Free vs Premium WordPress Theme? What are your thoughts?

Don’t worry, I’m not handing the entire contents of this post over to you! I’m just curious to know what different bloggers think about taking the plunge and investing in a premium WordPress Theme.

When I’m mentoring and coaching new bloggers one of the first things we look at is their blog set up. And the two things that I always recommend before we do any more work on their site are a) a self-hosted site, and b) a premium theme.

For a long time, I used the free themes that WordPress offer and thought that premium themes were just one of those luxury things that only big bloggers had. I also viewed them as “nice to have” rather than something that was necessary – mainly because I never explored the benefits of them.

So, for those of you who don’t know why you need a premium theme and those of you who are still on the fence about upgrading from your free theme, this post is for you!

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

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Why It’s Time to Ditch Your Free Theme

Let’s start right at the beginning. Let’s talk about why free themes aren’t right for you before we look at how awesome premium themes are.

I’ll start by contradicting myself. Just because I want to help everyone out there, no matter where they are on their blogging journey. Free themes will work and your site will function on a free theme.

So, if you really can’t afford to invest in your site right now (or you have to prioritise what you are spending on) then a free theme will do the job. Equally, if you’re really uncertain about this whole blogging thing and you just want to give it a go for a month or so then a free theme might be for you.

The main thing to bear in mind is the upgrading/switching of themes at a later date. Depending on both the free theme and the premium theme that you’re working with, the change over could be slow and really quite painful. What looked fine on the free theme might be completely out of order on the paid one and you’ll have to spend hours on end re-ordering things and completely changing your layout. Again, if you’ve only just started out, this may not be an issue as you might not have much content to re-arrange.

For what it’s worth, I’d say get it right the first time around and then you only have to build your site once!

So, disclaimer over, let’s get into why free WordPress themes aren’t worth the “Free” price tag.




1. Limited Functionality

In order to make up for the lack of functionality, you may find yourself needing to install hundreds of plugins. Well, probably not hundreds but a lot. And a lot of plugins isn’t good. It can become chaotic and slow down your site. You will probably find that some of them don’t integrate or work well with others too.

In addition to this, you might find that a number of plugins that you want to use are not compatible with free themes (although if you’re using themes from the WordPress themes library this shouldn’t be a problem). This will prove to be quite a barrier when you’re trying to grow your blog and integrate third-party systems such as online teaching platforms and email service providers/opt-in forms.

2. Limited Options

The options available to you when it comes to designing and customising your blog with a free theme are limited.

You probably won’t be able to do things like changing the font for your headers or changing the colour scheme that runs across your site from headers to links and comments. Some themes will let you pick one or two colours but you will be limited to those.

These might sound like really small things but they’ll make a big difference when it comes to branding and looking professional. And, that’s a must if you want to make money from your blog at some point in the future.

Like I said, you could start out with a free theme and upgrade at a later stage when you’re ready to start making your blog into a business but why not just get it right from the start?

3. Paid Extras

How many times have you thought a free theme looks amazing in the demo, downloaded it and then realised that if you want it to look anything like the demo, you need to purchase a whole load of extras? Yeah, that sucks.

A lot of free WordPress themes are meant as demos or sales funnels to draw you into purchasing the premium version anyway. And, to be honest, it’s a great sales tool. You download and install a free theme that you love and start working with it. Then you think “oh, I’d love it if I could do x, y and z”. And, surprise, surprise, you can. But only if you upgrade to the premium version of the theme.

If you’re going to end up spending money on your theme to make it look the way you want, you might as well go for a premium WordPress theme from the start. #JustSayin.

And, if you’re looking at premium WordPress themes from day one, you’ll have much more choice because you won’t be limited to the ones that offer a free version first.

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4. Poor or No Customer Service

When things go wrong, and they inevitably will do at some point, you want someone to be there to help you get it fixed.

Before I go any further with this point, I want to talk about the quality of free WordPress themes. If you’re using the ones on WordPress (and I wouldn’t recommend getting a free theme anywhere else!), they will be high quality. They go through rigorous testing by WordPress before they make it to that page. BUT, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a glitch at some point in the future (as there may be with premium themes too).

You might be able to contact the developer of the theme but it’s unlikely that there will be a customer care team or someone dedicated to helping customers with any issues they experience. So, you might end up spending a couple of hours trying to resolve the issue yourself. And you might be a whizz at coding and get it fixed. But, that’s a couple of hours that you could be spending working on your business and making money. On the other hand, you might not be a whizz at coding and you might simply find yourself stuck and looking for another theme (or worse!)

So, Why Invest in a Premium WordPress Theme?

Because, quite simply, they’re amazing.

Let’s get back to the Free vs Premium WordPress Theme debate. We’ve covered free themes, so let’s move on to why premium themes are so awesome!

I’m not going to lie because lying is bad. I wasn’t convinced by premium WordPress themes. That was until I got one.

Best. Decision. Ever.

(Yes, I did just write three one-word sentences there and yes, I still consider myself to be “professional”).

Put very simply, you have complete control over every element of your blog when you have a premium theme.

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

I mean, just look at all of those options I have – and that’s just for global fonts!

Whilst it can take a little bit of time to set up when you first purchase your new premium theme, it’s very easy to change things. Let’s say I’ve chosen the dark pink colour for all of my hyperlinks but, when I look at my posts, I think it’s too dark. I can just head into my theme settings and pick a different colour. That then changes all the links in all the posts and pages without my having to go through and change the font colour manually (which I once did when I had a free theme!)

I could go on and on about all the settings that I love but I think you probably get the picture.

But, why is this important? Because you can really make your blog unique and stand out from others. With free themes, on the other hand, blogs can look very similar. Take this example by Nose Graze, the creators of the theme I use, of how different the same theme can look when it’s fully customisable:

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

Those are 6 different sites that use the same theme as me and all look completely different.

Premium WordPress Themes Aren’t That Expensive

The biggest argument when it comes to free vs premium WordPress themes is the cost of premium themes.

I’ll be straight with you right now – I think that if you hire someone to design your site and custom build a theme for you, the costs can be crazy! We’re talking £3,000+!

But, if you’re purchasing a theme that you upload to WordPress and customize yourself, it’s really not that expensive. A lot of themes that I looked at before I settled on this one were in the region of $70-$90. As I mentioned, I can understand that $90 is a lot to spend on a blog that you’re only just starting and aren’t 100% certain on. But, if you’re set on building your online empire, $90 is a drop in the ocean.

Especially when you think about all of the extra time you’ll save in the long run.

Most premium themes include lifetime updates. So, once you’ve made your initial purchase that’s it. Your theme will stay updated and you won’t need to buy the latest version. There’s no monthly cost; it’s just a one-off payment (unless you’re on some sort of payment plan but I’ve not seen that on themes before). Take my theme for example. Tweak Me v2 cost me $69. Over the period of one year, that’s just $0.19 per day. And that’s just one year! I plan on keeping this theme forever and, every day that goes by makes that “per day” cost even smaller.

Some of My Favourite Premium Themes

If you’re ready to take the jump and invest in a premium theme but are overwhelmed by the huge amount of choice out there, here’s a list of some of my favourites:

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

Tweak Me v2 – Nose Graze

Obviously, this was going to feature first on my list as it’s the theme I use. And I love it!

Tweak Me v2 comes with 5 ready-made designs to get you started, all of which are customisable. Alternatively, you can start from scratch and edit every element of your blog.

Key features include:

  • Access to Google Fonts library
  • Customisable page layouts
  • Only display the information you want (you can hide things like meta info and excerpts of your posts)
  • Automatic updates

 

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

Creative – Beautiful Dawn Designs

I love this funky, colourful layout. It looks super simple and clean but also really professional at the same time.

Key features of this theme include:

  • About me and social media widgets
  • Optional blog homepage slider
  • Full or excerpt posts
  • 5 layout options

 

Rachel – BluchicFree vs Premium WordPress Theme

This theme has some serious feminine charm! I love how effortlessly pretty it is.

Key features include:

  • Responsive layout design
  • Sticky menu
  • Banner ad ready
  • 3 promo boxes for featured widgets

 

Free vs Premium WordPress Theme

Refined – Restored 316

Restored 316 do some gorgeous themes for the Genesis Framework but this is by far my favourite! It has such a classic, professional look to it.

Key features include:

  • Styled for Convertkit (how good is that?!)
  • Sticky announcement bar
  • Flexible widget spaces
  • Woocommerce ready

A Few Final Thoughts

It’s pretty clear that I would always recommend a premium theme over a free one, especially if you’re serious about this blogging business.

But, whether you go for a free or a premium WordPress theme, make sure it’s the right one for you. Do some research into what the theme offers and which plugins etc. it supports. Check out the reviews too and see what other people are saying about it.

And remember, just because you’ve paid for a theme, doesn’t automatically mean that it will be right for you. There are a lot of overpriced premium WordPress themes out there so be careful and make sure you do your due diligence.

Have questions about which WordPress theme to choose? Let me know in the comments.

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