To ‘Free’ or Not to ‘Free’

free, or not?I tried half a dozen different titles and gave up. Apologies for the hokey pun.

Elsewhere I have written that free is a strategy, not a price. Though that post is about giving your work or product away as a marketing strategy, the concept applies to your website, though in a different way.

There are a number of free blogging tools. I only recommend WordPress. Others might work fine for some, but only WordPress has a clear and simple upgrade path to a real website: self-hosted WordPress.

The free blog at WordPress.com has some disadvantages:

  • You cannot sell anything. It’s against the rules you agree to when you create your account. Yes, people do it. We’re honest ’round these parts, aren’t we?
  • The address of your blog will be something like http://thenameyoureallywanted.wordpress.com/ which, frankly, is ugly and unprofessional.
  • WordPress.com gets millions of visitors per day. MILLIONS. That is a lot of traffic your visitors are contending with. My experience is that WordPress.com sites always seem a bit slow. It might just be me. Honest, it might.

If you want to sell something, if you want a real web address, if you want less contention for your site’s traffic, you need to pay for hosting. Free won’t cut it.

If those things aren’t an issue (and for some personal blogs, they aren’t) then the free version is good enough. (And when I say “good enough” I mean it literally, rather than meaning “not, actually, good enough, but we’ll settle for less than we need.”)

DIY or Do You Buy?

I’ll take the blame for that one as well. I got in this rhyming/poetry vein and I’m stuck.

I can install WordPress on your own hosting and set you up with a good domain name, all for $300 with a recurring annual cost of $150. You get a free theme, add your own content, and babysit it yourself (though we do weekly backups of your WordPress install, just in case something goes awry.)

That might be all you need.

If you want a unique look and feel, modifying an off-the-shelf theme is tricky. If you’re not technically savvy, don’t do this. It will just frustrate you.

There are themes designed to allow you to click here and drag there and choose that and “design” the site yourself. Yup, those are quotes around “design” but that’s just my opinion.

I dislike these themes immensely, but I’m an old skool hand-coder. Also, each one is different, so it’s like learning a new piece of software every time. If you only have one site, it’s probably acceptable. If you baby-sit nearly 4 dozen, it’s a right nuisance.

For the pinnacle of custom unique you-ness, you need a fully custom WordPress theme designed from scratch. I am very good at this. It’s $2,000 and it’s worth twice that.

Content

No rhyme. Sorry. Or, maybe you’re happy about it and I don’t need to apologize.

Personal blog? Write it yourself. You don’t need help.

Professional blog and site? If you have marketing experience, you’re set. If not, don’t assume that being good at what you do means you’re good at telling others about it.

That’s another plus for the fully custom WordPress theme: I have decades of experience with the words and psychology of marketing. Every word of your content will be polished to perfection; carefully designed to elicit exactly the right response.

Free: use it as a strategy where it makes sense.

And not, obviously, where it doesn’t.

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What do you think?