Are commercial plugins worth it? Why?

wordpress premium and commercial plugins

The WordPress content management tool is licensed under the GPL, which means it’s open source, which means it is free to download, install, and use so long as you follow the guidelines of the GPL (not going to get into that here!).

Directly related is the enormous collection of WordPress plugins that provide untold amounts of additional functionality. Plugins that reside within the plugin repository are also governed by the GPL so they’re open source as well.

However, there is a growing collection of plugins dubbed “premium”. That’s just referring to the fact that they are not free to download. Typically the companies that make these plugins-for-sale are not selling the plugin (technically they are) but rather the support and updates that go along with it. And you’re also paying for a certain level of (assumed) better code quality in those premium plugins.

Some examples of premium plugins that I typically use for client projects include:

  • Gravity Forms
  • WP Rocket
  • Yoast SEO
  • Envira Gallery
  • OptIn Monster

And there are several others, but these are some of the main ones that come to mind that are almost always installed.

Each of these listed have a comparable, free, plugin listed within the plugin repository. Some of those are good, and some I’ve used and regretted.

When I first started making websites for clients, I had little understanding of software licensing, let alone the GPL. And when I finally understood that the software was free I turned my nose at anything that was listed at $199 to download. Especially for a plugin and corresponding service such as WP Rocket.

But when I became more business savvy and realized that not only do you sometimes get what you pay for, the annual financial burden of some of the more pricey premium plugins is less when you bake in the cost of that license for the client rather than sharing a multi-site developer license.

Premium plugins are worth it for the priority support alone. Yes, the code is better and faster, but you can say that about several free plugins. What you’re buying into is an annual license subscription that grants you access to support forums, updates, and tutorials that otherwise would be hours wasted searching Google.

So now my clients are set up with their own account and license for whatever premium plugin the project requires. I will manage that relationship with them and the third-party company providing the plugin, and make sure there are no compatibility issues with their website.