If you’ve been thinking about making a paid membership site, now is a great time to do it.
When you start a paid membership site, you’re doing more than asking people to pay for your (awesome!) content. You’re also creating an online community for people who share a common interest to connect and achieve their goals together.
Below, we’re going to give you a crash course on all that you need to know to start a paid membership site.
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In this article...
What is a paid membership site?
A membership site is a website where access to specific content is protected behind a member login page.
In order for people to view the content on these protected pages, they need to have an active member account on your website. If they do, they can log in to the members’ area and view the content you’ve placed there.
A membership site can have both free and paid members. It can also have different tiers, with unique access based on membership levels. The power of a membership site is that you can charge people on a recurring (monthly, semi-annual, yearly, etc.) basis for access to your content.
Reasons to start a paid membership site
Starting a paid membership site has a number of potential benefits. Below, we’ve detailed 3 that we believe are great reasons for you to get the ball rolling on your membership site.
- Leverage: Paid membership sites are a great way to reuse your pre-existing content (any presentations, videos, online courses, etc). That’s right: When you start a paid membership site, you don’t need to start from scratch. You can build content around things you’ve already done, whether it’s a talk you gave about starting a business or resources you’ve created to help people to gain new skills.
- Community: When you start a paid membership site, you’re not just monetizing content for people to buy. You’re also creating a community space where people with similar interests can connect with one another. That’s incredibly valuable. It’s a great feeling to find a group of people that you can navigate challenges with and share successes.
- Value: People pay attention to what they pay for. By providing gated content behind a membership, you are increasing its value. This means that potential members might attribute a higher value to the content that can only be accessed through their membership. What’s more, existing members are more likely to upsell from within your membership site. When your members know that you deliver quality content, they’ll have no problem investing further into whatever else you release.
What you’ll need to start a paid membership site
Now that we’ve covered what a membership site is and its benefits, it’s time to get cracking on what you’ll need to start one.
Step #1 — Have a clear motivating purpose
Choosing a clear purpose for your paid membership site is a must. When you know what the purpose of your membership site is, it’s much easier to build out content and nail down who your audience is.
There are a number of different ways you can approach this. But for now, here are two you can think about when defining your purpose:
“Fix it” model
This type of membership site is focused on one thing: fixing a very specific problem. It’s an approach that can be applied to everything from learning to paint portraits to scaling a business. With this type of model, you’re paving the path for members to follow in order to reach an intended goal and see clear results and transformation.
Alternatively, the motivational model is focused on people who want to achieve a goal that they’re likely to struggle with alone. Think fitness goals or aspirations around spirituality practices. When you have support coming from others grappling with the same problems that you are, it can push you to overcome your obstacles.
Making sure that you’ve created a community space where members can interact and share their stories is important. When people know they aren’t alone in their struggles, it can feel empowering and motivating.
Step #2 — Choose between drip or self-paced content releases
How you release your content is also a key factor in running the best paid membership site. The two main ways of releasing content in a paid membership site are via “drip” or “self-paced” content.
The drip model is when you schedule releases of content. This is effective in that it keeps members motivated to log into your membership site each scheduled release day (whether it’s weekly, daily, or some other frequency). It also helps people know what to expect and plan ahead.
Drip fed content is a great way to keep new members engaged on your membership site and to control the pace of their stay. And since dripping content means you can continue creating content “live,” or as you go, it’s also a great option if you’re starting from scratch.
Think of this as a Netflix model: Self-paced or “immersion” access is giving your members control over how they interact with your awesome content. It’s a great way to set up some passive revenue because you can completely automate the release of your content and allow your members to determine their engagement levels.
On the flip side, members may binge your content and bounce. Be sure to have other ways to keep people interested.
Step #3 — Define the terms of your membership
It wouldn’t be a membership site if there wasn’t, well, membership options!
There are a number of different ways you can build a paid membership site. But we’ve found that utilizing a “freemium” model—offering some form of free membership as a baseline—is a great way to keep some membership sites growing and active.
Here’s how it works. In addition to the free membership, you can gate your more premium content behind a paywall. Said content can be anything from mastermind groups to online courses.
On top of that, you can determine whether the paid memberships you’re offering are a one-time fee, monthly, or annual.
Step #4 — Ask your members for feedback
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
You might be looking at some of the top paid membership sites out there or one that you’ve been a member of in the past and think: there’s no way I can do that. But that’s just not true. . Remember, building something great takes time. You don’t need to have it all figured out from the jump.
As you start your paid membership site, try to nail down the community engagement first. Then, as you create your content, you can ask members for feedback: What’s working, what isn’t, and what they’d love to see more of.
Best of all, you’re crowdsourcing your work and creating a more engaging place for your members to interact with one another. When people feel that they have a say in shaping the community they’re in, they’re more likely to stick around (and hype you up to their friends and family).
Examples of paid membership sites
Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of starting a paid membership site, how about we take a look at a few examples.
Boston While Black
Boston While Black is a paid membership site that offers a safe space for Black students, professionals, and entrepreneurs based in Boston to come together, activate change and build relationships.
- What they offer: Boston While Black members get access to a private digital community, member-led clubs, curated experiences, dynamic speakers, weekly virtual coworking, promotions at member-owned businesses, and more.
- Who should join: Boston While Black is interested in attracting a wide swath of Black students and professionals living in Boston. Because the membership focuses on building a strong community of native and new Bostonians, every new member adds value to the membership by expanding the potential reach of Boston While Black’s network.
Sktchy Art School
Sktchy Art School is a community and paid membership site for portrait artists looking to learn new skills, share their art, and get feedback on works in progress.
- What they offer: Members of Sktchy Art School get free access to all of the content in the main school feed, including tips, tricks, and tutorials from extraordinary portrait artists. And in addition to that free content, Sktchy offers a number of paid classes too.
- Who should join: This is a community of portrait artists living and creating all around the world, and they’re growing by the hundreds every month. Experts and newbies who are interested in learning about portraiture and gaining some new artist friends are great candidates for Sktchy Art School.
Another paid membership site, Liberated Being, is a somatic meditation and movement community that brings together embodiment practitioners with guided meditations, guest teachers, and more.
- What they offer: Liberated Being offers its members a number of benefits for joining, including monthly gatherings with guest teachers; live and recorded weekly practice sessions access to an ever-growing catalog of past guest lectures and practice sessions, and an active community that is actively accomplishing their goals together.
Who should join: Liberated Being is a community for people who are on the path of waking up and connecting to their deep being. Those who are interested in learning more about mindfulness and connecting to their inner selves are typically a good fit.
You’re ready now.
Hopefully, we’ve answered your questions on how to build a paid membership site. We think it’sa great way to start building content and an online community. And if you created some content in the past, this is a great way to reinvigorate some of it while also creating a space to build an online community for your brand.
Mighty Networks will allow you to do all of the things we’ve talked about above and more. Our cultural software lets you mix content, community, courses, and commerce. And Mighty's flexible Spaces can be customized to include live streaming, courses, live events, discussions, and long and short-form content. Sell membership in any form you like: bundles, courses, access, and more. And charge in 135 different currencies OR with token-gating.
All that’s left for you to do is get started, so dive in!