It may appear that WordPress developers are cheaper to hire for two reasons:
- A lot of the tasks requested by clients for freelance work or maintenance don’t require the solid technical background most professional engineers rely on
- The business impact of most WordPress website isn’t as ROI-oriented, which is why corners are cut where large organizations can’t afford to save
Let me expand on that.
Payment engines or booking platforms developed in, say, C++ or Java, are mission-critical to a business. A mistake can cost millions (or more). Both rely on large traffic and tons of daily operations. Scalability, security, reliability are mandatory.
WordPress powers about 38% of the web nowadays – but that includes a huge percentage of blogs, portfolio sites, 5-page business sites. Most of them don’t generate revenue or just serve as a point of contact that usually isn’t generated organically.
Considering these tens of millions of sites, feature requests tend to be small and workarounds are preferred for cost-efficiency. Using a bloated, heavy, unstable premium theme costs less than a hundred bucks, and a slow site or occasional bugs aren’t too much of a trouble for clients. Compare that to $5K or $15K for a professional design turned into a blazing fast and scalable theme – and a pet project or a personal blog can’t justify that.
With the myriad of premade solutions designed for the masses, a cohort of non-technical site builders became active in the land of WordPress. People of all backgrounds freelance on the side, setting up WordPress with a 3-click tool offered by $5 hosts, installing a beautiful theme with hundreds of options, and setting up several plugins available for free (or low cost).
As many brand themselves as WordPress developers, it’s not uncommon to see $10 rates thrown around here and there, even though development doesn’t take place at all.
On the other hand, enterprise-grade WordPress applications exist. We’ve developed software on top of WordPress for automotive manufacturers, banks, companies in the aircraft space to name a few, and requirements are just what you would expect for senior architects and engineers.
Many of the leading WordPress agencies in top 20 charge anywhere from $250/hr to $500/hr. Some don’t take on projects under $250,000. This small high-end segment demands production-quality work adhering to the best practices, including engineering strategies around unit testing or continuous integration, server security work, multiple layers around client-side and server-side performance, and integrations with other enterprise software.
So if you need professional engineering that covers what you would expect from a different platform, expect to pay developer market rates. Otherwise, if you can afford (and are willing) to cut corners, you can probably do with someone who can get the job done at a low rate.