WordPress is open source (and free). There are over 26 000 free plugins available for download on the official WordPress plugin directory, and just over 1,900 free themes hosted on WordPress.org.

If it’s all free, why should I pay for premium WordPress products? Is it really worth it? What do I get out of the deal?

When discussing premium WordPress products, it’s important to make an initial distinction between the concepts of “premium” and “paid for”. Often, a free product could be classed as “premium” based purely off of its quality, while “paid for” products could just as easily be of a poor standard. With that distinction clarified, lets ask the question again; “Why should I pay for paid-for WordPress products?”


User or Customer?

One clear distinction, although not always obvious, between a free and a paid-for product is the transaction itself. A free product entails a simple one-click download. Perhaps you have to provide your e-mail address or send a tweet in exchange for the download. Regardless, no money changed hands. This kind of transaction takes place between the product developer (be they a one-man-band or a small/large business) and a user.

The very moment money exchanges hands, this is now a business transaction. While not too different from the above free product transaction, the roles have differed slightly. This transaction is now not only between a developer and a user, it is also between a business and a customer. As would be expected, this slight mindset shift brings with it several adjustments, as well as several benefits.

Where the real differences are

As mentioned above, WordPress code (and any code that works on top of WordPress) inherits the GPL, the same license WordPress core itself is released under. This means that, once purchased, all code used in the WordPress product can be viewed by the purchaser. This is no different to a free product (code is all visible, once downloaded).

So, what is one actually purchasing?


A purchase from a premium WordPress product business, such as WooThemes or Obox denotes a certain longevity. It is indicated to the purchaser that the business will be around for a considerable amount of time.

Promise an interest

It is in a business’ interests to take care of your needs, as a customer.

When transacting with a business, this is an unwritten promise being made between the business and yourself. When working with a developer of a free product, this promise is still implied, yet there is no direct interest for the developer (other than improving their product).


Customer service is the most important aspect of the transaction. Without pre-sales support, the conversion rate from user to customer would be significantly lower, and without after-sale support, the customer’s experience with setting up the project would be significantly different.

Premium WordPress business’ have dedicated support staff, available to assist with both pre and after-sale queries. There are often support plans in place, to ensure all customers are looked after equally, as much as possible.


We’ve covered longevity, promise, interest and customer service. Ultimately, this all boils down to one aspect: resources.

If a business has no resources, it cannot sustain itself.

Resources include developers, designers, support technicians, managers, business analysts and any other role geared towards one goal: sustaining the business.

If a one-man-band developer is offering a free product, there is no direct revenue stream with which they can pay for resources.

Well… is it worthwhile?

Yes. Yes it is.

If you are tech-savvy and have the time to develop your own solution, you’ll most likely do this and not be too interested in using the code of others.

If you’re tech-savvy and don’t have the time to develop your own solution, or if you’re not tech-savvy at all and still require a solution, a premium paid-for product is the way to go.

Closing thoughts (and tips)

So, you’ve made the decision to look into paid-for WordPress products. Great! Before you start, there are a few thoughts to explore:

Do your research

Before investing your hard-earned money in purchasing WordPress products, make sure to do your research and choose the product that works best for your needs.

Understand the community

Above all, WordPress is a community. While investing your money in products is great for the community, embracing others in the community, helping out in the public forums and participating in WordPress-centric discussions provide even more value. Understanding the community also goes hand in hand with doing research, and leads to a greater understanding of the choices other community members make.

If you’re a WordPress user in Cape Town, be sure to check out the WordPress Cape Town Community and participate in the events and meet-ups.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments in the comments section below.

Matty Cohen

Chief Product Officer at WooThemes. WordPress and web developer, musician and blogger. Lover of punk rock, innovation, business and 80s/90s cartoons.

Follow Matty on Twitter or View Matty’s blog.