Since COVID-19, more and more small businesses have literally popped up overnight. Many are starting with tight (or no) budgets. Saving money with a free Facebook business page, a free WordPress hosted* website, or other 3rd party website builder such as Wix, can be very tempting. Who doesn't like to save money?!
Considering these services offer free options, they are pretty great value and a super quick way to get yourself out there. That's a huge plus if you are just starting out.
PRO'S for free 3rd party builders
— they are free
— they are quick to set up
— you don't have to worry about too many techie bits and bobs to get yourself online
— they can look pretty cool
What to consider for the bigger picture.
You may become completely boggled with the additional costs if you need anything remotely useful for your business in the future. Free plans are very basic, and limiting, so you need to be sure that what is free now, doesn't turn into some Venus fly-trap sales lure later.
In addition, you are completely reliant on the 3rd party platform. This week's (October 5th 2021) FaceTime outage was a good example of this going wrong. I am not a user of Facebook so the outage this week had no impact on me personally, but I thought it is a timely reminder as to how we rely on 3rd party technology and how it is not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket, especially when they effectively 'own' everything to do with your online business presence.
I am not writing this as a sales pitch as I am not building any additional new sites right now. I just wanted to put this out there, for interest, if you are currently exploring your options.
When you use a 3rd party builder, such as Wix, your website is built and hosted within a 'space' to which you will never have access. You cannot see your website files. You do not own your website files. You have no control over your files.
The ownership and control of your website's files is the point of this post. When you are independent of the 3rd party website builders, you have more options and control over the future of your online presence.
When you choose to build your own website, or you pay to have one built for you, your website content will be stored on a host of your choosing (or your web designer's host). You have control of all of your files and can move them at any time — to another host, for example. This means you are not tied into a host for life. If your website is experiencing too much downtime (it happens to the best of them), then you are free to move elsewhere. I say you, but in most cases, it is the website designer who looks after this on your behalf.
The freebie web builders also often come with additional extras which you may have to pay for. For example:-
— SSL certificates
— A proper domain name
— Domain specific email addresses
— Search Engine Optimisation
If you are starting out and are looking for a quick, setup for no cost, then a 3rd party free web builder may be the right, or only, option for you right now.
Just keep in mind — eggs, basket, only one...
We think things will stay around forever. They don't. And what is free now, may not be free this time next year, and by that time you are trapped!
Whatever you choose to do, consider this. You want a website to attract paying customers. Your website is, without a doubt, your biggest marketing tool. Because we all use the internet for free, when it comes to having an online presence, some small business startups balk at having to pay to have a site built and then have to pay out for it to be hosted!
If you are considering the Facebook business page. Great! Consider having a website further down the line. You can have both! One can help drive traffic to the other. Your website is where most people will go after they have seen your ad or been to your FB page. They usually want more information and it is from your site that they will make the decision of whether to contact you or not!
Perhaps another way to look at your website could be -
"Will investing in my website get me closer to more paying customers, or further away?"
* A WP hosted website is a free website which you can set up at https://wordpress.com. The freebie is the one where you use the WordPress domain and have ads on your site.
WordPress.org is where you go if you want to use your own domain name, and you have a hosting service you want to use. You own your website files. This is the type of WordPress site a website designer would build you.