The Truth about Free Websites
The Sprocket Report
Every entrepreneur workshop lately wants to show you how to make your own website for free. As web-building professionals, usually “them’s fightin’ words.” But truthfully, a free website-builder may be appropriate as long as the entrepreneur knows what to expect.
Free Vector Design by: Vecteezy.com
When a business is just starting out and there is simply no money, a free website may be the only option. Eventually, every successful business opts to pay for a custom website, but if you’re pinching pennies until then, it’s smart to be aware of the trade-offs:
Personal Domain Name/URL
Of the top free tools, none of them let you use your own domain name. Instead your URL will be something like www.mycompany.freesite.com. Upgrading to one of the least-expensive paid options will usually solve that problem.
You’ll also need to buy your own domain name, regardless of how you build your website. If the URL you want is available, it’ll probably run you about $20/year to own.
Email with Domain Name
Because a business email address is something like @mycompany.com, folks don’t realize that email services are actually separate from website services. Some places will bundle limited email services with their hosting or with a domain name purchase, so check to see what’s available and if it’s enough for what you need.
While the range runs from subtle to showy, all of the top tools display advertising banners on their free websites. If you don’t want their ads on your site, find out which paid upgrade lets you remove them.
There are free tools like Google Analytics, but most DIY web-builders reserve access to the data for paying customers.
Like Facebook and Twitter, you don’t own what you post on a free website. If the tool ceases to exist, so does your website.
“Knowing enough to be dangerous” really applies here. The happiest users of free web tools just want a few simple pages. Once you start getting fancy, limitations can be frustrating and work-arounds can be a time suck. By that time, free is no longer a bargain.
If your new business is successful, you’ll want to add functions to your website. Check to see that your chosen web-builder has ecommerce capabilities, a blog tool or any of the other functions on your wish list, even if you have to pay a little more to get them.
If in the future the functionality you want is not available, you’ll need to shop for a different website system or build a custom site. Usually, it’s more cost-effective to start fresh than to try transferring your content from a free site-builder. You’ll want to consult with a web professional at that point.
Launching a business is challenging and entrepreneurs can find it difficult to afford that first website. If a free site-builder is your only choice, you might as well make the most of it. Then talk with us to learn how to get a site that you can afford now and that will grow with you later. We’re always happy to help entrepreneurs!