Authors, artists of all kinds, are always looking to save a buck. I understand the feeling; I’ve been there myself far to often.
Your author or artist website is a place where I’d hate to see you skimp. I’ve been a professional web developer for over 15 years, so as you read this you should assume I have some skin in this game.
Good hosting does not have to be expensive. The company I use, Charlottezweb, costs $5 a month or about $50 a year, and Jason & co. far exceed my expectations as both a web expert and a right fussy chap.
I do not know if Google searches are less effective for finding a site on Weebly or Wix or those free services. What I do know is that over the years many services like that have come and gone, and if they go, so does your site.
If your paid hosting company goes away, your backup copy of the site can be quickly and easily moved to new hosting, with almost no down time.
Same is true if you just plain want a change: those sites using special DIY tools can’t be moved to other hosting. A real website (I recommend WordPress, installed on your own paid hosting) can be moved anywhere you want, any time you want.
Consider the other important professional services you use in life. Would you depend on a guy who would do it free, but tacked on his own advertising, made you use tools he liked, and could disappear any time because, after all, he’s doing it free? Or do you pay someone because you need them to be there next week and next month and next year?
While I do all this geek stuff for a living, I don’t charge a penny to answer questions about technology. I hate it when someone is hurt by bad choices they could have avoided with better information. If I can help you make good choices, I’m happy.