Costs of Wordpress-Based Software Versus Hosted Apps

I was asked a pretty good question last week via email. It read…

Having listened to your pivot video, I know a newbie question might not be your favorite, but I have a question regarding your current tech stack. (wpfusion, learndash, woocommerce, buddyboss, cartflows, affiliatewp, fluentcrm).

It appears most of the primary software need to be the pro versions. By the time you add up the annual licenses from the various vendors, you are approaching the cost of a good saas vendor, at least their basic plan ($79/mo or $99/mo).

Is it worth fusing the various plug-ins together and working through so many different UIs, plus maintaining updates and doing debugging, in order to have your site wp-hosted? The alternative, a good SaaS all-in-one vendor, has a consistent UI and guaranteed integration.

This is a fair question.

A software-as-a-service (SaaS) application can be convenient – and some of them are all-in-one services where they say you can essentially run the whole business from there. Seems simple and convenient.

When you buy a bunch of premium Wordpress plugins, sometimes those costs can add up in a way to be competitive with the monthly fees of those apps.

Here’s what I emailed back…

Yes, in terms of costs,  it can easily approach the coast of a SAAS app. That said, it would be really hard to find one app that could do everything for $99/mo. Usually, they’d be way higher than that for similar capability. However…

When it is on Wordpress, I can control the whole thing. Tweak it to my liking. I own and control the entire platform as well as all of the data. I can back the whole thing up.

With Saas, generally you need to work with several of them to get the right combo of things you want. Then you have to worry about whether they integrate with one another. Usually, not all of the data is portable. For instance, if you were to switch email list providers, you can export your list, but generally you cannot export automations, emails, etc. You’d need to copy/paste to get it out of there. With Saas, if they don’t do something you need, you have to submit a feature request then sit and wait. And half the time they never do it. You’re subject to other people’s choices.

And, in the event one DOES find the perfect “all in one” Saas app, then you have one single point of failure. And, I’ve actually never found a perfect all-in-one anyway.

I’ve generally found that there is no perfect “all in one” app to run your business on. Usually, you need to string a few of them together and deal with the usual integration headaches.

But, that data portability is also a big deal to me. For instance, one of my clients right now has been running his list through ConvertKit. He now wants to switch. While it is easy to grab the list, what about all the back issues of his newsletter sitting in his account? There is no way to export that stuff. Even ConvertKit’s team says there’s no way other than copy/paste. Stuff is just not portable.

In that client’s case, if he had things self-hosted inside of Wordpress, there is always a way to get those issues. Even if we had to query it right out of the database. There’s always a way… because we know where the data is.

So, for me, it is mostly about ownership and control. When I control the entire tech stack, I can back it up and do whatever I please. I don’t have to deal with any company holding it hostage in any way.

Now, in terms of costs…

I’ve seen a few cheaper apps out there advertised as all-in-one services. Usually, I’ve never heard of them and they honestly look a little amateur. I would never trust my business to them.

Then, there’s some reputable options. For instance, ClickFunnels is pretty popular. It starts at $147/mo and goes up from there. Ontraport is another one. Ontraport appears to start off pretty low on pricing, but it is severely limited. It wouldn’t take long to be spending $200/month and higher.

In any of these cases, though, these apps just work the way they work. There’s not a lot you can do about the way they work. You could submit feature requests, but then you just wait. Contrast that to Wordpress where you often have a laundry list of potential options to choose from for any capability.

Whether you save any money or not depends on which options you choose. But, one thing I will also point out is that most premium Wordpress plugins can be used on multiple sites. There’s not usually any usage limits, limits on email list size, limits on number of users, etc. You host it and it is your site so you can do what you want with it.

For all these reasons, I am a massive proponent of building a business platform “in house”… right on top of Wordpress.

You own it. You control it. It is all GPL and the code is usually open source. There’s a massive community behind the code base. Things are being well-maintained. And, in most cases, it saves you money so it is better for bootstrappers.

If you would like my input on switching any of your systems into Wordpress, hit me up. We can hop on a call and figure out the best fits for you… or you can just have me set it all up.