Fifty years ago, people felt rejected by society if they didn’t fit into a certain cookie-cutter mold. Today, individuality is often celebrated — and frequently rewarded. Thanks to the internet, sharing unique hobbies and connecting with others with similar niche interests is easy and encouraged.

In fact, there are websites dedicated to passions of all types, filled with communities of like-minded individuals who connect in forums. These websites, often referred to as membership sites, come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s seemingly one for every topic (scuba diving, guitar lessons, yoga, card magic and even crystal healing certification courses — the list goes on).

Anyone with passion and expertise on a topic can start a membership site. All it takes is a little planning. The best part is, membership sites can be run from anywhere and, once they’re up and running successfully, they require minimal upkeep.

Membership sites work around your schedule

Many business owners are tethered to a static location and confined to certain hours of the day, but not those with membership sites — that’s the magic of them. They create automated passive income streams that don’t require you to be physically present to make money. You don’t have to work for your business anymore; you can have your business work for you.

Running a membership site allows you to expand your customer base. Your one-to-one service can transform into a one-to-many. As Mike Morrison, co-founder of The Membership Guys said, “Spend an hour with a client, you get paid once, and that time is gone; spend that hour creating material for your membership, and you’ve added permanent value to an asset that you’ll continue getting paid for over and over again.” 

Bianca Gignac of Gigi Guides remarked on the convenience of membership sites, “I processed $51,000 in sales the other day, and I was actually at the park with my kid.”

What to ask before you get started planning your membership site 

Don’t whip out the piña colada and hammock just yet. While it’s tempting to jump into creating a membership site, taking time to work out the specifics is crucial to avoid complications down the road. Planning and building processes for membership sites will take time and work but will ensure that you’re creating something people want to join.  

After the membership site has launched, you’ll need to market it and have a plan for retaining your members. Researching your niche audience and determining the right content are also crucial to the success of your membership venture.

Part of building a successful membership program involves asking the tough questions about your product and your market, strategizing about your site content and how you want to deliver it, and determining the right membership levels and pricing.

You can start the membership site planning process by asking questions such as:

  • What type of membership site should I have? (e.g., online community, training site, etc.)
  • What exactly should I offer on my membership site?
  • How should I structure my membership program?
  • How should I deliver my content to members?
  • How can I separate myself from the competitors?
  • What kind of pricing strategy should I have?

Start earning money for your unique skills

If you’re currently running a business, you’re already halfway there in planning your membership site. Adding a subscription component to your business will be the tipping point for your company by allowing you to:

  • Share your knowledge one-to-many instead of one-to-one so you can reach a broader audience 
  • Charge a monthly or annual fee for your exclusive membership so you can have a passive, recurring stream of revenue
  • Create a sense of belonging and community for your customers so you can keep your members engaged 
  • Give your members the ability to consume your content on their own time without you having to work around the clock
  • Help more clients achieve their goals so you can create a loyal customer base for your brand   
  • Automate your business so your members can benefit from your expertise anytime and anywhere

This is just the beginning. If you’ve got a passion or an area of expertise you’d like to create a community around, check out Ontraport’s Membership Site Planning Worksheet. It’s a great resource for working through your questions and fine-tuning your membership site plan.

About Camille Smith
Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, Content Marketing Strategist, Camille Smith came out to California to attend UCSB and fell in love with Santa Barbara’s perfect mountain to ocean ratio. During her time in college, Camille also worked on the growth marketing teams for several technology companies. When she’s not putting her Communication degree to use at work, she’s using her minor in French to remind everyone the correct pronunciation of her name à la française (pronounced cah-mee, not kah-meal).