Well, I can tell you without hesitation, that doing so for me personally has been the single most valuable thing I've done for my brand and business.
Creating Location Rebel Academy has helped hundreds of people change their lives and build successful lifestyle businesses while creating a very nice lifestyle for myself in the process.
First off, let’s clarify why I’m qualified to write such a post.
My first ever membership site was called “Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty.” It was about as basic as it gets in terms of logistics. Just a standard WordPress site and a membership plugin, pretty simple.
After I saw some success with Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty, I decided to go big, creating Location Rebel Academy.
Location Rebel Academy is a much bigger project. It has more elaborate sales funnel, multiple pricing tiers, and is generally a much bigger beast – as well as a more advanced product.
Then last year, I created The Eighty Club using a very different set of tools than what LRA was built around.
Needless to say, I've been around the block. I know what works, what doesn't, and how to ensure you're not wasting your time trying to reinvent the wheel.
In this post, I want to keep it simple. Many of you are likely thinking about creating a membership course, but you might be stumped because it feels like a ton of work. Here’s the good news, it’s not (or at least it doesn't have to be).
There are a lot of things that go into a membership site (incredible content, marketing funnels, and the technical aspect of setting it up).
In this post, we'll touch on all three of those things, but we're mostly going to be focused on the setup itself.
We're going to show you all of the most common options out there for each component, compare and contrast them, and help you figure out what's best for your specific membership site needs.
And if you follow along carefully, we can have you up and running with the basics of your new site in just a few days.
So if you’re ready for this, grab a beer, and get comfortable, because we’ve got a lot of ground to cover!
What is a Membership Site?
Essentially, a membership site is a part of your website that is gated off from non-members. That means that members have to purchase or signup for access to the closed-off portion of your site.
Location Rebel is a perfect example.
Anyone can access the blog, home page, about page, and resources page. But if you want to access Location Rebel Academy, Hobby Hacking, or How to Pitch Influencers, for example, you'll have to become a member.
Anyone who is not a member and will try to access these sections will get a message that they don't have access.
Membership sites aren't just about blog posts or written content either. You can have membership sites around videos, podcasts, screencasts, webinars, you name it.
Why Start a Membership Site?
Before you should even do anything, you need to give some thought as to why you are creating a membership site.
There are all sorts of reasons to do it and just as many ways to go about it. So before you do anything, let’s look at some of the benefits of this content distribution model so you can get an idea of whether or not this is right for you.
Here are some of the main benefits of membership sites:
Membership sites are the easiest way to create user interaction:
If your goal is to create a closed community of committed people, this is the best way to go about it.
You know everyone involved has paid something to get in. More often than not, that means people are more committed to actually participating.
Easy to update:
You can distribute your product as an ebook, it is less complicated, but it also makes it much more difficult to update. Once it’s done it’s pretty much done, and after a couple years, or even months the content can grow stale and irrelevant.
With a membership site, adding or editing content is no more difficult than creating or updating a blog post. You can update everything on a consistent basis.
Allows you to distribute your message through more mediums:
With a membership site its extremely easy to combine written content, pdf downloads, audio, and video into one product. This helps to appeal to the largest variety of people (and their learning styles) possible.
If you were to create a zip file with all of this stuff and make it an ebook or infoproduct, the file would be huge. Plus, people tend to be more likely to skip over features that aren’t right in front of them.
Allows you to generate recurring income:
Membership sites give you the opportunity to generate some monthly recurring income. You can’t charge a monthly fee for an ebook. This flexibility really makes for an attractive option.
One of the most important questions you’ll need to consider is whether or not your site will be a one-time fee or a recurring monthly charge. So, keep that in mind.
The product will keep getting better:
One of the best features of a membership site is the members. The more you allow for user interaction, the more information that’s being created within the site. This only makes the site more valuable as time goes on.
Limited design knowledge:
To create an ebook that looks good, you’ve gotta have some design chops. Unless you want to pay someone else to do it all for you.
With a membership site, aside from a logo and a few random components you can use a pre-made WordPress theme and keep the designing to an absolute minimum.
This alone could be worth it for many of you.
Those are just a few of the benefits of using a membership site as your distribution model for your next product, but as you can see there is some pretty huge upside.
Who Should Start a Membership Site?
I'm a firm believer that we're all experts at something. We all have something to teach and share.
Keep in mind, you don't have to be Jimi Hendrix to teach someone how to play guitar. You just have to be an expert relative to the person that you're teaching.
As long as you're a few steps ahead of your students, you have value to offer.
To that end, you should start a membership site if:
- You have a clear skill that others would like to gain
- You know how to break that skill into smaller chunks or lessons to make it easy to learn from
- You're not afraid of the idea of selling
- You're willing to spend some time learning a new platform or system to manage your new site
- You're looking for a way to build an asset and a business around something you love or are good at
How to Find a Niche For Your Membership Site
Here's the deal when it comes to finding a niche for your membership site: the more niched down you can be, the more successful you'll be.
I call this the Niche Within a Niche Method.
Let me give you an example:
- Golf is an industry
- Golf travel is a niche
- Golf travel to private, top 100 courses is a niche within a niche
The most successful membership sites I know are a niche within a niche.
Because if something is too broad, your customers will never be able to make the emotional attachment necessary to get over the hump and buy.
Here's another example using this site:
- How to make money online is an industry
- Freelancing is a niche within that industry
- Building small freelance writing businesses so you can travel the world and work from anywhere is a niche within a niche
It might seem like you're making the audience smaller (and you are), but you're also making it much easier to convert those target people into members of your site.
Read this post to learn more about choosing your niche.
How Much Can You Make with a Membership Site?
One of the questions I get asked the most is "how much money can you make with a membership site?"
The answer is pretty easy, as there's no limit to how much you can make.
There are membership sites that have yet to make a dollar.
I also know of membership sites making tens of millions of dollars.
And everywhere in between.
But a good rule of thumb is that you should be making about $1/month for every person on your email list.
We'll talk more about this later, but email is by far the easiest way to sell access to your membership site.
So if you have 10,000 people on your list? You should be able to make $10,000/month off of it.
What Types of Membership Sites Can You Create?
Every membership site is a little bit different, and because of that, there are a pretty un-ending amount of combinations you can choose from.
But to help you figure out the best way to get started, in this section, I'm going to show you a few of the different components of a membership site. You can include one, or many of these depending on what you want to offer - there's no right or wrong way to do it, a lot of it comes down to your niche, your goals, and what you're teaching.
This is one of the easiest membership sites to create if you already have an audience. Essentially doing this just means that you have a private forum that people are willing to pay for access to.
- Easy to justify a monthly/annual fee
- Reduces the need to constantly be adding new content
- Can be evergreen (you don't have to keep relying on stressful launches)
- Allow your members to add value to the site for you
Mini Course Model
One of the most popular types of membership sites out there is the mini course model.
Basically, this means that when people join your site they are getting access to a variety of different mini courses that all help you achieve different aspects of a larger goal.
For instance, Revolution Golf charges ___/month for their RG+ service. This gives you access to hundreds of different mini courses on different aspects of the golf swing.
So one series of videos might be how to putt better, and another might be out to get out of the sand trap.
- Tons of real and perceived value for your members
- Different ways to market. Even if someone only wants one of your mini courses, that can be enough to sell them if the price is reasonable.
- A great way to teach concepts both large and small, while allowing members to work at their own pace.
Dripped Out Model
In this model, there is generally a set time limit for how the course is going to go.
Often it might be 8 weeks, and every week there is a different lesson or module dripped out, so it encourages your members to stay accountable and put in the work on a regular basis.
- Able to create a sense of community if done in tandem with a forum
- Can upsell them on future courses/semesters
- A good way to ensure people actually follow through and do the work
I think this is one of the smartest ways for bloggers with loyal followings to monetize an audience they already have. When you do this, you have a relatively low price point, and add additional features to your blog that is members only.
Some of these features may include Extra content in each blog post that only members can see, special posts just for members, discounts on products, mini-courses, private community or Facebook page, early access to new content or products, monthly calls with you.
The list goes on.
- Easy to setup
- Low barrier to entry if you have an existing audience
- Can turn casual fans into true fans
Those are just a few of the most common types of membership sites I've seen. Each of these works best if you combine one or more of the above types of sites into one.
The more value you can add, the easier it will be to build your membership based.
Also, keep in mind this list was far from exhaustive. But it should give you an idea what might be the best fit for you and your goals.
How Will You Structure Your Membership Content?
As you saw from some of the examples above, there are all sorts of ways to structure your membership site. The same is true when it comes to your content.
To understand this, you're going to have to do a little bit of planning.
First, start with what you've already got. And then think about your long term plans for your course. Granted, nothing has to be set in stone right now, but it's a pretty good idea to think about how you are going to approach your membership site over the coming years.
After all, the idea is that it's going to run for a while, not just a year, right?
So part of your planning on content structure should include your future plans for the course because the answer will help you decide on the best way to deliver your content.
The most common type of membership site is going to offer a course, so let's use that as an example.
When you're setting your planning stage here are the questions you want to answer:
- How am I presenting the course? Is your course all text based, video based, some combination? The way your course is presented can help you determine the best way to share it. Two hours of video content, for example, could actually take much longer to read all written out.
- Will you drip content? Dripping content means you share it over time rather than all at once. So sometimes courses are dripped every new week, while others are every month. Dripping courses can work well with recurring fees because members are getting new content during every payment period.
- How are you sharing the course? Will your course be more generalized, or will it feature more hand-holding going step by step for members? Step by step content is a good candidate for dripping, especially if you offer it in phases. For example, phase one (steps 1-10) is week 1, phase 2 (steps 11-20) is week 2, etc.
- Will there be other courses? Are you planning to offer more courses that tie into your current course, will courses by totally separate, or is your course a stand-alone one and done? Depending on the answer, you might want to package all of your courses into one big course or offer that as a top level membership.
Once you think through these questions, you should have a pretty good idea about how you want to structure and deliver your course.
Remeber, things can always be tweaked over time, and you might find a hybrid delivery is what works best for you and your members. Never shy away from asking your members what they prefer and making changes to improve their user experience.
A good member experience is always really important so anything you can do to improve that in the way your course is structured or delivered is a very good thing.
Hopefully, this gives you a solid base of knowledge for how to approach your own membership site. The rest of this 9,000+ word post is available exclusively to our Location Rebel Academy members, and in it we cover:
- Different Types of Membership Platforms - We talk about if you should go for an all in one platform, an LMS system, or a standard Wordpress plugin, and the benefits of each.
- How to Choose Between Wordpress Membership Plugins - Specifically, which ones we found to be the best
- Everything you need to know about forums in a membership site - Including if you should have one, how to manage it properly, and which forum software is best for new membership sites.
- How to Decide What to Charge - Get this right? Passive income for life. Get this wrong? Crickets.
- The Best Payment Processor for Your New Site - And how to make this part as simple as possible
- How to Create an Effective Sales Page for Your Membership Site - Most people ignore this part completely, when the fact is, your sales page may be the single most important aspect of your new site.
Sorry, but the full post is only available to Location Rebel Academy members.
Want to get in on the action? Click here to find out more about LRA and how to join 2,500+ people from around the world who are building their own businesses.
If you are currently a Location Rebel Academy member, sign in below.