I can talk about membership websites until the cows come home – and considering we own no cows, that could be a loooong time. I’ll try to keep it short ;)
Membership websites are one of the coolest passive income ideas I’ve ever come across. I truly believe that anyone can create one that is successful – read on to find out why.
What is a membership website?
A membership website offers content exclusive to members in exchange for membership fees, that are paid via monthly or annual subscriptions. Note the word subscriptions – the income generated is residual. With smart management, the income can grow over time from something modest to a rocking, full-time income.
Why are they so cool?
Subscription payments are certainly cool enough but what really makes a membership site special is this:
The can be about almost anything. Seriously.
People are passionate about so many different things. Think about all the different kinds of clubs out there (and I mean clubs about common interests, not the ones people hit on weekends).
Love parakeets? There’s a club for it. Organic gardening? There’s a club. Love spiders? There’s a club. Beagles? Roses? Exotic cuisine? Wine? Sneakers? Hiking? You’re covered – there’s a club for all of those things, and WAY more than that too.
(Aside: I think I just stumbled on the early form of There’s an app for that – clearly There’s a club for that still works too!)
A membership site is basically a club.
Historically clubs online have often taken the form of forums, places where people can discuss their passion (or argue about things like imbeciles). Many, if not all membership sites include a forum for discussion.
But you can’t slap a paywall on a forum and expect automatic income.
You need to provide value.
Besides community, you need to provide valuable content to attract the members – and to give them a good reason to stay. There are plenty of places to discuss passions online, including Facebook and Twitter. You’ve really got to step it up and provide premium content that people want.
It’s all based around exclusive content. It could be articles (like magazines), ebooks (a model I’ve had modest success with), eCourses (a great option for teaching) – or any combination thereof. Just like I advise for blogging, you have to be consistent in providing the content.
In fact, the online business training center I use & wholeheartedly recommend (Wealthy Affiliate) is basically an awesome membership club. The exclusive content includes training, real time support and a tremendous community of supportive and like-minded entrepreneurs.
What are the pros of membership sites?
You can start modestly, and they don’t cost and arm and a leg to get going (see below on starting one). Members also generate content via their questions and discussions, giving you new ideas and creating value themselves. A good membership site can be more reliable than a salary (unless you piss off all your members, which I suggest avoiding) while a great membership site can make you more money than you need.
What are the cons membership sites?
Like any business, they’re not a sure thing. There has to be a demand for what you’re offering. (Some detailed keyword research with a tool like Jaaxy should reveal whether a niche will work or not.)
And – wait for it – it takes work to build it up. You’ll have to create the exclusive content – a decent amount to start and a consistent flow to keep members engaged. And you’ll have to lead by example by being active and responsive.
Plus – and this may really, really suck – you’ll have to moderate forums and mediate disputes. Or you may have to deal with other issues entirely, depending on what your chosen niche is.
How can I start a membership site?
First, you’ll need a website built on WordPress. WordPress makes the membership software part easy by offering plugins that handle the features. I recommend checking out
- PaidMembershipsPro – free & fully featured, with solid paid support
- MemberPress – $99/$199, fully featured with complete affiliate system
- Ontraport – $297/mo+, a complete CRM, communication and membership solution used by many high-revenue sites
I myself have 2 in the works right now, so stay tuned for details on them in the future!
As far as passive income ideas go, membership websites simple rock. Do you agree or disagree?