So you want to make a website for free. You’ve already found plenty of free website makers out there that will host your website for free – but none of these sites let you have your own domain.
WordPress, for example, will give you a free website that looks pretty good, but your website will always be found as a WordPress subdomain, like YourBlog.WordPress.com. WordPress will let you host your own domain through them – but you’ll need to pay.
So can you actually make a website with your own domain name for free? Or is it impossible? Today, we’re here to help you answer that question.
Yes, You Can Do It
First, some people may tell you it’s impossible to make a website with your own domain for free.
That’s not true! You can certainly build a website with your own domain for free. The only restriction, and the only thing you really need to pay for, is the domain name itself.
Usually, when you setup an account with a free website builder, you get a free subdomain which acts as the temporary address of your site while it’s under construction.
Once your website has been setup, however, you can attach a brand new (or previously purchased) domain name to your free hosting account.
Yes, you paid for the domain (which costs approximately $10 per year), but the rest of the website is free.
Remember that a custom domain name is a valuable asset to any business. It gives your business and your website a more professional look. It shows customers that you’re willing to pay that small $10 fee to give yourself a more professional presence on the internet.
With that in mind, it’s not surprising that modern website builders will often let you connect your own custom domain name.
Here’s a list of website builders that allow you to do just that.
Website Builders that Let You Connect your Own Domain Name
uCoz is one popular website builder that lets you connect your own custom domain name. After setting up your account for free, you can connect a custom domain name at any time. uCoz is extra convenient because it actually lets you purchase a new domain via the system or you can use your existing domain.
Weebly is one of the more popular website creation tools on the internet today. It features free hosting accounts as well as an educational account for teachers. The drag and drop interface makes basic website building and blog hosting surprisingly easy. Best of all, you can connect your own custom domain to Weebly.
Squarespace is a web hosting service that offers an all-in-one solution for your website building needs. The service specifically caters to bloggers, musicians, podcasters, and designers, but many small businesses use the site builder as well. Regardless of which type of business you run, you can connect your own custom domain to Squarespace for free without much hassle.
Adobe Portfolio is made by the same guys who brought you Photoshop and Acrobat Reader. Portfolio encourages users to show off their creativity through custom website creation tools. If you already own a custom domain name, then you can attach your Portfolio site to that domain.
As the name suggests, LetsEat is a website builder that caters specifically to the restaurant industry. It helps restaurants design, host, and manage their own websites online. You can connect a custom domain to this website builder to portray a professional front for your website.
Arguably the best-looking free website builder available today, Wix is a popular solution for businesses and individual users alike. The company offers free hosting plans, although paid hosting plans start at around $5 per month. The website builder itself is extremely easy to use and is built on HTML5. You can drag and drop items onto your site, drag to rearrange items, and take advantage of free templates. Wix encourages you to buy a domain name through their service, although you can bring your own custom domain to the platform as well.
Ultimately, the vast majority of website builders let you import your own custom domain. The only real restriction is trying to find one that offers it for free at a reasonable amount of bandwidth.
Most website creation tools offer free hosting and free custom domain setup, for example, but many of these services will only offer your most basic bandwidth and storage levels (think 20 to 100MB of free storage and less than 1GB of bandwidth, for example).
How Do I Get a Free Domain Name?
Nobody really gives out a domain name for free online without getting something in return.
Fortunately, many website builders will offer you a free domain name registration when you purchase, say, an annual plan.
Of course, after that first year expires, you’ll be forced to pay the fee for the annual domain name renewal. Sometimes, the site will bug you to renew the domain through their own renewal service, which is priced at say, $15 per year instead of the usual $10 or so fee. If that’s the case, then don’t be afraid to buy your domain through a third party site.
Unless you win a contest, or get a domain through a friend, there’s no way to get a free domain name online without paying at least something in return.
How to Build a Website for Free Using a Previously Purchased Domain Name
If you’ve already purchased a domain name in the past, or if you’ve acquired a domain name from someone else, then connecting that domain to your free website hosting account is straightforward.
Typically, all you need to do is login to the site where you registered your domain name. then, modify the NS records for your domain according to the instructions provided by your custom website builder (typically, you just change two fields in your domain control panel to something like NS1.YourNewWebHost.com and NS2.YourNewWebHost.com.)
Once you’ve done that, it tells your domain to look at your web host’s servers for content information. Then, your domain will be filled with content from your free web host.
How to Buy a New Domain Name
If you don’t already own a domain name, and you want a custom domain for your new site, then you may have to bite the bullet and pay the fee.
Registering a new domain requires you to work with a domain registrar like NameCheap or GoDaddy.
No matter where you buy, you can expect to pay about $10 USD for a one year registration of your custom .com domain. If you lock down your domain for 2, 3, 4, or 5 extra years, then you may get a small discount, but that $10 USD fee is still pretty hard to beat.
Of course, certain extensions vary in price. Websites that end with .net, for example, tend to cost $2 or $3 more than a .com domain, as do websites that end with .org.
Today, there are dozens of new Top Level Domains, or TLDs, that let your website end with all sorts of crazy combinations – including .club or .us.com. These TLDs vary widely in price and are often owned by private resellers. In general, .com is the safest bet when you’re buying a brand new domain. It’s the one recognized around the world.
Why You Should Consider Paying More than “Free” for your Website
Making a website for free with your own custom domain sounds like a great way to save money.
However, in the long run, free websites are rarely a smart way to proceed.
For example, free web hosting providers will not usually allow you to display your own advertisements on the site. In fact, many of these sites will display their own advertisements (they have to make money somehow, right?)
Another problem is that when you sign up for free hosting, your website will go ridiculously slow – especially if you have images or videos hosted on your site. Web hosts can’t afford to give free users oodles of bandwidth, so you’ll end up getting whatever trickle of bandwidth is left over after the paid users have had their fill.
Many free web hosts will also fill your website with their own branding. They may not let you edit the footer of your website, for example, which is where they display a link to their own site and other branded information. Not only is this unprofessional – but it can encourage users to click away from your own site.
One final problem is the lack of storage space. Free web hosts may only provide you with 20MB to 100MB of storage space, for example, which is hardly enough to upload more than a handful of images.
For all of these reasons, building a paid website is always the best option for legitimate businesses or individuals who want to portray a professional face to the world. It’s a small price (often priced at just $4 or $5 per month for basic hosting) that will give you a big return on your investment.
And of course, as soon as you upgrade to a paid web hosting plan, no web host will give you trouble about using your own paid domain name.
To make a long story short: Yes, you can make a website for free with your own domain. But it’s typically a better option to pay the $4 or $5 per month plus the $10 per year domain registration fee.