I don’t know about you, but when I was ready to get my photography business online, I had no idea where to start. I knew I needed a website, although I had no real idea how get one.

It scares me how many photographers rush to get their website online with little to no research.

It’s not keeping me up at night or anything, but it’s still pretty frightening.

I’ll bet that you spent more time researching what camera to invest in than you did researching website solutions.

Heck, you probably spent more time researching what camera bag to get.

Am I right?

Your camera is arguably the most important part of your business, so naturally, it makes sense to spend time researching your options before dropping a stack of bills on that hefty new DSLR camera.

If you think of your website as a tool to help you gain more customers and grow your business, why wouldn’t you spend just as much time researching it?

After all, that shiny new DLSR isn’t going to pay for itself.

Are you making this rookie mistake?

At least once a week I have customers order my WordPress installation services when they purchase a WordPress theme from me, only to find out they are using wordpress.com.

This amateur move tells me that the photographer likely did little to no research for their website.

How do I know this?

For starters, they are using wordpress.com. Do any amount of research about starting a website for your business and you will find that wordpress.org is the way to go.

I’ll explain the difference in just a minute.

Second, they bought a theme from me to use on their wordpress.com site, which means they aren’t even aware that they can’t use outside themes on their WordPress site.

How can you know so little about the most powerful tool in your business?

Do your research and then ignore it. Maybe.

I will say this: These photographers may have done some amount of research and ended up with wordpress.com because of the low barrier of entry. It is super easy to get started with wordpress.com. You can have an online presence in a matter of minutes.

Resist the urge to do this.

While this is a viable option, I personally advise against it.

For the cost of using wordpress.com in a professional manner, you can buy hosting, get a premium theme, and have WordPress installed on your own server.

The differences between .COM and .ORG

So what is the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org?

The plain and simple explanation is that wordpress.com is a hosted solution and wordpress.org is self-hosted.

What does that mean exactly?

wordpress.org is hosted on your server.
wordpress.com is hosted by WordPress on their servers.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these solutions a little more closely.

WordPress.org benefits:

  • It’s free, for one. That’s pretty awesome, right?
  • You own all the data on your site. You are in complete control of every aspect of your website. WordPress cannot shut your site down because they decide it is against their terms and services.
  • You can upload and use ANY plugins.
  • You can upload any free or premium WordPress theme.
  • You can customize every aspect of the theme, not just the CSS.
  • You can earn money on your site selling ads if you chose to.
  • You can install custom analytics and tracking solutions.

However, as with all good things, there are some cons to wordpress.org too.

  • You will need good web hosting. This means you will have to shell out some money, but you can find pretty decent hosting for $5 to $10 a month.
  • You are responsible for keeping WordPress up-to-date, but they offer easy one-click updates.
  • You are responsible for backups. There are plenty of great plugins for this, though.
  • You are responsible for handling spam and security for your site. Again, plenty of plugins to help you with this.

WordPress.com benefits:

  • It’s free! Well, kind of. It’s free for the first 3GB of space you use. After that, the price ranges from $19.95 to $200+ a month.
  • WordPress makes regular backups of your site.
  • It’s quick to get started with

In my opinion, there are far more cons than benefits when it comes to wordpress.com.

  • While there is a free version of wordpress.com, you still pay for it. They put ads on all free websites. If you don’t want your user to see these random ads – and why would you – you have to pay $30 per year to keep your site ad-free.
  • You are not allowed to sell any ads on your site unless you have a lot of traffic to your site, like 25,000 pageviews a month. Even then, you have to apply to be able to sell ads. On top of that, you have to split the profits from ad share 50/50 with WordPress.
  • It costs $3,750 a month if you want to use plugins. Yep, you read that right. The only way you can use plugins is if you sign up for the WordPress VIP program.
  • You cannot install any themes, and you can barely customize any of the themes that you can use. They offer a design upgrade for $30 a year, but all it does is give you access to a CSS file for basic changes.
  • You can only use their custom analytics. You can’t install anything like Google Analytics.
  • They can delete your entire site any time they want if they feel it violates their terms of service.

I could actually keep listing cons to wordpress.com, but they start to get a little nitpicky. These are the real buzzkill ones for me. I actually can’t believe some of these are real. To make matters worse, you aren’t actually aware of some of these fees until you open an account.

Unless, of course, you did your research ahead of time. 😉

Why Choose WordPress.org?

So which one should you go for?

I think you know what my choice is, but I will elaborate.

If you are starting a website for your photography business and want to be taken seriously, I suggest wordpress.org. If you want to grow your photography business via your website, I suggest wordpress.org.

Yes, there are some upfront costs and a bit of a learning curve, but in the long run it is well worth it.

You actually get to keep more money in your pocket when you go the wordpress.org route. If you were to add up all the fees of the .com solution, it’s far more expensive than all the costs involved in the .org solution.

Maybe Hate is a Strong Word?

I guess WordPress doesn’t exactly hate photographers, but it sure feels like they are taking advantage of them – and everyone else, for that matter! I suppose they are only taking advantage of the ones who might deserve it because they didn’t do their research ahead of time.

Why did you choose WordPress?

I would love to hear why you did or did not decided to go with WordPress to manage your website.

Even more interesting would be to hear why you have decided to stick with .COM instead of making the leap to .ORG.

Share your story in the comments below!