Membership Sites: Everything You Need to Know
Membership sites can be a powerful thing. Here’s a guide to understanding membership sites, and how they can boost your digital business.
For a lot of digital creators, membership sites can be a game-changer.
That’s because when you build a membership website, 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 that sounds up your alley, or if you’ve ever wondered, “What is a membership website, and how can it serve me?” we’ve got you covered. Ahead, we’ll define what we mean when we say “membership site,” and we’ll talk about who can run those sites, and the best way to structure them. Plus, we’ll offer a few examples of membership sites so you can get an idea of what these communities can do.
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.
How to Create a Membership Website
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 tools are necessary to build and launch a successful membership site with an active community.
Membership sites have four main components: a purpose, or the thing that drives you and the people you want to attract to your community; the members, or the people who would get the most out of joining your membership website; a platform, or the place where you can host and build a dynamic community site; and pricing, or how much you’ll charge for access.
Let’s go through those components, one by one.
1. Define your 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. Ask yourself a few questions to get there. What will your members get from being a part of this community? What rewards and transformation can you promise them?
2. Find and recruit your 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.
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.
If you already have an email list or social media following in place, create an email campaign. Post regularly to your social networks about the membership site that you’re building, and who it will serve. If you’re specific enough, people will come.
3. Set a price.
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.
4. 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 messaging, and live Q&A sessions.
One membership website platform that offers the above (and more!) is Mighty Networks. A Mighty Network is a membership site platform designed to deliver membership websites, 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.
Examples of Membership Sites
Mighty Networks is the home to many membership websites, 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 those three categories, they all have one thing in common: they’re important enough to people to invest in.
Let’s take a closer look at how each of these categories benefits their members, along with a few examples.
Career and Professional Membership Website Examples
Career and professional centered membership websites are popular and for good reason. They typically combine education, training, and networking to either help professionals move forward in their careers or give them the tools to start new ones.
The great benefit of these membership sites is that they let members crowdsource creative solutions with people at similar points in their careers. And when people share their stories and experiences with each other, they make a lot more progress.
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 topics 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.
Health, Wellness, and Spirituality Membership Website Examples
A membership site where members master health, wellness, or spirituality topics can give people a support system in exploring a new interest. These membership sites are especially useful when members want to get more intimate with a topic that they wouldn’t have access to offline, whether it’s pilates group coaching during a pandemic, or a spirituality-centered virtual community.
Raw Spirituality fulfills the latter, offering 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.
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.
A Membership Website Example for Other Important Interests
Even outside of the above topics, membership sites are a fantastic way to deliver information, education, and support that helps people get results they just wouldn’t be able to get on their own.
If your idea for a membership site doesn’t fit any of the above categories, there’s nothing to worry about. As long as your topic is specific and important enough, and as long as your members would benefit from navigating that topic together, you can create a membership site around it.
Take The Village by Happily Family, for example. It’s a membership website that doesn’t quite fit the career or health categories. But it delivers high-value content around a specific topic all the same, 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.
No matter what category your membership site falls in, it relies on one thing: the power of connections. A network of people mastering a topic together helps everyone involved, encouraging creative problem solving, authentic relationships built on shared experiences, and the incentive to keep coming back.
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?
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