A membership site is a great way to set up financial stability as a creator.
Memberships or subscriptions help you bring in monthly recurring revenue and create an owned audience — which is more important than ever when you consider 77% of creators’ engagement has been impacted by social media algorithm changes. Best of all, you can add a membership website to your existing digital business.
Let's go over what you need to know about a membership site, how to set up your membership site, and actionable tips for getting and retaining more members.
What is a membership site?
A membership website is an online business that offers exclusive access to premium content for subscribing members. Often, subscribers pay for access to membership sites when the value of the exclusive content is greater than the content that non-paying members receive.
The type of members-only content you can offer on your website includes:
- Blog-style articles
- Online courses
- White papers
Each time you update your membership website with new content, subscribers are the first to get notified. They get an individual username and password that grants them access to the membership part of your site as long as their subscription remains active.
A membership site is a great way to monetize your content without advertising as a creator. Instead, people will pay for the content because they respect your knowledge and want to learn from you and oftentimes they’ll pay lifetime membership fees. Take it from Patricia Nikole AKA Painted Hair, “With the higher ticket price for the lifetime membership, students feel like they’re getting a premium service… they're able to access our education for the entirety of our program.”
Should you build a membership site?
You should create a membership website if you're interested in creating an online community around your content. It’s a great way to establish your authority, build loyalty among your fans, and stay connected with the people who want to hear from you.
While you can do all of those things on a regular blog or site, a membership website enables you to get paid for your efforts while also offering exclusivity.
Additionally, you can use your membership site as an offshoot of your other digital products such as:
- Online courses
- Digital downloads
- Live webinars
- Books and e-books
Membership sites are for creators who are willing to jump in with both feet. Your customers will expect to receive regular, valuable content. If you don’t deliver, they’ll ask for a refund or simply unsubscribe.
7 benefits of adding a membership site to your business
Let’s break down some of the benefits you can expect to get from opening your own membership site.
#1 Increase income with monthly recurring revenue
We all want to make more money, right? You might already sell online courses, e-books, and other digital products, but a membership site can become another revenue stream for your business.
Diversification matters for your business. It’s just like investing in the stock market. If you put all of your eggs into one basket — or in this case, one revenue stream — you could easily lose them all.
In the stock market, investing your money all in one place puts it at risk. Diversifying lets you absorb losses more easily because they’re offset by the gains.
In entrepreneurship, a single stream of revenue could evaporate overnight. You hope it won’t, but you can’t depend on it indefinitely. Yet, if you diversify your revenue streams, you’re more secure financially.
#2 You’ll build trust and loyalty
As a creator, you depend on other people to invest in you and your business. You can’t force them to do so. Instead, you must earn their trust and loyalty.
Being a creator is just like any other business model. If you love a particular supermarket because it always carries your favorite products, you won’t go to another supermarket unless you have a very good reason. You’re loyal to the first store because it doesn’t let you down and because you know that you can get what you need there.
The same pattern holds true for online entrepreneurs. When people trust you to deliver accurate, valuable information, they’ll have no reason to seek that information elsewhere.
When someone gives you money in exchange for a membership subscription, they’re already demonstrating loyalty. As long as you don’t let down your customers, they’ll continue paying to access your content.
#3 There’s no need for a physical product
Managing an inventory of physical products can create problems. You have to find a place to store those products, pay to ship them out, and hire people to manage sales. Even if you don't hold inventory, even drop shipping has its own set of headaches.
And that’s just skimming the surface of the potential hassles that can come with running a business that requires a physical product like an online store.
A membership website isn’t physical, it’s virtual. In other words, it doesn’t take up any space in your home or office, and you can’t run out of it. The supply — your content — is always there for your customers to consume.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work. You must continue to supply high-quality content if you want your customers to stick with you.
#4 You get an increase in traffic
When you have a membership site, you automatically have access to lots of consumers’ contact information. Those email addresses become intensely valuable when you want to market the rest of your digital products.
You can run drip campaigns to specific segments of your customer base once you figure out what they want and need. This leads to free traffic to your other online properties as well as to your membership website.
Email marketing can take many forms, whether you’re announcing new products, nurturing leads through the sales funnel, or providing free educational resources. All of those strategies can lead to an abundance of free traffic.
As long as you continue to deliver consistent value, you can turn that traffic into new customers. Create lead magnets to build up your email list even further, then continue to connect with your prospects via email.
#5 You build increased authority
Authority matters today more than ever before. Consumers have access to so much online content that they don’t know where to look first. They’ve started to pare down on the number of websites they visit and online leaders to whom they pay attention.
Naturally, they’re drawn to those who demonstrate their authority best.
What is authority? It’s the sense that you know what you’re talking about, that you can back up your claims, and that other people follow you. When you create a membership website, you send the message that you have information that’s valuable enough to demand payment.
It might sound like a little thing, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to attracting market share.
Think about it: How many blog posts, emails, and social media posts can you read in a day? It’s limited. You only have so much free time, and you’re not willing to give up that free time to people who don’t, in your estimation, deserve it.
That’s why you have to demonstrate authority on as many levels as possible. Establishing a membership site adds another layer to your authority and credibility in the online marketplace.
#6 Develop relationships
We can’t stress enough how important it is to develop relationships with your customers. If your customers don’t feel like they know you on a personal level, they’ll have no reason to stick around.
An online membership site gives you a chance to build your own exclusive community. Only people who are willing to pay to consume your content can enter, which makes members feel more connected to one another and to you. That’s powerful.
The people who sign up for your membership website are likely extremely devoted to your industry, just like you. They’re seeking solutions and knowledge so they can develop their talents and skills. You might meet a future partner or influencer who can help your business grow. Plus, you might meet people whom you can help to further their goals.
It becomes a multi-way street. Everyone in your community can work together to achieve a common goal.
#7 Enhance value
When you’re paid for your work, you can afford to put more time, effort, research, and value into it. That shows in the content you produce.
Sure, lots of people produce excellent content for free. They post it on their blogs and social media accounts, and their generosity is appreciated by their followers and non-members.
Yet, money creates freedom. You can use that freedom to spend more time on your content to make sure it really shines. You can dig deeper into the research — or maybe conduct research of your own — and control your production schedule more efficiently.
In short, charging for your content doesn’t automatically make it more valuable, but you get the chance to inject more value into it.
Structure of a membership site
The structure of most membership sites involves a mix of content — both written and visual — educational resources, and a community aspect. What you decide to offer also depends on the membership model you choose.
Let's break down some of the different membership models you can use.
A fixed membership period
This is when the membership lasts for a certain amount of time. This could be something like a 90-day weight loss challenge or even a multi-year "master class" that comes with a certificate.
Users typically only pay for the amount of time that the offer lasts. But, there are still ways to keep these fixed-period members engaged and paying. You could offer refreshers or community access to get them to extend their membership. You can also create additional programs or challenges that people can participate in as they level up, gamifying the experience.
A product membership
This is when members pay for access to a product or exclusive content. This could be online courses or an actual application that can be downloaded for members.
You'll typically have to offer multiple products over time to have members continue to pay.
Offering a service as a membership
This is when members pay for a set amount of service per month. This could be for fitness coaching, voice lessons, or more.
But how is this different than just offering bookable coaching? There are definitely similarities but for a membership site, you'd also want to provide members with things like members-only content and community.
A combination of these models
The truth is that most membership sites offer a combination of these models. Members may pay for a few hours of coaching per month but can also be given exclusive products or online courses.
In either scenario, you’ll likely need to set up a monthly or yearly subscription fee for paid memberships so members can receive access to your community on an ongoing basis.
Patricia Nikole, for example, offers a yearly and lifetime membership for her online hair education program. The lifetime membership also includes an in-person learning session at her salon.
Nothing is stopping you from delivering your members a variety of options. Offering various membership models makes your membership site more accessible and can help you cater to a wider audience.
Membership website platforms and plugins
As you’re getting started creating content and researching membership models, you’ll see that there are several ways to develop a membership site.
To create the best experience for your members and make it easy for you to build a community, you need to find a membership platform that checks all the boxes for your needs. Consider all of the different features and elements you need to create a membership website that works for you. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Do you want a dedicated membership website builder or a membership plug-in from a third-party site?
- Do you want to offer multiple membership levels?
- Will you have a community element with member profiles?
There are membership website platforms and membership plugins for every stage of your business — here are a few of our recommendations to help you choose the right option.
Kajabi’s membership website builder is the best option if you’re looking for an all-in-one platform for your business.
With Kajabi, you get access to built-in membership management tools that help grow, manage, and automate your business so you can focus on creating content and interacting with members while your business runs in the background.
Plus, if you already have a community or audience, Kajabi makes it easy to streamline every part of your online business. Whether you want to offer online courses or publish podcasts, you can combine multiple revenue streams with your Kajabi membership website.
Kajabi has empowered its Heroes to sell more than $1.5 billion in content. This includes multiple Heroes who have membership sites.
Alla's Yummy Food is one example. Alla includes a membership called the Cake Club for people wanting to learn how to master different cake types - she has a ton of content and exclusive options for members.
Alla has also seen success directly selling her online cooking and baking class. The membership part of the site is a growing part of her business. As this expands, it enables Alla to have more predictable recurring revenue, which she plans to use to grow her business even further.
"I got started with my membership about two years ago and I did it through Kajabi, which was the best decision of my life," said Alla. "Kajabi helps me a lot in running my business because everything is on one platform.
If you have a Squarespace website, you can integrate membership features onto your site. Squarespace offers easy-to-use commerce capabilities which makes it a good option if you want to offer digital products for your members.
However, Squarespace’s membership site doesn’t have a community aspect which means you’d likely have to create a separate site — on Facebook Groups, Discord, or Slack, for example — for your members to communicate with one another.
WordPress offers more customization options than other website builders, making it ideal for those with web development skills.
If you’ve already built a site using WordPress, there are several WordPress membership plugins you can use to build a membership site including:
How to launch a membership program in 5 steps
If you’re ready to create a membership site, there are a few tips and best practices you can follow to make your first foray into this field a successful one.
Even if you’re confident that you understand how to create a membership website, how a membership model works, and what they can accomplish, you still need a strategy.
Follow these tips for creating and running your membership site. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the time to get it right on the first try.
Step 1: Start with content
If you’ve been thinking about creating a membership site for some time, you’re probably eager to get started. As you should be! But before it goes live, you need to make sure you have enough content on your site for your members to engage with.
You can’t haphazardly throw a single blog post onto your site and ask people to pay for it. The content needs to provide value and it needs to show people why it’s worth paying a monthly subscription.
Not only does your content need to be premium, but there should also be multiple pieces of content on your site before you launch. This makes it easier for your members to engage right away and encourages them to stick around longer.
How many pieces of content should you prepare? It depends on the type of content and its length and complexity.
For instance, if you launch your site with ten 3,000-word articles, this gives members plenty of material to work through before your next update. The same goes for ten 10-minute videos or ten 30-minute podcast episodes.
These numbers aren’t written in stone. You just don’t want your customers to sign up for the site, and then find themselves disappointed.
Step 2: Learn from membership sites you belong to
If you belong to membership websites, start paying attention to the content, the interactions that take place on the site, and other features. Ask yourself:
- What do you like about the site?
- What would you change?
- How do the sites’ owners communicate with their members?
- Are there different membership levels?
- Do you see a high level of engagement?
Take copious notes so you can apply what you’ve learned to your membership site. You don’t want to copy someone else’s strategy, but you can take bits and pieces to help shape the site you create.
Pay attention to design and functionality, as well. Take note of:
- How is the navigation laid out?
- What colors do the sites use?
- How about typography?
Getting a feel for the visual impact of the site can help you figure out what you want to do with your own.
Step 3: Determine your membership model
Next, choose your membership model. Your membership model is essentially your business plan and will help guide you as you grow and expand your offerings.
There are several ways you can structure your membership website, whether you want to focus on online courses, offer digital products, or conduct group coaching. You can also offer a combination of offerings to make the monthly subscription even more valuable to your members.
Another thing to think about is your pricing and whether or not you want to create multiple membership levels. And if you do, what will differentiate each level and how much content will you offer for each one?
Step 4: Choose a membership site platform
As we mentioned above, there are several membership website platforms to choose from. The next step is to determine what your needs are to figure out which platform or plugin is best for your membership business.
For instance, Kajabi is an all-in-one membership website builder. Not only is it equipped with tools to help you manage and grow your member community, but you can also expand your business with additional revenue channels like online courses, podcasts, and more.
Step 5: Design your membership site
The next step is to design a membership site that reflects your existing business. Your audience already knows your brand and associates a distinct voice, style, and look with your business. That means your membership website needs to exude that same brand if you want to build trust through familiarity.
For example, when time management coach Anna Dearmon Kornick launched a membership site and private podcast, everything from the brand colors to the messaging aligned with her coaching business. If you’re looking for membership website examples for inspiration, Anna’s It’s About Time Academy is definitely worth checking out.
How to attract new members to your membership site
You want your community to grow. And to grow -- at least in the beginning -- you need to increase new memberships.
Striving to add new members will help you increase your bottom line and increase engagement on the site over time. The more engaged members you have, the more they will help you create buzz around the community going forward.
Here are a few ways to grow your membership site:
Content marketing is a great way to grow your membership site. When you write your free blog posts or add updates on social media, mention your membership website and post a link to the signup page.
Don’t just make it a sales pitch, though. Tack your call-to-action on the end of a piece of valuable content that gives your audience a hint of what they can expect when they become members.
To gain more visibility, consider guest posting on other people’s blogs. You can also work with influencers, use email marketing to spread persuasive and educational content, and get involved in industry forums.
Don’t discount the power of commenting on other people’s sites, either. Include a link back to your own membership site, but contribute valuable content to the conversation as well. Don’t just pitch and run.
You might cringe at the thought of spending money on advertising, but sometimes it’s necessary — and profitable. Many entrepreneurs experience extreme success with paid search, paid social, display advertising, and other types of ads.
You might start with Facebook Ads or PPC through Google AdWords. Whatever you choose, set a budget and make each ad count. Create a custom audience for each ad that will appeal to your target customer.
The more strategic you are about your advertising methods, the less money you’ll spend and the more customers you’ll net.
Whether or not you try paid social, you still need to be active on organic social media.
Some social sites are more effective than others, so figure out where your audience and potential members hang out. If they spend most of their time on Twitter (X) and LinkedIn, you don’t want to waste time on Facebook and Instagram.
Create a following by following influential people in your industry, posting valuable content, and linking to other people’s content. Follow the 80/20 rule of social media marketing:
- About 80% of what you post should be entertaining or educational
- The remaining 20% can be promotional.
Your existing email marketing list
Remember when we talked about your email marketing list? You worked hard to grow a strong email list and build trust with your subscribers. This makes it a goldmine for growing your membership base and keeping in touch with current customers.
Use your email list to inform both members and non-members about upgrades to your site, new content, and other relevant information. Don't forget to provide non-members with enticing reasons to become members — this could be exclusive discounts or other freebies.
You can also grow your membership list by partnering with other online entrepreneurs. You each get in front of each other’s audiences, which can result in a boost in memberships for both of you. Consider working with someone in the same industry, but who occupies a different niche.
For instance, maybe you both publish content about personal development. You focus on spirituality, though, and your partner concentrates on relationships. Together, you can cross-post content that appeals to each other’s audiences and stimulates a boost in membership site signups.
How much to charge for membership websites
Pricing is always going to be a challenge when you're starting off. You can choose between a one-time payment or a recurring membership payment model. Many business owners love recurring subscriptions because of the revenue you can count on down the road. Your mileage may vary based on the type of membership you're offering.
One good way to determine pricing for your membership is to determine how much you would like to earn. If you want to make $1,000 per month for your membership sites, you can charge:
- $1000 per month and you'll only need 1 member to hit your goal
- $100 per month and you'll need 10 members to hit your goal
- $1 per month and you'll need 1,000 members to hit your goal.
This is an intentionally simple framing but it's a powerful one because it forces you to have a goal in mind instead of just putting something out there.
How to research membership site pricing
Once you have your desired goal, you should also incorporate research to see if you need to adjust pricing. Some ways to do this include:
- Conduct a competitive analysis: What are similar sites like yours charging? Is your service higher-end than theirs or meant to appeal to a wider audience?
- Share surveys: If you already have an email marketing list, send out a survey and ask what people would be willing to pay. If you don't have a list, you can use free online survey tools to see what your target audience would be willing to pay. Remember, people often say one thing about pricing and shell out for a different amount. Still, this survey data is a great bit of directional data for pricing your membership sites.
- Run tests over time: Your membership site will evolve over time and so will the pricing. You can do experiments like a big Black Friday sale or even test a price increase on the most devoted users. Take those learnings into your larger pricing strategy.
8 ideas to make your membership website better
You've done a great job of getting paying members but your job isn't done. You must put just as much time and effort into pleasing and retaining your existing members as you do finding new ones. In fact, it’s easier and less expensive to retain customers than to find new ones.
Make your members feel welcome and special
Creating a welcoming and personalized environment for your community starts with new members. Develop an onboarding process that makes new members feel welcome.
Think of your membership site as a book club. When a new person joins your book club meeting, are you going to wave and leave them to wander the room alone? No! You’re going to thank them for being here, provide an overview of what to expect, and then introduce them to some other members to get the conversations flowing.
Your membership site is a community and the first step in building a community is to make members feel comfortable and welcome.
Interact and engage with members
We’ve mentioned interaction and engagement several times in this article, but it bears repeating. To make the most of your membership site and keep subscribers engaged, you need to be present and active.
Ask people what they think. Respond to their comments. Hold regular polls and surveys so your customers know that you care what they think.
You can also encourage members to interact with each other. Membership sites, much like online forums, are often built around a shared culture. There will be inside jokes, standards of etiquette, and other cultural norms that develop over time. Embrace those qualities and treat your members like friends.
Deliver quality content on a predictable basis
Your members will expect to receive a certain amount of content for being a part of your subscription site.
When members subscribe, let them know how many new pieces of content they can expect per month — and stick to it. Not only does this keep you accountable, but it ensures you’re offering the best value for their money.
No one wants to be shortchanged. Make sure to create members-only content that only your members have access to. Not only that, but the content you're creating must be high-quality content that they can’t get anywhere else.
Consistency is the key to building trust and loyalty with your subscribers. And if you need help creating content on a consistent basis, there are plenty of AI tools for content creation to help you speed up the process.
Run group events and challenges
Don’t be afraid to spark a little competition. Invite your customers to meet challenges or goals that you set for them. Help them grow and develop as you create content and other features on the site.
You can even develop a badge or point system that gives customers bragging rights. As they participate in events and meet challenges, they earn rewards.
Over time, you might even add monetary incentives to customers who win contests. A free month of membership might go over well. Get creative and show your customers that you care about their engagement and happiness.
Help members find their way around as your site grows
As you grow, you’ll gain new members and expand your content offerings. And that growth can come with its challenges if your site isn’t organized. Provide simple, intuitive navigation so new people can find their way around.
Write a starter manual to help new members who might feel a little lost. This onboarding guide should tell new members what they should read and which pages they should visit first to get acclimated. You can also introduce them to other members if you have a forum or other communication tool on the site.
You can also help existing members navigate and get the most out of their membership by sharing regular reminders about how to get the most out of the community.
Add new features and content to keep your website fresh
Keep members coming back for more by creating new features and content.
Think outside of the box when it comes to different things you can offer. For instance, if you want to increase your subscribers, you can start a referral program. Encourage your current subscribers to share the website with their networks and reward them for every new member they bring in. Your rewards can be physical merchandise, a discount code, one free month of their subscription, etc.
Offer a free trial
Not everyone will be ready to become a paying member of your membership website right away. Some people need more time and information to decide if they want to subscribe or not. This is where offering a free trial or even a preview can be helpful.
If you can give people a chance to experience what a membership will be like *before* they subscribe, then they’ll be more likely to decide if it’s a good fit for them or not. A trial can also help you bring in members who are more likely to stay for the long term.
Kerry Marshall, Jr., guitarist, and founder of Kerry’s Kamp, offers a free seven-day trial to access his membership site. This gives people a chance to have the full experience — access to content, lessons, live sessions, and the community — to get a sense of what a paid membership is like.
To offer a preview, you can create freebies to send to your email list. These freebies are short versions of your full content and could encourage potential members to become paying subscribers if they want to see more.
Adapt based on members' needs
Over time, you’ll get a sense of what your members want and need. Use that feedback to provide the best membership experience and keep them around.
For instance, you might discover that your customers prefer video content over written content. Instead of continuing to create long-form blog posts and guides, you can turn your written content into video scripts and start cranking out videos that your members will actually engage with.
If your paying members don’t offer up feedback of their own volition, ask for it. A poll or survey can provide you with in-depth information about each of your customer’s specific needs. You can use that information to inform your editorial calendar and site features.
At the end of the day, your membership website revolves around your members. Pay attention to their feedback and incorporate it as much as you can to keep them engaged.
How do you create a successful membership site?
You can create online courses, blogs, mini-courses, and other membership content directly within the platform. Kajabi is also well-suited for membership sites because it also includes:
- Digital marketing capabilities to acquire new members and engage your existing members
- Robust analytics that empower you to know how your members are engaging with your site and services
- Automations, including our funnels, make it simple to turn prospective customers into paying members
Knowing how to create a membership site is just the first step in becoming a thriving online entrepreneur. Building a community of dedicated members can lead to a more engaged audience and happier clients, and set you up for future success.