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Sorry but no, PrestaShop is definitely not free, at least not at the macro level. Nor, is any other supposedly “free” open source e-commerce solution actually free. While the initial download of the software may be without cost, one way or another, you will most likely have to pay money to setup, configure, modify, or support this free open source software.
Yes, you absolutely can download and start making money with PrestaShop without paying a dime. There are, however, always costs associated with the infrastructure that is required to maintain this free resource. Also, if you want one of the really cool stores that has a nice template and features such as a horizontal navigation menu, jQuery sliders, or peeling pages you will either have to spend the time to learn how to do this yourself, or hire someone to do it for you.
Hiring someone is an obvious expense. What is not so obvious, though, is the cost if you attempt to do it yourself. Your time is worth something, even if the only value you give it is time away from friends and family.
You may believe that your time does not have a monetary value (I would disagree with that), but I believe it definitely has a social value. Losing out on time with your kids, wife, friends, or family can be very costly when your relationships suffer because you are spending too much time trying to figure out PrestaShop when you should be doing something fun with your loved ones.
So, to make a point, I’ve put together a comparison below of what I think are realistic costs associated with having PrestaShop as your e-commerce solution. These are not necessarily exact costs, but they are reasonable ballpark costs based on what I’ve experienced and seen on other websites.
As you can see above, it is my opinion that even the most budget conscious store will have some expenses. You just can’t get away from expensing your computer and hosting service, unless you plan on running your store from a public library (possible, but not recommended). Even if you decide to do that, I would still argue your time is worth something.
So, if you agree with me that PrestaShop is not free, is that bad? No, not at all. As I said above, no open source solution that offers a free download of their software can truly be free when you consider all the associated costs.
Even though “free” software is not free, I love the marketing model. The model PrestaShop and several other open source products use is to create an excellent product and give it away for free. While this product is excellent, it is not designed to have all the features a person could ever want, unless you purchase “addons.” Addons can come in the form of modules, templates, training, etc. Buying addons or other services (i.e. PrestaBox) through PrestaShop is how they get rewarded creating a great piece of software. It’s how they get paid and can stay in business to continue making improvements.
PrestaShop and other companies like it have actually provided a service far greater than just making a good piece of software and giving it away. They have created opportunities for jobs. I’m talking about the jobs that are created to support PrestaShop such as theme designers, graphic artists, web developers, programmers, and trainer (like me). I want to personally thank PrestaShop for providing an opportunity to do something I really enjoy and can get paid for. Life is good!
So even though PrestaShop is not free, I don’t really care. It’s an unbelievably great value considering you have an opportunity to start your own business selling products online for next to nothing. There are no franchise fees and no multi-level marketing companies to join. It’s just you, some software, and a desire to provide value to your customers through products or services. How cool is that?