One of the main reasons small businesses don’t have websites (or have really ugly ones) is because it can be expensive to pay a developer. If you don’t have a site yourself, I’d bet dollars to donuts (and I love donuts) that’s why – although if not, I’d love to know why you haven’t bitten the bullet yet!
Small business website design – for free
Regardless of why, I’m about to take away any barrier you may have. There’s literally no reason you shouldn’t have a website for your business, and today you’re going to find out how to get a beautiful site built without paying a cent. You really can get your small business website design for free.
You can do it all yourself, and you don’t need to be a programmer.
Let’s get to it.
Step 1. Get a place to put it
The first thing you always need is a place to put your site. There are a plethora of companies out there that will charge anywhere from $3 to $50 a month (and higher) to host your website for you. Usually you get what you pay for, but there’s one exception I know of.
WordPress is the most popular platform for putting sites together. It’s what I use when I build a site for someone. The folks that have developed the software also have a way for you to sign up for a free website and hosting. Once you have an account on WordPress.com, you have free website hosting for any site you build there.
There are two main down sides to the free account that may or may not be game changers. The first is you don’t get a domain name (your website would be yoursite.wordpress.com as opposed to www.yoursite.com), and you may occasionally have ads show up on blog posts. Check out the “upgrade” section below to get around that.
Action step 1 – Head on over to WordPress.com and click “Get Started” to get your free website and hosting.
If you want your own domain name and no ads, you can pay for a pro WordPress account. You could find a cheaper option with less limitations, though, with a different host. The market is big, so the prices are low.
Personally, I use and recommend SiteGround. Their plans start very inexpensively but have top-notch features. Their support is phenomenal, and they have some excellent security options if you feel you need them.
You can buy your domain with SiteGround, but a lot of people are turning to 3rd party registrars. The one I use is Namecheap*. Go there to buy your domain name.
The best part is that your design options are effectively limitless, and you don’t have to put ads on your site (unless you want to get paid for them).
If you’re curious, check out SiteGround’s site* for more information.
2. Find your design without spending a dime
Once you have hosting, you can set up your design. If you’ve gone with the free site from WordPress, you’ll get a whole bunch of really cool design to choose from. View their theme gallery and select the one you like most and customize it with your own colors and text.
To find the themes from your Dashboard:
- click “Appearance”
- click “Themes”
- make sure you click “Free” on the right
- then browse the themes
When you find one you like, click “Preview” to see what your site might look like, and if you still like it click “Activate”.
Action step: follow the above steps in your new WordPress.com account.
(If you decided to go with your own hosting or don’t like any of WordPress’ free themes, read the “upgrade” section below.)
Voila! You have just finished creating your website. All you need next is some content, but we’ll get to that in a second.
WordPress.com offers some nicer-looking themes, but you have to pay for them. That’s totally fine if you want the free hosting and just want to pay $50-$100 for a design. It’s way cheaper than paying a designer to do a totally custom site for you.
If you’ve bought your own hosting, you can search even more free WordPress themes on the internet. WordPress.org is a great place to start with a searchable theme library, most of which are free, as well as really useful WordPress plugins. So you’re paying for hosting, but you can still find a free WordPress theme to use.
Still, the free themes aren’t always going to be awesome. You can do what I do and buy a “premium” theme. The studio I always buy from is StudioPress. They’ve got a ton of designs, and they have a really cool WordPress framework that supercharges what WordPress has to offer and makes it better.
If that sounds like something you’d prefer, you can claim your new WordPress theme* here.
Now, if you really want to get fancy, send me a note and we’ll talk.
3. Set up some bells and whistles
Regardless of how you’ve built your site and where you put it, you’ll want to add some flair. Don’t go overboard, but there are some plugins that will enhance your site. You always want to make sure your site is useful for your visitors (it’s not a vanity plate), and that goes especially for the widgets.
Depending on the theme’s design, you’ll be able to add sidebar or footer widgets, maybe one in the header, etc. WordPress.com gives you a long list in your dashboard (“Appearance->Widgets”). Here are some examples I’d consider:
- Categories – to display the post categories to view all posts in that category
- Contact Info – to display contact info, hours of operation, etc.
- Top Posts and Pages – display links the most popular content on your site
- Custom Menu – you can set up a menu to display pages or posts you want to always show up on the sidebar
- Search bar – so people can find content
Action step: add some useful widgets to your website design to give your visitors a better experience!
Congratulations! You’ve built your own website, and you have done it for free! See how easy that was? It might not be the best website ever, but it’s yours and now it’s done. You can put it on your business cards, tell your friends, and give our customers somewhere to go to find out more about you.
Once you have the site set up, just add your content! Add a couple pages at first, like the products or services you offer, an about page so they can learn about your company, a testimonials page, and a contact page. Those are the minimum I’d recommend.
See? You really can get a website for free. Sure, paying for things does get you more, but if you’re in a pinch, free is a good starter option.
If you ever get to a place where you need someone else to build your site or are ready for a professional redesign, you know where to find one. Website design specifically for small businesses is one of my specialties, and I’d love to be considered part of your team. Just let me know if that’s something you want to do!
Do you have any other questions I can answer about setting up a site for free? Ask away in the comments!
*This is an affiliate link. That means I get a commission for having referred you, but your price stays the same. If you use this link to purchase something, I appreciate your support!