, so $84). Everything else I could get done by and for myself using free plugins and a bit of compromise.
It is reasonable to expect to be paying around $10 per month for plugin subscriptions (usually with annual subscriptions, so about $ 120 per year).
But read on…
9. Multilingual websites
The number of languages you speak, is what you are worth– Latin proverb
If you want a multilingual website (like this one 🙂 ) – on one (sub)domain, i.e. one WordPress installation, things get complicated.
However, even with the free Polylang, most free WordPress plugins won’t work well until you pay for their pro version. I.e. no multilingual plugin support for free!
Of course, any extra plugin costs depend on your choice of plugins, which in turn depends on what you want your website to do. I think it’s reasonable to expect an extra $10 per month cost, on top of any costs you’d be paying if your website wasn’t multilingual.
10. WooCommerce – webshops
Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like– Will Rogers
The WooCommerce plugin (wp.org link) is free and it turns your WordPress website into a webshop – which is great! 🙂
However, most other plugins won’t work nicely with WooCommerce unless you pay for their pro versions (no WooCommerce support). The logic is simple: “you must be making some profits from a webshop, so we want our cut!”
For a WooCommerce webshop, expect to be paying an extra $10 per month, compared to what you’d be paying if your site wasn’t a webshop. Of course, the worst combination in terms of costs and complications is a multilingual WooCommerce website.
11. Other extra costs
No one expects the Spanish inquisition!– Monty Pythons
Here’s a shortlist of my other costs related to websites. Some are paid annually, but I’ll break them all down into monthly fees:
- Windscribe VPN, about $ 4 per month – for more practical and more secure working (and more privacy, to a degree).
- Freepik.com subscription, around $ 9 per month – pictures for website design and articles.
12. Promotions and “lifetime” purchases
Stay rational and stick to your homework when researching businesses in which to invest– Warren Buffett
When I find something that’s good, I keep a track of when it’s on sale, or on a “lifetime” promotion (doing it the other way round is risky).
Also, over the years, thanks to my websites and YouTube channels, I’ve landed some great deals, but that’s not something that’s available to everyone – many thanks to all the companies that have supported my work.
Using such an approach, with enough patience (and time), you can cut some costs, to a certain degree.
In the article Lifetime offers worth buying, I explained what is reasonable to expect from “lifetime” promotions, followed by a list of lifetimes I use and consider to be a good choice.
13. Expenses table overview
Statistics is like a bikini: it shows a lot, but doesn’t reveal anything!– Zvonko Mihajlovski, Serbian football reporter
Some items are charged monthly, others annually, and here is a table overview. All the figures are rounded to whole numbers.
* Newsletter isn’t added to the aggregate cost figure.
|Item||$ Monthly||$ Annually|
|Domain registration||$ 1||$ 12|
|Time||? ? ?|
|Backup storage||$ 4||$ 48|
|Hosting||$ 30||$ 360|
* $ 90
|Theme||$ 5||$ 60|
|Plugins||$ 10||$ 120|
|Multilingual site||$ 10||$ 120|
|WooCommerce||$ 10||$ 120|
|Extra costs||$ 15||$ 180|
|Total:||$ 89||$ 1,068|
I’ve concluded that my articles are too long– Relja Novović
In a few words: it adds up! 🙂
On the bright side – as the number of websites increases, the costs don’t increase linearly. The more websites you have, the lower the costs per website (total costs increase, but the costs per website decrease).
Also, with enough time and learning, you may be able to reduce a lot of the above-listed costs. Especially for the paid themes and plugins.
Nonetheless, I wanted to put all the costs “on paper.” In my experience, this list is quite realistic. My goal is not to discourage you from starting a WordPress site, but to let you know what to expect, as well as to show that hiring a developer may not be a bad investment (especially if it saves you long-term theme and plugin subscription fees).
Another important point is to understand that WordPress website maintenance does take some time. The same goes for coding any themes or plugins yourself. Time is not free, even if you don’t pay any $.
For my websites, all the costs are covered thanks to monetization (without commercialization 🙂 ), but it means I’m depending on the good will of the monetization corporation (Mediavine), and the good will of the search engines (Google). I have devoted a whole article to the topic of: How to monetize a website?
Read it, it might help. 🙂