It’s interesting to me how we make things complicated when they don’t need to be. Believe me, I’m guilty of it too.
Take creating a membership site for example.
I speak with people all the time who want to have a membership site of their own but can’t get started.
There is no doubt – owning a membership site is profitable and fun. I own nine and so have a little experience at this.
But, looking back, I can see that I made the process much harder than it needed to be when I started.
So here’s what I would do today, if I were starting from scratch, and wanted to build my own profitable membership site.
Step 1 – Focus on content, not structure
Having a membership site means being a servant. You serve your members or you fail. You meet their needs or you meet rejection.
While you can’t be all things to all people, you do need to know what you are good at and what value you will deliver to members.
So step 1 is simple: What value will you bring members?
Step 2 – Start with a blog
You are going to need a home base. More importantly, you are going to want one home base from which you can provide free content to the public and access-only content to members.
For this, your blog is ideal.
If you don’t have one now, start a blog using your personal name. Your name is your brand and you are the brand in the beginning.
In the early days you will provide lots of free content via article writing and curation. This is how you attract an audience.
As time goes by, you will put some of your content behind a “paywall”. That’s just a fancy way of saying that people need to pay to see certain content.
Step 3 – Build your email list
Email? Yep, your email list is your membership site in the beginning.
With an email list you can send messages when you want, about anything you want, and have people click through to the content you want to share right now.
- When you post content, send a message.
- When you want to ask a question, send a message.
- When you want to have a conversation send a message.
- When you can add value, send a message.
- When you have something to promote, send a message.
As long as you keep it in balance, sending messages to those who chose to be on your list is really all you need to succeed online.
Also, there are huge advantages to this minimalist approach.
- You don’t need expensive software.
- No one needs to log in to anything.
- No one ever loses their password because there are no passwords.
- The content you share can be indexed by search engines.
- With one signup (the opt in) someone can join your site.
Step 4 – Expand using a plugin or WordPress
When the time comes that your content is sellable, you want to protect it behind a membership wall. It’s actually quite easy to do today.
WordPress has membership capabilities built right in. You can let people log in and see only the content you choose.
If you want more, and most do, you can easily find a free plugin that will allow you to create a simple membership site using nothing more than WordPress.
The real key here is this – you are going to restrict who can see certain content like pages and posts.
If you need more, like multiple membership levels, integrations with various payment processors, and more, you’re going to want a plugin like Wishlist Member.
There are services, like Kajabi, that create entire membership sites for you. They create all sorts of sales funnels, login areas and more. That’s good, and I use Kajabi personally, but these are overkill for people starting out.
If I were starting again I would use WordPress, Optimize Press (as a WordPress theme) and Wishlist Member for membership access.
In fact, that’s what I’m doing right now and have for my last several membership sites.
Having your own membership site is fun, profitable and a great way to deliver value to people who need your help.
But setting up a membership site can be a challenge, and is often the thing that trips people up and stops them from fulfilling their dreams.
It does not need to be this way.
Here’s my step-by-step summary.
- Start simple – a blog, an autoresponder and a sign up form – and deliver the best content you can.
- Once you have done that well, start putting some of your content behind a membership area using a simple plugin.
- Begin charging for the member-only content and build your membership business that way.
The key to this plan is delivering value, creating community and being strategic about what content is delivered free and what is worth charging for.
Start small, but start today.
Because having a membership site of your own, and helping members succeed in life, those are beautiful things indeed!