This epic post on the cost of setting up a DIY WooCommerce store is a guest post written by Josh Kohlbach of Marketing Suite. They make marketing automation extensions for WooCommerce for things like sales offer popups, review reminders, timed offer emails, abandoned cart recovery and more!

Are you thinking of starting an e-commerce store? You, like many millions of other website owners, might be considering WooCommerce to run it. Most people would argue it’s WordPress’ goto e-commerce plugin.

WooCommerce is now responsible for powering over 39% of all e-commerce stores online and there are literally thousands of extensions and themes that will boost the functionality of your store so it’s a great choice. There really isn’t too many store business models these days that you can’t implement with WooCommerce.

WooCommerce Is Free, But What Are The Hidden Costs?

WooCommerce is a free download and out of the box it’s already pretty functional. It works with just about any theme out there, including loads of freebies. And it will let you setup shop and start accept payments within a couple of minutes. But there’s a few hidden costs that you might want to know about. It’s not all roses and sunshine and you do need a budget of more than $0 if you want to make a successful store on the modern web.

The way WooCommerce makes money is by selling loads and loads of helpful extensions to their platform. It’s a great business model for them because they both own the platform that enables such amazing things and they make money out of extension purchases from business owners who have invested in using it.

For new store owners it can be tempting to think that you can go without any fancy extensions or paid themes, but you’ll soon figure that it’s these very items that make the platform what it is today. Getting around these costs might be unavoidable if you want to run your business properly.

Real Cost Of WooCommerce

Breakdown of Potential Costs

The main three costs of running a WooCommerce store are:

  1. Suitable hosting for running a growing e-commerce site
  2. A reliable theme that will remain compatible
  3. Extensions to give you the enhanced functionality you need

This isn’t all there is, but for setting up the store these are the ones that will have the most impact on your bottom line. For the remainder of the article I’ll start tallying the average costs for building and running your WooCommerce site for the first year.

COSTS (1st Year of Operation): $0

  • WordPress & WooCommerce – $0

What Type Of Hosting To Choose

If you’re new to running a WooCommerce store then you might want to brush up on the benefits of using a managed WordPress host. I mainly recommend using a managed solution because when you’re running a store, it’s best not to have to worry about your hosting.

You should be able to sleep well at night knowing that it’s not going to go down if someone prominent mentions you on facebook or if you happen to get a surge in traffic or sales and have to handle multiple people on your site checking out at the same time.

For these reasons alone managed hosting is worth the extra couple of dollars per month and an extra 1 or 2 sales per month should more than cover your costs here.

If you use a host like WP Engine, SiteGround or Flywheel you should be pretty well placed. You might also like to look for a managed WordPress host that is in your locale as well.

WP Engine: From $29 / month

SiteGround: From $9.95 / month

Flywheel: From $15 / month

The average cost between these three services is $17.98 / month

COSTS (1st Year of Operation): $215

  • WordPress & WooCommerce – $0
  • Managed Hosting – $17.98 / month ($215 / year)

Why Should You Use A Premium Theme

Unless you are a web developer, then coding your own theme would be out of the question and hiring someone to do so might be good if you’re already established, but in the beginning when you are setting up your shop you need to concentrate on validating your business model more than what your site looks like.

So your two options for your e-commerce theme become Free or Premium? Free has it’s advantages, the primary one being price.

But Premium should be considered seriously for the following reasons:

  1. Price really isn’t that much – for the first year it can be counted as a one off cost, if you continue business after the first year, it’s just another annual renewal
  2. Updates are typically included – you can keep your WooCommerce up to date and not have to worry
  3. Generally better designed – Premium themes are generally a good starting point so your shop will look the part

Here is a list of popular themes that you can consider:

There’s plenty more quality themes out there, but these 6 themes represent a good selection and average costing for themes focused on WooCommerce. We found the average cost to be approximately $55.

COSTS (1st Year of Operation): $270

  • WordPress & WooCommerce – $0
  • Managed Hosting – $17.98 / month ($215 / year)
  • Premium Theme – $55 once off (renewals are typically discounted)

Extending WooCommerce

Extensions are the final major expense in setting up your WooCommerce store.

There’s so many free extensions for WooCommerce that it’s not even funny. So with this in mind, where you can, we encourage you to use free extensions if they are from a reliable and well known developer.

That said, as with themes, there’s something to be said for using a premium plugin for the task you need. It means they’re typically better supported for the latest version of WooCommerce, better coded and usually come with a guarantee of some sort.

The other type of plugin to lookout for are freemium plugins, those with a free extension with slightly limited functionality and a premium addon. The free extension might be just enough to get what you need done now and you can pay for the upgrade at a later time.

What extensions you will need depends entirely on what kind of site you are starting:

General extensions to consider:

Typical e-commerce more than a few products:

Promotions & Marketing:



With a modest amount of extensions purchased over the 1st year of trading, it’s not hard to rack up a bill of around $500 – $1,000 in extensions for your store.

For the purposes of our cost calculation, we’ll round that to $750 in the first year. Not all premium plugins require renewals, but most do to continue receiving updates.

COSTS (1st Year of Operation): $1020

  • WordPress & WooCommerce – $0
  • Managed Hosting – $215 (rounded from average cost of $17.98 / month)
  • Premium Theme – $55 once off (renewals are typically discounted)
  • Extensions – $750 (renewals are typically discounted)

Why Building A WooCommerce Store Shouldn’t Be 100% Free

So there you have it, based on my calculations an average Do-It-Yourself WooCommerce site with premium extensions, managed hosting and premium theme could be had for around the $1k mark if you shop around and are smart with where you invest your money in the first year.

As far as MVP’s go, $1,000 might be too much to spend, in which case you can start cutting your costs back by reducing the number of extensions, possibly choosing a free theme like Storefront, and choosing a cheaper web host. With those factors taken into account, I’m confident you could build the same site for well under $500. Though, it would not be as stable, well managed and future proofed in my opinion.

But that may be good enough for you to validate the business idea and from there you can build your dream website soon after.

Supporting The Broader WooCommerce Community

There’s no arguing that WooCommerce has been a great innovation in online retailing. It’s lowered the barrier to entry into e-commerce significantly and hundreds of thousands of e-commerce stores have popped up online because of it.

But without it’s strong community of developers supporting the extensions and themes that build on the free WooCommerce core platform it wouldn’t be able to serve such a wide array of business models, features, designs, and specialised hosting.

It’s a free plugin at it’s heart, but it’s a community that needs to survive and thats why many of the extensions and themes for WooCommerce are paid solutions. The very future of your business may depend on the work of some of these companies.

Why It Costs More To Use An Agency To Build Your WooCommerce Store

I have one final parting thing to mention and it’s very important.

Since a lot of people might use this post to point out to their marketing agency that their costs are inflated, I want to make it very clear that this cost estimate is for a Do-It-Yourself solution.

It does not take into account your agency’s vast talent in developing e-commerce sites over and over again every day (which itself can be invaluable). Nor does it include costs for them to spend time on thinking about your project, business, website construction, building the site itself, beta launches, hand holding (lets face it, most of us need a bit of this in the beginning!), and other administrative costs.

Expect to pay many times more than this DIY cost estimate for an agency built site.

What you do get for going through an agency is all of those things mentioned above. Plus, importantly, you’re not doing the work so you get to avoid all those headaches and will typically just get handed the keys to your brand new site.

It’s like buying a car off the lot as opposed to building the car yourself. Both are possible, but the former is much easier!

Agencies: Please please please don’t use this article as a pricing guide when quoting your work. Instead, read this article (and comments to see how divided opinions are on pricing), this article & this article.

Your Takeaway

There you have it, you can have your new e-commerce business and the good news is that it’s quite affordable.

So what are your next steps?

  1. Figure out your what features you want/need in your site
  2. Find a reliable web host
  3. Download and install WordPress & WooCommerce – it really is a killer combo
  4. Get your theme
  5. Get your extensions
  6. .. Profit!

Have you setup a WooCommerce website yourself? How much did you spend on your Version 1.0? Was it worth it and was there anywhere you think you could have cut some corners to save money? Tell us about it in the comments!

About Josh Kohlbach

Josh Kohlbach is a web developer from Brisbane, Australia. He founded Wholesale Suite and Marketing Suite – two popular suites of extensions for WooCommerce store owners.