Before you start down the path of setting up a free DIY business website, understand what to expect and how to approach it.
When you’re in the beginning stages of your small business the idea of a website undoubtedly crosses your mind.
That’s probably why you’ve found yourself here.
It’s great that you’re on the right track thinking about your small business online presence and of course even better that you thought about doing your homework.
There are many options out there for building your small business website and no shortage of web developers jumping at the opportunity to throw something up for you.
Then there are the free or near free options that are a do-it-yourself (DIY) project.
You’ll find plenty of things to think about in this article when looking at your options in the free DIY business website arena.
The first thing you’ll want to think about is the purpose of a small business website. Without purpose, what’s your small business?
Purpose Of A Small Business Website
Every business is born out of purpose and hopefully, purpose with passion.
Everything in your small business should be with thought and purpose which is why I emphasized that in a recent article.
Your website isn’t something you want to check off of a list just because someone said you need one. Although there are certain things you should be looking for in a website designer/developer.
There’s more to a website than just needing an online presence. There is an art and science behind a website.
Your small business website is a tool to help grow your business. It’s a way to reach new customers and should be an income generator, not an expense.A website is a tool to help grow your small business. An income generator, not an expense. Click To Tweet
Effective Use Of Money
You wouldn’t go out and pay for a billboard because someone said you need one, would you?
Of course not.
There needs to be a thoughtful purpose and a plan behind it. Everything should tie back to a business goal. That means your website too.
If your website isn’t designed for the purpose of bringing customers to your small business, there’s a good chance it’s wasting your time and money.
Your website is a great resource to reach new customers.
Many people think of a website as solely a source for customers to find information about your business. Free DIY business websites are designed specifically for that purpose.
If you think of your website only in those terms, though, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunity for online growth for your small business.
There are other purposes your small business website should seek to achieve to grow your business presence online.
will help bring people to your website which gives you the opportunity to convert them into a lead.
With the right content on your website that matches what your customer is looking for will help you grow your small business online.
Great content and a path to bringing in leads to your small business is the real purpose of a small business website.
There are benefits to a free DIY business website when you’re just starting out though.
Benefits of DIY
There are some obvious benefits of going with a free DIY business website.
The biggest benefit is of course that they’re free or extremely inexpensive.
You can have a website up and running in minutes and then you can customize it as you have time.
If you can use a word processor then you can most likely set up a website with a free provider if you spend the time to figure it out.
They’ve done a great job making it easy to do-it-yourself with a little time and patience. Some even build much of the content for you going as far as providing you with original written content and semi-unique pictures.
While the starting plan for many of the DIY website builders is free, there are more plans that can be tailored to your specific needs.
That’s good if you’re on an extremely tight budget. It’s also good if you’re on a shoestring budget and can’t afford something more complex and custom.
While there are benefits to a free DIY business website it also comes with many drawbacks.
Drawbacks of DIY
Sometimes even with no budget, the best option might not be a free DIY business website.
It can simply cost you more in the long run if you choose to start with the DIY option.
A free DIY business website is always created to look good but it’s never built for business.
The DIY options are built to look pretty but with very little business purpose put into the design.
There’s almost nothing built into it that will help you achieve business growth online (science). Even the design (art) aspect is lacking in some aspects because they’re built off of design trends and not the functional purpose.DIY websites templates are often built to look pretty but not so much built for functionality. Click To Tweet
Like a business card, a DIY website isn’t going to do anything for your small business unless you talk to people.
A business card tells someone about you and how to contact you but it’s not a sales tool or it’s an extremely weak sales tool.
If you don’t give someone your business card and tell them to contact you, they won’t. If you don’t give someone your DIY website address to learn more about you, they won’t.
Time = Money
The DIY option will cost you plenty of time, therefore, costing you a lot of money. Both a DIY and custom approach will cost you time but for the same result, the DIY option will either be severely lacking or cost you an extremely high amount of time.
Either way you look at it, the DIY option will cost you heavily on time.
There’s a lack of opportunity and options to fine tune many aspects of your website.
Technical SEO is all about the subtleties of web design and the free DIY business websites don’t offer the necessary fine-tuning to make it work the right way.
If your small business website isn’t ranking for any terms in search engines then you can’t bring new leads into your business.
You have to weigh the benefits and what you can manage with the drawbacks.
A free DIY business website may be a short-term solution for you but there are also long-term implications.
What To Expect Long-Term
While exploring whether a free DIY business website is an option you want to pursue, there are long-term implications to take into account.
Many of the providers of DIY websites are not comprehensive solutions that can be considered a long-term solution.
A free DIY business website may be an option when you’re starting out with little money and more available time. As you put more time into it, though, your time investment could become a liability.
Many DIY website providers make it difficult to retrieve the data from your old website. That could mean a lot of work lost when you do move to a more robust custom website.
They’re made to be easy to create a website with, not to get the information out.
If you’ve invested in a custom domain for your DIY website you may find it difficult to get ownership of it again.
Your expectation for a free DIY business website should be to not invest too much time nor expect to keep it long-term.Expect a DIY website to be a temporary solution that you don't invest too much time into. Click To Tweet
Be ready to write off any content on the free website or spend a premium to retrieve it.
As a brochure website that is meant for you to send people to only, a free DIY business website will achieve this.
A free DIY business website won’t bring leads to your business or people searching for your business through any term but your business name.
There are limitations to what a free DIY business website will do for your small business. Because of this, there is a good approach to take if you decide it’s an option for you.
How To Approach Free
Sometimes the free DIY business website option is the best options.
If it is, take an approach that will help you further down the road as you grow your business.
Keep it simple.
With an understanding that a DIY website isn’t going to be a long-term solution, keeping it simple will make sure that you don’t have any regrets later.
Keep in mind that a DIY website is for a basic brochure website only. It won’t go much beyond that but you still need to start in a logical business minded place.
Going back to the business card analogy I mentioned above, a free DIY business website is a tool that you can use as you meet people and talk to them about your business.
By keeping it simple and not investing too much time in a free DIY business website, you’ll have something useful but not ground-breaking.
It will meet basic goals for your small business in the early days. This may open you up to a more robust small business website in the future that brings customers to you instead of just acting as a brochure.
There are many options for where you can get a free (or low-cost) DIY business website.
DIY Website Options
There’s a huge market out there for free DIY business websites and an equally huge amount of creators. There are even people that will charge you very little money to set you up a website on these systems.
Here are some of the most popular options for free or low-cost DIY websites:
WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org)
Almost every website host out there has a free DIY website option also. Many of them lack even the options of those listed above though.
There are times when the free options work better than a custom website but they are temporary and should be approached with caution.
Where Free Works Best
Sometimes the free DIY business website is the only option and by extension ends up being the best option.
It works best in these scenarios:
- You’re OK starting over and losing any content you’ve developed including your domain name.
- Building a personal brand website that doesn’t need a great deal of content or isn’t trying to sell anything, just your skills.
- You just started your business and will never have another option financially but know you require a website presence.
There aren’t many times when it works best but they do happen. It’s a decision unique to your situations and one you have to make with great thought. Never spur of the moment.
There are other options to create your small business online presence without a website.
There are always other options to grow your business online than just a website. If you are set on a website then a DIY model might not be best but also a full-blown expensive website (average cost of $2,000-$10,000) might not be in your budget. That could mean affordable web design (a colleague of mine) might be what you need. It’s not as robust of a solution as the expensive one but it will bring a lot more value than a DIY website.
A website is usually the hub of your online presence but when you’re just starting out, it’s probably not your best option.
Sometimes it may be a good decision to delay a website and stick with building your email list first. With an email list, you can create content for people who are interested in your small business and help them along the way.
With an email list, you can build trust and establish a relationship with potential customers.
When you create an email list you’ll also have an address (URL) that you can share with people to sign up and put on social media. You can even embed a sign-up form on your Facebook page.
To get started growing your email list without a website, check out my eBook on the topic.
You’ll still have to bring people to your email list but it comes with mostly positives and not the negatives of a free DIY business website.
Even if you don’t have a website or budget for one now, it’s always good to understand your options and what a good web designer can do for you.