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4 Investments You Should Make to Jump Start Your Brand Online

Have you ever heard of the statement that “you should not set up shop on someone else’s land”?

Okay. So maybe I am probably totally jacking up the statement.  But I am sure that you get my drift on this one.

Today’s blog post is probably going to hit a nerve for a few – but I felt compelled to write this post up for you all expressing my concerns with free hosting services.

For many of you, I understand that in the initial stages of starting a business money is tight.  But…. for growths sake, you want to create a website of some sorts for your small business.

So what usually ends up happening is that you opt for the free route.

But here’s something that you may not know:

Free sites and blogging platforms (while it will save you money in the beginning phases of your business to use these platforms) may end up costing you in the end.

The Allure of Using Free Website Hosting Services + Blog Platforms

Years ago when I started building and creating websites, I searched online for information that would help me create a site quickly with low to no costs associated.

Sometime later, I stumbled across some info about setting up shop using FREE website and blogging platforms.

As you can imagine, I was stoked + pumped to get started.

I signed up and created an account on one of the most popular platforms (one that I will not name).

I was all set to start building my new site until I started digging into the FREE stuff a little more.

I started reading comments in forums about some of the issues that folks were having with using free blog and hosting platforms.

Then I stumbled across a post from one of my favorite bloggers – Lisa Irby of 2 Create a Website that made me rethink this decision.

In this post, Lisa share’s an email from one of her loyal readers and the issues she encountered with using free platforms to host her blog:

Issues with Free Hosting Services

Source: 2CreateAWebsite

Sad right?

I don’t know about you, but if I put in all of the work that goes into building a site, only to have it taken down, I would be highly PO’d. (pardon my French).

The Problems You May Encounter with Using a Free Site Website Hosting + Blogging Platforms 

As I’ve stated previously FREE comes with a price.  Here are some of the main drawbacks of using free hosting platforms:

  • Little to no customer support.  Um…no thank you!  If something is going on with my blog or site, I want assistance pronto
  • You are limited to the features that you can add to your site or blog (payment buttons, opt in forms, widgets and etc.,)
  • The templates that they offer are not very attractive and aesthetically pleasing
  • Site load times are slow and sluggish
  • Your pages will show advertisements from the hosting company on them
  • You will not be able to use a branded domain name for your website
  • Your prospects and potential clients may doubt your credibility
  • You do not own your website; You are renting on land that someone else owns
  • You do not have complete ownership of your content

Why You Should Use a Self-Hosted Website or Blog for your Small Business

There are plenty of reasons to use a self-hosted website or blogging platform for your business.  Here’s a few of them:

  • You own your domain and can use a branded domain name for your site
  • You have complete ownership of your own content
  • You will have complete ownership of your website
  • You can add more features to your blog or website (a store, opt in forms, widgets, etc.,)
  • You will have complete autonomy over the design, look and feel of your site
  • Your self-hosted website will inspire trust with your prospects + establish credibility for your business
  • Access to a ton of website + blog themes that you can use to spice up the design of your site
  • Access to customer support in case issues crop up

4 Investments that You Should Make at a Minimum to Jump Start Your Brand Online 

If you really want to make an impact on the web and you only had $100 to spend, at a minimum you could make the following investments in your business:

1.  Get a domain name for your business (Investment: $0 – $10)

It just looks more professional to use a domain that represents your brand as in >>>>>> www.yourcompany.com versus a free site or blog domain that looks like this one: www.mycompany.ieatgrapes.hotspot.com

Okay so I went a little overboard, but do you see the difference? A branded domain name is easier to remember and it just looks better.

2.  Invest in hosting for your site or blog (Investment: $30 – $65 Year)

Again, free seems enticing, but remember, it may cost you in the end. Siteground is a reputable company that offers inexpensive web hosting plans.

3.  Use a CMS (content management system) like WordPress.org to build your site or blog (Investment: Free)

WordPress is the most popular CMS platform that peeps are using to setup websites and blogs with.

Why?

Because it’s easy to setup, use, modify and make changes to on the fly.  It is the platform that I am using to run this site.

 

4. Invest in a professional looking theme for your site (Investment: $35 – $99)

The beauty of using WordPress is that they have a very large selection of nice looking themes that you can style up your blog or website with.

I mentioned in my previous guide to Launching a Brand and web Presence that Matters,  Themeforest and Creative Market are two of my favorite sites to purchase WordPress themes from.

In total, you would be investing approximately >>>> $70.00 to jump start your business….

I Would Love To Here Your Thoughts and Experiences

So now over to you peeps.  I would love to know your thoughts on this topic + your experiences as well.

Have any of you used free hosting services for your sites and if so, what has your experience been with them? Would you recommend them to others or not?

Please leave your comments below or lets chat it up on Twitter.

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Thanks!

Kim
 

Kim, YourChicGeek is a tech savvy diva + founder of YourChicGeek.com. She is passionate about teaching small biz's how to create a web presence for growth + impact. Kim has created several online courses that help small businesses grow and flourish online. You can contact Kim to hop on a quick 15 minute call to chat about your online marketing goals.

  • Hi Kim,

    To tell you the truth, I can go both ways on this one. I do prefer self-hosting but I have some highly successful entrepreneurs that use Wix and they are making a ton of money and have better results than a lot of people who are spending a lot of money building and hosting sites.

    The sites are for multi-million dollar homes in Costa Rica that are rented out to VIP’s, Executives and celebrities.

    I do wonder what kind of results they would get if they invested in a self-hosted site? But it is working for them nonetheless.

    They do own the domain on their GoDaddy accounts; but the reason they chose to go this route was because they felt Wix was easy to update. They don’t blog and it’s just a static site; and the results of what others do and say on social media is driving a boom for them!

    Great post Kim… 99.9% of the time I’m with you but I suppose there is always that “other” crowd who has to be renegades. LOL…

    Have a great week.

    ~ Don Purdum

    • Hello there Don! Valid points made my friend. I guess in my experience as a web designer + blogger, I would always just err on the side of caution when it comes to using free blogging + website building platforms.

      I’ve just seen it far too many times where folks have complained about using these free platforms either because they don’t have complete control over them.. or they look kinda “homemade” and etc.

      It is ultimately all a matter of preference and using what you feel most comfortable with. As always, thanks for your comment and feedback 🙂

  • Mark Newsome

    Thanks for firing the warning shot Kim!

    And I love to say, you gotta consider the “high cost” of free!LOL!

    And you have really made the case, for why the vast majority,
    definitely need to avoid going down that road to begin with!

    I like where you pointed out,that there is virtually no reliable
    customer support to be had with choosing that route!

    And in the beginning, that ongoing and much needed customer
    support, can and will make a big difference, for a struggling newbie!

    It’s best they contact an expert such as yourself, until they
    get some much needed experience!

    Great post and thanks so much for sharing!

    I’m definitely gonna have to start studying here more often!

    • Well Hiya Mark! Thanks so much for chiming in. To be honest with you, I was debating on whether or not I should publish this blog post, but I am glad that I did.

      The one issue that I see and hear all of the time with entrepreneurs + small businesses starting up online for the first time is that they don’t have a lot of money to spend in the startup phases of their businesses. I totally understand this…but..what a lot of folks don’t realize is that you can really get started up online and look GREAT doing it for under $100.

      I’ve just seen too many horror stories (much like the one that I pointed out) where folks have reported that their blogs and etc were taken down. It’s just not a risk that I am willing to take with using free platforms to host my digital home.

      Thanks again for stopping by my friend.

  • Hey Kim,

    I happen to agree with you.

    Although I also know a few people who are using free platforms and doing really well with them, there is always that chance that those sites could vanish tomorrow and they would have no say about it whatsoever. That’s just not smart if you ask me.

    There is a mutual blogging friend who is using a company that provides a lot of different services and one of those includes hosting your blog. She pays a monthly fee for everything but the problem is that they don’t back up her blog and she has no way of doing it either. I’ve shared my concerns with her about this but she’s one of those people who views this as too much trouble to move to another site and it won’t ever happen to her. Yeah, we all know how well that could turn out. Especially the longer you let this go the worse it’s going to be.

    Anyway, if you’re running a business then you should own it. If you don’t care one way or the other if it were to disappear tomorrow then I say you do whatever the heck you want to do. I’ve seen accounts just like the one you shared in this post vanish as well and they didn’t do anything. That’s just it, their competition could complain about them and their sites will be taken down. That’s just scary to me.

    Great share and I believe very important information for those considering going the free route.

    Enjoy your week girl…

    ~Adrienne

    • Adrienneeee!!! Amen (high fives) + two snaps to your comment chica. You know, I guess I can totally understand why folks choose to use the free route to build their platforms on, but just as you stated and I’ve mentioned in the post, its just a little too risky for me.

      I would rather have complete ownership of my content and etc., especially when it involves running a business.

      I actually had a chat with a fella on last week about his brand and noticed that he was running a Wix website for his business. I’m sure that he is doing well with it and all..but I definitely pointed out my concerns to him about using the platform.

      For folks that are just not that tech savvy or into using WordPress, Squarespace is a much better alternative to Wix — and their templates look super duper awesome.

      Thanks for commenting my dear. Hope that you have a blessed week 🙂

  • Hey Kim!!

    Yes, this is unfortunately so true. I am a graphic/web designer and it kills me when people ask for advice using a free service. IMO it’s a scary position to be in where you could easily just lose months of work and archives. EEK! So not worth it. I always recommend my clients to Bluehost and WordPress.

    Great post. I hope a lot of people heed this advice!!!

    • Hello there Amber! Girlie you are def right on. I know that the “tech” stuff can be a deterrent for lot of small businesses. So if they are just not into the tech stuff, then Squarespace is a nicer platform to use to get started…

      I couldnt agree more with your WordPress + self hosting recommendations. It’s for sure the way to go in the long term.

      Thanks for the love and comments on the post. Wishing you a grand week.

  • Hi Kim, so true.

    Personally, i think the biggest drawback when using a free site-builder and hosting is the fact that you’ll be using a sub-domain.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way for a blogger to get started for free until they find their feet, but it’s a different story when an established business chooses that option.

    There’s a second hand car lot just around the corner from where I live. To be honest, the vehicles all look in good condition, but they have a huge banner on the front of the premises that says “Visit us at businessname@weeblydotcom”.

    Purchasing their own domain name would have only set them back around $10 so to me, it screams cheap and unprofessional. I know that maybe an unfair assessment, but as we know, first impressions are everything in business.

    • Heyyy there Lee! Thanks so much for commenting. you know..I know that some folks are going to give me flack about this post. But I just feel like I have to keep it 100 (as they say).

      I dont take anything away from Wix and other free site building platforms because they definitely serve a purpose.

      I just think about the fact that there is no true ownership of the platforms (as in the case of Lisa’s reader) — where she was using a free platform and her blog was disabled for no apparent reason. Yikes!

      I could not imagine putting in years of work with adding articles and etc to a site, working my a$# off on it…then its taken down.

      I just try to stress to folks…spend a little bit of money investing in your online presence. It doesnt have to cost you a fortune to do so….and its just down right worth it in the end.

      And you’re right… at least investing in a $10 domain…is a great start. Thanks again for the commentary my friend!

  • Yusuff Busayo

    I once built my blogs on free platforms and truthfully, I wasn’t so serious about blogging at the time. Yes, it helped me to learn a lot about blogging. I used it to improve my writing and grow a hefty techy knowledge. But far as becoming a serious blogger was concerned, I learned most serious bloggers won’t even take you seriously if you’re on a free platform.

    Let’s not kid ourselves, Kim, free hosting platforms while they aren’t actually free, they are dangerous for the would-be serious blogger.

    Unless you’re in this blogging thing for fun, you’re better off coughing up some cash for a self-hosted blog. Why? Quoting Jeff Goins, “Your blog is your online storefront”, and handing the key to some company is taking your online business for granted.

    You’re definitely on point with the list you’ve created here, but I’ll add that losing credibility with a free hosted site is the toughest one for the wannabe serious blogger.

    First of, a free-hosted site shows you do not take your business seriously and clients are unlikely to trust you. In fact, when clients compare your free hosted site to your competitor’s self-hosted site, they’ll go for the other guy 10 times over.

    The other part is the tendency for you to not even take the blog itself seriously because ” you aren’t paying any price to make it run”.

    Yes, I know a couple of people who make tons of cash with their free-hosted site. But I also found they switch over time. (At least, I know one of our country’s most popular blogger who recently just switched to a self-hosted platform. Dare her to continue to use a free host).

    So? Domain and hosting cost less than the price of a cheap dinner these days. So I think a serious blogger should get on with it.
    Thanks for the great share, Kim.

    • Hellooo there Yusuff! You are exactly right. I understand that there are a ton of peeps who use free web and blog hosting services that I am certain are doing pretty well with them.

      I understand that when you’re starting out, budgets are tight, and you want to keep costs low… but from my experience and with reading the story that Lisa’s reader went through, its just not worth it at all.

      Appreciate you chiming in my friend. Wishing you a grand day! 🙂

  • Little to no customer support. – I’ve actually never needed support that I couldn’t get through other users. I mean, there was that time when Blogger went down in 2006. That was just about the worst two minutes of my life.

    You are limited to the features that you can add to your site or blog (payment buttons, opt in forms, widgets and etc.,) – I have opt-in forms, I have had payment buttons, and anything that can be done in html or javascript can be put in a widget. My blog has a landing page, opt-ins that provide customized incentives for each form …. I’m not sure what else I’d want to add.

    The templates that they offer are not very attractive and aesthetically pleasing – Ah, but they are SO easy to customize. Some of the nicest blogs I’ve seen are on Blogger’s Simple template, just customized. Or you can buy a template that is completely customized. Easy.

    Site load times are slow and sluggish – Not noticeably. Nothing that stops my readers.

    Your pages will show advertisements from the hosting company on them – Only if it’s the free WordPress host. Blogger doesn’t show ads, unless they are ones that I put in. And I’ve had no difficulty getting accepted with Sovrn and The Blogger Network ad networks.

    You will not be able to use a branded domain name for your website. – Again, you can’t with WordPress. I have my own domain with Blogger. Not only that, but I have branded email, too. Again, through Google.

    Your prospects and potential clients may doubt your credibility – Perhaps if you don’t get your own domain. It’s so easy to get a domain and branded email, that it does look bad when anyone trying to make money doesn’t have them.

    You do not own your website; You are renting on land that someone else owns. – And that’s the case if you’re paying for hosting on anyone else’s server. Doesn’t matter where you’re hosting, unless it’s a dedicated server on YOUR computer, you’re “renting on land that someone else owns”. Personally, I just love that my “landlord” provides the incredible service that Google does.

    You do not have complete ownership of your content. – IF that were the case, you would be unable to back up your site and move it elsewhere. I’m not sure where this myth comes from, since even the Terms of Service with Google make it really clear that they don’t own anyone’s content. Maybe that’s the case with the free WordPress?

    • Hello there Marie!

      I appreciate your commentary and feedback on this blog post. This is definitely a post that was written strictly on my experience and the horror stories that I have read with peeps using totally FREE website and blog hosting platforms.

      Yes, with some of them like WIX, WordPress.com and others, you can most certainly purchase and own your domain name which does give you total ownership of the site.

      However, with the totally free ones…its just too risky and one that I am not willing to take. Oh and I didnt know that the free site hosting platforms offered backup services. Will be sure to look into that.

      Either way, I appreciate you taking the time to chime in on the conversation. Cheers and make it a great week. 🙂