Membership sites offer the best of times and the worst of times.
Believe me, I know.
Back in 2010, my first foray into profiting from my online business was a member site I created called My Big Brand System.
I learned everything I could about creating membership sites from Teaching Sells, a course I took from the team at Copyblogger.
To be perfectly honest, running that membership site was not an entirely positive experience for me.
Here’s what I loved about my member site:
- Sharing a topic I was passionate about with an interested audience of adult learners
- Serving the community that gathered around my information: they were amazing
- Seeing the recurring income that began flowing into my business
Here’s what I did not love about it:
- That the interested audience of adult learners was tiny: that site never blossomed into the large, active community I dreamed of
- That I had to continue to produce content for my small group of members month after month
- That the recurring income that flowed into my business was only a trickle — it didn’t cover the time I spent working on the site
The rose-colored promise of a profitable membership site
When everything is working as it should, membership sites can be the best of all worlds for your online business.
You’re sharing a topic you love with a group of people who want to know more about it.
You experience the joy of seeing people benefit from applying the hard-earned knowledge you share.
You count on reliable income: every month that goes by, a similar amount of profit flows into your business.
This consistent income allows you to do a lot of things. Think about it:
- You could hire an assistant to help you with repetitive, trainable tasks
- You could invest in advertising to promote your member site
- You could pay for professional-level design and editing services for your member site content
The crappy reality of a membership site that doesn’t live up to its potential
When a membership site goes bad, it becomes like a ball and chain you have to drag along behind you.
Month after month you must produce new content to fulfill your obligations to your members. And if the site isn’t bringing in the income you expected, you can find yourself working very hard for little or no pay.
Plus, you have no choice but to:
- Continually delight members so you keep your “churn” number low: this is the number of customers who drop out of your program
- Market it consistently and actively find ways to make it new and exciting to your members
Should you create a membership site?
If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have filled your ears with cautionary tales about taking on the responsibility of a membership site for all of the reasons outlined above.
But my view has changed — because of a new course I took.
In 2016, I took Stu McLaren’s TRIBE course. Stu is one of the original team members behind Wishlist member software, so he has seen firsthand what works in member sites technically.
More importantly, Stu is the person behind some of the most financially successful member sites in the world, including my fellow Nashvillian Michael Hyatt’s Platform University site.
Several years ago, Michael approached Stu for help with his member site. Stu analyzed what was working and what needed improvement. Then he set about systematically improving every aspect of the site, from the way content is structured and presented, to how the site is marketed.
Today, Michael’s site has 6,000 members who pay $30/month.
(No need to grab your calculator: that’s $180,000/month.)
Stu’s course is one of the BIG reasons I created my own membership site, The BIG League!