Face it. Every small business needs a website, but not every small business owner thinks they have the budget or know-how to do their own website. Furthermore, some small business owners aren’t sure if the ROI from having your own website is even worth the expense. I can understand that, but did you know you can do your own small business WordPress website for free using free WordPress themes and WYSIWYG tools?
Yes, you can do a WordPress website for your small business, blog, portfolio, or project — all for free.
WordPress sites can be easily customized to look however you want and do whatever you need.
You Can Do Your Own WordPress Website Just Like This One to Power Your Small Business for Free
By the end of this article you’ll be able to create your own small business WordPress website just like this one — and have the tools and know-how to customize it how you’d like. View the demo.
There are 1,000’s of ways to build a WordPress website for your small business. Ultimately what makes your website unique is the content you put between the header and the footer. The area between the main-navigation and footer is a blank canvas to paint as you’d like.
The benefits of this style of small business website is that it’s fast, mobile-responsive, easy to customize, and ready to receiving inbound visitors as soon as it’s up.
- Easy to Customize
- Ready for Inbound Visitors
If you really want an easy way to get a unique website design I’m going to recommend a starter theme and page builder for you that come packed with ready-to-customize templates you can choose from, too.
Beyond the infrastructure, you can take your website’s design and content strategy as far as you want. Spice it up with custom graphics. Hire a professional copy writer. Add carousel image sliders and videos. Share news, events, products, and promotions that you can add, update, and manage yourself.
With WordPress, everything you need to run in the right direction is already all ready for you.
WordPress is a Great Website Solution for Small Businesses
Are free WordPress websites good for small businesses? Yes.
Doing your own WordPress website for free is nearly the same as a paid-for WordPress website. Think of the difference being similar to buying a piece of furniture that you need to put together vs buying an item that comes pre-assembled. You get all the pieces and a clear set of directions — often with pictures and video — but you need to put it together for yourself. All the cost of doing a website comes in parts and labor.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a bank, law firm, financial planner, wedding photographer, local restaurant, industrial manufacturer, yoga instructor, chiropractor, freelancer, affiliate marketer, or another type of small business owner — you can make your own fast, friendly, easy to use website that looks fantastic and does everything you need it to do using WordPress in a few relatively easy to accomplish steps (it’s “do-it-yourself”, after all).
WordPress Does Ecommerce
Can a WordPress website do ecommerce? Yes.
Is a WordPress website my first choice for selling products online? Maybe.
Actually, WordPress can do ecommerce quite well. I just feel like it’s a “depends” situation on whether I’d recommend it to you for what you’re doing. It’s #1 for being customizable, but quite a lot more involved to set up and maintain than say a Shopify store website.
Without diving into ecommerce in this article — about how to do your own small business WordPress website for free — I’ll point you to WooCommerce.
No WordPress Experience Needed to Do Your Own Small Business WordPress Website
Even if you don’t know anything about building your own website, WordPress, or WordPress websites you can still easily do your own small business WordPress website in less than a day. You will learn the foundations of building your own website using WordPress as you go through these initial steps of installing WordPress, activating a WordPress theme, adding a plugin, creating content, and using the WordPress Customizer for creating content.
The most time consuming part of doing a WordPress website for free isn’t making the website. It’s deciding which web host to use, waiting for a new domain name to go live, and creating content.
I’m not saying WordPress is so simple that you can do anything you want without any prior knowledge of how WordPress works, but if you’re adverse to spending money and want to build your own small business website that looks good, captures leads, connects to social media, let’s people send you messages, and allows you to manage your own content then you can absolutely use WordPress as your small business website solution.
You Only Need to Buy Web Hosting and a Domain Name
Wait, what about web hosting and domain names? Are those free too?
Technically speaking, web hosting and domain names aren’t free. Sometimes a hosting plan will include a domain name, but that’s really the only cost you can’t get around. However, WordPress (CMS), WordPress themes (website design), and WordPress plugins (website functionality) are things you can get at no cost.
- Website Software (WordPress)
- Website Design (WordPress Themes)
- Website Functionality (WordPress Plugins)
- Web hosting (as low as $2.95/month)
- Domain name (typically under $20/year, sometimes included with hosting)
Basic Steps to Do Your Own Small Business WordPress Website for Free
Here’s the basic steps to doing your own WordPress website and getting it online:
- Get web hosting
- Get a domain name
- Put WordPress on your web hosting
- Choose a WordPress theme (aka the design)
- Customize your WordPress theme
- Add your logo, info, content, and colors
- (Optional) Extended functionality using WordPress plugins
See, that’s pretty easy, right? Download a few things, sign up for a service, give yourself a name, slap some content on a page and you’ve got yourself a website — that you built yourself. And if you want, you can extend it with plugins and make it fizz, whizz, bang, and whistle to your heart’s desire.
Sure, there’s a little more to getting everything working together seamlessly at a high-level. However, when you boil it down to the essentials these steps are more or less all you’re doing. You can definitely build, create, and make your own WordPress website for a small business.
Web Hosting for WordPress
Web hosting is a must have so your website can be publicly viewed on the Internet.
Premium WordPress Hosting
If it fits your budget, I recommend WP Engine hosting for WordPress websites.
WP Engine is web hosting specifically built for WordPress websites. Out of the box, everything is specifically designed to work together with your WordPress website without a hitch.
WP Engine also offers “managed hosting” where they’ll set up and manage everything for you — but that’s a higher cost and diverging from the theme of this article which is about doing your own small business website for free and how to.
WP Engine Features
WP Engine’s web hosting features include:
- 35+ Premium StudioPress Themes included for free on every plan type.
- 3 environments on each site – Development, Staging & Production.
- Automated migration plugin.
- GeoIP Targeting and Offsite Backups.
- Global CDN free on every plan.
- Automated backups.
- Automatic core updates.
- Page Performance tool included for free.
- World-Class WordPress security from Global Edge Security.
- WordPress optimized platform.
- PHP ready.
- Automated SSL certificates.
- 18 data centers available globally.
- SSH Gateway.
- Fully Optimized WP Engine DevKit.
- 60-day money back guarantee.
Budget Friendly WordPress Hosting
For budget-friendly web hosting plans try BlueHost.
Shared WordPress hosting plans from BlueHost start as low as $2.95/month. Additionally, BlueHost has higher-tier hosting plans available, similar to WP Engine’s hosting, if you want to start here and foresee growth and a need to upgrade in your future.
Upgrade WordPress Hosting As Needed
It is always going to be easier upgrading hosting plans when you stay at the same web host.
However, migrating your website to a new web host is not a big deal.
In fact, migrating your website to a new hosting provider may have zero implications or downside unless your website’s traffic is highly reliant upon organic traffic from search engines. If that’s the case then staying with your current web host is slightly in your favor.
Free Webhosting Doesn’t Fit Small Business WordPress Websites
There are free web hosting options, but most all free options either lack a database — WordPress requires 1 database to run, most commonly a MySQL or MariaDb database — or they don’t come equipped with enough space and bandwidth to operate a WordPress site and leave your visitors with broken web pages and 500-service-unavailable error messaging.
You need a domain name, so people can have something to type into their browsers to reach your website — it’s your “dot com”, aka the name you call yourself online. Usually, your business’ name works best (if your-business-name.com is available).
Some web hosting plans include a free domain name. Often, the domain is free for the first year, but sometimes you can find a promotion that offers website domain names free for life — or as long as you’re paying for the hosting plan.
For affordable domain names that can be used with any hosting account try Namecheap.com.
One way or another, you need to get WordPress (the CMS) on to your web hosting.
Get WordPress to Your Web Hosting
Option 1: Download WordPress Install
WordPress is a content management system that powers your website. It’s a free download from wordpress.org and comes equipped with it’s famous “5-minute install”.
Uploading WordPress to Your Web Hosting
Once you’ve unzipped the WordPress download-file upload everything to your web host’s public folder — the public folder is often named /public_html/ (your web hosting account may differ).
Option 2: 1-Click-Adding WordPress Install
Alternatively to downloading WordPress, some web hosts provide 1-click-installation of WordPress on their servers to streamline your installation process — that’s how popular WordPress has become.
Establish a Database for WordPress
WordPress needs a database to install itself to. Make sure you have a database and database credentials set up at your web host. You need an existing database and the ability to login to that database.
Most often, the type of database you’ll use is either MySQL or MariaDb. Although, the type of database that comes with your web hosting isn’t as important just as long as you have a database.
Some web hosting provides and supplies a database and credentials to you. Others require you to create your own database and specify your own credentials. Regardless, you need to have access to your database before you can install WordPress.
After you’ve uploaded WordPress’s files to your web hosting you need to install WordPress via the browser by visiting your domain name URL, appended by the folder (aka directory) you uploaded WordPress to.
WordPress’ Installation Steps
- Create a database for WordPress to use
- Run WordPress’s installation
- Choose a language
- Provide database access
- Assign the site’s title (its name)
- Create your user account
Start the WordPress Installation
Once you have a database, visit the folder you uploaded WordPress to to start the installation.
Most likely, the folder you added WordPress to will be at the root-path of your domain name. As in, if your domain name is example.com and you put WordPress at the root of the /public_html/ folder then you should visit example.com. Alternatively, it’s possible you uploaded WordPress into its own directory — such as /public_html/wordpress/ and therefore may need to start the installation at example.com/wordpress.
As an aside, WordPress can always be moved to a different folder at a later time if you need to.
During the initial WordPress installation process you will:
- choose your WordPress website’s primary language
- provide WordPress with database credentials
- assign your WordPress website’s title and tagline (i.e. your business name)
- create an administrative WordPress user account for yourself
For your WordPress administrative user account, it’s best practice not to use the default login name of “admin” — pick anything else — and be sure to use a strong password. If you need help remembering your strong password(s) try using a free password vault service like LastPass or 1Password. These can store your passwords and help to autofill login forms for you.
WordPress Themes are Web Design
A WordPress website’s design — its look and feel — comes as a WordPress Theme.
I recommend starting with the WP Astra Theme because it’s highly customizable. And fast. You can download the WP Astra Theme from Astra’s website or through your WordPress Dashboard’s themes page.
WordPress, in and of itself, is a content management system. A content management system is an underlying framework on which website’s are built. They’re a foundation and scaffolding tool to build out your website’s content and its design, but it is not the content nor the design itself. WordPress is a bare canvas acting as the base for your new website.
In turn, a WordPress Theme is the website’s design layer.
Starting with a fresh WordPress site, you can apply any WordPress theme you like the looks of. Some themes have more robust features built-in than others. Some themes are naturally faster than others. And some themes cost money while other themes are free.
To access your WordPress website’s themes navigate to Appearance->Themes from the WordPress Dashboard. You’ll see a few default themes that are already installed. One will be activated — you can see what your website looks like on the front-end with this theme applied.
Benefits of Using WP Astra Theme
Everything is going to be easier for you down the road if you start with a fast and flexible established theme that has solid documentation like Astra. There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes that all look great, but it’s in your best interest to build your small business with high-grade infrastructure — knowing there’s a “pro” version (i.e. paid version) you can upgrade to if you grow into it.
Astra is one of the most popular website themes in WordPress history. Its natural speed and streamlined ability to be customized make it a top choice theme option for your website.
You’ll find Astra easier to customize than most themes. It’s a good choice for doing your own small business website because the Free version comes with everything you need to get started and the Pro version offers integrations and extensions if you find yourself needing more.
And, Astra’s documentation is extensive in case you get stuck.
Adding and Activating WordPress Themes
In order to use a new WordPress theme you must add the theme, as well as activate it.
Adding New Themes
Adding a new theme to WordPress only requires uploading the theme’s files (or .zip file) to your WordPress installation’s theme folder located at /wp-content/themes/.
You can do it manually or using the WordPress Dashboard (aka the backend admin area).
To add a new WordPress theme manually, use an FTP program to upload a theme’s folder and files to the wp-content/themes/ directory of your web hosting account. Uploading a non-zipped theme-folder installs the theme and makes it visible in your WordPress Dashboard’s theme page. Installing a new WordPress theme does not activate the theme.
To add new themes from the WordPress Dashboard navigate to the Appearance->Themes page and then click the Add New button located at the top of the page to add your new theme.
From here, either search for “Astra” and click the install button that appears when you hover over the Astra theme’s thumbnail image. Or if you downloaded Astra on your own, click the Upload Theme button located at the top of this page.
You can now Activate the new WordPress theme. A new button labeled Activate will appear near the theme’s thumbnail image. Click the Activate button to activate your theme — whether it’s Astra or another theme of your choosing, all WordPress theme installation steps are the same.
Activating the theme requires pressing the Activate button.
WordPress Theme Customization
Customizing a WordPress theme is where the fun begins because once a theme is activated you can start making it your own. Add your logo. Update the site title. Change your tagline. Apply your own colors. And add your content. Do what you need to do to make your WordPress website your small businesses’ website.
Here’s a few customization ideas to get you started, but the possibilities are endless.
- Choose your website’s global layout settings
- Add Pages for top-level content (about, services, pricing, etc.)
- Create navigation menus for the site’s header and footer
- Create Posts for your blog
- Add your company logo to the site’s header
- Adjust your website’s tag line
- Change the colors of your website’s design
- Use Blocks to design content within pages and posts
- Add Forms (contact form, feedback form, etc.)
And here is what the Customizer screen looks like. As you can see, there are different menu items on the left-hand side. Each section of the menu controls different groups of theme options.
Extend WordPress with Plugins
WordPress has these things called “plugins” you can use for extending and augmenting your website’s functionality. Plugins are compartmentalized packages — typically serving a single purpose — that can be added to your website as needed. There are WordPress plugins for just about everything.
There are WordPress plugins for:
- forms and contact forms
- mailing list subscription forms
- sending newsletters
- on-site search engine optimization
- caching (for increased speed)
- content delivery networks (CDNs)
- website firewalls
- speed enhancement
- slideshow carousels
- ads and affiliate links
- team member pages
- membership websites
- custom fields
- pre-configured blocks and page-section-designs
- and more
For a fresh start, delete the default plugins that come with WordPress from an install.
Free and Premium WordPress Plugins
There are thousands upon thousands of WordPress plugins that do literally everything imaginable in connection to building out robust feature-rich websites.
Many WordPress plugins are free. Similar to WordPress themes, some WordPress plugins are free and others require you to pay for them — or to pay for a full suite of their features.
Other times, awesome plugins are 100% free just because, too.
WordPress Plugin Cons and Gotchyas
As you’re adding plugins, one thing to keep in the back of your mind is that usually the more plugins you use the slower your website will become. Another thing is that there’s a relatively low barrier to entry to create plugins, so not all plugins are coded by the best developers or with the highest security standards.
Be Intentional. Test Locally. Don’t Break Your Website.
It’s good to be choosey and intentional when adding a new plugin — and to test plugin installation and updates on a clone of your website that’s not your live website if you can.
As in, set up a localhost website environment for development or use a web host that offers a staging environment where you can test and see changes before disturbing your live website because unexpected website down time is never a good time.
Each time you install new plugins or apply an update to your WordPress site there’s a possibility your website could break.
That doesn’t mean your website is going to break every time you install or update a plugin, but just that there’s the potential it could. Therefore, it’s best to be safe rather than sorry when adding unknown pieces of code to your website — even if most of the time it’s okay.
WordPress Page Builder Plugins
Elementor is a plugin worth mentioning that adds a kit of custom blocks and layouts to your WordPress site to help with building pages, posts, and other types of content code-free within the WordPress editor — WYSIWYG-style — which is pretty cool, right?
Similar to WP Astra Theme, Elementor has both a free and premium (paid) version. And likewise, you may find everything you need within the free version, but it’s easy to upgrade Elementor if you need more.
WordPress comes with its own page builder — Gutenberg — so you may not need Elementor at all, but it’s always nice to know your options and know that there are fantastic tools available that can save you time and make your small business’s website more uniquely you.
Blocks in WordPress are drag-n-drop elements you can use with individual pages. In addition to typographic blocks (e.g. paragraphs, lists, headers, images, etc.) blocks can be modular functionality — like a video block, customer review block, or pricing table block — layout related features — like grids and columns — or stylized components you can sprinkle throughout your website. Blocks are reusable components affording you an opportunity for complete customization while maintaining consistency throughout your WordPress web site.
Creating Your First WordPress Web Pages
Before you can use WordPress page builders and blocks you need to create Pages to use them on.
Add a new WordPress Page from the Dashboard’s Pages -> All Pages page and using the Add New button near the top or add a new WordPress page immediately using the Dashboard’s Pages -> Add New link.
WordPress Home and Posts Pages
When you do your own small business WordPress website you probably want the home page to show something custom instead of showing the latest WordPress Posts. Showing the latest posts is what WordPress does by default, but WordPress also comes with the ability to make your own custom front page. You’ll find that option in Settings -> Reading.
Under the option labeled Your homepage displays choose A static page. This tells WordPress to use a custom page you’ve created for the home page. In order to use a custom home page, you also need to have a page for the WordPress posts to show on because you’re taking over their URL (/).
Creating WordPress Home and Blog Pages
From the Pages->Add New link, create 2 pages — home and blog. Creating these pages consists of typing in the page title at the top of the editor area and clicking the blue Publish button near the top-right of the screen. That gives the page a matching URL and a title that’s easy for you to recognize and know what it means.
Creating Additional WordPress Pages
If you know which other pages your website needs to have it’s a good time to create those now. Don’t worry about filling in the content for the pages if you’re not ready to because you can come back and do that later. Only published pages can be added to WordPress navigation menus.
Creating Your First WordPress Navigation Menu
Like Plugins, Pages, and Themes — WordPress has an entire Dashboard section dedicated to creating and managing navigation menus. Navigation menus are lists of links that can point to internal URLs like pages and posts, as well as custom URLs like external websites, images, or documents.
When doing your own small business WordPress website you’d probably like to have a navigation menu in your website’s header and footer — at the minimum. If you’re using the WP Astra Theme the header and footer menu locations are already baked in. And if you’re not using WP Astra Theme you might see a similar menu screen, but the labeling could be different — or the menu locations might not exist and require you to create them (there are free WordPress plugins available for no-code menu management).
Here’s the view from the Dashboard’s Appearance->Menus page. If you have already created pages for your website you can add them to your navigation menus from this screen. Before you get started, you may need to create a new menu and use the checkboxes to assign it to different menu-positions available within your WordPress website — here you can see we’re using the Primary Menu.
Creating a new WordPress menu is easy.
Choose the pages, posts, and links to add to the menu. Drag and drop menu items to re-arrange and re-order the positioning. Assign a menu to a Display location. And click Save Menu.
WordPress Posts Overview
Another area for you to cleanup is the Posts.
Same as with Pages, WordPress starts you out with a sample post titled Hello World. Use the Hello World post as a sandbox to familiarize yourself with WordPress’s Posts, but you should delete this post before officially launching your website because it’s not real content and you don’t want people to land on that page.
In WordPress, Posts and Pages are nearly the same. They’re the same because they’re both content. They’re different because Pages can be nested in a hierarchical way and aren’t arranged in chronological order by default, whereas, Posts are not able to be nested under one another and are arranged in chronological order by default.
In theory, pages are pages and posts are blog articles, but you don’t even have to have a blog if you don’t want one, so posts and pages are more like an example of 2 different ways your website could use a WordPress Post Type and post types can be displayed on any page in any order you specify, so what it comes down to is labeling and how those labels make you think about the object being labeled.
Setting Your WordPress Website’s URL Structure
WordPress refers to your website’s internal URLs as Permalinks. Permalinks are unique URLs that point to web pages on your website. Each web page on your WordPress website has a unique permalink. And, the default permalink structure of WordPress is kind of ugly, so you should change it from the Dashboard’s Settings->Permalinks page.
By default, WordPress sets Permalinks to use the Plain structure. I recommend to instead choose Post Name. Post Name tells your WordPress to use clean search-engine-friendly URLs that match your Post and Page titles without adding anything extra like dates or question marks. Numbers, dates, and special characters make links harder to remember and verbally share with people. Using Post Name is much nicer.
Customizing WP Astra Theme
By this point, all that’s left to finish doing your own small business WordPress website is adding your own content and customizing the WP Astra Theme to reflect your brand.
After adjusting a few settings from Astra’s customizer settings to fit your preferences and choosing colors that match your small business’s branding you could end up with something like this demo.
To summarize and recap, here’s the short-list of ingredients needed to do your own small business WordPress website for free: