Premium themes are essentially WordPress themes that you pay for. The question is what benefits are there of premium themes over free themes? The answer is, that there are three main benefits – design & development, support and future updates.
Design and development
Generally speaking, premium themes are better designed than free ones. This isn’t always the case and it is definitely worth checking out as many free themes as possible before buying one. However if you look at premium theme repositories as opposed to free ones you can clearly see the difference in quality. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Free themes don’t usually come with support for the theme, they also rarely have updates. In contrast, buying a premium theme (if bought from the right place) means that you will have support. This is very important, especially for non-coders. However, it is worth bearing in mind that a lot of the time you are just buying a theme and nothing else. There are theme foundries that produce a lot of themes and have very good support and on the whole I would advise sourcing themes from there. Making sure you get support is very important. PHP and WordPress is being updated all the time and it is important that any theme you have is also updated frequently to make sure that there are no vulnerabilities.
One other reason for paying for a theme is that the foundries also often have clubs which you can pay a regular amount for each month and you get new themes free. This setup is ideal for people who have many websites or wish to sell WordPress setups using premium themes. Also, again depending on the vendor, you will get free updates to your theme which should keep it up-to-date with WordPress and any new developments. Many vendors provide free themes, as a kind of sample of their wares. Choosing a theme this way is ideal because you can get an idea of the quality of the theme and the service without parting with any money.
The first and most obvious place to look for free themes is in the WordPress Theme repository. There are tons of themes in here, with more being added each day. The quality ranges considerably but there is a good chance you can find something that would suite your site. These are also the easiest to install because they can be added to your setup from the WordPress admin area. WordPress itself also comes with a free theme already (and they add a new one each year – Twenty Twenty has just been realised with WordPress 5.3).
Free themes can be found in the Appearance->Themes section of WordPress. If you want a premium theme, you will probably have to install it yourself after purchase. Depending on theme this can be done by uploading the zip file but it is best to follow any instructions!
Prices for themes vary widely, as do the support and the upgrades available after purchase. I would recommend starting out with a free theme when first using WordPress, just to get the feel of the software and to work out what kind of premium theme and support would suit you best. There is a lot to choose from, both free and premium – so go enjoy!