In this article I want to go through the various pros and cons of choosing to go with either a paid WordPress theme or a custom WordPress theme. I won’t be discussing using free WordPress themes because I don’t believe you are doing yourself a favor by going with a free theme. Free themes are not all bad but you are more likely to have issues with security, bugs and optimization than you would going with a paid or custom built theme. Anyway, let’s compare paid and custom themes.

Paid themes

Paid WordPress themes are themes that have been professionally designed and developed with a number of templates and components and can be multipurpose or for a specific field or niche (e.g. a sports club, a medical practice, etc). They usually cost a one time fee ranging from $40 to $100 and include 6 months of free support and a year or more of free updates, sometimes lifetime updates.

Where to buy a paid WordPress theme

Paid WordPress themes can be found on a variety of online marketplaces and websites. A few popular places to find themes are: Themeforest, ThemeTrust, and Template Monster. I have personally and professionally used Themeforest themes for hundreds of projects and would have to recommend them over any other marketplace due to their search and filtering capabilities.

How to use a paid WordPress theme

Once you purchase a theme, you typically just download it and upload it to your WordPress site. Nowadays a lot of theme developers will provide you with a pre-configured child theme to install and activate alongside the main (parent) theme. The child theme will allow you to make customizations and override templates and functionality from the parent theme. If the theme you purchased doesn’t include a child theme, you should still create a child theme for the parent theme so that you or your developer can make customizations as needed down the road. Once you have your child theme and parent theme installed, activate the child theme and begin configuring your site.


  • Small upfront investment.
  • No coding required.
  • Loads of features and components.
  • Ability to launch your site quickly.
  • No need to hire a web designer for template design (although you still need a logo designed if you don’t already have one).


  • Hundreds of other people could be using the exact same theme, so you don’t have much of a chance to stand out from the crowd.
  • You have to keep the theme updated and maintained for security reasons.
  • You typically have way more features than you need, leading to bulkier, slower sites.
  • You have no control over what scripts, styles and naming conventions the theme developers choose to use, which can lead to code conflicts with plugins you use.
  • You have no control over how scripts, fonts, images, or styles are included, which can make it hard to optimize your site for speed and search engine results.
  • You have no control over how long the theme developers will continue to support and update the theme.

Custom themes

Custom WordPress themes are themes which you pay a developer to design and develop specifically for your brand and business. You can either find your own designer/branding expert to help you establish your brand and design your website, or you can find a developer or company that can provide a design as well as the development. The developer then takes the design, usually provided by the designer in Photoshop (PSD) format or Sketch format and develops a custom WordPress theme from it.

Where to get an estimate for a custom theme

You can request a free estimate here on my website. I can provide you with an estimate for developing a custom WordPress theme from a design you bring to the table, or, if you don’t have a design and/or branding, I can provide an estimate for the full package, including branding/logo, website design and WordPress theme development. There is no obligation. Simply fill out the form and submit and I’ll get back to you in 16 hours or less.

How to use a custom theme

A custom theme can be developed to be fully dynamic, meaning you can edit every piece of text on every template, or partially hardcoded, meaning certain things cannot be edited via the WordPress admin. How dynamic the theme is depends on your needs. The more dynamic or editable a custom theme needs to be, the more work it takes to develop, which translates to a larger investment upfront. For every part of the site that you would like to be dynamic, I provide a nice user interface so you can easily make the edits you need.


  • You get a unique website design, custom-tailored for your business and needs.
  • You get everything exactly the way you want it.
  • You don’t have extra scripts and styles you don’t need slowing down your site.
  • Your site can be fully optimized for speed and search engine results.
  • You don’t need to keep your theme updated, other than the occasional update to keep it compatible with your version of WordPress or PHP.
  • You have full control over scripts, styles and naming conventions, allowing for the prevention and easy fixing of plugin conflicts.
  • You don’t have to worry about third-party theme developers dropping support for your theme.
  • You’re theme will be built following best practices which provides security and speed.


  • New templates would have to be designed and developed where needed down the road.
  • Larger upfront investment.
  • Typically requires 2 – 7 weeks (depending on complexity) to develop, test and launch, plus whatever time it required to design.


Every business has different needs, values and investment options. Hopefully this article made clear what the pros and cons might be should you choose to go with a paid or custom WordPress theme. If you have any questions or would like to get an estimate for your own project, don’t hesitate to request a free estimate. I look forward to discussing your project with you.

Dustin Parker

Dustin is a web developer with a passion for building custom websites and web applications on platforms/frameworks such as WordPress, Shopify and Laravel.