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How to Start a Successful Membership Website

Looking to know how to start a successful membership website? I discussed the various benefits of membership sites a few years ago.

Now let’s expand on that article with some proven tactics to help you launch it successfully and gain satisfied members.

First Off: Don’t Wait Until Your Service is Perfect

start a successful membership websiteChances are this has already happened to you: A great idea comes to your head, but you refuse to implement it until everything has neatly fallen into place.

As membership websites typically consist of multiple benefits, you might be tempted to wait until all available features are polished before launching the service.

The problem, however, is that these benefits are likely to keep evolving as you continuously add more features for subscribers…

Let’s say that your new membership website revolves around finding accessible jobs for disabled people. In addition, you wish to write and publish several tutorials that teach people how to land the job, general Dos and Don’ts, and so on…

The above tutorials may take you several months to write, edit, and publish, which is certainly an issue.

The solution is to launch the website with only one or two guides, then finish the remaining ones over time while gaining new members.

Whatever you do, don’t fall in the trap that your membership website “must be robust” before launching it.

Provide Ongoing Benefits

Avoid offering everything at once, unless your membership’s lifespan is meant to be incredibly short. This would only overwhelm subscribers and your membership website’s long-term value will decrease.

Instead, surprise members with something unexpected every 1-3 months if possible, depending on the nature of your website’s niche. This helps keep members far longer if they truly enjoy what you have to offer.

Now let’s discuss retention rates while we’re at it…

Infinite Versus Finite Memberships

Your membership site could provide infinite features or something that is meant to end after a certain period. For example:

Infinite: A website that provides ongoing jobs, podcast episodes, or exclusive forum discussions.

Finite: A website that releases a monthly course to teach specific skills (such as playing the guitar). In this case, the courses may end after six months or a year — at which point your members will finish and “graduate” from the membership.

Pros and Cons

Infinite option: Providing infinite features means that a member could possibly keep paying you for years to come.

An infinite membership site also allows you to play with new ideas / benefits if you’re really creative. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Finite option: On the other hand, relying on a finite membership website may retain members a bit longer. Many people simply don’t enjoy paying for something indefinitely, which often leads to cancellations after the first 2-4 months…

With an ending in sight, however, more people are generally encouraged to stick around until the end. But this decision is entirely up to you, depending on what you intend to offer.

What Should Your Membership Website Be About, Anyway?

profitable membership siteSome people have plenty of ideas for a membership website, while others feel like everything has already been done.

Thankfully, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to have a successful and profitable membership site.

Option 1: Base it Around Convenience

Reinventing the wheel is hard, so most people rely on creating convenience.

For example, I personally run a membership website (Listiller) for writers and marketers that does the following:

  • It gathers thousands of remote writing / editing jobs from the web, neatly shown in one place (convenient)
  • It shows thousands of websites where marketers can submit their guest posts (the list is periodically updated for convenience)
  • Other features for the above groups are also available

As you can see, the above features are really nothing new (there are plenty of remote job websites and guest blogging opportunities out there, after all)…

However, I always ensure that my website contains the largest amount of resources out there — even more than the most popular competitors.

Moral of the story: Start something that can genuinely make people’s lives easier, even if similar sources already exist.

Option 2: Solve a Problem

As I said previously, solving a particular problem can be rather difficult but it’s certainly possible.

As a small example, I had previously spent two weeks trying to find proper reviews for several stationary bikes. There were several generic videos on YouTube showcasing the bikes, along with plenty of testimonials on Amazon, but none of them ever covered essential details.

I wished there was a resource which contained everything that’s important about a wide range of bikes and their brands. I was even willing to pay just to get certain questions answered, since there was clearly a gap and a lack of information on the internet.

When it comes to your membership site, think of something that is unquestionably missing or underserved in your market and then provide a solution to the best of your ability.

Membership Website Marketing

Decoy marketing: Many fast-food chains offer you a medium-sized meal for a fairly high price, but then offer you much more for only one more dollar. The average person tends to pay the extra dollar because they’re seemingly getting twice the amount of items practically for “free.”

It turns out that the medium-sized item is just a decoy, or a trap used to lure you into the big-sized item.

Using the above tactic, consider offering two or three tiers and make your desirable tier similar to the above scenario.

Do you wish for people to pay for the higher package? Then offer a few things for $9, while offering much more for $10. It’s all about making your preferred tier a no-brainer for potential members.

Fun fact: I once purchased 100 business cards for $15, but they offered me 250 for only $16. Guess which option I ultimately chose?

Other Marketing Tactics

Promo codes and limited-time offers: Most WordPress membership plugins allow you to set up promo codes. If you don’t use a plugin, consider lowering your prices on occasion to see if this helps bring in more members.

Play around with pricing: Despite the above advice, lowering your prices will NOT automatically bring in more members. High prices may give people a higher-perceived value of your business and could make it feel more worthy. Experimentation is key.

Don’t just let go of canceled members: Did a member just cancel? Send them a huge discount and encourage them to come back. Making a few less dollars is better than making NO dollars.

Give away free memberships: Consider giving away free memberships for a small catch. For example, anyone who mentions your website on their own blog (with a backlink) can gain free access. This could eventually lead to more traffic and conversions.

Lastly: Here’s a List of WordPress Membership Plugins

Let’s end this with a list of popular membership plugins, in no particular order. Most of these offer similar features, but you may want to take a closer look as some of them are easier to use.




Wishlist Member



Paid Members Pro

Your Turn

So, have you always had the itch to start a membership website? It all starts with an idea. Once set up, it’s time to use some proven marketing and traffic tactics as we frequently discuss here on BloggingPro.