If you’re a digital creator, you might be wondering how to start a membership site business.
Guess what? You’re in the right place. When you learn how to start a membership website business, you’re not only creating a pathway toward passive income. You’re also building an ever-changing space where your content, brand, and community can grow.
Whether you’re a veteran creator or someone just starting out, a membership website is a great way to connect with new people and turn your passion into a business.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, but you’re unsure how to start a membership-based website, then this is the guide for you.
What is a membership website business?
A membership website business is a website you’ve designed to house awesome content that people pay to gain access to. Ideally, they’re getting great content and a community of like-minded people to engage with about the content.
Membership businesses are popping up all over the place these days, especially now that we are inside more due to the pandemic. There are memberships for everything from rideshares, grocery delivery, yoga groups, Peloton, and Amazon Prime, just to name a few.
In a lot of ways, memberships have become synonymous with “subscription” services. But we believe there is an important distinction between the two. A membership business should emphasize some form of community within its package.
Think of it this way: You probably don’t feel a sense of camaraderie with others when you find out you both have Amazon Prime. In fact, you probably don’t even say, “I belong to Amazon Prime.” Instead, you say something like, “I bought a year of Prime.”
Compare that to the experience of being a gym member. There, you’d say “I belong to a gym,” not “I bought a year’s worth of time at a gym.”
What we’re getting at is that a gym provides value by connecting its members together in a dedicated space with a common goal.
And when you start a membership website business, you too are creating a virtual space to build an online community of engaged and enthusiastic people.
Is starting a membership-based business worth it?
You might be wondering how hard it is to actually make a membership-based business work. While that’s a fair question to ask yourself, determining whether something is “worth it” is a hard thing to quantify.
Yes, starting a membership website can take hard work. But it can be an incredibly rewarding experience, too.
Here are a few benefits for starting a membership-based business.
- Income: With a membership, you can gain a recurring source of income with a high-profit margin. Even if you only have 50 members who pay $50 a month, you stand to profit$2,500 a month (or $30,000 annually).
- Engagement: A membership business enables you to drive continued and engaged traffic to your website. Not only are people interacting with your page, but if you create a member space that people want to be in, they’ll stick around longer on your website.
- Community: If you can create a space that helps your members achieve results and transformation, your members will build connections with each other and stick around to see those connections through. The online community you build alongside your members will bring more people aboard the wonderful ship you’re sailing.
These are just a few benefits to starting a membership website business. But you can imagine the possibilities that open up with just these three things.
5 steps to starting your membership website business
There are a number of different aspects to take into account when starting a membership-based business. We’ve broken down what we feel are the most important into 5 distinct categories.
How to start a membership website business: Step #1 — Define a clear motivating purpose
The first key step to starting a membership business is to have a clear purpose, goal, or theme that will motivate people to opt-into your membership.
This could be anything from how to start a successful small business, how to write a novel, or even just a paid membership for young professionals that are looking for connections in a new city.
The purpose behind your membership site will be the glue that connects your members together. Remember, you’re trying to emphasize that the membership will provide them with something they can’t do on their own.
How to start a membership website business: Step #2 — Pinpoint your “ideal” member
In the same way that knowing your purpose is important, so too is knowing who you’re trying to attract with your membership.
Your “ideal” member is the person that will be most motivated and interested in whatever your membership site has to offer. You might be thinking that you want “everybody” to be a potential member.
That’s great! Everyone should feel welcome to join your membership site. But that doesn’t mean that you should try to appeal to everyone.
When you have a specific kind of person in mind and you understand what results they’re looking for, then you can tailor your membership site to set them up for success.
How to start a membership website business: Step #3 — Choose a platform that has it all
If you’re wondering how to start a membership-based business, one of the hardest parts will be, well, building a website. Designing features for all the awesome content and services you’ll offer members isn’t exactly easy work.
In the past, this was an incredibly costly endeavor with a long lead time to bring to fruition. But today, it’s never been easier to build a website, foster an online community, and start a membership site in one place thanks to “all-in-one” software platforms.
These software platforms have developed robust tools for you to utilize to build a website, design online courses, create spaces for online communities, and of course, build a paid membership site.
Here are a few “all-in-one” platforms you should check out:
- Kajabi: A great option if you’re mainly concerned with marketing and selling to people. But its marketing tools don’t make up for their lackluster community features. We believe it’s important to choose a platform with a robust set of community features for you to utilize.
- Mighty Networks: If you’re looking for a place to sell memberships and build a thriving community, then Mighty Networks is for you. When you create a Mighty Network, you gain access to a powerful website builder, robust community-building features, online course tools, and of course, paid memberships. Best of all, these are available across the web, iOS, and Android.
- WordPress: Customization is a strong suit for WordPress. If you can think it, you’ll be able to build it… But only if you’ve got the technical skills or money to do so. More than likely, you’ll end up spending a lot of money to either pay someone to build it for you or buy a prebuilt website to host your membership-based business.
No matter what software you go with, you’re going to want to choose a platform with a good amount of flexibility via the web, iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Mighty Networks gives you all of the features noted above and many more. That means you can not only design an awesome membership website but also create a thriving community.
How to start a membership website business: Step #4 — Figure out a monetization plan
Another thing you should know about how to start a membership website business is monetization. When you start a membership site, you’re providing a path for your members to complete their goals. This is something that is valuable and not easy to come by, so you should charge for your services.
There isn’t a surefire answer for determining the price of your membership site. That’s something you’ll have to decide on your own. But we can provide you with two ideas to think about when determining what’s best for what you’re building.
Keep it simple and straightforward.
Many people who are wondering how to start a membership-based business will have questions about pricing. One way to go about it is to charge a flat rate for what you offer. This is a solid avenue to take. Everyone is getting the same content for the same price, but as you can imagine, there’s less flexibility.
Try tiered pricing.
Creating different paid membership tiers is another place you can experiment with after you’ve gotten your feet wet.
You might be thinking that this is overly complicated, but think about it this way. Your members aren’t all going to have the same needs, desires, and aspirations. While they have a common unifying purpose for being there some will want to reach even further than that or get even more help.
This is an opportunity for you to offer additional tiers for members to opt into. That way you’re not charging people for features that they don’t utilize. And you’re providing more autonomy for members to determine their investment levels.
Whatever price you go with, it’s easier to go down than up. You can always start at a premium price and adjust once you’ve seen the results. Many people undersell their worth, and if you do have to reduce the price, nobody complains about paying less money for something they love.
How to start a membership website business: Step #5 — Tell the world you exist
Here comes the fun part: Tell people about the awesome things you’re doing.
We understand that for some people it can be awkward to tell the world about the thing you’re making. But it’s worth it. Especially because you don’t necessarily need to worry so much about paying for advertising and utilizing social media.
If you don’t already have an established following, start out with the people you know. They are more likely to believe in what you’re doing. Plus, more than likely, they’ll also hype you up to their network as well. You’re connected to way more people than you realize.
Once you’ve got some members who are invested in your membership site they will tell their friends and get more people to join in on the fun.
How to start a membership website business: Bonus — Have fun and experiment
Above are the key steps for how to start a membership business, but we’re going to give you one more: Don’t be afraid to experiment.
You’re not going to nail everything right out of the gate. And that is okay! Being transparent about what you’re building for your members will build credibility and trust within your community.
On top of that, the most successful membership website creators are willing to change course when things aren’t working.
You don’t need to be a mind reader to do that. Asking your members for feedback— from what kind of content they like and dislike to what kind of content they’d like to see—is a great way to keep people interested and make them feel like their opinions matter.
You might be running the show, but you’re accomplishing the goals that your membership is based around together. If you’re willing to make changes and show some humility, experimenting with your membership-based business is not only a great way to keep people around, but also fun to mix things up.
It’s go time!
So, we’ve detailed how to start a membership-based website business, but there’s still one major thing you’ve got to do…
Build it! That’s right, it’s time to put the car in motion and start creating the membership site you’ve been thinking about. We can’t deny that there is a lot of work that goes into starting a membership-based business, but the people you’ll meet and opportunities that you’ll uncover are well-worth the investment.