If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who has found themselves wondering “what is the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org”? then it may be a relief to know that you are not alone.

As a web designer, I get asked this question time and time again by my clients and I know a lot of people struggle to tell them apart.

Whether a life coach or a freelance copywriter, if you are new to WordPress, you might find it hard to tell the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Although they have (confusingly) the same name, there are many contrasts between the two.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

Just what are those differences? More importantly, what effect will choosing one over the other have on your website?

In this article, I explain the key differences between the two. I’ll list their pros and cons so you can make a more informed choice on which one will be best for your business website.

Confused? Not for much longer, I promise!

Let’s dive in…

What is WordPress.org

Although I won’t go into too much techy detail, it’s worth understanding that WordPress.org is what is known as an Open Source CMS (Content Management System).

Being open source, WordPress is developed and maintained by an open community of enthusiasts and not by a specific company. These people use their knowledge to help answer support questions, write code, create new themes and plugins – for the benefit of all of the WordPress community.

For all those non-tech types, all you need to remember is WordPress.org is free to download and use to build a website with little or no coding experience required.

Before you get started on WordPress.org

WordPress.org is infused with a lot of great features that help you to create a beautiful website.

In order to get started with WordPress.org, you need a domain name (i.e. YouAreAmazing.com) and web hosting for your site.

WordPress.org Pros

WordPress.org is a powerful system that gives you full control over your website. Here is a taste of what you can expect:

  1. WordPress.org is free to use. Simply download the software from WordPress.org site and install it on your web server.
  2. You can install any free or paid themes from the large collection available, giving you the power to change the look and feel of your website as much as you want.
  3. With WordPress.org you can also add as many plugins as you would want, in order to add different functionalities in your website. These plugins can be either free, paid, or your own custom plugins.
  4. You are allowed to place your own ads on your site that help you to earn money. You do not have to share your profits with WordPress.
  5. You are in full control of your site and the data in it. As long as you are running a legal site, no one, including WordPress, can pull down your site and its data for what they think is violating ‘their’ terms of service.
  6. You can leverage the power of advanced tracking tools such as Google analytics, providing you with custom ways to track your audience insights.
  7. With WordPress.org, you can set up membership sites, giving you the ability to set up online communities and sell premium content such as courses.
  8. You can also easily set up online stores to sell physical and digital goods, accept credit or online payments and even ship goods directly from your site. How awesome is that?

WordPress.org cons

Although WordPress.org has an incredible amount of pros, nothing in life is perfect. It’s worth noting a couple of downsides to using self-hosted WordPress.org.

  1. You will require web hosting for your website and its contents, which costs money. Luckily, there are a lot of affordable web hosting companies out there to choose from.
  2. You need to purchase a domain name in order to give your site an identity (i.e. YouAreAmazing.com).
  3. You are responsible for your site backups. However, there are numerous backup plugins available that can do them for you.
  4. WordPress.org doesn’t update your site for you. However, you can do this easily by just a click of a button.

What is WordPress.com

A few years ago, Matt Mullenweg, a co-founder of WordPress.org, spotted a gap in the market. Although people found WordPress.org impressive, many wanted a platform where they didn’t have to worry about updates, backups or security.

With this in his mind, he created WordPress.com. This is a managed, shared hosting platform that takes care of all the dirty work for you. It’s perfect for busy business owners who don’t have the time or the know-how to maintain their website.

WordPress.com has a dedicated number of employees who constantly maintain, develop and provide support for the platform.

WordPress.com Pros

  1. WordPress.com is free and very easy to set up, even for a non-techie person.
  2. You get 3 GB storage for free but if you require more space you have to upgrade to a paid plan.
  3. WordPress.com does your backup and site update for you.
  4. You get a free domain when you register at WordPress.com but with the  .WordPress subdomain included in your domain (MySite.WordPress.com). This can be removed by upgrading to a business plan.

WordPress.com Cons

The WordPress.com platform has a lot of limitations. Here are some of them:

  1. WordPress.com can pull down your site whenever they think you have violated their terms of service..
  2. WordPress.com places their ads on your free site. You will have to upgrade to a paid plan to hide these ads from your users.
  3. On a free plan you are limited to a small number of themes. Upgrade your plan to a WordPress.com Premium or Business plan to be able to fully customize the design of your site.
  4. To place your own ads on your website, you must have traffic of more than 20,000 monthly visitors. You share the revenue of your ads with WordPress.com. This is done through their own advertising program known as WordAds.
  5. You are not allowed to upload plugins when on a free plan. You can do so when in a business plan ($299 annually), but you are limited to a just a small and certain collection of plugins. With a VIP plan, you can install plugins of your choice but be ready to part with $5000 on a monthly basis.
  6. When using the free plan, an unprofessional link – Powered by WordPress – is displayed on your site. This can be removed when you upgrade your free account plan to a business plan.
  7. WordPress restricts you to viewing your website traffic using their limited statistics. You can only leverage the power of powerful analytics when on a Business plan.
  8. You can not build online community membership sites with WordPress.com.

Pricing of WordPress.org and WordPress.com

When setting up your business website, one of the most important considerations is cost. What you are willing to invest on your website will determine whether you choose WordPress.com over WordPress.org.

How much does WordPress.org cost in comparison to WordPress.com?

Let’s take a look:

How much does WordPress.org cost?

Downloading the WordPress software is free, but other variables that affect the price are:

  • Hosting charges: Can be as little as $10/month. But be aware that cheap hosting companies usually tie you down to a yearly contract. They offer a very limited service: low speed, a shared IP address with websites that may hurt your search engine credibility. Do your research on your host!
  • Domain name purchase: Around $12-20 per domain.
  • Website design fee: This is optional. You may want to hire a developer to design your website and install plugins.

If you want to choose your theme yourself and create your own website, take  a look at my themes by clicking here.

When creating a WordPress.org site, you can estimate that setup costs could be as little as $50.

How much does WordPress.com cost?

  • Free plan: Your site will have an unprofessional look (i.e. Powered by WordPress link and .WordPress subdomain).
  • Personal plan ($36 yearly): You get a custom domain name and they remove the WordPress.com advertisements on your site.
  • Premium plan ($96 yearly): Get access to unlimited premium themes, design customization and 13gb storage.
  • Business ($299 yearly): Get unlimited storage and upload custom plugins and themes.
  • VIP plan (starts from $5000 per month): Boasts professional support and code review, unlimited storage plus many more goodies.

What to choose – Wordpress.org or WordPress.com

If you blog as a hobby, WordPress.com would be a great starting point for you. If you are not ready to find a web host, update and backup your site and really don’t mind parting with your cash, WordPress.com is perfect  because it does it all for you.

If you’re after more control over your site, on a budget or want to make some serious money from your site, then I would recommend WordPress.org. Most female coaches and entrepreneurs out there that I know use WordPress.org to power their business website. It is what Launch & Sell would pick for all our customers.

Get in touch with your WordPress questions

Phew! You made it!

The question of ‘should I choose WordPress.org or WordPress.com?’ comes up all the time amongst my fellow female business owners. I hope this guide has helped explain the difference between the two and given you clarity over which one to choose.

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