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Why Free in the Web World is NOT a good thing

atarim wpsummit

Most discussions (Negotiations) on web services from clients are – “But WordPress is free and so are most plugins so, why is this costing so much?”

It is almost an endless conversation we web developers have with our clients – some of whom are ACTUAL web developers and should know better.

Here’s the scenario (based on two or three examples) so I am not calling out anyone here – I’ll leave that for a later portion of this post 😉

“Hi, I would like a website to sell my products on and I have heard WordPress is a good solution as WordPress and WooCommerce is free. I would also like a fast site but I heard I can get pretty decent hosting for around 3-5 bucks a month and I also heard I can get free SSL certificate as I know that’s a requirement for eCommerce stores.

I need around 5 large product images per product page and I could do with a gallery on each page that can display up to 100 products images in a lightbox slideshow.  I need to be able to send my client a PDF invoice with my branding on and I need the emails that WooCommerce send to be totally branded and take out a few functions as I want to take SOME payment manually as they are pretty large – let’s say – in the thousands so, I will need to invoice those separately and only want to take a small non-refundable deposit as I am happy to pay the initial percentage to Stripe/PayPal but ya know, $50k on a credit card takes too much away from us. I ‘d also like to set up some automation so I think Mailchimp can do that for free, if not lets just send them through to a page where they can get my free downloads so I can upsell them manually but, if you can help us set up the tags, groups segments in Mailchimp that would be great. I have a total budget of $3,000.00 as most of what I have suggested is free, right?”

And therefore, the free model is just not working out. Customer perception from people like Wix, WordPress, WooCommerce, Mailchimp, Mailerlite et al, is that you can use our products and services for free and get a great eCommerce website up and running in no time – this is simply untrue.

I have a solution, I have always had a solution – it is called a FREE TRIAL – Shopify do it, many others do it but, its time that WE ALL DID IT.

WordPress has an issue with this –  The WordPress repository is full of FREE STUFF – Nearly 60,000 plugins, nearly 4,000 themes and out in the wild, even more free stuff to get your website built. Astra – with over a million Downloads is free – just wow! Yes, you can buy a pro version but the basic theme is free – even with free templates – again – WOW!

If you are a product developer, SAAS provider or have built an incredible plugin to help people build websites – do this:

Build in a fully fledged 14 day trial – when the trial ends, nuke the service/product and give the user a choice to download a free version that has one or two functions that kind of make it ok and offer zero support or, they can purchase subscription to get full support and all the functions they need.

You can also limit the product or service to a few websites or many – it is completely up to you as a product or service provider.

This will help Web Developers, Product makers and clients understand that the services that they are using come at a price and, if they are expecting to charge their customers for goods and services then they should expect to pay for the goods and services that are being supplied to them by the internet community.

Web Developers across the world are reducing their costs – so much so that some (at least 4 personally known to me) are giving up and going out and getting jobs because they cannot earn enough to feed their families let alone continue paying for subscriptions like, Canva, Adobe, Hosting for their dev sites, and many other standing costs that developers have in order to offer a premium service.  (Our spend just on the standing costs of the software and hosting we need to run an effective web agency are over £2,000 a month!)

The free mentality of the web is in danger of killing the web services industry. People like Elementor understand this and are now charging what I feel, is the right price for a great product. Here is a look at their new pricing coming into effect at the end of March.

My Friends at Atarim have done a similar thing on re pricing their model – one which is based on usage and is essentially the right model for a sustainable future of a great service currently supporting over 5,000 web developers who, like me, see this as an essential service/product. With the refund option, it gives the user a 30 day free trial opportunity – see where I am going with this?


The endless advertisements from the likes of Yoast, All In One SEO, JetPack, WooCommerce –  (here’s looking at you Matt) and many many plugin developers literally SHOUTING at developers within the Dashboard of WordPress is beyond ridiculous and its always the same – UPGRADE NOW.

By changing the model, this would end. Every single commercial product would be on a free trial period and die after said period – then and only then would customers become serious about their online requirements. Customers would see, to get value, you need to pay for it and Web Developers who are now delivering takeaway food, would be able to afford someone else to do that for them – whilst they are busy building commercial websites for profit.

As a side note to the above, as I was writing this in my head, I was looking at Twitter and found a great plugin to download here and, as you can see on the plugin’s settings, it displays admin notices away from the dashboard – Hallelujah!

Hosting Companies need a serious kick in the butt as well. No more cheap hosting and then raising the prices when the users find that cheap doesn’t cover their needs, its counter productive.

If you are anyway connected with web development and in Facebook groups that are aimed at Hosting, the number one complaint is of slow sites – The number one reason apart from a 16mb video running on  your site or 10 sliders with massive images – is – HOSTING and more specifically Shared Hosting – yes, its great and the people that work for these companies ,building the systems are fantastic, but, shared hosting should be a thing of the past, managed shared hosting does not seem that much better – I use a couple of pretty premium services and if my sites or servers go down – I am the first to tell THEM – because I pay for monitoring – I struggle to understand what ‘managed’ hosting is under these conditions. A fairly easy change to this is Self Managed Hosting – Use a service like GridPane to set up our sites so they are easy to manage and pay for a server on the cloud (there are many like, Cloudways and Runcloud that do this kind of service. I just happen to use GridPane). By the way, Gridpane give a 14 day free trial – after which, when you have found it to be essential to your business, you will purchase a plan – I like this too.

Essentially, what I am saying is – let us stop the FREE forever phrase coming out of our mouths, promotions and marketing of this and that. Nothing in life is free – or should be unless it is attached to a free trial of course. Someone, somewhere has made it, works on it, and inevitably needs to feed a family. Let us give people who work in the web world their due and start paying for goods and services as we would expect people to pay us for our goods and services. ­

PS: To all web designers reading this, it won’t hurt to improve your negotiation game. It’s not about extracting the most out of a new client, but about being comfortable charging what you’re worth. These 12 negotiation tips could offer some creative ideas – Take A Look :


Let’s have a one on one- In May