One of the best ways to make money online is to create a membership site. In essence, a membership site is a site where a certain amount of information is provided free of charge and the remainder of the information, including possibly something like a forum where questions can be asked is provided only to paid members. Here’s what you need to know:
Membership Sites Can Be about Anything
The first thing to realize about membership sites is that they can be about pretty much anything you can imagine, from your favorite lint collection to the minutiae of Star Trek fandom. However, the best and most successful membership sites tend to provide more than just hobby information. They provide real, useful information – the kind people usually pay for.
So for example a membership site may include information on growing your own vegetables, including very details explanations of how you grow specific types of veggies (i.e. put the seed in the ground and water it isn’t going to cut it). Or they may include information on a particular way of making money (making money is actually a very common form of membership site).
But Membership Sites Are Difficult and Costly, Right?
You may assume at first that to create a membership site you need to spend tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now that’s true if you’re trying to create a site which will be designed around a very broad base. For example, if you want to create a membership site which is based around providing financial news (ala the Wall Street Journal), you have a very barrier to cross indeed.
Go for a Niche
However, if you can come up with an idea for a membership site which will be more specialized then it’s much, much easier to attract paying customers to your site.
How to Do It
Okay, I did promise to tell you how this is done and not just what a membership site is. So, the first part you know – pick a niche which is likely to attract people willing to spend money for it. Ideally it should be something you know something about and which people usually would spend money for. So for example, you may do how to ace the SATs or you may do something on growing your retirement fund or starting a new business. The key thing is that it should be interesting and something which show you off as an expert.
Write the Content
Duh – right? But seriously, writing content for a membership site means actually writing serious, high value content. That means that the $5 article you buy on eLance is probably not going to cut it. You want stuff which has real meat and which isn’t likely to be found elsewhere.
You should plan to write at least a year worth of content. Now that may mean 365 articles or it may mean just 12 articles. However, in general, most membership sites provide updates at least once a month.
Here’s the big secret regarding membership sites though – you generally don’t have to write it all at once and you generally don’t have to write more than a year’s worth of content. That’s because the material can be set to reveal itself as “new” to each new member on a rolling basis, thus making it appear as if fresh content is constantly being added.
Offer the First Few Weeks Free
Now while you can charge for access from the start, the most successful membership sites do offer a certain amount of free content as well. Generally, the first two lessons is enough to offer on such a site if you’re trying to attract a steady clientele (assuming it’s good enough).
It’s also helpful to set up a forum and to seed it with pre-existing “discussions” so that people who join the membership site that you create will be able to ask questions from each other and from you about the various issues that your site covers.
WordPress Does the Job
Now believe it or not, WordPress is all you need for a membership site. You can get plugins for WordPress such as WP Member to do most of the work for you. Mingle Forum can provide you with a forum and all you need then is to provide the content and do the SEO work to make the money.