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Is Building an E-commerce Store on WordPress Free?

If you’re bootstrapping your business, chances are you have more time than money. If that’s the case, we believe your best bet is building an E-commerce store on WordPress.

Not convinced? Check out this post.

But let’s cut to the chase: How much will it cost to build an e-commerce store on WordPress? Well, that depends. If you just need a simple store that accepts payments via PayPal, and you’re willing to set it up yourself, you could do it for free (not counting the hosting fees that come with any self-hosted website). If you need something more than that, well, it will cost you more.

Let’s break it down and see where you might want to save money and where you might want to splurge.

In a previous post, we outlined the basic requirements for setting up an online store. To recap, they are:

  • Hosting
  • A shopping cart plugin
  • A good e-commerce enabled theme
  • Online payment service

We’re not going to get into hosting options in this article, but let’s dig into the other three categories.

Which Shopping Cart Plugin Are You Going to Use?

Free Options

To state the obvious, if you’re looking to build an e-commerce store for free, you’ll have to choose a free shopping cart plugin. Luckily, some great options exist.

Here are some good places to start your search:

Paid Options

If the free options are too basic, you have two choices. You can buy a premium shopping cart, such as Cart66, that includes the additional features you need, or you can buy addons to one of the free shopping carts mentioned above.

The advantage of buying addons a la carte is that you can pick and choose exactly what options you need and add more later as your business grows or your needs change. You’re not paying for more than you need right out of the gate.

What Theme Are You Going to Use?

Free Options

Your existing WordPress theme should work with one of the free shopping cart plugins.

If not, or if you want to change your design, WooThemes offers free themes specifically for WooCommerce, like Storefront and Boutique. These clean, responsive, minimal designs might be all you need to get started.

Storefront Theme
Storefront theme by WooThemes

Similarly, MarketPress comes packaged with customizable themes, and Shopp has built-in templates that can be modified.

Paid Options

WooThemes also has dozens of paid themes for WooCommerce that range in price from $39 to $79. MarketPress has FrameMarket – free for WPMU DEV members, or $19/mo for non-members.

FrameMarket theme
FrameMarket theme for MarketPress

What Payment Gateway Are You Going to Use?

Free Option

If you’re happy to accept payments via PayPal then you’re good to go, as it’s bundled with the free shopping cart plugins. WooCommerce, for example, includes Paypal, BACS, and Cash on Delivery methods.

Paid Option

If you need something other than PayPal, such as a PCI compliant option, you’ll either have to pay for a payment gateway add-on, or buy a premium shopping cart plugin that already includes it, such as Cart66.

Are You Going to Do It Yourself or Hire a Web Developer?

Free Option

If you are WordPress savvy, setting up the shopping cart yourself is fairly straightforward. If you get stuck, most plugin companies provide documentation and support (although some charge for support, so be sure to check that out when comparing shopping cart plugin options).

Paid Option

If you’re not adept at WordPress and/or you’d rather leave the e-commerce portion of your site to a professional, you’ll need to hire a web developer, and that’ll cost you. Developers charge $50/hour and upwards.

While outsourcing it will affect your bottom line, the time and stress it saves you might just be worth the cost.

Building an e-commerce store on WordPress is free if you:

  • Use a free shopping cart plugin, such as WooCommerce or Shopp
  • Do the installation and setup yourself
  • Use a free theme
  • Don’t need any add-on functionality, such as additional payment gateways

While free is good, one can always make an argument for strategically investing in additional functionality or expertise (as in the case of hiring a web developer) to make your life easier in the long-run.

What features are you looking for in an e-commerce plugin? Do you plan to do it yourself or hire it out?