A growing trend among coaches and teachers, membership sites are the premium pie-in-the-sky portal to a recurring income where one can freely release content on a one-to-many scale, unencumbered by time.
The unfortunate reality: More coaches entertain the idea of membership sites than actually pull the trigger. Why? Seemingly unmanageable technological roadblocks tend to cast a deceptively large shadow on the planning process. Yet the beauty is that these bumps are merely small steps on the ladder to prosperous, profitable membership sites.
Having to acquire a file host, set up the site itself, or provide a payment gateway should by no means stifle your motivation. In this article, I break down and offer resources on how to make short work of each technical component. I explain why each step is important, and I tell you how it fits in with the big picture of your membership site business.
By the end, you’ll better understand the following:
- Where to house your membership site
- Which platform to use to manage your content and end-user experience
- How to effectively and efficiently collect payments
- What tool provides the best source of lead collection, member management and follow-up
- Where to host your media files
Where and How to House Your Membership Site
Before you jump into membership site ownership, consider where your membership site will stay online. All too many people overlook the step of acquiring a stable web host early in the game. As a result, they wind up with clunky, slow-to-loud membership sites and disgruntled members clogging the Inbox.
Whereas a membership platform — which you’ll decide on next — is a home for your content, a web host provides your site with an address on the web.
Some points to consider when choosing a host for your membership site include:
Support: If you’re anything like me, having support available 24/7 is a huge plus. If my members are hitting me up at midnight with concerns about the site failing, I want to be able to acquire answers right away. Services like WPX Hosting have done me exceptionally well in this regard.
Uptime Guarantee: Clearly, you don’t want members to reach a blank screen when they type in your URL. As such, you want a host that has a reputation for strong uptime and redundancy rates.
Speed: One of the most common complaints I hear from membership site owners is that their members are complaining about speed. When files load too slowly, a video lags midway through, or voices sound warped during a live call, this can have catastrophic results. It’s worth your time (and money) to find a host who continually delivers Superman speed results.
Backup: Ever lost a lengthy blog article midstream? Or accidentally torched your entire page? A good website host will have a Plan B so that it’ll seem like nothing happened.
To Share or Not to Share: For new business owners, that is a pertinent question. Do you share your server with dozens (or hundreds) of others, which is referred to as “shared hosting,” or do you go it alone? Of course, the price for shared hosting is way lower, yet the disadvantages are huge – especially for membership sites. Membership sites on shared servers tend to lag substantially. Google algorithms (and members) favor web sites that load fast, which means better leverage from the #1 search engine if you pay the higher price tag.
Tip: If you don’t already own a domain for your membership site, you’ll need to acquire one. Use the following resources to learn more and ask the right questions when it comes to selecting a dependable domain registrar:
- 10 Best Web Hosting Companies
- So Many Domain Registrars, So Little Time
- How to Choose and Purchase a Domain Name
- Domain Registrar: 4 Tips on Choosing the Right One
Many companies also offer domain name registration on top of web hosting, which takes away the need for a separate domain registrar.
Choosing a Platform for Your Membership Sites
The backbone of successful membership sites is, of course, the membership software. Choosing the right one not only determines how smooth or irritating your end-user experience is, but it also determines ease of use when it comes to managing and updating the backend of the site. It’s the fuel for the car, so to speak, so it’s critical that you choose wisely.
I’ve written a more expansive overview of how to select a membership site and platform that can be accessed here:
In a nutshell, given its price, versatility and vast selection of membership site plugins, WordPress continues to be the preferred platform for coaches and others who are launching their membership sites. That said, there are plenty of great alternatives to WordPress out there — each with its own advantages and limitations.
Below is a list of recommended membership platforms available to any entrepreneur who doesn’t want to pay for an entirely customized site:
Options within WordPress
Options outside WordPress
Deciding on a Payment Gateway
By placing content behind a paywall, you transform an ordinary website into a membership site. Before accepting members, however, there’s one necessary component you’ll need: a payment gateway.
These are the questions you’ll want to consider before making a commitment:
Does it integrate with my platform?
This is a situation where one size doesn’t fit all. Different platforms and plugins integrate with different payment gateways, so it’s important to check with your platform before deciding.
You’ll also want to select a payment gateway that is seamless for your members; if they are confused or uncertain, they are apt to cancel before even getting started.
Can members pay directly on my membership site?
When someone pays, can they do so on your site or are they redirected to another site?
It can be more difficult to secure conversions if they must visit an unknown site before making a payment. This can be thwarted by using a reputable payment gateway, such as Stripe or PayPal.
Does the provider have a stellar reputation?
Check out the provider’s reviews before securing them as a payment gateway. Do they have a reputation for consistent service? Do they treat customers well?
How much will you pay?
It goes without saying that you should always check a provider’s fees before signing up, yet equally important is to gauge what comes with that fee and how often you’ll be charged.
Some popular options for membership sites include:
Selecting a Host for Your Files
For many reasons, it’s useful to avoid hosting your audio and video files on the membership platform itself. With few exceptions, membership site performance generally lags, and file protection is mediocre at best.
For better video hosting options, consider the following services:
Outsourcing Content Creation and Membership Site Development
Of course, you may still feel overwhelmed by the process of building a membership site. Even the most comprehensive guide is apt to leave many of us mystified. If this aspect of membership site development is stalling your plans, it may be time to consider getting help.
Membership Fix offers a complete Done-For-You service with site development included. Grab your free planning tool and find out how I can help today!