I’m sure that you have stumbled across the typical “Free Website Design” ads on the internet. Like most people, your first instinct was probably “Wow!”. But then the left side of your brain kicked in and you started to ask yourself..How can anything be free?

The truth is..Nothing is free. Everything comes with a price. So how do the free website design folks make money? There are a number of methods used to make money when advertising something as free. The most basic and probably most used on places like Craigslist, is the old bait and switch.

1) Bait and Switch

The advertisement offers free “Basic” web design, but provides no examples of their work and an ambiguous description of what you actually get. But miraculously, everyone who calls happens to need something that isn’t considered basic and then “reasonable” prices are offered on what the customer needs. Mind you, it is done very cordially and seems very believable to someone who isn’t that tech savvy. So the free website design ad, quickly ends up costing as much or more than if you had simply contacted an established, affordable website designer.

2) Restrictions and Requirements

Another method of earning money from free website design ads is to require that the customer use your hosting and or future services. Many web designers have arrangements with hosting companies that earn them a commission when a new client sets up a hosting account. This is not uncommon and usually makes sense. However, many offering free services require that you use that particular hosting company, so that they can earn a commission. You don’t get a choice. And let’s face it..If all they are going to earn is a small commission and that is where their focus lies, how much effort is really going to be put into your new website?

Other requirements may involve monthly fees to maintain your website or much ¬†higher than normal fees to host your new “free” website.

3) It’s Really Free.

Although most ads of this type are simply scams or bait and switch, there are some that are actually offering free website design services. They may be doing this because they are trying to build a portfolio and start their own web design company. Sadly, this same story is used by the scammers too. So if you are lucky enough to stumble across a genuine person offering a genuine free website, you need to remember one thing. You are a guinea pig. Sounds fun huh? You are putting your company into the hands of someone who may or may not have the skill required to make your website stand out from the crowd or appear online. In some cases, the wrong techniques can actually penalize your website and basically force it out of existence.

There are also plenty of do it yourself websites online that offer you the chance to build your own free website for your business. Although the commercials and online advertisements make this idea seem very appealing to a small business owner who is looking to save money, they usually end up being sub par websites that are invisible to search engines.

Unfortunately, most business owners think that all websites are the same. They are not aware of the little details that make big differences. They have the “Field of Dreams” view of the internet and think that “If you build it. They will come.” Unfortunately this is far from the truth.

I recently redesigned a website that had lost nearly ALL online sales after allowing a fly by night designer to build their website using a “popular” free website builder. This person had been online for over a decade. Luckily, this particular individual was able to recover after the redesign. But that is just one happy ending. More often than not, the end result is the opposite for those trying their hand at a free website.

The money you saved by choosing a free website designer in no way compares to the potential loss of business as a result.

In conclusion, you should always ask for examples of work, get the details and shop around before leaping into the arms of a free website designer. Because that free website may be the most expensive decision you ever made.