How Much Does a WordPress Website Cost? We Break It Down

Are you creating a personal, business or enterprise website with WordPress or a different self-hosted CMS? It’ll cost ya.

WordPress definitely ranks supreme for creating professional and feature-rich websites of any content management system (CMS) out there. That’s why many well-known websites use WordPress such as CNN, UPS, Katy Perry, and Mashable.

So how much is a WordPress website really going to set you back?

With so many optional plugins, themes and scripts out there to extend WordPress past its bare bones feature set, it can be tricky to determine how much a site is ultimately going to cost.

Today, I’ll show you the realistic costs for the most common expenses for personal websites and blogs as well as business and enterprise websites using the self-hosted WordPress platform.

The Cost of Using WordPress to Run Your Website

You’ve heard the phrase “it takes money to make money,” right? Well, building and running a website for your business is no different.

Running a self-hosted WordPress site is generally going to cost you more than a managed option such as WordPress.com or Squarespace, but in return you can get a robust, professional and ad-free website that has all the features you need and you can customize it infinitely.

You’re just not going to get the same level of quality that you can with a self-hosted version of WordPress.

For details, check out WordPress.com and WordPress.org: What’s the Difference?, Quiz: Should You Use WordPress.org or WordPress.com? and 27 Reasons Why WordPress Crushes Squarespace Every Time.

Costs, of course, depend on how large your site is and what you need to accomplish with it, but they’re still easy enough to predict if you know what exactly your site needs ahead of time.

Here is a breakdown of the most common costs associated with running a WordPress site. While you can shop around or find coupons and discounts, these necessities are likely to be consistent and without major variables to consider.

The prices listed below are based on a few factors:

  • The most popular options
  • monthly or yearly pricing when those pricing structures are available
  • The cost of the lowest number of supported sites (sometimes it’s one, sometimes around 1-5)
  • Some plugins have a higher cost because they are multifunctional
  • Some plugins have a personal and business plans and the latter is what’s quoted in the cost ranges when applicable

Since plugins range wildly in the features they support and their pricing, it’s a good idea to shop around before deciding on which one you want to use, even if it’s free. It’s important to also consider the overall quality including how it’s coded as well as how consistently it’s maintained.

There are also many other factors to consider so check out WordPress Plugins: When to Buy, When to Download Free for details.

The WordPress Software

The WordPress software is free to use. This goes for whether you sign up for a free account at WordPress.com or download the software directly from WordPress.org.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on self-hosted WordPress – downloading WordPress software and setting up your own website –  since that’s going to be your best bet for creating a high-performing website.

Cost: $0

Domain Name

Registering a domain name.

One of the components you need to run a website is a domain name (site address or URL) which users can enter to access your website.

Most web hosting companies offer domain registration services at the time of signup and the cost typically comes out to $10 to $15 per year. Although, you may want to register your domain separate from your web hosting, where your site is stored.

It’s also important to be aware of domain privacy protection. It’s an additional and optional service that keeps your personal contact information out of the public domain since, once you register a domain for your site, your personal information then gets published to the WHOIS directory.

This can cause some issues for you, from something as basic as unsolicited emails to someone trying to hack into your domain using your information. This add-on could run you another $10 to $15 a year.

Keep in mind that some domain registrars have a terms of service that indicates the owner of a purchased domain belongs to the individual or company that’s listed as the main contact.

Since enabling the domain privacy feature places the domain registrar’s company (where you bought the domain) as the main contact instead of yours, this would mean they legally own the domain even though you purchased it.

While this isn’t always the case, it’s worth looking over a domain registrar’s terms of service before purchasing from them.

Cost: $10-$30 per year

Security Plugin

Defender security plugin
Our Defender plugin is available to download for free from WordPress.org.

It doesn’t matter which content management system you use, but you need to secure your website. Your web hosting company will provide the first layer of protection. Then, it’s up to you to bolster that security with a plugin.

While there are a number of security plugins to choose from, an all-in-one solution that helps you protect your site from all angles and that will also provide built-in monitoring is ideal.

Our Defender security plugin is available to download for free from the official WordPress Plugin Directory and includes one-click site hardening and security tweaking, WordPress core file scanning and repair, IP Blacklist manager and logging, timed lockout brute force attack shield for login protection, a 404 limiter for blocking vulnerability scans, and IP lockout notifications and reports.

If you want to implement even tougher security measures on your site, it’s worth upgrading to the premium version of Defender as part of a WPMU DEV membership, which also includes over 140 plugins and themes for $49 a month.

Cost: $0-499.99 per year or $0-$49 a month

Backup Plugin

UpdraftPlus

As part of your website’s security plan, you need to backup your site regularly.

Some web hosts offer free daily backups. However, if you don’t have that backup option at your disposal or simply want another redundancy option just in case, you can always install a backup plugin on your site. Since there are so many high-quality ones that are available for free, it’s worth it.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out these:

You can choose to use a free backup plugin or if you want a lot more features and protection, our own Snapshot plugin can backup both standalone sites and Multisite networks.

Cost: $0-299 per year or $0-$49 a month

Caching and Performance Plugin

W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is an excellent free caching plugin available to download from WordPress.org.

Not sure what caching is or why your website would even need it? Then read The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Caching.

In a nutshell, caching is a process by which you reduce strain on your site’s servers by “remembering” repeat visitors on your site. Rather than have to call on and load your site from your servers every time they visit, a caching plugin simply pulls up a static version of the site they saw before. This is great for keeping page load times in check and your website running fast.

There are also many other ways to further optimize the performance of your site and many caching plugins are also performance plugins as well such as Hummingbird.

If your site is currently using a content delivery network (CDN) which you may have gotten from your web hosting plan, then there’s no need for a premium caching plugin unless it also includes other performance optimization tools.

A free one like W3 Total Cache will do or there are premium options available such as WP Rocket for $39 per year for one site or Hummingbird, which is included in a WPMU DEV Membership.

Cost: $0-$39 per year or $49 per month

SEO Plugin

All In One SEO

Running a WordPress site takes a lot of work. Getting visitors to actually find your site… well, I’ll just say that takes even more work. The latter is why search engine optimization (SEO) exists.

With the right SEO strategy on your side as well as a high-quality plugin to serve as a sort of checks and balances for your site’s content, you can cut down on the time you’re spending optimizing your site for search engines.

The All in One SEO Pack plugin is free from the WordPress repository and it does much more than just tell you when your content is optimized or not. Alternatively, our SmartCrawl SEO plugin is a must if you need premium features.

Cost: $0-$109 per year or $49 a month

Forms Plugin

Ninja Forms

In most cases, if you intend to have an audience – of readers, of customers, of members, etc. – you need to provide them with a way to get in touch with you. Publishing your company’s phone number or email is one option, but in this digital age, many users will prefer something that requires less human-to-human contact such as a contact form.

When your site is brand new, a simple contact form plugin will do just fine. Contact Form 7 is a good one to start with as you can always scale up to a premium option like Gravity Forms once you have a need for it.

Cost: $0-$199 per year

From Zero to Website Hero

There are many other costs that go into creating a self-hosted WordPress site that need to be considered as well. This includes costs that depend on what you need for your site and how big of a project it is overall.

For example, a simple or personal site is likely to cost a lot less in time and resources than a business or enterprise-level site would, especially since you don’t always need to hire a developer for a small, personal website.

Speaking of hiring a WordPress developer, do you know if you need one? I break it down for you below.

Why Hire a Developer?

There are tons of reasons why hiring a WordPress developer or designer is the way to go. Overall, it’s because of the end result – a website that’s eye-catching, attention-grabbing, conversion-driving and all around phenomenal.

According to Statista, 40% of global Internet users (that’s over one billion people!) have purchased items online. In 2015, eCommerce sales reached $1.7 trillion and it’s estimated to reach $2.35 trillion by 2018 according to Remarkety.

That’s a huge potential for your business or enterprise. It’s even great news if you have a personal or small website because it means there’s an enormous opportunity to grow an engaged audience that hangs on your every word.

I mean, you wouldn’t attempt to build a house all on your on if you aren’t a contractor or carpenter so why would you build your own website if that’s not your skill set?

You can take a chance and end up with a house that stands up to a light breeze and looks… “alright” for all intents and purposes or you can hire a qualified professional and end up with a house that’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous and stands up to most – if not all – types of weather.

It’s up to you since hiring a developer is technically optional, especially for a personal blog or site, but if you need to look professional or if you expect to make money from your site, either indirectly or directly such as for a business or enterprise website, then hiring a developer or agency is a necessity.

When you hire a developer, they take the time to understand what you need to the fullest so you get exactly what you want and often a lot more than you expected.

It’s not worth it to stumble your way through making your site (and fixing loads of inevitable mistakes and errors!) unless you’re okay with spending countless hours of your free time and tons of money to dedicate yourself to learning a skill set for your new career as a WordPress developer.

It can get costly depending on what you need, but it’s worth it. It’s just like building a house. It’s a huge investment, but it’s a necessary one if you want a lovely home that’s safe and comfortable.

Fortunately, hiring a developer isn’t going to cost you nearly as much as a house would. That is unless you’re wanting to build a huge and intricate government website or the next Facebook. In such cases, you could end up spending that much over time.

Hiring a WordPress developer is an important investment to consider and you can find cost ranges later on.

When you look it over, keep in mind that the cost of hiring a developer depends on what you need. It includes how many pages you need and the amount of detail and time that go into them, but a lot more including the plugins and theme you need set up or created, the marketing aspects that need to be included, the overall scope of the project and more.

Where and How to Hire a Developer

When you have decided you want to hire a WordPress developer, it’s important to keep in mind that you should think of it exactly as hiring someone for your business. Essentially, that’s what you’re doing.

Sure, it’s a business expense and you’re likely not putting the developer on your payroll (unless you want to do that), but you’re hiring a contractor to do work for your business so you should treat it as an important business decision.

You should approach hiring a contract developer as you would a prospective employee. Do your research, and conduct an interview, then check their references and testimonials.

For details, check out Not a Developer? The Art of Remote Hiring – Starting Your Internet Business, Part 3.

There are also many places you can look to hire a developer and for details on that, also check out Where to Find a WordPress Developer When You Need Custom Work.

Your Time

Another important aspect of creating a website is the time you’re going to personally put into it.

Remember: any work you spend on building, managing, and running your site is going to cost you money. The more you can outsource to other team members, third-party service providers, WordPress developers and even plugins, the better.

That being said, it’s important that you have a hand in what’s happening on your site. Your site is your baby and you’re going to want a say in what changes need to be made, which blog posts should be written, and so on.

Cost: That depends on what your time is personally worth to you, but here’s a general window of time you can expect to be busy working on your site in some way:

  • Personal blog or website – To be on the safe side, factor in at least eight to 10 hours of work every month.
  • Business website – Set aside 10 to 40 hours a week depending on the the size of your site and business.
  • Enterprise website – Be willing to spend 40 hours a week and even more depending on the size of your site and enterprise.

Important and Fluctuating Website Costs

There’s already a lot that’s been covered for accurately pricing the WordPress site you want to make, but it has only just begun. This is also where things get a bit trickier because there are many variables to consider.

To get an accurate run down, you need to consider more than basic costs and you also need to know what kind of site you want: a personal blog, or a personal, business or enterprise website.

With this in mind, here’s what’s covered below in each cost breakdown as well as what you need to know about the site you want to create to get an accurate cost figure:

  • Bandwidth – This is your estimated traffic flow multiplied by the total file size of the pages that are loaded and visited.
  • Disk Usage – The total storage space you need to host your site and all its files.
  • Central Processing Unit (CPU) Cores – A processing unit which translates digital instructions into actions. Everything you or your visitors want to do on your site needs to go through the processor core to occur.
  • Random Access Memory (RAM) – Your server’s memory. It’s where data is stored so it can be easily accessed later and by using less processing power.
  • MySQL Databases – A default WordPress site or network requires one MySQL database to run.
  • My SQL Disk Usage – The total storage space you need for your data stored in the databases for your WordPress sites.
  • Other considerations – Do you need any add-on domains, a dedicated IP address, email addresses, do you plan to host your own email and other similar additional options.
  • Web Hosting – The server where your site is stored and accessed from using the internet and the World Wide Web.
  • SSL Certificate – A specific type of encryption to secure the connection between your site and your visitors’ browsers.
  • Other plugins – You may need other plugins to add different capabilities to your site that otherwise aren’t included but that you need.
  • Hiring a developer – A WordPress developer is an incredible asset that can create anything you need for your site as well as maintain it.

When you’re calculating the amount of estimated bandwidth you need, you should also factor in visits by search engines and other similar crawlers and especially spam bots or hackbots.

Spam bots or hackbots are programs created to post spam or attempt to hack a site. They can also systematically visit sites in the hundreds of thousands for these nefarious purposes within a few hours, give or take.

Even small WordPress sites can see at least 2500 visits per month due to hackbots.

While this may not be consistent month-to-month and this number is bound to fluctuate, it’s still worth factoring into your calculations. That way, your site doesn’t end up getting knocked offline due to a DDoS attack.

This occurs when a hackbot visits your site so much to try and compromise it that all your site’s resources are used and your site gets shut off.

For details, check out The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Security and The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Spam.

It may also be important to note that in the cost ranges below, free themes aren’t included for business and enterprise sites. This is intentional because while free themes are often great quality, they aren’t always and they just aren’t going to cut it for professional websites.

Free themes are often limited in features and customizations. Unless you want to code your way through adding what you need to a free theme or hire a developer to do it for you, it’s best to go with a premium theme. Typically, they look a lot more professional and are designed and coded better.

While all of these factors aren’t going to be the case for 100% of themes, they do apply in most cases. For details, you can check out Free WordPress Themes: The Ultimate Guide, Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Premium WordPress Theme and A Thoughtful Guide to Picking the Perfect Themes and Plugins for Your WordPress Site.

Simple or Personal Website Costs

When I say a “simple” or “personal” website or blog, I mean sites and blogs where you only need a few pages with little detail or you casually want to share your story, hobby, fan fiction and other similar avenues.

This could also include businesses where most of your sales are through foot traffic and you want a one-page website to list your location and contact information.

In other words, while it would be cool if a lot of people saw your site, it’s not critical to your success and you don’t expect or need to make any money directly from your site. Either that or you’re just starting out and you want to gently test the waters first or you have a strict budget.

More specifically, here are the general figures of what these kinds of sites would look like:

  • Around 500-2500 genuine visitors per month and 2500 visits from crawlers and hack or spam bots.
  • One single installation of WordPress that consists of around one to 25 pages with about 1 MB worth of content in each of them.
  • You plan to post one to three posts per week with about 1 MB worth of content in each. That’s about a few high-quality images and text.
  • Up to five plugins are installed.

If this sounds like the kind of site you want to make, here’s the generally estimated resources you may need:

  • Bandwidth – 3 GB-5 GB per month
  • Disk Usage – 250 MB-5 GB
  • MySQL Databases – One
  • MySQL Disk Usage – 250 MB-5 GB
  • Other considerations – Hosted email such as from your hosting company, optional

Web Hosting

SiteGround offers managed WordPress hosting.

Every website needs a server from which to run. Since servers are expensive and require a high level of technical understanding that most people don’t have, this should be left up to the experts (i.e. web hosting companies) to manage.

There are many types of hosting available and you can check out Shared, VPS, Dedicated or Cloud Hosting? Which is Best for WordPress? for details.

Generally, when you’re starting out and you don’t plan or need to explode in popularity quickly, you can pick a hosting plan with fewer resources such as shared hosting.

If you want an option that’s more reliable and where a lot of the legwork is taken care of for you such as the security of your server, you could get cloud or managed hosting. There are also some cloud hosting options out there that are also managed as well.

Typically, the cost of these hosting options without a sale or promotion is about:

  • Shared – $10-$40 per month
  • Cloud – $10-$100 per month
  • Managed – $10-$100 per month

The most important aspect of choosing a hosting plan is to shop around for the best solution for your website after estimating the resources you need. Be sure to weigh your option thoroughly before committing to a hosting plan and carefully consider the resources you need versus what’s offered.

Here are some affiliate-free reviews of various hosting companies and options to get you started:

SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate secures the connection between your site and your visitors’ browser through encryption. It’s a critical security technique that your site shouldn’t go without, though, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not the only step you should take.

For details, check out How to Use SSL and HTTPS with WordPress and The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Security.

For a simple or personal site, a basic SSL certificate is usually enough. There are many options out there including a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt and Certbot, but there are also paid options that work just as well. You can check out The Top 5 Most Popular SSL Certificate Authorities Reviewed for details.

Cost: $0-$175 per year

Keep in mind that there are many options that are at a higher cost and that are also a lot more robust, but they’re not included since you don’t typically need these options for a simple site.

Free, Premium or Developed Theme

If you intend to keep your site small and personal and aren’t particularly focused on gaining a huge audience, a free WordPress theme from the WordPress.org theme repository will likely do the trick.

For a more professional look and more customization options, you could opt for a premium theme.

For details, check out some of our other posts:

Cost: $0-$70 or $89 per year to $49 per month for a membership with unlimited themes.

Other Premium Plugins

Besides the core plugins suggested above, there may be others you may need to accomplish the type of site you want to build. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the more plugins you install, the slower your site loads. This means it’s more difficult for your visitors to access and view your site.

Since 40% of users abandon sites that take more than three seconds to load according to Kissmetrics, it’s important to keep your site’s speed in mind. This means you should be mindful of how many plugins you install.

With that in mind, it’s important to note that earlier, it was mentioned that up to five installed plugins for a simple or personal site was the sweet spot under the specifications that were also mentioned.

If you installed the types of plugins listed above, you likely already have five plugins, unless you installed one that covered more than one of those categories. Still, it’s important to be mindful of any other plugins you want to use at this point.

If you can help it, don’t install any more plugins, unless you’re okay with upgrading your hosting or otherwise choosing a plan that includes more resources than the bare minimum.

Hiring a Developer

If you’re planning to grow your audience or make money from your site either indirectly or directly at some point, you should consider hiring a developer or at least choose a premium theme unless you’re strapped for cash.

Hiring a developer is the ideal choice because they’re experienced and skilled at creating exactly what you need for your site to be successful.

Ultimately, this is optional, but it’s a necessary step if you want your site to come across as professional and as trust worthy as possible.

While design trends do change from year-to-year and hiring a developer can get costly that way, you can communicate your concerns to the developer you hire and ask them to create a site where the design can hold up to the scrutiny of design trends for a few years. While they can’t predict the future, they can still design a solid site that isn’t going to look like rubbish in a few months.

Cost: Around $1000-$2500

Ongoing Website Maintenance

Fixing car
Setting up a website isn’t a one-off cost – you’ll need to keen in mind maintenance costs.

Setting up a website isn’t a one-off cost – you need to keep in mind maintenance costs. Let’s say you don’t want to deal with managing your WordPress site at all. Once the site gets big enough and you have enough discretionary funds to throw around, there are a couple options to consider.

You could pay for a WordPress maintenance and support service. These companies can handle a number of things for you, including managing backups, updates, and even the occasional maintenance-related task. On average, the cost of this service is about $100 a month.

You could also hire a contract developer to help as needed, but that would cost you a lot more than a maintenance and support company. However, developers will be able to do much more to your site in terms of changing content, cleaning up code and anything else you need.

For now, I wouldn’t worry about this option. Just know that it’s there and will probably cost you at least $50 an hour.

If you’re willing to learn and maintain your site on your own, then this is optional, but keep in mind outsourcing as many tasks as possible frees up your time for more important tasks and projects.

Cost: $100 per month or $50+ per hour

Portfolio Websites

The exception here is if you want to post a lot of photos on a regular basis. For example, if you’re a photographer or artist and you want to make a portfolio site where you continually post a lot of images on a regular basis.

How much is a lot of images, exactly? Somewhere in the ballpark of one high quality or HD image a day where each image has a file size of around one megabyte or more.

You wouldn’t need to immediately upgrade from a smaller hosting plan, but after several months, you may start to notice your resources are at least starting to dwindle, though, it would depend on the kind of hosting plan you get.

With that in mind, here are the kind of resources you need on top of any cost ranges listed above or below:

  • Bandwidth – Multiply your expected traffic by the figures below.
  • Disk Usage – 30 MB-1 GB per month
  • MySQL Databases – No extra databases are needed
  • MySQL Disk Usage – 30 MB-1 GB
  • Other considerations – You may want to use a gallery plugin or other similar plugins to organize and display your images.

You could also double, triple or otherwise multiply these numbers by the amount of images you actually want to post. For example, if you want to post two high quality or HD images at around one megabytes in size each, then you would double these figures.

The Bootstrapped Startup

If you’re more of a bootstrapped startup, then the cost range for your site would be between the above and the figures directly below for a business website.

Keep in mind that the closer you can get to the cost range below, the better. This is because you ideally want at least a little wiggle room in your site’s resources to accommodate your gradual growth.

It’s a lot easier to plan ahead than it is to scramble at the last minute if your site suddenly gets a boost of traffic and your host either charges you a lot extra or you need to migrate your entire site to a larger server with ample resources. While you don’t need to go big or go home with absolutely everything, a little goes a long way.

Business Website Costs

If you’re planning on being able to make money with your website or because of your website, you need it to be as professional as possible. You’re also going to need to grow a large audience.

This means that you need more than just the simple kind of site described above. Instead, you may need something more this speed:

  • Around 5,000-300,000 genuine visitors per month and 10,000-150,000 visits from crawlers and hack or spam bots.
  • One to three single installation of WordPress or one to three Multisite networks.
  • Each site contains one to 100 pages with about 1 MB to 1 GB worth of content on each page (including videos).
  • You plan to post three to seven posts per week with about 1 MB to 1 GB of content in each post, including some videos.
  • Between five and 20 plugins are installed.

With these figures in mind, here’s the generally estimated resources you may need:

  • Bandwidth – 20 GB-5 TB per month
  • Disk Usage – 1 GB-150 GB
  • CPU Cores – Four
  • RAM – 4 GB-8 GB
  • MySQL Databases – One-three
  • MySQL Disk Usage – 1 GB-150 GB
  • Other considerations – Dedicated IP Addresses, add-on domains, hosted email addresses using your domain, a content delivery networl (CDN) and relevant plugins for your business.

Quick Tip: When you’re looking for a viable cloud hosting solution, you should divide the resource list by three as a general rule of thumb since cloud servers are built differently than traditional hosting servers and can efficiently handle a lot more with fewer resources.

Web Hosting

In order to run a successful website for your business, you need to choose the right hosting plan. Knowing what resources you need is a great first step. Once you know these details, you can start searching for a plan that works for you.

For a professional business website, shared hosting isn’t enough and you should seriously consider getting managed hosting to help you free up your time for working on your business and so you can rest easy knowing your server and site are safe.

So what type of hosting should you get, other than managed? A more robust cloud hosting plan or a virtual private server (VPS) are your best bets.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could choose a dedicated server, though, please note that this would require a lot more technical knowledge and involvement for managing and maintaining the server.

Typically, these are the cost ranges for these types of recommended hosting options when there isn’t a sale or promotion:

  • Cloud – $20-$400 per month
  • Managed VPS – $45-$249 per month
  • Dedicated Server – $229-$500 per month

With all this in mind, here are some affiliate-free reviews of some recommended and reliable hosts for business websites:

SSL Certificate

When it comes to business websites, you may be able to get away with a basic SSL certificate, but it’s far better to increase your site’s level of security with an extended validation, subject alternative name, wildcard or organization validation certificate.

In addition to ramping up your site’s security, these certificates also make your business look more professional and trustworthy. Their setup has a more involved process, though, but the benefits are worth it.

For details, check out How to Use SSL and HTTPS with WordPress and The Top 5 Most Popular SSL Certificate Authorities Reviewed.

Cost: $200-$995

Premium or Developed Theme

If you’re only just starting your business or you don’t have a budget for hiring a developer and designer to create the perfect theme for your site, you could opt for a premium theme instead.

It can be a great first step until you’re able to hire a developer in the future. Fortunately, the cost of premium themes don’t change because of the nature of your site so you can expect to pay the same as mentioned earlier.

Cost: $0-$70 or $89 per year to $49 per month for a membership with unlimited themes.

Other Premium Plugins

WPMU Membership

The WordPress plugins mentioned toward the beginning of this article are the essentials, the non-negotiables. If you’re running a site, then you absolutely need to be using them. However, there are other types of plugins you may want to tack on, like those for eCommerce stores, social media integration, image optimization, spam blocking, and analytics.

If you want to add more plugins or simply want to upgrade the ones you already have to premium versions but are worried about the cost, consider a membership.

The best option is a WPMU DEV membership, which includes access to a wide range of tools and services that tackle everything you need—including security, backups, and performance—and greatly help to reduce costs. You can even sign up for a free trial and get access to everything.

Cost: $0 for free trial, or $49 per month (optional)

Hiring a Developer

As previously mentioned, if you have the budget, it’s ideal to hire a WordPress developer to create your site for you from the theme right down to getting everything set up.

Your site and business stand to look stunning, eye-catching and professional while also being able to convert visitors into leads and sales. Essentially, hiring a developer can help your site become successful without all the trial and error with which you would otherwise need to partake.

You can save yourself loads of frustration, mistakes, troubleshooting – and above all, time – if you hire a developer to take care of everything for you.

With the specifications for a business website mentioned earlier on, you should expect the cost of your site to be more than a simple or personal site. The reason being that there’s a lot more work involved in this kind of project.

Cost: $2,500-$5,000

Ongoing Website Maintenance

As a business, you can’t afford for your site to get shut down or for it to get hacked or otherwise broken. You could lose hundreds or thousands of sales within a small window of time while you wrestle to fix the issue or research a developer you can hire.

Instead, it’s recommended that you invest in a maintenance service to ensure your site doesn’t run into any unexpected disaster or it’s at least contained and resolved quickly. That is unless you’re already a WordPress developer and you’re happy to take on the added responsibility.

Alternatively, you could hire a developer on retainer to ensure your site is given the highest level of care. This is ideal if your budget allows.

Cost: $100-$299 per month or $100+ per hour (or billed for a pre-determined number of hours per month).

Enterprise Website Costs

Setting up and running an enterprise site is a lot different than creating a simple, personal or business website. For one, you need a lot more resources that are flexible and finely tuned, but you also need to have more control over your server.

Typically, you need control over your server because there’s a lot more at stake and you need to be able to ensure the total security and optimized performance of your website. After all, your site is likely to have hundreds of thousands of users and bring in that much income as well.

Here are the hallmarks of an enterprise site:

  • Around 500,000-4,500,000 genuine visitors per month and 50,000-300,000+ visits from crawlers and hack or spam bots.
  • One to 100+ single installation of WordPress or one to 100+ Multisite networks.
  • Each site contains 25 to 100 or more pages with about 1 MB to 1 GB worth of content on each page (including videos).
  • You plan to post seven or more posts per week with about 1 MB to 1 GB of content in each post, including videos.
  • There are 10 or more plugins installed and sometimes a ton more depending on the enterprise.

These are the kind of resources you can expect to need:

  • Bandwidth – 1 TB- 8TB per month
  • Disk Usage – 400 GB-8 TB
  • CPU Cores – Four to eight
  • RAM – 4 GB-16 GB
  • MySQL Databases – One-100+
  • MySQL Disk Usage – 400 GB-8 TB
  • Other considerations – Dedicated IP Addresses, add-on domains, hosted or self-hosted email using your domain, a content delivery networl (CDN), a robust search tool and other relevant plugins for your business.

Keep in mind that most enterprise sites would have pages and posts that are on average 1 MB-1.75 MB in size so you may only need resources at the smaller end of the scale.

The exception here is if you plan to self-host a ton of videos like Netflix or the video host Wistia. That’s when you would need resources at the higher end of the scale. Depending on your enterprise site, you may even need more.

Web Hosting

If you’re starting out, shop for enterprise hosting plans since they are designed for high traffic and, well, enterprise websites. You could also start with one of the smaller plans and upgrade later when it’s necessary.

To help kickstart your research, you can check out these web hosts for their enterprise plans:

Cost: $1,000-$100,000+ per month

SSL Certificate

When you’re running an enterprise website, a free or basic certificate just isn’t going to cut it anymore. You need to ramp up your security because you’re supporting hundreds of thousands of users everyday that rely on you to help keep them safe while using your site.

Your site is also going to be a large target for hackers so the cheapest option just isn’t going to cut it.

You should opt for an organization validation certificate and a unified communications certificate if you plan on self-hosting email for your enterprise. If you plan on setting up a Multisite network with sub-domains, you may also need a wildcard certificate.

For details, check out The Top 5 Most Popular SSL Certificate Authorities Reviewed.

Cost: $235-$1,999 per year

Premium or Developed Theme

If you’re planning on running an enterprise website, you should have an ample budget to be able to hire a WordPress developer to design your site.

Realistically, a premium theme just isn’t going to cut it because you ideally want to set yourself apart from everyone else and using a theme that thousands of others are using as well isn’t a good way of achieving that.

The cost of designing your enterprise site depends on a lot of factors including if you need one unique site design, if you have a network of sites to represent different physical locations of your enterprise or if you want to create the next social media site. The latter would require more than the maximum cost mentioned below.

Cost: $5,000-$25,000+

Other Premium Plugins

There are many other plugins you may need and the ones you install depend on what you need for your site. When you’re building an enterprise website, there are other plugins that become non-negotiable like the ones mentioned earlier on.

The default WordPress search lacks in speed and relevancy when it comes to the quality of its search results. Installing ElasticPress or the Solr Search plugins should fix this problem nicely.

You also need management plugins to optimize your site’s speed as well as monitor it for downtime and leaks in your site that reduce its speed and efficiency.

You’re also going to need an analytics plugin to track your business and website in order to reach your goals.

If you’re selling items directly on your site, you also need an eCommerce plugin, unless you’re selling memberships. Then, you would need a membership plugin.

You can also find these plugins in a WPMU DEV membership where you can use them all.

Cost: $0 for free trial, or $49 per month or $50-$300 per year, per plugin

Hiring a Developer

Unless you’re a pro WordPress developer (and even then) you should hire at least one developer or an agency to help you design your site as well as set everything up for you.

A serious enterprise requires a seriously professional and well-coded website and infrastructure. With so much on the line including your enormous user base and income (or soon to be enormous), you can’t afford to leave your site and its future up to a few plugins and a premium theme.

It depends on the scope of your project, but working toward hiring a team of developers including UX/UI developers, system admins, plugin developers and the like can help you drive your enterprise forward.

If you’re not quite there, you could focus on hiring one to three contract developers to set up your enterprise website and expand when the time is right.

Cost: $5,000-25,000+ to start, $60,000-$110,000 per developer, per year

Ongoing Website Maintenance

Similarly, you shouldn’t expect to set it and forget it when it comes to an enterprise website. It’s essential to hire at least one system admin to start and more developers as you grow to maintain your website.

A maintenance service or plugin just isn’t going to cut it because they can’t give your site the level of care and attention it needs at this level.

Some hosts can include developers for an additional fee, but in the long run, your goal should be to hire your own team for maximum success and results.

Cost: $5,000-25,000+ to start, $60,000-$110,000 per developer, per year

Wrapping Up

Depending on the kind of WordPress site you want to create, the costs can range tremendously:

  • Simple or personal website – $130-$6,440+ per year
  • Business website – $4,150-$17,347+ per year
  • Enterprise website – $27,833-$1,279,375+ per year

While you can keep costs considerably low to start out, as you grow your site you should naturally see your expenses go from the front end of that cost range toward the higher end.

If you choose to hire one or more developers for ongoing support, your costs can be significantly more such as if you hire them for your enterprise website.

Investing in your website is an important step to ensure its success, especially if you’re running a business or enterprise so be sure to treat it as such.

Jenni McKinnon
Over to you: In running a website for yourself or for someone else, have you ever encountered any unexpected costs along the way?

11 Responses

  • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

    Good breakdown.

    A colleague of mine got me hooked on the phrase “FOSS is only free if your time is worthless”. People really need to internalize that the F in FOSS is aligned with Freedom not Free Lunch. If you’re running a business, your website running on “free” software needs to be treated as a business expense that is as real as any other.

    About themes: It’s true that there is usually a one-time fee for premium themes. But the reality is that themes get outdated rather quickly with trends, improvements to the WP core, and the fickle nature of some theme providers. I’d suggest that the real cost of premium theming should be assumed to be a yearly cost rather than a one-time purchase. Since free themes need to be replaced for the same reasons, the cost for research, implementation, and maintenance of free themes incurs the same yearly burden of time=money.

    The same can be said for the occasional need to replace plugins, or at least to report issues and hope that they will be fixed by the author. While a rarely considered alternative the budget should provided for occasional investigation into code by a competent programmer for small things, or enhancements or fixes that will not be done by the author.

    The cost of hosting a “WordPress” website is no different than any other when it comes to domain name, hosting service, etc. But since you’ve included those details, I’ll add the cost of maintaining mail services, whether free or otherwise. Then there are occasional database maintenance tasks, the cost of researching downtime, the occasional cost of having your mail server blacklisted as a spam source for no good reason, and rare recovery efforts from hackers. There should be time for checking logs to see if the site is under DoS attack, checking logs for bot login attempts, ensuring the site isn’t being bombarded by comment spam, ensuring public-contributed content is acceptable – and looking for plugins to minimize all of that abuse. There’s also time for monitoring analytics to see just how good your SEO is, or monitoring user flows to see what parts of your site are getting hit the most, the least, and where your visitors exit your site (without making a purchase or further inquiry).

    You didn’t mention the potential cost of images. While it’s too easy to Google for “business image” and get something you want to slap on your site, that’s simply not legal or ethical. A bit of budget should be left for proper licensing of images, or at least research time to ensure that images on the site are being used appropriately.

    There is also time for checking Responsive factors. According to statistics mobile surfing is starting to exceed desktops. Many/most themes advertise as responsive and the Customizer makes it easy to test, but you never know what your site really looks like until you open it on various devices, with various apps, and change the layout. Of course there are for-fee services for that too.

    Finally, (really? yippie!) there is an ongoing cost for basic content. It takes time=money to author content, or to beg people in the company to write something for the website. (I had to drop a client because he ignored my pestering for any kind of text or images to put on his website – he paid for “a website” and thought he was done.) Too many people think the website is the end of the effort. It’s just the beginning. Like social media, it’s the place to put the messages, but the messaging needs to be crafted for the audience, and way too many people don’t get that.

    As my colleague says, it’s only free if your time is worthless. One must be prepared for the real-world time=cost for maintaining a site, or the possible consequences for not spending that time.

    • Staff

      Hey, Tony.

      Thank you for providing valuable input. There are some great points your fellow WPMU DEV members can take note of. As we try not to overwhelm members with too much info we keep each topic in a blog bite size and to the point. But still we do love it when our members get involved by posting great feedback or just plain old good advice. Keep it up. :-)

  • New Recruit

    Very well said Tony. This article maybe true in simplifying startup costs but feel it trivializes the REAL cost of a site … overtime .. and ‘shuns’ the need for a professional web developer. I am a freelancer developer and believe me my clients do not wish to spend the time in developing, maintaining and debugging WordPress/website issues. There need is to spend the time in the core business.

    If the typical, small business were to do their own web development, bookkeeping, equipment maintenance, sales, marketing, construction building, etc .. where would an owner have the time to spend on the business? Hence .. why there are full-time job positions and/or outside companies that address these needs.

    • Staff

      Hi, Michael.

      That is true, but this article’s aim is to point out that there are costs involved in having a website and give an idea as to how much it might cost. It will also give the potential business owner considering using WP and idea as to what it will cost. Most startup companies don’t have a big budget if any and this will help them get started.

  • New Recruit

    Tony did a solid job of making some great points. I will go further and say that posts like these are more damaging than they are helpful – to either clients or businesses.

    The reason being – they set unrealistic expectations. Clients come in thinking ‘well, how much can it really cost if all of this is free?’, not realizing that a good developer is $50-$120 hr, that it takes years of study to understand how all of this fits together and that, unless you’re making a personal blog with zero care for anything other than ‘getting something out there’, you’re going to want someone with some expertise.

    On the business end, new people come in and read posts like this thinking ‘all of this is free, I can become a WordPress person easily’, again not realizing that the true ‘value’ exists in the knowledge of WordPress, PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc.

    If we insists on writing posts like this, there should be a section dedicated to showing just how much time/effort you’re going to have to put in to learn even simple things like using the Customizer (much less knowing why you WOULDN’T want to use the Customizer), basic HTML and CSS. Even go one further and explain why you’d want a professional developer and the differences in knowledge level, pricing, etc.

    Much of my business comes from clients who thought they could do it themselves, or hired someone who was cheap – only to realize a year or two later that there are serious problems that need to be fixed and, very often, those fixes cost a lot of time and effort. It’s good business for me, but I’d much prefer to see things getting done right the first time, so let’s try to put realistic costs into everyone’s heads rather than pretending it’s all free.

    • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

      “knowing why you WOULDN’T want to use the Customizer” ? If you could start a post somewhere on this topic, or refer to one, I’d be grateful for the insight.

      @Tekguild and I seem to have similar experiences.

      In the back of my mind I wonder if this article was intended to give the impression that a WP site is relatively cheap and easy compared to other options, the motivation being that if someone reads this they might sign-up with WPMU DEV. Sorry for being cynical.

      That said, I do appreciate that this article was not called “The Complete Guide” as others that have not actually been complete. As Michelle said, there’s a lot out there and only so much can/should be covered in a summary like this.

      To reinforce my support for this ecosystem: Having tried a bunch of other CMS, I think WP is indeed less costly than the blood, sweat, and tears caused by Drupal, Joomla, ModX, and certainly Sitefinity. WP code is fairly clean – the core that is, with variance of course depending on plugin/theme developer expertise. Plugins and Themes are generally less problematic. The software is updated frequently. There is a ton of info available, and a diverse and widespread community that is generous with their time and knowledge. For those who want it there are various installers and hosting services that handle some amount of the low-level grief for the user. This all contributes to a comparable lower cost of ownership.

      To summarize what seems to be the common response here: We do better with WP than alternatives, but in the real world the cost of an internet presence is usually higher than anyone expects. I think this article could have done a better job of setting realistic expectations, but if its intent was to just be an introduction to the topic, it’s succeeded wonderfully. :)

    • The Crimson Coder

      RE:
      Much of my business comes from clients who thought they could do it themselves, or hired someone who was cheap – only to realize a year or two later that there are serious problems that need to be fixed and, very often, those fixes cost a lot of time and effort. It’s good business for me, but I’d much prefer to see things getting done right the first time, so let’s try to put realistic costs into everyone’s heads rather than pretending it’s all free.

      We’re actually working on a blog post about this very thing. If you have any stories you’d like to share (even anonymously if you don’t want your name mentioned in the post) please email our support team! I’m trying to collect as many stories as I can to show examples of how people can be easily scammed.

      • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

        RE: I’m trying to collect as many stories as I can to show examples of how people can be easily scammed.

        We’re providing examples here of how people can be affected by their own business decisions. That’s different from someone else “scamming” them with mis-direction or malice. I don’t consider incompetence to be a form of scam.

        There are a Lot of incompetent consultants, independent developers, and software houses. They think they’re competent, or like all of us they’re simply doing the best they can to earn a living with the skillset they have. These folks can start a project and eventually leave it with a lot of bugs for us, the clean-up crew to fix or re-write at great expense to the unfortunate business owner. Yeah, been there, done that.

        But that’s different from contractors who intentially add bugs and make projects drag out as they quote ridiculous hours to fix the problems they introduced. Yeah, I’ve seen too much of that too. People who do this habitually are scammers.

        To keep this in context with this blog post on Costs – before doing business with contractors, don’t just accept what they’re telling you (high productivity for a low price), contact their former clients and get direct testimonials. You may find they’re actually leaving behind a trail of low productivity and/or low quality at a high price.

  • Mr. LetsFixTheWorld

    This is an interesting thread from last year about sites being developed.
    https://premium.wpmudev.org/forums/topic/choosing-the-right-framework-for-a-directory

    There we see numbers in excess of $10k for development and other details. But one should not just look at Cost, but at effective recovery of costs and actual ROI. In other words, it doesn’t matter if it costs you a million dollars to build a site, as long as you can get that all back in a reasonable time. With a site intended to be a source of revenue, with realistic expectations, the Cost is not as significant as one intended to be a pure Marketing expense.

    That thread demonstrates the value of planning, research, and getting the components right, as a part of significantly reducing costs or at least negating the perceived value of Cost. Stated another way, if you don’t know what you want, you’re going to spend a lot more time=money than someone who creates a list of needs vs wants, and someone who does good research before installing and discarding a lot of unworthy addons. Also, planning a revenue model is important for establishing expectations, justifying costs, and eliminating issues of perception which lead to lots of costly rework and changes of personnel.

    One could conclude that, independent of the actual cost-per-component factors, two people building the exact same website with the exact same tools might have entirely different profit/loss ratios, depending on how they plan and manage the implementation. While some people assume that any monkey/technician can build a website, these concepts show that there is a significant difference between people who are skilled in the business of IT and those who are not. And that also leads to the idea that paying more for well-skilled personnel might actually save money. That’s a tough pill for some business owners to swallow. People who know their stuff need to convey these concepts to earn their rate.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    I cringe at the thought of a client coming to me and demanding that I charge them $3.95 per hosting. I would like to point out that the 3.95 per month for the FIRST YEAR only. After that it is $9.95. When telling customers the cost of hosting, I never give them the sale price, because then they blow-up when the bill triples!

    FYI, GoDaddy is on sale for $3.99 per month and afterwards is only $7.99 per month.

    One difference being you can use free “Let’s Encrypt” with SiteGround, but you can’t with GoDaddy (their servers are more restricted for security reasons.)

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