For a lot of digital creators, membership sites can be a game-changer.
That’s because when you build a membership site, you don’t just up your income potential. You create a meaningful business around a passion, topic, or idea that powers you. You connect people around that passion. And you give them a chance to master it.
If you’re thinking of starting or have already started a membership site, we’re going to talk about what we’ve learned from watching successful ones. Then, we’ll share with you 10 examples of successful membership sites that are worth learning from!
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In this article...
What is a Membership Site?
A membership site delivers exclusive content to its members, who in turn pay a monthly or annual subscription fee. It’s a win-win on both sides: members get to build relationships with each other in the quest to master something interesting together, and creators get to build a business around a passion that moves and motivates them.
As the host or creator of a membership website, you structure how your people make connections with each other in the journey to master a topic or reach a goal. But contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be an expert to do that.
Who Can Run a Membership Site?
The truth is, as long as you have a passion, and as long as you’re motivated to connect people around it, you’re qualified to run a membership site. Yes, really.
You don’t have to have a certain degree or years and years of experience to build and run a membership site. That’s because your value as the creator isn’t in your expertise. It’s in your enthusiasm to create a framework around how your members come together, and in the commitment you make to building, growing, and nurturing a thriving community.
10 Secrets of successful membership sites
When it comes down to it, creating a membership website is all about working smarter, not harder. And before you can get started, you need to understand what works to build and launch a successful membership site with an active community.
Here are 10 secrets of successful membership sites!
1. They have a clear Big Purpose
We’ve talked a bit about building a membership website around a passion that powers you. But you want to make sure you define that passion in a way that attracts other people, too.
The goal is to create an online membership site that attracts motivated, paying members who are looking to connect over a common interest that they want to master, or a shared goal that they want to reach.
To do that, you have to define the purpose of your community, the thing that can only be accomplished by a specific group of people coming together to answer the call.
We call this your Big Purpose. It defines who you bring together and why. To focus your community around a clear purpose, try creating what we call a Big Purpose Statement.
It looks like this:
And if you want to master your Big Purpose, we have a free training in our Mighty Community.
2. They hone their Ideal Members
Once you’ve figured out the specific thing that motivates your membership website, you’ll have to figure out who, exactly, you’re bringing together, and find the people who want to go on this journey with you.
We call this an Ideal Member.
Be specific about what your ideal members would look like. How would they describe themselves? Are they at the same life stage? Do they share a profession or an aspiration? And why aren’t they able to achieve these goals alone?
With a clear picture in mind of who would benefit most from your membership site, you can start recruiting the people who are A. most passionate about this topic, and B. who are the most motivated to join a community of people with the same passions.
The best way to approach this? Start small. All you need to get started is ten members. If you’re starting your membership website from scratch, reach out to your personal and professional networks, and spread the word about what you’re building. Ask for recommendations from the people you already know. You’ve got this.
And we have an Ideal Member training in our Mighty Community too! It’s free to join.
3. They honor their stories
You have something unique that will focus your membership site. It’s your story.
Don’t try to be someone else.
We’ve seen so many amazing membership sites built around REAL stories. How about Ashley Fox, who launched her Wealth Builders Community out of her own story – from working in Wall Street and realizing that it wasn’t reaching MOST people.
Ashley’s story became her superpower, and the thing that set her membership site apart from many other financial resources out there.
4. They charge something
If you’re building a membership site, you’re offering potential members a chance to meet new goals, see results, and embark on a journey of transformation. That’s worth charging for.
There are three ways to think about your framework for pricing:
- Keep it simple. A lot of membership sites start with a single tier. And that’s totally fine! The goal here is to create a tier with a lot of value that will help your members achieve their goals. You can always add on down the line.
- When you’re ready to add membership tiers, it’s easier to move down than up. Speaking of, here’s a tip: it’s easier to start at a premium price, and provide your members with benefits, resources, and support, then pull back features for lower-priced tiers. That way, you’ll be able to give your initial members great results and adjust and experiment over time with what else you can offer.
- Price it at what it’s worth. There’s a good chance you’re thinking, “I shouldn’t charge a ton of money for my new membership website. It’s not valuable enough yet.” But there’s a better way to approach the way you think about pricing.
When your members are super motivated, and they vibe with your shared passion, there’s a bigger and better chance that they’ll get results they wouldn’t be able to get on their own. That’s a great value, and it’s worth charging a premium price for—at least $299 a year, or a one-time fee of no less than $499.
If you want to know more, you can read our research on How to Price a Membership Site!
5. They welcome people right
Too many people will jump into a membership site, take a look around, and see no way to connect. OR they’ll be too shy to say what they want to, and will lurk for a few months until they give up and cancel their membership.
There’s a simple solution to this, and successful membership sites do it.
Create a beautiful and engaging new member welcome experience. Creating a new member experience will turn lurkers into loyal community members.
And what’s really cool is that new member welcome experiences can be automated with the right platform! That means you can set it and the platform will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
We have a free training in our Mighty Community that will teach you how to do it!
6. They choose the right membership site platform
If you want to build the best experience for you and your members, you have to find a membership site platform that will do the heavy lifting for you.
The best membership site platforms make it easy to create an aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly home for your membership site; let you offer exclusive content in a variety of formats, from online courses to long-form articles; and give your members multiple ways to foster connections with each other, including polls, direct & group messaging, live streaming, and more.
Mighty Networks offers all these and more. A Mighty Network delivers membership sites, online courses, and community all in one place, under your own brand. You’ll get a membership site builder that lets you customize your community with your logo and branding; the ability to create organized and exclusive content and courses for your members; and tons of ways to encourage your members to connect with each other. And it’s all available on the web, iOS, and Android, anytime.
7. They diversify their offerings
When you choose a great platform, it’s not just about having a one-stop-shop for your membership site business.
A great platform gives you a bunch of ways to serve up content to your members. We talked about this above, but it’s so amazing to be able to mix it up between things like posts, live events, a surprise live stream, an engaging poll, and an online course.
Each of these will reach members differently – after all, we learn and grow in different ways.
Diversifying your offerings can be your superpower. And if you’re on a platform that only lets you do one thing (like post), maybe it’s time to think about a move.
8. They focus on quality over quantity
Would you believe that our most successful Mighty Networks post 3 times… a WEEK!?
It’s easy to think that people will get the most value from being bombarded with posts like they do on traditional social media, but that’s not the case.
Think quality over quantity. It’s better to post less and focus on building real engagement.
9. They learn and adapt
Your membership site vision doesn’t need to be set in stone. You can learn and adapt as you go. Successful membership sites don’t keep chasing things that aren’t working. They take stock and adapt.
Focus on what’s bringing value to your members and what’s making your business work. Do more of that.
10. They keep going
Last but not least, successful membership sites keep going. It’s easy to go hard at building your community for a few weeks or months. But the really good stuff comes if you can be consistent for the long haul.
Don’t forget, we said above that this can be as little as 3 posts a week. But do keep going!
10 Membership site examples
Let’s look at 10 examples of successful membership sites. It’s hard to choose just 10. Because so many of our Mighty Networks are doing amazing things and serving so many.
But let’s showcase a few, most of which fall under one of three categories: career and professional; health, wellness, and spirituality; and membership sites for other important interests. While there’s a lot of variety within these membership sites they all have one thing in common: they’re important enough to people to invest in.
1. Let’s Make Picture Books
Let’s Make Picture Books is a good example of a professional membership site for people looking to jump-start a new career. Led by two professional illustrators, Let’s Make Picture Books offers aspiring children’s book illustrators the tools to build strong portfolios, and the connections to get their work in front of agents and publishers.
Members get the chance to not only develop their illustration skills alongside people who are at the same point in their journey and powered by the same passions, but to build relationships with those people, and navigate the challenges of breaking into the industry together.
Another example of a membership site that caters to career and professional conversations is OctoMembers, a private membership site that provides UK-based financial services professionals with resources for personal and professional growth. OctoMembers brings together financial professionals across different stages of their career, and gives them a private place to connect and socialize. That way, they can have deep detailed discussions without worrying about their personal experiences getting out on social media, or insider information getting out to the press.
3. Raw Spirituality
Raw Spirituality offers guidance and support for people who want to learn more about the concepts of spirituality. By integrating a paid membership website model with a robust community, and offering content like online courses, Raw Spirituality enables members to share their personal experiences as they learn more about what it means to begin on a spiritual path.
4. The Healthy Weigh Out
Health, wellness, and spirituality-centered membership sites can cover the physical, too. Membership site The Healthy Weigh Out Circle of HOPE welcomes people struggling with eating disorders and offers them resources and support in a dynamic community setting. Members are able to meet and build relationships with people who have been battling the same challenges for decades, while also maintaining their privacy within the community.
5. The Village
The Village by Happily Family is a membership website that delivers high-value content by focusing on providing parents and educators with a supportive community and the tools to foster healthy relationships with children. Members get the chance to navigate the journey of nontraditional parenting and connect with each other over deeper parenting issues, too.
The FWFG Kula app is the focal point of a membership site created by Adriene Mishler. She’s the host of Yoga with Adriene, a YouTube Channel with over 10 million subscribers! The private community is 200,000 members strong and lets members dive deeper and grow in their practice of Yoga.
7. LO Sister
LO Sister is a membership app created by Sadie Robertson Huff. Sadie is New York Times best-selling author, speaker, TV star, and one of the world's most influential voices for young Christian women today. She has 4.6 million+ Instagram followers, speaks nationally, and hosts a podcast called WHOA, That’s Good.
The membership site gives space for young women to join workshops, Bible studies, and grow in their faith.
8. Leave Your Mark
Hosted by Aliza Licht, a best-selling author and host of a popular careers podcast, Leave Your Mark is a membership site dedicated to helping young professionals master their careers. It offers bootcamps, coaching, and networking opportunities.
9. Oiselle Volée
Oiselle Volée is a paid membership site for women runners. Hosted by the women’s apparel brand, Oiselle, the membership site gives resources and training for runners. Oiselle Volée took on a whole new life during the pandemic, when it became a space to find connection, real conversations, and someone to share a virtual cup of coffee with.
10. What Works Network
Tara McMullin has been a coach, mentor, and leader to digital business for a decade. And when she launched her Mighty Network, the What Works Network, she built a space for business owners to come together for virtual conferences, virtual retreats, and virtual co-working spaces.
At their core, membership websites are about connecting people with shared interests, goals, and motivations. Because of that, they can often be a critical resource for members, especially those who don’t have the resources to connect with like-minded people otherwise.
Now that you know everything there is to know about these communities—from how they’re structured to real-life examples of membership sites—here’s your chance to create one around a topic you’re passionate about. What driving force will power you, your members, and your community?