Here’s a quick overview of the differences between a website at WordPress.com and a self-hosted WordPress site (aka WordPress.org)

Features WordPress.com WordPress.org
 Cost Free for basic service; paid upgrades for using your own domain name, custom styles, etc. The software is free, but you must set up & pay for your own hosting account and technical support.
 Themes  You must use themes from WordPress.com; customization is limited, requires paid upgrade. You can use any theme; full customization is allowed
 Plugins  Comes with many useful built-in functions like integration with Facebook and Twitter, forms, polls, website stats, etc.  Extra functions must be manually installed and configured through “plugins.”
 Advertising  Some ads are placed on your site, chosen by WordPress; no private ads are allowed. Removing ads requires a paid upgrade.  You can sell advertising space on your website.
 E-commerce  You can’t sell directly from your website, but non-profits can solicit donations with a PayPal button; can also link to an external e-shop like Etsy.  You’re free to use your website for e-commerce. Requires the use of a plugin.
 Maintenance  WordPress.com takes care of all your updates and maintenance.  You are responsible for updates & maintenance.
 Great for:
  • Getting started with a website
  • Clubs and groups
  • Personal blogs
  • Travel journals
  • Events: weddings, reunions, etc.
  • E-commerce
  • Professional portfolios
  • One-of-a-kind websites
  • Highly customized websites
You’d prefer: To have the nuts and bolts taken care of for you and just focus on the content. To have maximum control over your website’s functions and appearance.