Launching and growing a successful membership website

Your website is more than just a tool that gives your business a face online. It can be a business in itself.

One of the best ways to increase your income is to set up a membership site platform. Designing a professional membership site takes time and investment, but the returns can be well worth it. A membership platform be used to promote new ideas, reach clients who willingly test your ideas and products, and create a community of people who willingly encourage others to use your products and your ideas.

Pages, menus, categories or any other content on your website can be restricted, accessible via a membership password – taking into account the user’s membership level. Subscription plans, with or without a time limit can be enabled for users following a successful payment. You could even set a trial period for new registered users. An alternative to a subscription based system is “Pay to View” which offers customers a range of content by providing them with a password that, upon payment, enables access to certain pages on your website.

You don’t have to produce a year’s worth of content overnight, nor do you have to come up with the idea for every tutorial or video you’re going to produce. Consider offering a “test” membership for free or at an extremely reduced price to a number of individuals that you know are an active part of your current fan base. Give them a sneak peek at the action while you’re developing the community. Let them know up front that they’re part of your testing group: you’re still working out the kinks and figuring out how this is going to work, but you want them to come in on the ground floor and help you figure it out.

From there, market, market, market! Use your social media accounts and website to seek out people who are interested in your workshops, downloadable resources, products or services.

Free vs Paid Membership Sites

Once you decide on the type of content you want to present inside your site, it’s time to figure out how to sell it. If you want to increase your income with a membership site, the obvious choice is to require clients to pay for access.

Paid membership sites charge a small monthly or yearly fee for access to premium content. You can also offer to unlock content in a course on a one-time fee basis, and just host your premium content inside a members only area. Obviously, the key benefit of paid membership sites is that you can keep adding members to increase your monthly or yearly recurring income.

If you have a selection of digital products like courses, ebooks, templates, cheat sheets or any other downloads, the product bundle model can help you get more of your products into people’s hands. Rather than trying to convince your audience to buy multiple products from you, you can make it easy for them by bundling two or more products together, and offering them with a membership subscription.

Free membership sites have their own unique advantages. First, they’re available to anyone who wants to look in on what you’re doing. In some cases, having access to that content will convince people that they want to take advantage of the products and services you’re offering.

For best results, offer a mix of paid and free content. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can offer an open area of your membership site and a closed area that is only available to people who pay the fee.

Should You Create a Membership Site or an Online Course?

Online courses and membership sites share many similarities and overlaps.

A typical membership site includes:

  • Access tied to payment (i.e. monthly fee)
  • Release of regular new content
  • Access to an ongoing community
  • No set endpoint (membership continues indefinitely)

The content of a course usually has a clearly defined start and end point, unlike in a membership. When you sell online courses, you need a protected online area that only the course students can access. This protected online area is where you’ll store your documents, videos, and any other content.

A typical online course includes:

  • One time fee or installments granting long term/life time access to content
  • Module & lesson content structure
  • Defined content path or A-Z steps
  • Content drip fed or available all at once
  • Progress tracking, quizzes, or assignments

Online courses and membership sites are based around paying for access to exclusive content. The main difference is the kind of content and how the access is controlled.

Questions to ask before making the decision:

  • Does your chosen topic have a set A-Z path that leads to a defined result?
  • Does the topic have enough to it that you could create continuous ongoing content?
  • Can you commit to an ongoing site?
  • Content drip fed or available all at once
  • Do you want to run an online community?

There isn’t really a right or wrong answer when it comes to whether it’s better to create an online course or a membership site. What’s important is that you choose the best approach for your topic, your audience and you.

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