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These days it is very popular for people to want to build their own website, or even a number of websites. For many people, this is driven by a desire to circulate their opinions on various matters or issues of the day, on blogs about all kinds of subjects from politics to sports, and from making money online to raising money for charity. A question that crops up on a regular basis is whether you can build your own websites for free, or do you need to opt for something that is going to cost you a lot of money. Like most things in life, nothing is black and white, and when it comes to building a website, you can either go for the really cheap options or you can pay a company to build you a very professional looking site at quite a substantial cost. Finally, there is everything in between. The Cheap Options Many people like the idea of making some extra money while they write about their passions and hobbies, and there are several free platforms that allow you to do this. Examples are Hubpages and Squidoo, where you write single web pages - as many as you like - and you can put related product advertisements on them, from companies like Amazon or eBay. If a visitor reaches your page and ends up buying one of those products, you will get a commission. However, the reason this is called the "cheap" option rather than the "free" option is that the site owner (Hubpages or Squidoo) will take a large part of any earnings you make, although they do not actually charge you any money. Another option if you want a larger site for yourself is to use Blogger. This site is owned by Google and you can set up a blog on there very quickly and easily. You can even use AdSense ads to make a little money if you like. The alternative is to use WordPress, which is another free blogging platform (use WordPress.com rather than WordPress.org). The so-called "free" alternatives will have many strings attached, costing you much of your earnings and to a degree also a lot of your freedoms. Terms of Service for any of these sites can change whenever the site owners see fit, and this could easily see your account get penalized or closed with the deletion of all your hard work. The Self-Hosting Option Although you can build your own websites for free, you might feel more comfortable knowing that you can buy web hosting yourself, along with a proper domain name and start building a site where all the income earned belongs to you, and where nobody can come along and delete your site because of a hitherto unannounced change in the rules. You are the one in control. And you own the site's content, which is not necessarily the case with the third party publishing platforms, which means if you get bored a few years down the line, or receive an offer you simply cannot refuse, you can make a lot of money selling the site. It is fairly easy to get yourself started. You will need to buy web hosting from a company that provides you with disk space for all your site files. Hostgator is one of the largest companies that can offer you this service, but there are literally hundreds of providers to choose from. Take your time if you are looking for the cheapest possible one, as often you will get exactly what you pay


for. Once you have a host, you need to think of a name for your site and register a domain name your dotcom name. The rest of the process is incredibly simple, as web hosting providers will give you access to tutorials and will also offer technical support if needed. A good way to get started once you have hosting and a domain name is to open your hosting control panel - called cPanel and find the icon called Fantastico. You can then set up a WordPress blog in minutes and get started telling the world about your cute new kittens or why you decided to "go green" or whatever else you are interested in. The expensive option, getting a team of web developers to create a bespoke site for you, is probably best avoided unless you are a bricks and mortar company wanting a very professional site with shopping carts and secure purchasing for customers. You simply will not need these for a passion site. So the question should not be whether you can build your own websites for free. Maybe it should be whether you should build them for free. The very affordably priced self-hosting option certainly gives you lots more flexibility and control of your site's fate.

Arthur Foreman has been involved in creating internet content since 1995, having written static HTML pages for university sites, and pages across a whole series of "free" platforms. These days he promotes the virtues of keeping control of your own content and earnings with the twin mantras of "Buy Web Hosting" and "Build Your Own Websites."

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