As far as online business models go, membership sites are very lucrative. Yes, they do have their challenges, but they are very lucrative indeed if executed correctly.
What it is:
Having a content membership site means that you offer a selection of digital content to buyers, or free and/or paid subscribers. It can be a selection of ebooks, videos, resources, graphics, tools, private forum access, coaching material, or any combination of these. Depending on the niche and what you offer, the pricing can vary considerably.
Where the money comes from:
In most cases, membership sites work on the “freemium” model – meaning that you offer limited access to free members, but most of your money comes from paying members. Some of your free members will eventually convert to paid members. In addition to that, all of your members remain on your mailing list, which allows you to present them with other offers as you see fit.
Free or paid?
Offering a free membership site may sound stupid – but there is some method in the madness. Firstly, a free site means that your members have lesser expectations. It also means that you are able to build a list quite easily, to which you can market as you please. In addition to that, you can always add login ads to your membership area, and place a one time offer or any other offer in front of your members each time they log in. If you update the content of your site from time to time, you can invite them to check out the new additions every time you do.
On the other hand, gathering content can be an expensive exercise – especially if you want to offer high quality content. If this is the route you choose to go, making the whole site freely available makes no sense.
The freemium membership model:
The ideal content membership site model is one where a limited portion of your site is accessible for free, and the larger part is paid. Depending on the amount of content you have available, you can also have different paid membership levels.
Continuity payments or not?
Continuity simply means you charge a recurring access fee. Ideally, this means that you can systematically build a solid monthly income – but it also means that your members will expect to see regular additions to the content you offer. After all, if they don’t see anything new being added, they will just take what they can, and cancel.
Some owners of successful membership sites also allow their members to pay annually – at a discounted rate. If these members keep seeing emails about new content being added from time to time, they will be more likely to renew their subscriptions, landing you substantial amounts of money every time they do.
If you are just starting out, you may want to present it as a once off purchase. If you decide to add new content on a regular basis, you can always add that to a higher level of membership, and ask a recurring payment. You can offer your existing paid members a free trial to show them what they can expect.
One of the great things about having a membership site is the scale-a-bility. Depending on the niche you operate in, you could have millions of potential clients out there. Once you have established profitability, you can simply keep growing it.
Note: If you want to be able to scale your content membership site, get the right tools. Personally, I recommend Digital Access Pass – which takes care of everything from payments to product delivery to membership levels to affiliates (although do note there is a learning curve, but support is outstanding). And having affiliates is a sure-fire way to grow your membership count.
Depending on the audience you want to provide for, your content could be something you purchased in bulk, or it could be something created specifically for your membership site. If you just want to start off with a free membership site, you can even collect free stuff from around the web.
The logical thing to do, however, is to buy a ready-made membership site – which saves you a LOT of time in terms of setup and growing it, which in turn means you can start generating money much sooner.
Note: You may want to have a look at Member Command – which offers some unique solutions to people who are wary of the site creation part. Take note that it is only for people who are serious about owning their own membership sites
Having a membership site adds a measure of authority to your online presence. It will definitely help you to sell your standalone products. In addition to that, if done correctly, it can be a most lucrative business model. There are many people on the internet who do ONLY membership sites, and who make solid amounts of money from them.