Free isn’t always enough
There’s no denying that it’s hard to keep that ‘free‘ concept in mind when you have to build or maintain a WordPress website. You generally start off by paying for a commercial theme, which might cost $40-$60, either annually or as a one-off payment. That might not seem a lot, but then you have plugins to consider.
Even a simple website like this needs backup plugins, security plugins, SEO plugins, plugins for contact forms, image sliders and so on. If you’re looking at adding an eCommerce store to your website you could easily be looking at an annual bill of $1500 a year just to keep the plugins updated, depending on your needs.
There are literally thousands of free plugins available from the WordPress plugin directory, but not all are maintained and not all work with current versions of WordPress. Some of the plugin authors provide help and support, some never do. You’ll also quickly realise that many of these free plugins have ‘premium‘ or ‘pro‘ versions. In short, properly-specified versions that you have to buy. The sad truth is that some things just can’t be done properly if you only use free plugins.
What are you paying for?
Plugin and theme authors often say that when you buy their product, you’re paying for a ‘license to use‘ their product. If you buy a WordPress theme from Themeforest, or a plugin from its sister site CodeCanyon, for example, you will be told that you must buy a license for every website you use the item on. You don’t. It’s nothing more than intimidatory sales tactics.
When you pay for a WordPress plugin or theme, you’re actually paying for support and updates, not the product. You’re usually given a form of ‘licence key’ or ‘activation key’ which entitles you to support, bug fixes and product updates for a year. That support and automatic updates (if they are available) are usually linked to a single website. That means that if you install the theme or plugin on another site, you’ll have to update it manually.
After the end of the year and the end of your paid-for support and updates, the plugin or theme will continue to work (assuming core WordPress update don’t affect it) but you won’t get any more updates or be able to ask for support. In most cases, you’ll be offered the chance to renew your ‘license’ at a reduced cost.
Herein lies one of the reasons WordPress can be so expensive; If you want to keep a WordPress site up to date and as safe as possible from attacks, you need to ensure your themes and plugins are kept up to date. Always. We’ve never seen a theme or plugin that didn’t contain some sort of bug, defect or weakness, which means there are regular updates through its lifetime. You need updates. So you need to pay.