Sh*t no one tells you: Membership Website Edition
Thinking about starting a membership website? This post is for you!
Membership websites can be a great way to build that holy grail of internet solopreneurs: passive income.
You’ve probably seen the words “passive income” online, usually along with the words:
Make Money While You Sleep
Automate Your Cash Flow
Stop Trading Hours For Money
And this is true- membership websites and passive income CAN help you make money while you sleep. It can also give you a way to provide your audience with solutions for much cheaper than they could get if they worked with an expert 1:1.
However- the key to passive income is in volume, which means to make it worthwhile, you need to sell to way more people than you do now.
You also need to build a membership WEBSITE so you can sell to those people.
Getting to the point where your site is not only self-sustaining but actually generates a profit generally takes time and quite a lot of effort or money.
It is possible- but it doesn’t happen without careful planning + diligent execution, OR a whole lotta luck.
Below are all the things I wish I had known before I built a single one!
1. Cost Specifics
When comparing all of the different options out there- there are two variables that aren’t as obvious that you need to pay attention to:
Fixed costs, or costs based on revenue/members. Costs based on revenue/members can be great in the beginning- but it might not be so fantastic if your site really takes off.
The monthly costs can easily add up, so choose wisely. If you aren’t going to dedicate a lot of time or money (or both) to your membership site upfront, it won’t grow quickly. And if it doesn’t grow quickly, high monthly costs can easily eat up all of your profits.
Video hosting fees. Some platforms include video hosting. Others, like my favorite- Memberspace- require you to use an outside web host like Wistia or Vimeo.
Vimeo Costs: Minimum of $20/month for 20 GB of videos- you must have a Vimeo Pro, Business, or Premium account to upload commercial content- which includes anything you sell access to.
Wistia Costs: $99/month for 10 videos +$0.25/month for each additional video.
You can also use Youtube to host your videos on an unlisted channel. However, it’s not as secure- someone can get the link to your video and share via Youtube instead of only on your site.
*These are the prices listed as of 10/11/2018- check them for yourself!
You don’t just need to create the content of your course/membership/school, etc.- you also have to create the content that sells and organizes that course. Things like:
Sales Page- Where people actually purchase- through Memberspace, Paypal, Moonclerk, etc.
Thank you Page- this is a great place to give intro into what they can expect now that they have purchased. Do they check their email? Login to a certain page? Schedule an appointment? It’s also good for adding tracking code for purchases and, of course, saying thanks!
Member Home Page- If you have more than one piece of content, you’re going to need a home page for members to find it all. Otherwise, you’ll get a ton of questions asking what they should do now and how they can access their content. Speaking of questions, you’ll probably want a….
Frequently Asked Questions Page- People are going to ask questions. A lot of questions. A lot of the exact same questions, over and over again. The best thing to do? Have a very visible, easy-to-link-to page to send people to get answers.
Refund/Return Policy- I am not a lawyer- but this is 100% necessary.
Do not collect money without a refund/return policy!
Some people even say something as simple as “Due to the instantly downloadable nature of this product, refunds and returns are not accepted.”.
I am not a lawyer, but I’m an excellent Googler. if you do a quick google search for legal pages like these, you’ll find sites like:
Oh, pricing. Sounds like it should be straight forward - you have X product, you sell it for $Y dollars.
Here are some things to consider:
Recurring Pricing- Monthly, Quarterly, Annually?
Monthly prices are usually an easier sell- but people have 12x as many chances to decide they don’t actually want to be a member for 12 months.
Annual pricing is great- but it’s a harder sell for those who haven’t actually purchased yet. Consider offering as a discounted upgrade to those who DO purchase.
One-time pricing (lifetime) vs Recurring Pricing
Ah, and you thought it would be easy! Not only can you do all kinds of recurring pricing, but you can offer lifetime memberships as well! I usually see these for 2-5x the price of an annual membership.
Discounts- Do you want to offer discount codes? Run a flash sale? Sales with deadlines are fantastic sales drivers- but you have to:
Leave room in your pricing for these sales. If your prices are already rock-bottom, you can’t tack on a discount without losing money
Make sure your software can actually run the type of sale you are looking for. This also feels like it should be easy- just take $10 off, right?
Except what if you want it to be $10 off a monthly membership, but $100 off an annual membership? Do you need two different codes? (Usually yes)
Bonuses- We all know that offering cash discounts on premium goods may make them feel, well, not so premium. So we offer bonus items!
But how do you actually track who gets the bonus? Do you choose something tangible that needs to be mailed, or something digital and easy to deliver? If it’s digital- how do you make sure only the right people get access to the bonus material??
ADVANCED: Break-Even Point: Once you figure out what platform you want to use, and how much it will cost to build the site and content, you have one important question:
”How many members do I need to have before the site pays for itself (you break even)?”
This is VERY important. If you need 100+ members JUST to break even- you’re going to need a very solid strategy on how to get those members (and maybe even expert help).
Personally, I like to run two numbers:
1) how many members do you need before the MONTHLY costs are paid for, and 2) how many members do you need before the MONTHLY costs AND STARTUP costs are paid for?
Want help with a Membership Website?
Email me directly with the button below- no spammy newsletter lists, no gimmicks. Just me + you via email.
Just like pages- membership websites need a lot more automated emails than you might think!
Abandoned Cart Email- you will be surprised by the # of people that give you their name + email but don’t purchase. Follow up with them.
ADVANCED Abandoned Cart Email Series- Follow up more than once. See why they are hesitating! Get feedback and make your program better.
Receipt- tell them how much they spent, and how much (and if the charge is recurring- when the next charge will occur)
Welcome Email (could be combined with Receipt)
ADVANCED Welcome Email Series- Not just one email, but 3-5 emails welcoming new users and showing them the ropes.
Cancellation Email- Don’t wait until the first person cancels and you’re bitter. Write it now- especially if it’s a bright, sunny, cheerful day.
Failed Payment Email- Credit cards expire. Names change. People overspend. It happens- be prepared!
ADVANCED Failed Payment Series- You’ll probably be worried you’re being annoying if you send more than one email. But what if they received the first while shopping at the grocery store? Or reading at a red light? Remind them before cutting them off!