Having a free website sounds great upon first hearing it. 'WOW...I can have a real website for FREE??' - I'll take that!! Yes...I've been there...and I completely understand why others do it too. Lack of funds or lack of awareness around the pitfalls are valid reasons for using a free website which I completely do understand. However, in order to save you time and hassle, I'm going to explain briefly why in my experience it's a poor idea and how it damages your business and your brand. 
Reason Number 1: It Destroys Your Image. Being in business is tough, and it's getting tougher with more and more people out there starting up in entrepreneurship. Being mediocre is no longer an option - it's just not good enough. Too many competitors are already out there doing a great job at what you do. What makes you different, what makes you unique? If you're out there networking, or talking to people about what you do, trying to make a sales, and saying that you're actually good at what you do, to then proceed and hand a FREE vistaprint card which directs people to a FREE website, says an awful lot about your credibility or 'lack of' credibility. As a potential client, my confidence will have been knocked and all of a sudden I now know that you're a rookie. Caught, like a rabbit in headlights, not a good look.  
Reason Number 2: Poor SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) - Free website builders generally don't have enough SEO tools in place to do your own SEO properly. As a result free websites are often impossible to find on Google. If it's impossible to find, then how are potential customers supposed to find you??? Google like to see sites that have plenty of content, that are built to a high standard (in terms of code), that are mobile responsive, and that are easy to navigate and function properly. Meeting those criteria with a free website just isn't going to happen. As a result, your website just won't get found in most cases, a bit like opening a shop that has no people who ever walk down that street. 
Reason Number 3: Nothing Is Usually Free - No-one is going to give you free space on their web servers (where you place a website) without some sort of compensation. On top of this, they have developers and other staff to pay as well as overheads, so it's not going to be free in any case. Normally they'll restrict some essential functionality that you'll need further down the line. Meaning if you've spent all that time, effort and energy into a free site, chances are it's all going to be a waste. 
Reason Number 4: Lack Of Conversion - Not all websites are the same. There's a reason why the most successful websites work compared to those that don't work. It could be the colour of a 'buy-now' button, or a killer headline, or a blog written in a certain way, but without having an expert marketing eye to look over it to make sure the right things are in the right place and to look for the common 'turn-offs', chances are that even if you do manage to get some visitors to the site, it won't do it's job of generating enquiries or creating sales. 
When it comes to advertising of any kind, people all to often focus on the cost, as oppose to the potential returns. The whole purpose of advertising in the first place is to generate new customers, and a website is a superb way to do that if it's done properly. For 95% of businesses, there are people already out there on Google searching for what you do locally. Having a great online presence is imperative to running a small business in the year 2017.  
I'm based in Milton Keynes, and I help business owners throughout Milton Keynes, Luton, Leighton Buzzard and other surrounding towns and areas to develop cost-effective websites that work. If you'd like to have a chat please call me on 01908 414 939 or fill out one of the contact forms on this website.  
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