Self-Hosted WordPress Is Usually Cheaper for Serious Websites (But Not Always)
For a basic hobby blog, WordPress.com is the cheapest way to get started. If you’re ok with using a WordPress.com sub-domain (e.g. yourblog.wordpress.com), you can create a blog 100% for free. However, there are some limitations in that you can’t use your own domain name and your blog will have WordPress.com ads.
However, if you’re launching a serious blog, a business website, or any type of website where you plan to make money in some way, self-hosted WordPress will probably be cheaper.
To run a self-hosted WordPress site, the minimum costs are around:
- $50 for a year of hosting
- $10 for a year of your domain name
So – for ~$60 for an entire year, you can have your own self-hosted WordPress install where you can install all the plugins and themes that you want. You would also be able to create multiple WordPress sites.
To get that same flexibility with WordPress, you would pay at least $300 for the year for just a single site.
Basically – if you want the ability to install your own themes and plugins (which you should, unless you’re just creating a very simple blog), self-hosted WordPress will probably be a lot cheaper.
WordPress.com Does NOT Give You Server Access Unless You Upgrade
If you’re a technical user, it’s important to understand that WordPress.com doesn’t give you any server access unless you pay for the Business plan or above.
On the Business plan and above, you’ll be able to connect to your site via SFTP and also access your database via phpMyAdmin.
However, even on the Business plan, you still don’t get full access. For example, you can’t create your own databases or edit server configuration settings.
With self-hosted WordPress, you can edit every single file and configuration option (though some web hosts might restrict what you can do). For example, you can create staging environments, create separate databases when needed, etc.
Self-Hosted WordPress Gives You 100% Control Over Monetization (WordPress.com Has Rules)
If you plan to make money from your website, you’ll almost certainly want to go with self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) because WordPress.com puts some limits on how you can make money from your site.
For example, WordPress.com doesn’t let you use AdSense or other display ad networks unless you’re on the Business plan or above.
WordPress.com does allow affiliate links and sponsored content…but with some limits. For example, WordPress.com says that “you can add affiliate links to your WordPress.com content as long as the primary purpose of your blog is to create original content.”
Similarly, you can write sponsored posts…but with limits – “We do not allow sites where the vast majority of content is sponsored content”.
If you use WordPress.com, you’ll have to consider these rules when you plan your monetization strategy. However, with self-hosted WordPress, you can just monetize your site however you want – you never have to worry about following a third-party’s rules (beyond your government’s laws, of course!).
Should You Use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
Most people should use WordPress.org, AKA self-hosted WordPress because:
- You have the most flexibility, including the ability to install themes and plugins right away and access your server.
- It’s affordable – you can run multiple WordPress sites for as little as ~$60 per year, whereas WordPress.com will cost $300 for a single site if you want to be able to install your own themes and plugins.
- You can monetize your site however you want – you don’t have to worry about following WordPress.com’s rules.
- It’s still simple enough for non-technical users to work with – most web hosts give you one-click installers that let you get up and running with self-hosted WordPress in just a few minutes.
For most websites, those benefits are worth the small increase in complexity.
There are a few exceptions where WordPress.com might make a better choice, though:
- You’re creating a “just for fun” hobby blog and want a simple, free blogging platform. As long as you have zero plans to turn your blog into a business, WordPress.com can be a great choice.
- You’re willing to pay for the WordPress.com Business plan (to install themes/plugins) and want the absolute simplest, most hands-off way to make a WordPress site. You’ll pay a premium over self-hosted WordPress, but WordPress.com will handle all the maintenance for you, which takes a load off your shoulders.
But overall, I would recommend that most people choose self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org).