July 16, 2021
"How To Start a Membership Site" over talk bubbles on an orange background

Have you identified specific areas of interest that your audience needs? Are you looking to develop a new source of revenue? Both? A membership site may be the answer.

Creating a membership site does not have to be complicated. Keep reading to learn how to start a membership site in nine simple steps.

What is a Membership Site?

A membership website is an online community that offers content only members can access. The site could consist of various types of membership content, including videos, online courses, or access to coaching.

The key to a membership site is to provide greater value than what you offer for free on your regular site. In other words, potential members have to see the value in paying for the content.

Why Start a Membership Site?

One reason to start a membership site is that you have valuable content to share and your audience is willing to pay for it. But that’s not the only reason.

Other reasons to start a membership site include:

  • Continuous Revenue. A membership site creates recurring revenue — money that comes in every month from subscriptions. It’s an excellent way to supplement your income.
  • Community Building. A membership site helps you develop deeper relationships with people who have an interest in common with you. It also allows you to help connect those people.
  • Establishing Authority. You build a membership site around your expertise. But having a site where people know you for a specific topic helps you establish your authority too.
  • Loyalty. The more information you provide and the greater relationships you build, the more loyal your audience becomes. Dedicated audience members stay, meaning you don’t have to spend as much time or money on recruitment or retention. Loyal audience members also are likely to purchase other products you provide in the future. Plus, dedicated audience members will recommend your site to their friends, helping you generate new leads.
  • Monetizing Expertise. A membership site helps you give your loyal audience more in-depth information for a fixed fee.

Membership Site Challenges

At this point, starting a membership site probably seems like a no-brainer. But providing this type of next-level content is not without challenges.

Some of the challenges of membership sites include:

  • Maintaining Relevance. You have to stay one step ahead of news and trends in your niche to make sure your members get the best content. Thinking creatively, strategically, and proactively about your niche is a full-time job.
  • Recruitment. Members may leave your community. There is a constant need to grow your membership list.
  • Frequent Updates. You need to continue offering new or updated content. Fresh content means more work.
  • Tech Savvy. You’ll need the knowledge to build and run your membership site. If you don’t have this know-how, you have to hire someone else to do it or find the right resources.

How to Start a Membership Site

Starting a membership site today is much easier than in the past. But it won’t happen on its own or without thoughtful planning and technical expertise.

Here’s how to start a membership site in nine simple steps.

1. Brainstorm Membership Site Ideas

If you’re reading this post, you probably have a pretty good idea of what you want your membership site to offer. But perhaps you have multiple ideas or just know you have more to offer.

First, make a list of your talents, skills, interests, and experiences. Next, think about what membership sites you use. Then, consider the types of content your audience needs. Finally, think about how you can fulfill those needs with different or better content than the competition provides.

2. Plan Your Membership Program

Once you settle on an idea that best fulfills your audience’s needs, think about what your offerings will look like.

Consider membership program details, including:

  • What you’ll offer.
  • Where will you land on membership pricing.
  • What format you’ll deliver it in.
  • How often you’ll post new offerings.
  • The length of membership.
  • How you’ll encourage your current audience to join.
  • How you’ll recruit new members.
  • How you’ll build community.
  • What you’ll do to retain members.

There’s a lot to work to do before you launch a site to make sure it’s successful. Considering these things in advance will help. Of course, you can adjust along the way as necessary.

3. Research Tools

How will you host your membership site and provide the content?

You need three basic things to start a membership site today:

  1. A domain name.
  2. A web hosting account.
  3. A membership plugin.

If you already have an audience, you likely already have a website. Your membership site can run off of it. Make sure your web host will provide your membership site with the support it needs. If you opt for the cheapest hosting, it’s not going to give the best experience. You need a full-service WordPress host company that cares about your site’s performance.

There are many free and paid WordPress membership plugins, including MemberPress, LearnDash, and Teachable. Each plugin has different features. But, the features make them bulky, which again makes having the right host essential to avoid performance issues on your WordPress site.

To choose a WordPress membership plugin, determine what features you want on your site, then research which plugin does those things best.

4. Price Your Membership Program

Decide which tools you will use for your site. This will help you understand the overhead costs associated with running your membership site. Then you’ll need to decide how much you need to charge for membership and how long the membership will last. Don’t forget to account for your time. And, of course, you must consider how much your audience is willing to pay for the content you’ll provide.

5. Create Content

Once you’ve made the behind-the-scenes plans, it’s time to create the content you’ll deliver. Content creation is the most time-consuming part of a membership site. You need to make at least enough content to launch. Then you need a plan for creating more content as you go.

Remember that people pay for this content because they expect it to be more in-depth, professional, and visually appealing than what they get for free.

6. Build Your Membership Site

How you build your membership site depends to some extent on the membership plugin you choose. General steps for building your membership site include:

  • Activating the plugin.
  • Adding a payment method, including pricing and frequency.
  • Creating membership levels, if you have them.
  • Adding a pricing page.
  • Restricting access according to plan.
  • Adding members-only content.
  • Adding signup and user login forms.
  • Customizing emails or other membership subscription messages.

7. Market Your Membership Site

You can’t just launch your membership site and expect people to flock to it. Instead, market your site to existing and new visitors before it launches and at the launch. Then continue promoting the site and its various offerings as you add content.

8. Keep Your Membership Site Active

Launching a membership site then failing to keep it going is not only disappointing to paying customers, it’s fraudulent. It’s your responsibility to give members the content they pay for. You also must continue adding members and building community to make the site valuable.

9. Always Seek Improvement

You can’t build your membership site and forget it. You should always look for ways to improve your membership site and its offerings. In other words, you should always be thinking about how you can better serve your audience.

Start a Membership Site With Nexcess

A good host is a must-have for a robust and functional membership site. Failure to hire a professional hosting service will leave you with a number of problems including slow site speed, poor performance, and most of all a bad user experience.

Nexcess provides fully managed hosting for your WordPress site, including membership sites.

For more information, check out Nexcess Managed WordPress today.


Nexcess, the premium hosting provider for WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento, is optimized for your hosting needs. Nexcess provides a managed hosting infrastructure, curated tools, and a team of experts that make it easy to build, manage, and grow your business online. Serving SMBs and the designers, developers, and agencies who create for them, Nexcess has provided fully managed, high-performance cloud solutions for more than 22 years.

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