Should the Client or the Builder Buy Themes and Plugins?

6 MIN READ
Posted By Brandon Yanofsky on

Should the Client or the Builder Buy Themes and Plugins?

When you, the website builder, are hired by a client to build a WordPress website, who should buy themes and plugins for it? You or the client?

The answer may seem obvious, until you realize that some themes and plugins can only be installed on one site. Also, if you own the license, the client cannot receive support from the theme or plugin developers. And what about renewals? What if you don’t renew your licenses?

So, who should have to buy themes and plugins for the WordPress sites you build?

I’ve put together arguments for both sides of this debate, as well as reached out to some of the top WordPress professionals for their input. And of course, let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Side 1: The Builder Should Buy Themes and Plugins

There are a number of reasons why you might want to buy themes and plugins yourself.

Reason #1: Human Error

First of all, your client probably doesn’t know what they need to buy. You will need to explain exactly what they should purchase, as many plugins and themes have a number of options and licenses. It’s likely that they will get confused and purchase the wrong item by accident.

Reason #2: Waiting on the Client

On top of this, having your client buy themes and plugins can slow the build process down. You need to wait for them to make the purchase, and then send the necessary files. I’ve had instances where this process could take a week or two, simply because the client is busy with their own business.

To expand on that point, your client probably doesn’t want to be bothered with this part of the process. They hired you to build the site; they likely have the expectation that you will handle all of it, including making these purchases.

That said, if you set expectations correctly from the start, this shouldn't happen.

Is content slowing down your website development process?

Side 2: The Client Should Buy Themes and Plugins

While many plugins and themes offer multiple licenses, there are many which only offer a single license. For instance, themes sold through Themeforest can only be installed on one website. There is no longer any cost benefit for you to make the purchase. But for the client, there are many advantages for them to make the purchase.

Reason #1: Offload Support

First off, when the client owns the license to a theme or plugins, they are able to access support offered by the developers. The benefit to the client is obvious here, but it is also beneficial to you as the site builder. If the client has questions regarding the theme or plugin, they won’t need to contact you. For builders who don’t provide maintenance care plans after building a website, these types of questions can get quite annoying and, unfortunately, lead to costly scope creep. But when the client has a way to ask these questions elsewhere, it will limit your need to answer them.

Reason #2: License Ownership

As the user Esmi said on the WordPress.org support forum, when clients buy themes and plugins, they get the, “If I get hit by a bus insurance policy.” If you own the license and something should happen to you, or if you even just choose not to renew a license, the client will be stuck with a nonfunctioning plugin. If the client owns the license, however, they will always have access to updates and support. In support of the client purchasing the plugin for this reason, Modern Tribe suggests the following for their popular “The Events Calendar” plugin:
“It is always best for you, the site owner, to have access to your account on tri.be. That’s how you access downloads, license keys, order history, and support. You can purchase the plugin under your own name and then give the developer the license key for the site. That way, you retain control of your own plugin purchase in the event that you need access or decide to switch developers.”

What The Experts Say

So, those are my thoughts. Here’s what some of the top WordPress professionals from around the web had to say: Adam Silver (@heyadamsilver) said:
“When I offer ongoing support, I include the use of my dev tools. If that biz relationship ends, then they have 30 days to replace.”
Pippin Williamson (@pippinsplugins), the famed plugin developer, said:
“If developer, usually they will purchase a dev license to use them over and over again.”
Mario Peshev (@no_fear_inc) says that it depends:
“Dev licenses for multiple sites is for devs; single license I prefer to delegate to clients for ownership reasons.”
Kyle Maurer (@MrKyleMaurer) says:
“I think generally the party responsible for hosting, supporting and maintaining the site should hold the licenses.”
Suzette Franck (@suzette_franck) says:
“I believe developers should purchase #wordpress themes and theme subscriptions, and keep their clients up-to-date on code updates.”
Ren Ventura (@CLE_Ren) said:
“I think it depends on the type of theme/plugin and how the developer uses it. For example, I use Gravity Forms on pretty much every website I build. I have a developer's license and I will always maintain this license. Therefore, I essentially include a lifetime's worth of updates for my client projects and work this provision into the cost of the project because it doesn't have any recurring costs for me as a service provider.”
He continues:
“On the other hand, if I need a specific plugin for a specific project and it's not one I plan on using in the same way I use Gravity Forms, it's not worth it for me to purchase and continually renew a developer's license. In that case, I'll let the client know that I'm going to obtain a license for a product they will be responsible for renewing in the future and then purchase a single license in the client's name, the cost for which is calculated into what I charge them as the overall cost. If they don't want to be responsible for the management of that license, they can hire me to take care of that but it would be an added service.”

Conclusion: What's the Best Option for You?

Ultimately, the answer is: It depends on the circumstances. As most experts agree, if the plugin offers a multiple license option or you plan to continue supporting your client’s site after the build, you should purchase and own the license. But, if the plugin or theme only has a single license, or you do not plan to support your client’s website after the build, then the client should make the purchase and own the license.

What Do You Think?

Should the builder or the client buy themes and plugins? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I’m very interested to hear your perspective. Thanks!