How to Create a Membership Site on WordPress (Ultimate Guide)

The very last step in creating your membership site is linking up the Join button on your sales page with your checkout page. Once you’ve done that, give yourself a pat on the back — you’re membership site is ready to go!

What Features Do You Need In A WordPress Membership Plugin?

Choosing the right platform for your membership site is crucial, as it plays a significant role in the functionality and user experience of your site. Here are some of the key membership features to look for in a WordPress plugin for paid memberships:

Reliable Content Protection

Your members-only content is the cornerstone of your membership site, so protecting it should be a priority. The platform you choose should provide robust content protection features, ensuring that only authorized members can access your exclusive content. It should also be capable of protecting against content theft and unauthorized sharing. 

One of the best plugins for protecting your content is Thrive Apprentice, as it allows you to create custom access rules for each product.

Control Over What Members and Non-Members See

Every visitor to your site won’t be a member, so you need to control what content is visible to non-members and what is reserved for members. Your platform should give you the ability to easily differentiate between member and non-member content and allow you to customize the visibility of various parts of your site

The Freedom to Protect Any Type of Content

Your membership site might host a wide range of content types, including blog posts, videos, downloadable resources, and courses. Therefore, your choice of WordPress plugins should allow you to protect any type of content and ensure only your members can access it. 

Drip Scheduling Content

Your membership plugin should allow for easy management of drip scheduled content – a feature that allows you to release content gradually over time, rather than all at once. This helps to keep your members engaged and excited about upcoming material, and provides ongoing value that justifies their recurring membership fees. 

Even better, a plugin that offers decoupled drip will let you create multiple drip schedules, so that you can sell the same online course in multiple ways. For example, you might want to sell a course on its own with a one-lesson-per-week drip schedule; and you might want to include the exact same course in a membership program with a one-module-per-week drip schedule. Thrive Apprentice is the only plugin available with decoupled drip functionality.

Payment Gateway Integrations

Your plugin should support popular payment gateways to ensure a smooth and secure transaction process for your members. The more payment options you can offer, the better. Look for integrations with major processors like PayPal and Stripe. WordPress membership plugins like Memberpress offer native integration with payment gateways.

Membership Tiers

Not all members will want (or need) access to all your content. Creating different membership tiers allows you to offer different levels of access at different price points, catering to a wider range of audience needs and budgets. Your chosen plugin should support multiple membership levels, enabling you to customize the access and pricing for each membership option. When you create your membership pricing page, be sure to prominently display your various membership plans. 

Choosing the right membership plugin is about more than just aesthetics and ease of use. These six features are critical for creating a secure, functional, and user-friendly site that offers value to your members and supports the growth of your online business. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to upgrade your current membership site, keep these features in mind as you evaluate your options.

FAQ about Building Membership Sites

As you prepare to build your membership site, you may have some questions about the process. Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about membership sites.

How is a membership site different from an online course?

Both membership sites and online courses are effective ways to share your knowledge and generate revenue, but they operate differently. A course is typically a one-off purchase where the customer pays upfront to access a specific course. Some of the pricier courses offer payment plans so the total fee can be paid over a number of months.

A membership site, on the other hand, typically involves recurring payments (monthly, quarterly, or annually) for ongoing access to content, although some membership sites offer lifetime access for a one-time fee. Membership sites often provide a community aspect, with forums or discussion groups, and they usually involve a mixture of different types of content — not just courses, but also articles, resources, webinars, and more. 

Does a membership site need new content added regularly?

Yes, adding new content regularly is generally a good practice for membership sites. Regular content updates give members a reason to continue subscribing and provide value for their ongoing payments. The frequency and type of content update will depend on your niche and your members’ expectations. Some sites might add new content daily, while others might do so weekly or monthly.

How much does it cost to run a membership site?

The cost to run a membership site can vary significantly based on a few factors, including the platform you choose, the payment gateway you use, and how much you invest in creating content. You’ll also need to account for costs related to marketing your site, maintaining the website, and possibly support staff. It’s important to come up with a clear business plan before getting started.

How do membership sites make money?

Membership sites primarily make money through membership fees. Members pay a recurring fee (monthly, annually, etc.) for access to exclusive content and community features. Some membership sites also offer different membership levels at different price points, to appeal to a greater pool of potential customers.

Is WordPress good for a membership site?

Yes, you can absolutely use WordPress to build your membership site. Its flexibility, coupled with a vast array of plugins like Thrive Apprentice, makes it a versatile platform to create a membership website. 

Are there any free membership plugins for WordPress?

Yes, there are several free membership plugins available for WordPress, such as Paid Membership Pro and Ultimate Member. These can provide a good starting point if you’re on a tight budget or just testing out the idea of a membership site. While free WordPress plugins can be a great starting point, they may not offer all the features you need for a fully functional, scalable membership site that your members find valuable.

Membership Website Examples

Need some examples to help you figure how to structure your membership site? Check out these membership site examples:

1. Platform University by Michael Hyatt: This membership site is dedicated to helping people build engaged audiences and launch courses. The site offers video tutorials, masterclass interviews, and a private community forum, all for a recurring monthly fee. 

2. Copyblogger Academy: This membership site is for entrepreneurs looking to increase their sales, copywriting, SEO, content creation, and social media skills. Members gain access to a vast library of resources including online courses, one-on-one coaching, and expert Q&As. This membership program renews on a yearly basis.

3. Pencil Kings: This site offers an array of video courses for artists of all levels. By joining this community, members gain access to step-by-step instructions for a variety of artistic  techniques, feedback from a community of artists, and challenges to help improve their skills. Pencil Kings offers monthly and yearly plans, along with a 3-day trial.

4. Full Time Filmmaker: This membership program offers courses, live Q&A sessions, and tool downloads for those looking to break into the world of video production. The content covers all aspects of filmmaking, from equipment selection to editing techniques. This membership currently offers lifetime membership for a single upfront payment. 

5. Yousician: Yousician is an interactive music service for those who want to learn how to play a musical instrument. This membership site offers thousands of songs and exercises for guitar, piano, bass, ukulele, and singing. Members have access to 1000s of lessons and exercises, and can choose from monthly or yearly payment plans.

Now that you’ve seen the potential that membership sites offer, get ready to bring yours to life!

It’s Time To Create a Membership Site

Starting to create a WordPress membership site is an exciting journey. It offers an opportunity to share your knowledge, connect with an engaged community, and build a stream of recurring revenue. 

In order to make starting your membership site more efficient and headache-free, it’s important to choose the right tools for your site, and that’s why we recommend WordPress and Thrive Apprentice. With these tools, you can focus more on content creation and community building, and less on the technical aspects of running a website.

For more on starting a membership site, check out these free resources:

Ready to get to work? There’s no time like the present. Dive in, begin your journey, and start creating your membership site today with Thrive Apprentice!

This content was originally published here.