Advertising networks aren’t free – at least worthwhile ones aren’t. However, the best networks will bring enough converting customers to your site to make them, at the very least, cost-neutral; at best, highly profitable. And there’s always the option to join an ad network as a publisher, where you can make between 50-80% of the advertising revenue by displaying ads on your website.
Google Adsense (where ads are displayed on partner websites) and Google Adwords (ads appear on the Google search results page) are the widest used advertising networks and suitable for businesses of all sizes. You can choose from text or display adverts and the ads served attempt to be relevant to the hosting website content or search results. There are options for remarketing and demographic targeting too. Sign up with your Google account for free. Google Ad Exchange is their real-time marketplace for advertising trading and has an 80% publisher share. Prices of ads on Google depend on the popularity of keywords or the hosting website.
OpenX is possibly the next largest advertising global network with real time ad exchange. Media.net is the contextual ad network run by Bing and Yahoo which allows you to modify ads to reflect your site style too. Other advertising networks worth checking out include Sonobi, Conversant and Adroll.
Advertising on individual websites
Facebook offers relatively low cost per click (CPC) rates along with good targeting options which mean your ads get served to very specific groups. You can sponsor Twitter posts too and their platform has good targeting and reporting. The price you pay depends on the specific goal targets you define, such as more followers or retweets.
Amazingly, there are places that will host your website for free. The following sites offer free web hosting for ever with no strings attached. To make the most of the hosting you’ll also need your own domain and a content management system such as WordPress to help you create content. See our websites page for more details.
Free web hosting
FreeHostia have been offering their free ‘Chocolate’ hosting package for a number of years, which includes simple scripts to install WordPress and Joomla site installations (see websites). It also includes 250Mb of site space and 6Gb of monthly traffic. 000Webhost offers 1.5Gb of space and 100Gb of monthly traffic in their free hosting account together with 2 SQL databases. 5Gbfree offers MySQL databases, PHP and cPanel accounts with 5Gb of free webspace and 20 GB of monthly traffic bandwidth in their free account. Finally, Freehosting gives 10Gb of space, 250Gb of traffic bandwidth along with cPanel admin interface on their free website plan.
Best (cheapest) web hosting
Of course, when you get more serious about your website, your focus will probably move from free hosting to ensuring you have a dependable, robust web host that guarantees server up-time. Here are some web hosts you might want to consider which, though amongst the cheapest, are known for providing good quality hosting and support.
Zyma offers excellent support and 99.9% server up-time. And if you’re looking to install a WordPress site, they’ll do it for you for free. Name offers a low-cost hosting package that allows unlimited websites, databases, disk space and bandwidth and has a good reputation. JustHost is a web host that is known to be very reliable and offers excellent support. Their pricing is very low too, with competitive deals that include a free domain name and unlimited bandwidth.
If you have created a free website using something like WordPress.com, you can often convert it to your own website domain name and carry on having WordPress host your site for a small fee.
It’s possible to spend a ton of cash on a website. But with a small amount of skill, it’s also possible to build your own for free. Below we list the best sites to visit to quickly create your free website.
When you create a website, you need to register your domain name (such as www.freebusiness.com), find a web host to provide storage for your site and link it into the web, then finda way to add content to the site – usually by using a content management system or CMS. That used to be a complicated and costly process. But there are sites that provide all these and more for free.
Quick and free all-in-one site builders
WordPress.com allows you to quickly build your site and use their free tools to create content. The basic account allows you to create your own domain name such as www.wordpress.com/freebusiness. You can pay a little to use your own website name though (our domain www.mappo.co.uk is hosted using wordpress.com).
Google’s Blogger is very simple to use while Tumblr is another popular and very sharing-orientated builder that’s particularly great for visual content. Other builder/blogging tools which are becoming popular include Anchor, Feathers (great for distraction-free article writers) and Medium.
More fully-featured free builders
These offer free versions but may serve ads on your site or require small, usually monthly payments to add extra functionality (e.g. adding your domains name is always extra). However, they’re all easy to get up and running quickly. Wix, Weebly and Jimdo are all similar with attractive themes and e-commerce options.
Advanced (but free) CMS solutions
If you have your own domain name and hosting, using one of these content management systems (CMS) makes building, designing and managing site content easy.
WordPress.org is hugely powerful and allows you to add ecommerce and new content by using free third party ‘plugins’, as well as design your site using ‘themes’. Similar open source systems are offered by Drupal and Joomla – all are used on gazillions of sites worldwide.
HR software allows you to manage things like recruitment, attendance, payroll and performance. Some solutions are cloud-based, while others are open-source (meaning they’re free to install but usually require paid-for hosting and support). Below we firstly list the best free and freemium cloud-based HR software, then some open-source alternatives.
Cloud based HR software
Employee management, holiday, attendance, training and performance are all covered by FreeHR, a tool that says it will always be free.
WebHR is a highly rated web-based application that covers attendance, payroll and recruitment. It’s free for up to 10 employees.
You have to dig a little to find the free account option at Natural HR but it features training, leave, performance management, events and announcements.
Apptivo offers a range of business apps as part of its free version, with HR covering recruitment, holidays, teams and employee management.
Zoho People is free for 5 users and includes holiday management and time tracking but limits some functionality and storage, however it works with the rest of the Zoho suite.
Open-source HR software
Waypoint HR offers both cloud and open-source alternatives as does OrangeHRM, though the cloud versions are time-limited free trials. A1eHR is a free open source HR system covering most disciplines plus payroll.
Other HR & Recruitment software
E-innovate offer a free timesheet application that tracks time and expenses.
In this section, we’ll display only links to high quality* articles and resources for entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for learning and guidance when running or growing their business.
Business Frameworks provides very useful and insightful checklists, guidance and templates based on the real-world experience of successful small business owners.
*For this reason, this section may take a little while to populate!
There’s heaps of free software for book keeping and accounting out there. Below, you’ll find the best performing and most popular free tools on the market.
Best free financing and accounting software
Postbooks claims to be the world’s No.1 free, open source combined Accounting, ERP and CRM package. It’s available for PC, Mac & Linux.
Adminsoft Accounts is an ad-supported but fully featured and free double-entry accounting system designed for small businesses. It also has a number of industry-specific modules. Available for PC and Mac (under PC emulation only).
Turbocash Accounting is another free, fully-featured accounts package that’s available in 25 languages and covers 80 tax regimes.
Wave is a useful free online tool for personal and small business invoicing, accounting and payroll.
If you like Zoho software, Zoho Invoices is free for 5 customers and is fully featured for handling invoicing & estimates.
Gnucash is totally free and opensource and works on all operating systems.
If you need a simple way to record income and expenditure, VT Cash Book is entirely free but for PC only.
Free market research tools
Survey Monkey allows you to create online surveys for free (max 100 responses). If you don’t have your own email list, for a fee you can specify the type of people you want to take your survey, and Survey Monkey will send your survey to them. AskYourTargetMarket also provide a free unlimited survey tool for sending to your own lists, and offer people to take your survey for a small price per respondent. Look here for other form-building tools.
Free industry data
Free US industry data is available on FreeLunch and you can find useful industry statistics and financial ratios at BizStats. There’s also Business & Industry data on the US office of the Small Business Ombudsmen. There’s also lots of global articles & research available at Quirks.
Market research agencies
For those looking for market research service providers, there’s a free searchable database of UK Suppliers, and a global listing.
Visit our Intellectual Property and Patents page for more links.
The official UK government portal to find business grants can be found here with the Scottish government version sorted by sector here and a Welsh version here. There are also grants available from the EU to help small and medium sized businesses
For social business
Funding for Social, voluntary or community programs can be found at the Cabinet Office’s Funding Central and UnLtd offer funding and support for social businesses.
For young people and ethnic minorities
For young people starting a business, the Prince’s Trust offer grants and for ethnic minorities, the Elevation Network gives access to small business loans.