When resources are scarce it's important to maximize results and stretch every dollar. As home business entrepreneurs, we don't have the ad budgets of Coca-Cola and Disney, we can't afford to throw money away.
There are a number of free resources that make building and promoting your website a whole lot easier.
Web Site Design - page layout (http://www.steves-templates.com)
Steve provides free web page templates which are nice looking, professional and can be used free for personal and business websites. Check out all the variations and pick a template for your site. Another way to use this is as a springboard for your own creativity. Perhaps you like an element on template 1 and the navigation of template 7. Get some ideas for creating your own site from scratch. There are also designs you can buy for under $100 and you gain access to a number of images, clipart, sounds, fonts etc.
Web Site Design - graphics (http://www.cooltext.com)
Cool Text is a wonderful tool for creating great looking buttons and logos. It's free and the combinations of shape/color/texture/font are virtually endless. You can create professional buttons and logos with just a few mouse clicks. I use this site any time I want to "freshen up" my site or create buttons/logos for my customers.
Web Site Performance - images (http://www.gifworks.com)
Nothing slows down your page like heavy graphics. Did you know that you can dramatically reduce the file size of your graphics without compromising the look and feel of your site? That's where gifworks.com comes in. Run their free "optimization" tool on your gif images and watch as they get more and more streamlined. Your web pages will load faster. Gifworks has a paid service as well, allowing you to buy images, get custom work, etc.
Web Site Performance - code (http://validator.w3.org/)
Is your website correctly coded? This free validator from the W3 examines your html and reports missing tags, missing attributes and other errors that make your code non-standard and therefore difficult for some web browsers to serve up. With line-by-line validation, you can easily find the places in your code that will cause errors. I love this validator, it makes sure my pages work across all browsers and platforms. No more trying pages in every browser/OS configuration. When it validates here, you can be sure that it's up to W3 standards.
Web Site Promotion - blogging (http://www.blogger.com)
Blogger is Google's blogging tool. It's free, easy to set up, and gets your site indexed by search engines (all of them, not just Google) faster than you can believe. If you want to increase your search engine positioning, forget all that SEO stuff, start blogging today. In a world where "Content is King!", a blog provides you a platform to provide constantly changing, completely interesting and relevant content to your web visitors. It gives them a reason to come back, you form a relationship with them by providing good quality information, and you increase your conversion rate, resulting in more subscribers and more sales.
Web Site Promotion - marketing (http://www.articlemarketer.com)
I'm not the first person to tell you that article marketing is the number one method of driving targeted traffic to your website. Writing articles for others to publish is free advertising and you should do as much of it as you can. The problem is the dreadfully tedious process of article submission. Article Marketer took that off my plate. Their free service sends articles to over 2000 people to be published in ezines and newsletters, and they have a paid version that gets to over 30,000 people. It works - after all, you're reading this article, aren't you?
These tools are free for the asking. You can't beat the price, and your results will skyrocket as you improve the look and feel of your website and spread the word about your business.