Let’s make something perfectly clear: I am the first person to jump on anything that’s free.
I don’t care if it’s samples at the grocery store, or coupons in the mail. Free is free, and I know how great it feels to get something for nothing, trust me.
People ask me how to make a free website, thinking that like anything else in that category, it can’t possibly go wrong. If there’s one thing about Matt Banner that is indisputable, it’s my complete and total honesty.
Recommended: What you need to know before starting a blog
Now, if I sit here and go on and on about how free websites are bad, you’ll probably think I’m trying to coax money out of you, so let’s me explain.
I don’t want to take your money, but I do want to offer you some friendly advice and some words of caution. Are free websites worse than people who steal candy from babies? No, not that bad. Are they worse than Lima beans? Yeah, but not by much.
We all love having things given to us without cost, but in today’s world, all we’re really guaranteed is some fine print and some asterisks to go with our “free website.”
So, let’s take a look at what you’ll get in this scenario and why there’s enough gaps in this equation to make Swiss cheese blush.
I Want Know How to Make a Free Website, and You Can’t Change My Mind…How Do I Make It?
Looks like my headers are feeling a little sassy tonight. Well, the nice thing about creating a free blog or website, is that it’s truly free in the beginning so at the very least, you can get your feet wet and see what you think.
When I say free websites are bad, I mean that in a long-term sense.
You don’t want to go into this thinking you can make a ton of money and never spend a dime for the purpose of investing in your blog. That’s, uh, that’s not going to happen.
If the simple concept of spending even a single penny scares the living daylights out of you, I’ll give you a quick crash course on how to create a free website or blog.
I do encourage you though to continue reading as we delve deeper into that pesky fine print I mentioned earlier. If you need a more formal and detailed version of this process, check out my guide on how to build a blog.
Alright, let’s knock this out.
Choose a Platform
If you need help on this end, I recommend my article on the best blogging platform options. For the purpose of this crash course, I’ll recommend a few platforms where you can register for free and start your blog in mere minutes.
My top pick has been and always will be WordPress. The free option is the .com version of the website, the .org version is for self-hosted blogs.
Remember, WordPress.com is the free one. If you’re still confused, check out my article on WordPress.com vs WordPress.org and you’ll find plenty of information to help you better understand.
I would go into the differences here, but I don’t want to sound like a negative Nancy when it comes to the subject of creating a free blog or website so I’ll hold my tongue until the next section.
WordPress.com will get you set up on a free blog and you’ll get some options for themes to boot. You can set up everything very quickly and easily without paying a dime. Other websites that offer this same kind of service include Blogger.com, and Tumblr.com.
Choose Your Topic
A blog, a website, it doesn’t matter what you decide to create, you can’t do it without an idea, a topic or a niche if you will. This may very well be the hardest part of your journey towards owning a website of your own, free or otherwise.
Coming up with ideas can be difficult, and trust me, I understand that. You need to examine yourself and find out what makes you tick. Look for something that you’re passionate about, something unique and special.
Once you’ve found it, delve as deep as you can into it and find that little corner that no one’s touched. That’s your topic right there.
If you need more help though, I’ve got a list of 151 blog post ideas that will really get your creative juices flowing. I practically poured all of mine into the list myself, along with some blood, sweat, and tears. It turned out great though, I’m proud of it.
Create Your Account, See What You Think
The nice thing about free websites and blogs, is they are easy to set up. Once you’ve made an account and filled out all the information they need, everything is really setup. From this point you can start writing posts, throw up a theme, and build your user base.
You’re not going to have an overwhelming amount of options for control and creativity (I’ll get to that in a second) so keep that in mind.
Ultimately, don’t pay for anything on there if you’re serious about becoming a professional website owner or blogger. Your money is better spent elsewhere, trust me.
Alright, I’m Listening, What’s so Bad about Free Websites?
You don’t have to be a control freak to understand the concept. We like knowing that our creations, our content, and our websites are under our control. Let me outline a scenario for you real quick that will truly get your attention.
Warning: this is based on a true story, and it has happened many times before. You’ve got this blog, and you’ve had it for about three months.
You love it, and your followers love it. You can’t believe that this free blog has gotten so popular, and you’re living on cloud nine as you start thinking about ways to monetize it.
Life couldn’t be better. On top of everything, you’ve lost ten pounds on your new diet, and you just won $50 on a scratch-off ticket.
Then one day you get an email from your blog provider. It turns out your blog was flagged for “spamming.” They don’t give you any other details, except the tiny little one where they deleted your blog and everything on it.
You’re shocked, you feel like someone just tore your heart out. Your hands start shaking, a cold sweat breaks out on your forehead.
All those hours of typing, editing, and seeking out funny cat photos are all suddenly gone. Wasted away, and now you’ll never get them back.
All your hard work, your passion, and your content is gone. All because someone robot somewhere thought you were being a spammer and hit that unholy delete button. No regret, no remorse.
From here things go way downhill as you spend that $50 you won on ice cream and totally gain back the ten pounds you lost on your diet in a manner of hours.
Besides the ice cream and the money thing, this has happened to plenty of people, which brings me to my first point.
Free Websites Are NOT Under Your Control
When you create a blog or a free website, you’re not in total control. You are being served on a sub-domain where you get a slice of the URL like this: www.yourblogname.thewebsite.com.
The blog you’re using is free because someone else is handling all the heavy lifting behind the scenes.
You can buy your own domain URL, but that’s just putting a Band-Aid on the whole situation, the leak is still there. There are limits to the content you can put on there, beyond the obvious ones surrounding offensive content.
The website that is doing the hosting for you has all the power here. They can flip a switch and take away everything you’ve worked for just because someone felt like it.
I know that sounds absurd, but all they have to do is find something that doesn’t quite fit into their terms and conditions, and you’ll lose everything. I don’t want that for you, I don’t. There’s nothing worse than losing your content.
Now, you’ve heard me mention that you could potentially create a free blog and transfer the services over, but I would even caution against this.
If you do plan to transfer the content to your own domain, do it sooner than later. What I mentioned about blogs being deleted, it happens a lot and it happens without warning.
A free blog is really there to test the waters or do it casually. If you absolutely must start out this way, keep a constant backup of your posts just in case.
The process of moving everything over can be complicated as well, so ultimately the best choice is to save some money beforehand and host your own website.
Other Disadvantages of Free Websites
The biggest problem with free blogs and websites is the possibility that they could be shut down at a moment’s notice for reasons that don’t entirely make sense. This isn’t the only reason why you should stray away from these however.
Again, as we move into this, I want to stress that free websites aren’t evil or anything, they’re just not the best solution when you’re looking to create a successful and sustainable blog. Consider these facts when you’re making a decision:
Your Space is Limited
When you sign up for a free website, you are given a set amount of space for your content. When you start making posts, uploading videos, podcasts, and pictures, it all starts to add up fast.
Most websites won’t give you more than a few gigabytes of space to work with if you’re lucky, and while that may seem reasonable, a fast and furious blog is going to eat through that like an army of termites in the foundation of a house, and like you’re house, the blog is going to fall apart without more space.
You Can’t Utilize Plugins
Plugins are, without a doubt, the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m convinced, especially after my article on the best WordPress plugins, that these things are absolutely essential for a growing blog.
Plugins let you do things like create social networking share buttons, entice readers to sign up for your weekly newsletter, and optimize your SEO to improve your online presence.
There are thousands upon thousands of them out there and they can add some real spice to your blog, but a free website or blog can’t take advantage of them.
Search Engines Don’t Take Them Seriously
A sub-domain like the one I mentioned above is hard to put out there on sites like Google, Yahoo, and other search engines.
While many of us spend countless hours trying to make our sites pop up on the front page, you’re going to be in for an uphill battle with a free website as these are not loved by search engines.
Beyond search engines, it’s hard to create a true and reputable brand if your website isn’t entirely your own, so you’re going to be getting sideways glances from people who visit as well.
Ads May Be Placed On it Without Your Consent
Creating a free blog is kind of like leasing an apartment, but with a really strict lease. You’re basically agreeing to let all kinds of strangers waltz into your apartment at all hours of the day so they can throw up some posters and repaint your walls.
When you have a free website, you’re essentially a guest there, not the owner.
This means you may have ads on there that don’t make you money, and may not be relevant to your readers. This of course ties back into the issue of the blog being taken down again.
If You Have Problems, Getting Help Won’t be Easy
A lot of people create free websites and blogs, mostly because they’re free. This means that customer service lines and support desks are going to be swamped almost all of the time. They may even be understaffed as well.
Either way, the service provided to you when you’re in need may be lethargic, or nonexistent. You’re bound to have questions, or you may be baffled in a situation and while researching it can help, sometimes you just need to talk to someone, and they may not be there when you need them.
Here’s What I Recommend
Free Websites have their place, but we’re here to talk about blogging as a profession, not a hobby. We want to create a website that drives views, rakes in the traffic, and lets you pay the bills doing what you love.
I’ve never heard about a free blog domain in the news or on the front page of Forbes Magazine, and that’s because ultimate success lies in self-hosting your content.
Whether it’s a personal journal or a blog for your business, you need to invest in your success if you really want it to become something.
Several years ago, if I were to tell you that you should go build your own website, you would probably take one look at the HTML coding and run the other direction screaming about how you’ve seen the face of evil.
Trust me, coding can be scary and while it’s not so bad once you get used to it, there are easier ways in our modern era to host your own website and build it yourself. Namely, we’re talking about WordPress.
Remember earlier I mentioned using WordPress.com for your free website? Well, starting a blog or website that you own yourself is extremely easy and it involves WordPress.org in this case.
There are numerous websites out there that will offer you domain names and hosting services, but I’m going to point you in the direction of one that will do both for a price that beats out the rest. It’s called Web Hosting Hub and by clicking the name there, you can get your domain name and hosting service for as little as $3.99 a month.
I pay more than that for a coffee at Starbucks.
By going with this option, not only are you avoiding all of the disadvantages of a free website, especially the dreaded shutdown, but you can take advantage of all these benefits:
- You have total control, and your own website!
- No ads, banners or anything of the sort without your permission
- Search engines will love you more and showcase your site easier
- Total control of your website’s look and feel
- You can reach out to followers with a branded email like this one: firstname.lastname@example.org
- No chance of your website being deleted randomly
- The custom URL gives you a recognizable and respected brand
- You have access to plugins and features to improve the experience
- There are numerous support forums and tips at your disposal
If all this sounds like it’s right up your alley, consider checking out my guide on how to start a WordPress blog, and take that leap of faith. You can always cancel the hosting service if you need to, and in the meantime, you’re living your dream! You can do this, I know you can, so skip the training wheels and just jump on the bike. You’ll be glad you did.
I Wasn’t Too Harsh Was I?
I hope I wasn’t too harsh after I explained how to make a free website. I don’t have a vendetta against them or anything,
I just think we’re in this for the long haul and that’s not the way to do it. What do you think though? Tell me your thoughts in the comments on the two options and where you stand on the matter.
I look forward to hearing from you, and as always, thanks for reading!