If you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you already understand the amazing earning potential of creating membership sites that bring in a recurring revenue.
By bringing in more and more customers who pay a monthly fee for your content, your income stream will grow FAST.
In essence, a membership site involves people paying a monthly fee to have access to private content.
This content is usually released at regular intervals, often weekly.
Not only are membership sites EXTREMELY profitable, but by having a membership site, it puts you on the path of becoming an authority figure within your chosen niche.
Starting a membership site is not nearly as difficult as you might think. A lot of marketers get intimidated by the idea, thinking it is too big of an undertaking.
The truth is that there are a lot of great services and software options that make the task quite easy.
After the initial, often painless setup, all you really need to worry about is providing content and signing up new members.
You don’t even have to worry about having six or more months of content ready for your members.
Technically, you could start out with only the first week or two of content available on the site.
Just make sure you can add future content before they get done with what is currently there. You don’t want members to get to a point where no content is available.
That’s the fastest way to start losing all your paying customers.
One thing to keep in mind is that the whole point of a membership site is that you can automate almost everything.
When people sign up for your list and set up their payment, they will automatically be directed on how to get started.
You won’t need to create their account, or handle any of that.
All you will need to focus on is getting new members, and making sure your members have content on a weekly basis.
When I say your members get content on a weekly basis, remember you only need to be making content for your oldest members.
You already have content ready for all of your other newer members, and it will automatically be delivered to them within the normal time frame.
CHOOSING A NICHE
Many of you reading this might already know what niche you are making your site for.
If you’ve already released products, built a list, or have a certain area of expertise, then this choice is easy for you.
If you don’t know what niche you want to create a membership site for, that’s okay. You can really make a membership site about anything that interests you.
There is money to be made in just about every niche, no matter how small.
Sometimes, it’s easier to start in a smaller niche, simply because there is much less competition.
However, before choosing a niche, there are a few things to consider that can make a difference when it comes to profitability.
Niches where the customers have a bigger problem that they desperately need a solution to, tend to be more profitable than a simple hobby site.
This isn’t saying that a hobby site can’t be profitable, enthusiasts are known for spending a lot of money on their passion, but in my personal experience, bigger problems means people are more willing to spend larger amounts of money.
For instance, there are niches like losing weight, dog training, making money, attracting the opposite sex, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, etc.
These types of niches will always be profitable, as they are big problems that people are commonly faced with, and more importantly, they are problems that people are desperate to solve.
On the flip side, some kind of hobby site, like building model trains in your basement, can be very profitable, but the potential members will most likely not be as desperate for the content that you can provide.
This can make getting new members a little harder. Don’t let me sway you though.
If you have a passion for a hobby and want to make money by regularly giving help to others interested in that hobby, then go for it!
Passion is a tool that, when directed properly, can make your business extremely successful.
Just make sure that if you are going to create a hobby-based membership site, that it’s something that is profitable.
Otherwise, you could be wasting a lot of time and effort.
Think about the hobby, and whether or not that typical hobbyist has money, and more importantly, spend a lot of money on their hobby.
Any easy way to find this out is to just go to a forum based around that hobby. See what people are talking about. Are they spending money?
Go to a site that sells stuff that involves that hobby. What’s the average price of the main products?
Now, sub-niching is also something to consider. Because most of the larger markets have so much competition, it’s a good idea to pick a niche within a niche.
For instance, if you want to create a dog training membership site, it might be hard to break into that market, even harder to dominate it.
But, what if you created a membership site to train a specific kind of dog, or a site about how to train a dog for apartment living?
By sub-niching like this, you are much less likely to have any strong competition. You’ll be in a smaller market, but you can completely dominate that market.
Think about how long you will be able to keep members. Are they just looking for a quick fix to something? You might be better off just creating a single product.
Will they benefit from ongoing training, and cutting edge discoveries? Then that niche is perfect for long term memberships.
Also, keep in mind, some sites might only be profitable certain times of the year because of the specific nature of the niche.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something you need to consider and be aware of.
It tends to be easier if your site works year round, and is set up for long term membership. Not only is it easier, but will often make you the most money.
Lastly, is this a niche that will still be around in a couple years? What about five years?
It’s better to focus on an evergreen market, or a market that will always be around.
The niches I mentioned at the beginning of this section are good examples of evergreen markets: weight loss, making money, attraction/seduction, etc.
If you’re still having trouble trying to choose a niche, here’s a good tip. Head over to ClickBank.com and browse their marketplace.
You will see they have a lot of categories and subcategories. These are all proven niches that make money. Take a look and see if any of them would interest you.
Take your time researching and picking your niche. Follow the advice in this section and choose wisely.
You don’t want to randomly just pick something and start working on your site. This research phase is one of the most important steps.
Once you’ve figured out what niche you are going to work in, it’s time to move on with the next section.
MEMBERSHIP SITE MODELS
So, you have chosen a niche. You now need to figure out what kind of model your membership site is going to follow. There are generally two different kinds of models.
A limited time membership, and an ongoing membership.
With a limited time membership, you’re members are signing up for only so many weeks or months of material and then the recurring payments stop.
They are usually paying per month, but you can also set it up as weekly or bi-weekly.
The reason to use a limited time membership structure is if you’re presenting a complete course for the member to follow.
The advantage of a limited time membership is that they can often be easier to get prospective members to sign up for.
The other option is the ongoing membership site.
With this kind of site the members are signing up to always have fresh content delivered to them on an ongoing basis.
A good example of this is a membership site that is for people interested in making money by trading stocks.
They would sign up to your site so they can always be on the cutting edge of trading techniques as well as being up to date with the market.
The obvious advantage to an ongoing membership site is that you can have that recurring income indefinitely, as long as they still see value in your new content.
Even if you do choose to do a limited time membership site. It might be a good idea to have an option at the end if they want to continue to pay you.
This could be in the form of a monthly newsletter, or them paying to be part of a private community.
Of course it really depends on the niche when figuring out if this is an option for you.
When trying to figure out if you should do a limited time membership site or an ongoing membership site, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
Will your niche benefit from learning about new market developments? Will you be able to keep coming up with new ideas and content that is valuable to your niche?
Do your members only need a quick solution to their problem and nothing further?
Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to structure your membership site, move on to the next section.
This is another important question that you need to answer. Take your time and do your research. Don’t just randomly pick a price that sounds good.
Ask too little, and you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. Ask too much, and you won’t have enough customers.
The trick is to find that sweet spot that’s just right for your site. How do you do that? A little research.
Open up google, and do a search for membership sites based around your market. Check the top two or three sites in your niche. What are they charging?
This will give you an idea of what you can charge. From there it is up to you to decide if you want to charge the same as them, charge less, or charge more.
Don’t think you need to be cheaper than your competition to be successful.
By charging more than a competitor, you are demonstrating a higher perceived value than they are.
Potential customers will see this and assume that because you charge more, your content must be better.
If you charge more than the competition, just make sure to DELIVER on the content. Perceived value only works until they actually have the content in front of them.
The quality of the content must match or exceed the perceived value.
If you are lucky enough to be in a profitable niche and there doesn’t seem to be any other membership sites, FANTASTIC!
The only downside is this will make pricing slightly more difficult. Since there are no membership sites to compare to, google products related to your niche.
Or, head back to Clickbank and see if there are products listed within your niche.
By researching the products, you can get a feel for what customers in that niche tend to spend.
That should lead you to a good idea of what a monthly charge should look like for your site.
Although it’s important to have an idea what you’re going to charge, don’t worry if it’s not perfect. You can easily run a split test to see what the optimal price is.
Essentially, a split test is splitting your traffic between different sales pages.
For our pricing purposes, you simply have different prices on the different sales pages and track it with analytics software.
The sales page that gets more members to sign up, is the price that you should set your membership site at. This guide isn’t going to cover how to set up a split test.
If you haven’t done one before, just google it. It’s actually really simple to set up. Google has free services that you can set up.
Just google “Google website optimizer” and follow the instructions when you’re ready to run a split test.
Once you’ve figured out what you will be charging, move on with the next section.
This is the point where you want to think about the delivery method of your membership site. There are a few different ways you can set it up.
I’ll cover them here and you can figure out which would work best for your membership program.
Traditionally, the members are simply given access to a private website after setting up payments.
The content is then released to the member on a weekly or daily basis.
A twist on this format is the coaching program. Your membership site is set up to coach the members by releasing modules of the program at given intervals.
A coaching program will usually be limited time membership, not an ongoing site.
A lot of owners of these sites do coaching events, where members all join at the same time and are all released content at the same time.
The nice thing about this is that the students can discuss their progress with other students within private forums.
Also, at the end of each week, the site owner will usually do a live question and answer session to answer any questions that may have come up with that week’s material.
A much simpler delivery method is through an email autoresponder. Using a service like AWeber, you simply have your members opt-in to a specific email list after they have paid.
With an autoresponder you can set up a sequence of emails to be delivered at specific intervals from when they first opted-in to your list.
There really is no easier way than running your entire membership program than doing it by email.
It’s super easy to set up, it runs automatically, and it is incredibly cheap compared to other membership site services and software.
The downside of doing it all through an email autoresponder is that there is no community interaction between your members, and they won’t get any of the other useful tools and features that come with quality membership software.
Once you’ve figured out which delivery method is best for you and your chosen niche, move on to the next section.
MEMBERSHIP SITE SOFTWARE
So, you’ve figured out what delivery method you are going to use.
If you are going the email autoresponder route, all you need is an account with Aweber or another autoresponder service that you like.
If you are setting your membership program up in a more traditional way, then you are going to need to choose which software you are going to use.
When looking at the different software services that are available, it’s important to choose the one that is best for your niche, and has all the features that you would want to use.
There are a few things you need to consider when choosing the software for your membership site:
Simplicity is important, especially if this is your first membership site.
You need to make sure that you will be able to easily set it up, and update it with as little hassle as possible.
Luckily, most software understands how important this is, and is designed to be as painless as possible to set up.
Now, if you need software to have certain features, but it’s slightly more complex to set up, that’s okay.
Although simplicity is important, you want to be able to deliver great content and value for your members.
You need to make sure that the software you choose is adaptable to different needs.
Right now, you may only need certain features, but if your membership would like additional features, or if you decide to make big changes to your site, you need to make sure your software will be able to accommodate that in the future.
Flexibility can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
You don’t want to have to switch to entirely different software because of a couple small changes you want to make in how your program works.
Most importantly, you need to make sure your membership site is scalable.
You might only have 50 members in your first couple months, but what if all the sudden your membership jumps up to 2000, or more?
Will your software be able to handle it?
You need to make sure that the software or service you are using, can easily be scaled up to meet the demands of a growing business.
There is nothing worse than having a couple thousand people wanting to give you money every month and you not being able to accommodate them.
Lastly, keep in mind the support system of your software. If you have a problem, will the software company be able to quickly get your problems solved?
Not being able to solve problems quickly can make for some very unhappy members.
When searching for membership site services or software, please, take your time. Make sure it is the right service for you. Do a lot of research.
All of the different service and software companies out there will have their features extensively listed, and most will have videos or a video series that goes into detail about what they can offer, and at what prices.
Once you have an idea of what software company you are going to go with, move on to the next section.
Here’s a rundown of some of the more popular options available:
This software is installed on your own domain and allows you to offer multiple access levels accept payments, manage profiles, deliver digital content, integrate with your blog, CMS, send newsletters and the ability to run affiliate program. There’s a onetime purchase fee with support included for the first year. There is a bit of a learning curve with this one, but it’s powerful features are well worth it.
Is an all in one subscription website builder with loads of features. It allows you to offer recurring subscriptions, enables you to easily track, manage and contact your members. It offers a full-fledged online store to sell both physical and digital products to both members and non-members. They offer a free trial, with monthly and annual payment options.
This is another all-in-one web publishing solution for building and managing a subscription based website. Like Amember, this software can be purchased outright and is installed on your own domain. It allows you to easily accept payments, publish content, offer an affiliate program and more.
This is a plugin that adds membership features to a standard WordPress blog. Just in case you aren’t familiar with WordPress, it’s an open-source platform, that makes it easy and affordable to build your own website. WishList is a powerful solution that offers quick and easy setup, with all the bells and whistles. It has two license options available with no ongoing monthly fees.
When it comes to using WordPress, Wishlist isn’t your only option. There are many paid and free plugins available. If you’re currently using it for your business all you have to do is login to your dashboard, choose to add a new plugin and search for membership.
Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list. There are so many options available like Joomla, ProductDyno, Infusionsoft, Memberpress and more.
My best advice is to start by making a list of features that you’d like to have and then take some time to do your research, read reviews and ask questions before you begin building.
It’s important to start your site on a solid foundation, so that it has the best chance of being successful and profitable.
MAKE MORE MONEY
Having a membership site with recurring payments can be very profitable. But, there are so many more ways to make money with your membership site.
You have to remember, you now have an audience of customers in front of you, and more importantly they have already proven that they are willing to spend money! It’s important to maximize your profits with them.
Here are some ideas that you can use to get the most out of your niche membership site:
You don’t need to have one flat rate for all of your members.
By having different levels of membership, you can offer different levels of content at appropriate prices for each level.
The base level of content will be your cheapest subscription price, while your VIP premium content would go above and beyond the lower levels, and be a much higher monthly price.
Commonly, membership sites have levels of bronze, silver, gold, and platinum.
The higher the level, the more access that member has to premium content, as well as more site features.
You can easily make money by placing ads on your site that are appropriate for your niche market.
Just make sure you don’t go overboard with ads and turn off your members. Personally, I have a rule to never have more than one or two ads per page of content.
You can even have a feature for premium members to not see ads if your software supports that.
By setting up an affiliate program, you are essentially giving commissions to whoever helps you sign up new members.
You should make your affiliate program available to other marketers and existing members. Make sure to offer a very competitive commission.
I recommend 50-75% of monthly payments for each member they sign up.
This may sound steep, but you need to keep in mind that these are memberships that you might otherwise not get.
By offering a high commission, you attract more affiliates and bigger affiliates. What you lose in profit margin, you easily make up for in volume.
Take care of your affiliates, and they will take care of you.
Send Offers To Your List
Everyone who signs up to your membership site, should be on a members email list. You can then send this list offers promoting different products or services.
You can send offers of new products you’ve created, or even send them to affiliate offers where you make a commission.
There is also the option of letting others advertise to your list. This is entirely up to you.
Just make sure whatever you are sending is of high quality, and that your members can actually benefit from the offer.
Members can have the option of signing up to a special newsletter for a monthly fee. This newsletter will give exclusive content that is not available on the site.
Newsletters are especially good with coaching programs or any other membership program that might only last for a limited time.
When they are done with the coaching program (lets say it lasts three months) they now can sign up to be delivered new, up-to-date content, and you get to keep getting paid by them for an indefinite amount of time.
One final thought about maximizing your earning potential with your membership site. Most of your revenue will come from subscriptions.
You need to make sure that you are retaining customers as long as possible, and renewing memberships of customers who may have canceled.
To retain members, make sure your content is always at the highest possible quality.
Over-deliver on everything. Be extremely active within the member’s community. If you set up a private forum for your members, be active on discussions within it.
Listen to your members concerns, and see what you can do to help them.
If a member does cancel, have an automated message go out letting them know how much their membership means to them.
Offer them a discount to rejoin. Try to find out why they canceled, and see if there is something you can do to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
There is one more topic I want to quickly cover about your membership site.
You can have the greatest membership in the world, but it is all for nothing if you can’t get people to sign up.
You already have an offer, now you need to put that offer in front of people.
Entire books can be, and have been, written about getting traffic to your site. It’s one of the single most important aspects of doing business online.
There are a few main ways people tend to get traffic to their website. I’ll give descriptions of them all here, and let you know which ones I think are best.
Or “search engine optimization.”
This simply means that you are getting traffic from search engines when people are searching for keywords that have to do with your niche site.
If you can manage to get to the number one spot on google for highly searched keywords, this can mean wonders for your business.
Unfortunately, this is one of the most time consuming ways of getting traffic. The endless backlinking can always be undone by a simple Google update.
Also, there are no guarantees that you will make it to even the front page of Google, even if you think you are doing everything right.
Although SEO can be very effective, I think there are much easier ways to get traffic.
This can be the google/yahoo/msn ads. This can be banner ads. This can be email advertisements.
You do need to make sure that you know what you’re doing when you start advertising. You can lose a lot of money if you don’t have things working optimally.
Make sure to endlessly test your ads and sales funnel. Advertising can bring in a lot of traffic very quickly, just make sure you’re making more than you’re spending.
Not a bad way to get traffic, but still not the best in my opinion.
Now this is where things get fun. Why bother with SEO and advertising when you can just get others to do all the hard work for you?
The trick is to have affiliates send you traffic on a regular basis. Unlike advertising, you only pay when someone signs up, so there is not a high upfront cost.
Not only can you have your membership site set up with an affiliate program, but here is another trick. Create a product that has to do with your niche, a pdf or a video.
Take that product and sell it with 100% commission paid to affiliates. Affiliates love to jump at 100% commission, who wouldn’t?
Now to get the product they must opt-in to your list. As an upsell, you can send them the offer to your membership site.
You can even wait a week to send your offer, so that they have had a chance to enjoy your product.
If you deliver on the initial product, they will be excited at the chance to join your membership site.
So there you have a complete step-by-step guide to starting your own membership site. The earning power of a recurring income can be staggering.
I’ll leave you with one last tip. When starting a membership site, it will be most effective as part of a larger sales funnel that includes other products and offers.
Strategic place your membership site offer within your sales funnel, and you will be well on your way to maximizing your revenue from each customer.