Is it Worth Starting a Membership Site – A Complete Overview

Do you want a reliable income:

Then you may or may not have considered starting a membership site.

This is something I’ve been looking into over the last month and I have to say the idea has been fairly interesting to say the least.

In the last month, I’ve weighed all the pros and cons, and done a ton of research, and in this article, I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you.

Below I’ll discuss the pros and cons, the time involved,  how much it cost to get started, and finally, I’ll share who would make the best fit for this kind of business.

So if you’re starting a side hustle or maybe you would like to change directions this just might be the option for you.

Read on…

What is a Membership Website

Before I jump into all the details about membership sites I thought I’d define exactly what they are.

Membership Website – Is a gated part of your online business where only members who subscribe can access the content you’ve placed behind the gate.  – MemberPress

Basically membership sites allow you to charge people, typically on a monthly basis to subscribe to their program in exchange for content, community, and any other valuable perks.

Below are just a few examples of memberships sites that I’ve been a part of in the past.

Become a Blogger Coaching Club

This is Leslie Samuals premier coaching to help you start and grow a blog.  I found this membership to be very helpful for those who are just getting starting with blogging.

This membership runs $27 a month, and they provide training videos, a private Facebook Group, and even live Q&A sessions.

You can learn about the Become a Blogger Coaching Club Here  (Not an Affiliate)

Fizzle is an online community run by Chase Reeves and Corbet Barr.  It’s designed for indie entrepreneurs who want to up their game when it come to starting your online business.

This membership runs roughly a dollar a day, and they provide high quality HD videos, community forums, and office hour Q&A sessions.

You can learn more about Fizzle here (Not an Affiliate)

Now that you got an idea of what a few of these membership sites look like let’s get into the details and see if this is something you should try.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Membership Sites

To start I’m going to share a few pro’s and con’s to get you thinking about what’s all involved.

Pro:  They Make Money On Consistent Basis

One of the biggest benefits to running a membership site is that you charge people on a regular monthly basis.

So if you charge people $49 dollars a month and you have 300 members you’ll earn $14,700 every single month.  Not bad!

On top of that the income is consistent and much more reliable versus selling a digital course which pays you only one time and that’s it.

Con: Can Be a Small Investment to Get Started

On the downside it can take a bit of money to get up and running.  I go more into detail in this in later the article but just know starting a membership site will cost you money to get started.

To get started you’ll need a website to host your membership, a membership plugin, a payment processor, and even a SSL Certificate so you can take payments.

Those are are just a few of the things you’ll need to get started.

Pro: You Build a Community Not a Product

What’s great also about a membership site is that you aren’t just building a product and selling it but rather you’re building a community and that’s the real reason people join.

Sure the courses and Q&A sessions are valuable but being a part of a community is the real reason people join a membership program.

Everything else is there just to help people get interested and join.

Con: Requires Some Technical Knowledge to Setup

It’s also going to take a little technical know how to set up a membership site. Memberships are made up of a few different parts.

First you have a website to host the membership on, then you need some sort of membership plugin and payment processor that creates the paywall people have to cross in order to join.

And finally you’ll likely need a few different ways to communicate with members and this might require a forum, and also some sort of webinar software to do live Q&A sessions.

Pro: You Don’t Have to Look for New Customers Every Month

Another benefit I like about this kind of business model is that you don’t have to constantly look for new customers month in and month out.

If have 300 members who paid you last month, more than likely they’ll pay you again next month.

Con: You Constantly Have to Provide Value to Your Members

As a downside to the last pro is that is that in order to retain those members you’re going to have to provide value.

This can mean doing live Q&A sessions, new courses, or even showing up in the forums to answer a few questions.  If you don’t do this they members will likely leave and cancel.

Pro: Gives You a Way To See Progress

The final pro to starting a membership site is that it lets you monitor your members progress.  Whereas is if you created just a digital course once the sale is made you both part ways and that’s it.

With a membership site once they join it’s just the beginning of things to come.  You can monitor progress, answer their questions in an ongoing basis, and even create new training materials for them.

The thing is if people are paying an ongoing fee they’re going to want to get value from your membership, and this can lead to helping people better versus making a one off sale and never seeing them again.

Con: Average Members Only Stick Around for 3 Months

The final con to membership sites is that most member don’t actually stay that long.  According to Yaro Starak from most members online stick around for 3 months on average and that’s it.

This is probably one of the biggest potential downsides to membership programs.  If you can’t convince people to stick around then they’ll likely leave.

This means you need to provide a constant stream of value to them whether it be webinars, forums, new courses, or even one on one coaching.

The point is if you don’t give value you’ll loose members.

How Much Time Does It Take to Run a Membership Site

One of my biggest concerns with starting a membership site is the time commitment you’ll  need to make to make it a successful business.  Below is a break down of the minimum amount of time to get started.

  • Answering Forum Questions – Half hour a Day/5 days a week.  You’ll need to be in the forums answering questions especially in the beginning.
  • 2 Monthly Q&A Calls – 4 hours per month.  You”ll also need to conduct live Q&A calls to help people with the struggles they are dealing with.  This gives people the chance for members to talk one on one with you and get answers.
  • Creating New Content – 10 hours a month.  You’ll also need a minimum of 10 hours a month to create new content for your members and also to create content for your blog or podcast.
  • Marketing Your Memberships Site – 8 hours a month.  Finally you’ll need to spend a minimum of 8 hours a month marketing your membership site.  Whether it’s setting up Facebook ads, getting featured on podcast, or writing guest post.

In the end you’re looking spending 8 to 10 hours per week or 32 to 40 hours per month working on your membership site.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Membership Site

Another question you might be considering is what kind of cost are invovled when it comes to starting a membership site.  To help I’ve laid out the basic things you’ll need to get started and the cost of each.

  • Membership Plugin – $97 plus $39 a year recurring. In my case I  considered using OptimizePress because I already owned the software.  Their are other plugin and they all range from free to upwards of $200 plus recurring annual fees.
  • SSL Certificate (HTTPS) – $30 a year through Hostgator.  If you plan to accept credit card payments which is the best way to go you’ll need an SSL Certificate.  This basically encrypts any private information from your customers and shows that you are trustworthy.
  • Video Hosting – $60 a year through Vimeo.  You’ll  need a secure place to host your videos for your courses and webinars.  Vimeo Plus runs $60 a year or if you need more space then Vimeo Pro runs $200 a year.
  • Webinar Software – Free to $397 a year.  You’ll also need a way to conduct webinars to do training and Q&A sessions.  Options range from using Google hangouts to webinar software like Easy Webinar.
  • Payment Processor – 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.  In order to accept payments you’ll need a payment processor like Stripe to get the job done.
  • A Decent Looking Website – $100 for the Genesis Framework.  Finally you’ll need a decent looking website to get the job down.  I prefer the Genesis Framework because I know someone is always maintaining and updating it.  Their are also free themes as well.

In the end you’ll be spending anywhere from $200 or more to get started.  It really depends on your goals and what you want your membership site to do.

Who Should Start a Membership Site

Finally, if you’ve made it this far you may be wondering if a membership site is for you.  If you fit any of the profiles below you’ll likely be someone who should consider giving it a shot.

  • Someone who can stay dedicated for the long term.  If you’re someone who’s dedicated and consistent with things then this is a great opportunity for you.  But if you always find it hard to stay on track with just a blog then this may not be what your looking for.
  • Someone who has the time and money.  As I showed above starting a membership site is going to take a bit of time and money to get started.  If you’re finding yourself trying to bootstrap your business because you don’t have much to start with then this may not be the option for you.
  • Someone who wants to be in constant contact with their audience.  Third, if you like to stay in contact with your audience and you’re looking for a way to help them answer their questions and get paid at the same time then this option makes perfect sense.
  • You want a reliable income month in and month out.  Finally, and most importantly if you’re looking for a more reliable and steady income for your business then this is one of the best routes to go.

Is it Worth Starting a Membership Site

So are you considering the idea of starting a membership site?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

Personally I just feel I can’t dedicate the time to starting a membership site right now.  More than that I find it tough enough for me to just get a weekly blog post out.

In the end it can mean a great source of income but if I can’t do it in a way that gives value to others then this just may not be the option to go with.


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