How To Launch A STUNNING Membership Site for Under $200
CREATING A MEMBERSHIP SITE ISN’T OUT OF REACH FOR YOU…AT ALL!!
HA!!!!! The world said I couldn’t multi-task…and I said: “WATCH ME!”.
Well…sorta. This morning I wrote an email AND a blog post at the same time. Jane Travis, a long time Uncork Your Dork community member, shot me an email this morning that I got QUICKLY giddy over!! If you’ve been THINKING about launching a membership site but aren’t sure if it’s something that you can even do by yourself…THIS is the post to ease your fears, and get you creating!!!
Hi Terra! I hope you don’t mind me emailing – I’ve followed you for yonks, and recently was in the BBBB FB group – you very kindly did a quick vid about slides for me.
I just joined the Membersite Academy, and see you’re in there.
I’m sorry – I know this is a ‘pick your brain’ email, but I know you’ll know the answer!
I want to start a membership site. I’ve got quotes or 2.5k – 6k to have one built from scratch, which is outside my budget at the mo. I think you built yours – how much of a headache was it to do yourself? And who do you use for hosting?
I desperately want to get started but I have this hurdle to jump first!
Much love Jane x
AH! I love this question SO much!!! Part of the rebrand in the “Wham! Bam! Business Plan!” (formerly the Blogger’s Guide to Traffic) is creating new trainings and courses on memberships, subscriptions and a ton more on recurring revenue!!! SO yeah…needless to say, this question excites me!! lol.
You will absolutely LOOOOOOOOVE Membersite academy!!! Mike and Callie are the best!! I also recommend you listen to their Podcasts…it’s a HUGE resource for membership information!!
Ok…SO, to answer your question, you DEFINITELY don’t need to spend $6,000 on a membership! You have a few different VERY affordable solutions for you to get started with!
THE MEMBERSHIP SOLUTION I WENT WITH
For MY membership, I use the Memberoni Theme (you get that for free if you are a member of Membersite academy!! It’s in their resources section!) with WordPress.
That will give you the course/video/download structure I have in my membership. (It looks almost identical to the Membersite guys…except for a few custom pages I have in mine, which I created with ThriveThemes.)
The theme just covers the structure and organization…so you’ll need to use a membership WordPress plugin that restricts access for members and non-members. I use Memberpress, which I’ve LOVED. It DOES take a little bit of a learning curve, but there are a LOT of trainings on it inside of the Membersite academy. Callie and Mike walk you step by step through the set up!!
If you’re going to have a community inside of your membership, I recommend either BBPress if you want a forum…or Mighty Network, which is what I use! I have the IPBoard plugin installed (that’s a WAY more advanced forum system)…but I found my members just didn’t chat in the forum as much, so it didn’t justify the price tag. In addition, it was a ROYAL pain to set up.
BBPress is a forum platform that is gorgeous and free…and you can host it on your WordPress account.
Mighty Networks is REALLY fun, also free, and even has a phone app to help keep your members in the loop when someone posts! It’s hosted on its own system, though…you just create your group and send out the “sign up” link. Like I said, Mighty Networks is my ABSOLUTE favorite!! It’s really facilitated conversations, connections, and curation of some incredibly helpful links and resources from across the internet. Our members LOVE hanging out in the community on their cell phones and laptops alike!
As far as my hosting platform goes…I use SiteGround to host my WordPress platform based membership!! Over the last 15 years, I’ve literally used them all…and Siteground has one my heart. If you need help installing, activating, or creating anything…they have a 24-hour chat available! They don’t really let you stumble through everything in the dark. They’d much prefer to help you get it fixed/installed…and have you spend your time tooting their horn. lmao. I LOVE that in a company!
Actually, in the past when I’ve been asked about automation tools…I’ve listed Siteground as one of them!! I should have talked about them in the BBBB challenge!! They’ve saved me a TON of time and gray hair.
In total, the systems above should only cost you around $100-$200 to get started…depending on what you want to go with!!!
Although I’m absolutely in LOVE with the tools I’ve chosen to use, each membership is different…simply because each business owner’s needs are different!! So, in case the above still seems a bit “not your style”, here are some additional solutions!
Option #1: One of the EASIEST solutions I’ve found, is to create a Squarespace site and use the plugin Memberspace. I believe they are around $15 a month. They make it ASTOUNDINGLY easy! You create your site and all of your pages on Squarespace, then you simply tell Memberspace which pages should be under which membership. You can create multiple memberships SUPER easy. (I actually use Memberspace to keep my summits behind a paywall after they are over!! I’ve LOVED working with them!)
The only drawback is every page and navigation will need to be custom. Instead of using a theme to automatically organize your site, you’ll be creating your courses and lesson pages out of scratch. This is SOOOOOOOO not difficult with Squarespace…just a little more of a thinker. lol. (I’m gonna lie…I thought the process was fun, but if design ain’t yo thing, I’d steer clear of this option.)
This option is GREAT if you are simply wanting to create lesson pages, don’t plan on adding in gamification or advanced customizations in the future, or simply need a quick place to put content you’ve already created behind a paywall.
Option #2: A great alternative to the Memberpress plugin is going to be the Membermouse plugin. I almost went with this one, but ended up with Memberpress simply because it had some functions that I needed…and Mike and Callie walk you through everything to get set up with Memberpress. You’ll be a little on your own with Membermouse. I definitely recommend checking out both, though!!
In all honesty, there are a TON of plugins out there…but these three options are the options I recommend!! I’ve tried them all out, and they are all pretty solid.
OK…before I hit send on this bad boy email, I wanted to help you out in the “scary” department and give you a few more tips.
WHAT I'VE LEARNED SINCE LAUNCHING MY MEMBERSHIP FROM SCRATCH
Do NOT wait until you think you have the perfect content inside of your membership!! I actually did this correctly from the start, but I could have EASILY gone the other way!! I launched my membership when I had four, 30-day challenges under my belt.
Looking back…I don’t think this was GREAT material for a membership launch, but I’m SO glad I launched anyways!!
I have members inside of the membership that have stayed on simply because they know I’ll be changing the membership layout, adding content, hosting events, and other fun stuff!! I make sure to keep them up to date inside of the community with new changes!!
I’m telling you…if you hold back because you don’t think you have enough content, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot financially. Just make sure your first few members know that they are helping to shape what the membership will become!!
launch your membership with low pricing
Do NOT add a SUPER high pricetag straight out of the gate…even if you think your content is worth it!! I actually made this mistake…and I’m STILL regretting it. When you first launch, launch with the idea that your pricing WILL go up…and being able to up your pricing is a great way to add new members in.
I guarantee you, if you do this right, your membership site will morph and change and grow out of that “membership site puberty” time period REALLY quickly.
The Wham! Bam! Business Plan will be open for a year in May 2018…but it’s direction, content, brand, and maturity increased SUPER quick!! So yeah…start low, $15-$30…then, as you become more confident with the process, your content and your members, you can announce strategic price increases to help your membership grow even more!
invest in a tech guy!
WHEN YOU CAN, I highly recommend investing in an IT guy/team. I use Vic from Memberfix ( I LOOOOOOOVE him and his team… He’s a few hundred a month… but that’s not too difficult once you get enough members in your membership!
PLUS, he makes up for it SUPER fast.) I went for about 4 months on my own before I realized I was spending WAY more time fixing stuff I broke, ironing out payment issues, trying to figure out how to make a new idea happen…and I didn’t have time for creating content, launching my summits, chilling in the Facebook community and more.
Vic does pretty much EVERYTHING technical in my membership. He installs new plugins. He tells me if an idea I have for the membership is doable…then he starts the ball rolling. The second I get an email from a member saying something is wonky…I forward it to him. (Which hasn’t happened in MONTHS because he’s fixed everything that’s gone wonky. lol.)
I can now produce more content and events than I know what to do with!! (If you use a structure like Squarespace and Memberspace, you probably won’t have to do this. That system doesn’t really allow for too many technical difficulties…and both plugins are managed by their own team anyways.)
Try to get it right with your membership plugin the first time
I KNOW!!! This one sounds evil!!! lmao. But let me explain!! You’ll definitely mess up a lot…and that’s ok!!
What you NEED to try to get right the first time, however, is the membership plugin/platform you choose!! When I first started out, I launched on Teachable. They are a GREAT option if you simply want to put some courses behind a paywall and move on with your day. I THOUGHT that’s what I wanted…but it turns out, within a few months of launching, I wanted a LOT more.
I wanted to add in gamification. I wanted it to look more custom to my brand. I wanted it to feel a little more like a community and less like a course vault. I found out REALLY quickly, that if you need to change platforms (Teachable, Squarespace or WordPress), you’ll lose about 75% of your members. SO, I recommend sitting down and really figuring out what you’ll want in your membership…and which platform can do it for you. THINK BIG!! If you think you’ll want to go a little more custom in the future, definitely rule out Teachable.
If you go with WordPress, the SAME goes for your membership plugin!! If you decide to go with a different plugin later on down the line…it’s REALLY difficult to switch members over. Because you’re dealing with payment platforms, it’s not as easy as installing a new plugin and switching over their information.
You’ll have to get SOME of your subscribers to re-subscribe under the newly created memberships in your new plugin. This means…you’ll probably lose 75% of them. I THOUGHT about changing to Membermouse a few months ago, but Vic talked me off of that ledge and saved me from losing a good portion of my member base…AGAIN. SO…try to get your platform and plugin as close to what you think you need as possible!
you are totally going to fail
This is actually a GREAT thing!!! lol. Creating this membership has been a blast, simply because it’s allowed me to be a mad scientist heading up an ongoing experiment for the last year!!
A day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t been excited to try something new, add new content, create a new promotion, or simply learn how to do something new!!
BUT, with all of that, there has been a TON of failure. I’ve tried a lot of stuff…and it totally hasn’t worked. lol. Just know, going into all of this, that you’ll probably fail a LOT…but you’ll learn even more!! Be ok with failure and ready to jump back into the game the next day!!
people are going to pause or cancel...it's going to suck...always
I don’t think this gets easy…EVER. I don’t care if you have 3,000 members or 3. People are going to pause or cancel…and THIS IS THE SUCKIEST THING EVER!! It really feels kinda like “what did I do wrong?” or “YOU DON’T LIKE ME??” every time.
Half of the time, they’ll pause or cancel for financial reasons…or simply because they haven’t tackled the content! But it’s easy to take it personally.
To soften the blow, have a plan in place for everytime someone quits. In The Wham! Bam! Business Plan!, I have a plugin installed (the Membersite academy has a course on this!!) that allows you to ask your member why they are leaving on the way out. This has helped me IMMENSELY!!!
What solution have I put it place? That brings me to my next tip!
"No business is created in a linear fashion, & there are always going to be twists & turns, ups & downs, and vomit-inducing towers of terror."
create a roadmap of your membership site
Since using the plugin mentioned above (the one that asks members why they are leaving), I’ve been able to see a pattern develop with my alumni members!! Minus a few, my members were primarily bailing because they said they “didn’t have time” to get through the content.
Reading a little between the lines…I’ve quickly figured out that I wasn’t giving my members any DIRECTION. They were logging in, seeing all of this great content, and…getting confused about where to go next. They wanted someone to direct them from one course to the next!
*Duh moment of the day…lol.*
SO, I created and launched the Wham! Bam! Business Plan! It will walk my members through creating a business with a strong foundation to growing that business to creating a recurring revenue from that business. (TOLD you this was a great question!!! lmao.)
I recommend you create your OWN roadmap!! Where do you want your members to start? What is the middle level of learning? And where should your members end up after everything is said and done? Throughout this roadmap, I link to courses, live trainings, summit replays, and downloads.
And you don’t have to go all crazy-fancy with this!! You simply need to make sure your members know what to do next!! You can even have a simple checklist of your trainings in the order they should be taken. If you give that to your members from the beginning, they’ll have a roadmap!
create a membership site content calendar
This is a simple one!! You should try to add new content at LEAST once a month…ideally one small piece of content a week. The second you stop growing your membership…your members will start leaving. On that note, though…don’t overwhelm them!! If you add in too much content, you’ll start getting the “No time to get through everything” notice. (See: “People canceling sucks” above!)
make your membership site your priority
I wasn’t expecting this in the beginning, but the membership has BECOME the business. Everything I do inside of the blog, the Facebook group, the summits…literally, EVERYTHING is to get members into the membership. (Since turning this email into a blog post…I feel kinda meta.)
It’s going to become a balancing act of your membership…and your public content, I guarantee you!! I recommend going into this with the understanding that your membership is about to become your new business.
You’re not just a business owner anymore, Toto. You’re a membership site owner!! (This mentality will also help your business grow super fast!!)
Make sure you pay attention to this from the beginning!! Onboarding is the process your members go through when they FIRST sign up for your membership. With the Memberpress plugin, you’ll be able to have members directed to a specific page for their first few logins! This should be an onboarding page…walking them through the process of how the membership works, how to set up their account information, add a photo of themselves, which course to start with first, etc!!
This page is their orientation! Onboarding also includes a 4-6 email series all about the welcome, what to expect, where to start, how to jump into the community, and what your goal is for them while they are a member! The onboarding process is ALL about making them feel welcome, helping them get excited, and showing them where to go.
join other memberships!
Last, but definitely not least!!! (Especially if you are going to be using the WordPress platform)… I highly recommend you join a handful of memberships in your industry…or even outside of it!! These will help you see how the community functions, different ideas you can implement in your OWN community and even what you DON’T like about certain memberships!!
This will give you a GREAT idea of what you LOVE about other membership platforms AND what . you hate!
Hello! I just stumbled across your website and this article is extremely helpful!! I am just starting out and pushing hard to get a few months of content ready to launch my membership! I want to use Squarespace, only so I can build it since I can’t hire someone. and I didn’t know of the plug-in.
How long do you think I could run on that if I do see the membership becoming huge?
Hey Amie!!! Welcome to the site! 😀
Squarspace with the Memberspace plugin is a PHENOMENAL choice if you don’t have the time, money or tech know-how for a WP site! WP IS wonderful…but an absolute beast when it comes to membership sites.
SP and MP are perfect if you don’t think you’ll plan on adding in a lot of extra features with gamification, forums, or any of the fun WP plugins. The system is REALLY straightforward. You create content…MP protects it.
IF, however, you simple want to create content and a community that can grow…this is PERFECT. SP is INSANELY flexible when it comes to design and MP is GREAT for creating membership levels and easily protecting your content!! If you want a community to your membership, check out Mighty Networks! You can create your community (it’s what we use in our membership) and just add a button that links to the “auto invite” link that Mighty Networks gives you. 😀
Hey Tera. Do you offer 1-1 consulting?
I don’t…but I’d be more than happy to chat!! Drop me a line anytime!
I stumbled upon your site from Pinterest. This gives me hope for my future goals. Right now I’m practicing and learning on my first blog, but with the information here I know I now have options and a little better direction. This is such a wonderful site, I can’t wait to read more.
I would like to create a weekly painting instruction video + cheatsheet combined with a community (might network?).
So my content isn’t crazy complicated, but it drips. My users are probably a little older, so it shouldn’t be too complicated. If I look at Might Network it seems al little complicated. Can’t you do the whole weekly painting course in Might Network as well, and keep it all in> Or do you need SP or WP for your content? I do like the look of Membersite academy. I found the modern look & professionally very important. Any tip of what I should choose?
great info, thanks for this! I did get Memberpress but really hate the look of it. I cannot figure out how to make it look like a membership. Right now it just looks like my website and my daily content is just scheduled like a blog post. But I really wanted it to look like something different, like something nice they’re paying for and like you had said, I want it to have clear direction for the people. I thought about leaving Memberpress and going with something along the lines of Teachable, but I also want a community for the ladies to meet one another. Is there any way to make what I already have in Memberpress (and i Have buddy press) work??