Should you start a membership website?


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The hands-down most popular blog post on my website is the one titled “What are the options for membership websites?” It was, at the time, my mega brain dump to answer a common question I get, “Should I start a membership website?”

Should you start a membership website? We dig into the signs it may be time and the signs it’s not for you.

However, it really doesn’t answer the question—my assumption was that everyone who’s reading that post has done their due diligence and has determined that this is a good option for their business.

However…

As I talk to folks, what I’ve found is that a lot of people think they SHOULD start a membership website, but they don’t have clarity on what’s involved. To that end, here are five signs you should start a membership website.

#1 You should start a membership website if you love content creation and have developed a large, unique “idea bank.”

One of the things that people don’t realize when they first begin investigating memberships is that they will need to create new, high quality material all the time. You absolutely must be prepared to fulfill your commitment to your customers. If the idea of, say, blogging weekly, or adding to a youtube channel several times a month, horrifies you, you may be wiser to consider developing a course or ebook as an info-product.

(Info-product = a digital product that’s educational and informative. It’s a single transaction and is typically highly focused.)

How large should your idea bank be? I am cautious when it comes to business, so I would only be comfortable if I had at least six month’s, preferably a year’s, worth of ideas that I knew I could deliver.

#2 If you’ve tested some kind of pseudo-membership and you’ve had positive feedback, then a membership website might be right for you.

What do I mean by “pseudo-membership”? This could be anything! Do you send an email newsletter every week and people look forward to getting it. And I mean a quality, content-driven newsletter, not a sales pitch. (I do!) Have you tested a free email course in ConvertKit and had people begging for more?

Maybe you’ve hosted a small ecourse (I like Podia for Squarespace users and LearnDash for WordPress users, by the way) and have your students begging for more content? These are all signs that you could maybe support a membership program.

#3 On the other hand, you are prepared for your membership site to have a terrible launch and then taking steps to retool.

A dirty secret of a lot of membership websites is that a lot of them don’t succeed right out the gates. This is normal and super okay! Unfortunately, the nature of the culture of online entrepreneurship is that there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors and folks often present themselves as overnight successes when in reality they’ve worked at their thing for a long time.

So, be prepared for a slow start and to hear feedback from your early members in order to make your membership website better and more in alignment with your audience’s needs.

#4 You have gotten comfortable marketing yourself online. Like, really and truly marketing every single day? Then perhaps you can support a membership website.

Membership sites have “churn.” (Churn = people unsubscribing) Which means that you always have to be refilling your membership, otherwise it’s not supporting itself and will peter out.

This means, you’ll need to be planning a content calendar (yep, a B-L-O-G) far out that closely aligns with your membership content, you’ll probably need to be active on whatever social media your audience is (like really active) and be connecting with other content creators to cross promote, as appropriate. (But please, please do not be gross about it.)

#5 Starting a membership website is for you if you’re really and truly passionate about your area of expertise and are dying to share it with others. You’re not just looking for “passive” income.

Oh boy… this is one you can just feel if it’s not on-point. You’re going to have to live and breathe this subject, creating new content regularly, answering support questions about it, and promoting it daily. If you’re simply looking for a side hustle or passive income, a membership website is not for you. Seriously. Write an ebook or launch a course… maybe. But membership websites are a whole different animal and you do not want to be stuck with something you just thought could make money. (Obviously making money is good, but you need passion for this sort of undertaking.)

Got questions about whether or not you should start a membership website? Drop a note in the comments and I’ll reply!