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How to Start a Membership Site From Scratch

How to start a membership site

So you’ve spent ages working on your knowledge base and becoming a bonafide expert in your niche, and you’re finally ready to start a membership site of your very own?  

Two things: 

First, hooray! Congratulations to you for making it this far and recognising the value a membership site could bring to your business. We think you’re onto a great thing for so many reasons. 

Membership sites can help you create stable, recurring income streams without the 24/7 workload, allow you to work from wherever you like (in your pyjamas), and bolster your personal brand in a big way.  

Second, the process to start a membership site might seem fairly simple, and it can be – but if you want to build something that houses all of your content in a gorgeous, user-friendly hub that your customers never want to leave? 

There are a few more steps involved. 

No need to stress – we’re about to cover the start-to-finish process for building a membership site that works even harder than you do (because we know you’d rather be sipping pina coladas by the sea). 

Let’s get started! 

Step 1: Find and define your niche 

You can’t please everyone – and you wouldn’t want to, because it would be exhausting. 

That’s why it’s so important to have a well-defined niche: a group of people perfectly suited to your brand and offer. 

Doing this work at the beginning will help you work out more about your own brand and why people might choose your services over someone else’s.  

It’ll also help you stop comparing yourself to everyone else on the planet whose offers are even remotely similar to yours – which is always a bonus. 

Here’s how to define your niche: 

Evaluate your passions and skills 

You know that thing you would happily spend all day on, even if you weren’t getting paid for it? 

That thing deserves the bulk of your time and energy – so think about which of your passion projects makes you feel most alive. 

Do your keyword research 

A good idea is good (duh), but it might not be enough to create a product or service that doesn’t just sell – it stands next to hotcakes and makes them look like garbage fire. 

Which is always the goal, obviously. 

The key is to do your keyword research and make sure the thing you’re planning on creating has a market. You want there to be some other sites out there selling similar things, but not too many, because a crowded market of popular existing sites might just squish the life out of your business. 

A niche with a few existing (preferably small or low-quality) sites is like a hot husband: if you don’t grab it, someone else probably will, and you’ll probably end up accidentally stalking them on Instagram. 

If you can find a niche with a few existing (preferably small or low-quality) sites, grab onto it before someone else does. 

Step 2: Put it to the test with beta content

It’s one thing to come up with an idea that works perfectly in theory, and another to build something with that real-life flow – and the difference between those two things is usually a rigorous testing process. 

Of course, “rigorous testing process” loosely translates to *floating a free thing in the ocean of the internet and seeing how many people take the bait*. 

For this stage, you’ll need three things:

Your free content

This should be something useful that pertains to your offer and solves a problem for your ideal customer. 

A fancy-pants landing page

Together, your landing page design and copy do a very important job: they make your free content look and sound totally irresistible. 

An account with Google Ads (and a few bucks to spare)

This is so that you can drive traffic to your landing page. 

Once you’ve set it all up, you need to measure two things: 

Website traffic

The number of people who land on your website reflects the effectiveness of your niche, and whether there are enough people out there looking for what you offer. 

Opt-ins 

The number of people who download your free content tells you everything you need to know about your landing page copy. 

In the end, it all comes down to one question: 

Is there enough interest in this niche to warrant building an offer, a business, and a membership platform around it? 

And if you’re ready to find out, it’s time to build your minimum viable sales funnel! 

Check out our MVSF offer here.

Step 3: Plan and set your pricing 

When the price is right, you’ll sell way more of your stuff – but, unfortunately, it’s not as simple as making up a number and whacking it up on your website. 

As a new business owner, you’re going to want to price your offers based on your lowest common denominator – whether that’s your service skills, content quality, or customer experience. 

Then, once you uplevel that aspect of your business, you can raise your rate and focus on the next lowest common denominator, until one day, you wake up in the clouds. 

Not literally, but you get the drift. 

Step 4: Get the comms sorted 

Your landing page gets people interested in your offer, but where they go from there is all down to your communications – and this is not the time to wing it, do it on the fly, or indulge in any other flighty avian metaphors. 

Basically, unless you want to dig yourself into an overflowing inbox-sized hole, you’ll want to organise your communications strategy ahead of time. 

Here are just some of the email sequences you’ll need: 

Welcome sequences 

You’ll need these when people download your free content. (Hint: tailor these according to the type of content they downloaded or it will feel generic.) 

Nurture sequences 

You’ll need these to follow up the welcome sequence and start gently warming up the leads so that the idea of opening their wallets doesn’t seem so crazy. 

Sales sequences 

Use these when you want to sell. Enough said.

Behold – your mission: whittle a few sequences together, load them into an email marketing system, and let technology do the rest…

Or click here to get our copywriters on your team. 

Step 5: Create your paid membership content 

Pause: Before you start a membership site build, take a moment to consider this mini checklist…

  • Have I tested my niche? 
  • Have I tested my free content? 
  • Are my emails working? (You might think this one seems trivial, but you’d be surprised how many business owners out there are wasting money on emails that aren’t being sent!) 

Until you can check off each of these things, it’s probably best not to dive into the paid membership content creation. 

This will be one of the most time-intensive stages in your membership platform build, especially if you’re doing it on your own, so take the time to get it right. 

Step 5 is mostly about planning – the amount of content you need, the type of content you’ll deliver, and the way you’ll organise that content into courses, modules, and lessons. 

The best way to do that is to decide on one main goal you want to help your students achieve, gather all the knowledge you have that pertains to that goal, and start breaking it down into chunks. 

Then, put those chunks into an order that makes sense, look over it for any information holes, and get your creator pants on! 

Fill your modules with video content, worksheets, workbooks, podcasts, and anything else that would complete the experience for your students. 

And remember: it’s often better to go deep than broad. 

Step 6: Build your membership platform 

If you’re reading this, you’re almost at the peak of the mountain!

This also happens to be the steepest part of the climb, but you’ve come this far, so *shrugs*.  

The build incorporates dozens of small, moving parts – logos, colour palettes, patterns and textures, and more – and a page for just about every scenario. 

We’re talking logins page, programs dashboard, support page, No Access page, a custom 404 page, a course dashboard, and a page for any other place your customer might expect to see the full branded experience. 

It’s a lot, but with the right programs on your side, it gets a little easier. 

How do we know? 

We build all of our membership platforms with WordPress, Beaver Builder, and AccessAlly, and they’re perfect for anyone who wants to dish out a few valuable lessons and look damn good in the process. 

Using this combination of programs, you get to live that drag-and-drop design life and maintain ownership of all your content. 

So, are you ready to start a membership site? 

Want to get it done without the DIY? 

Check out our Membership Lab Essentials package here. 

Step 7: Get yourself a website 

One does not simply create a show-stopping membership platform and not back it up with a glorious, search-optimised website! 

Your website is your greatest marketing tool for your membership site, and with the right branding, you’ll develop quite the reputation for yourself online (in a good way, of course). 

What you do next is largely up to you, but there are a few essential website pages: Home, About, Services, Contact, and a page for your Blog – and yes, if you want to get discovered online, you probably need a blog. 

Ready to get your best self online? 

Check out our signature Brand Lab Essentials package here. 

Not sure where you’re at? Want to chat with a member of our team about the next step in your plan for membership magic?

Click here to get in touch.

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Opt In Ideas To Mega Boost Your Email List

Take all the guesswork out of planning your next email list builder with this definitive list of opt in ideas. No matter what kind of content you do, what your niche is or your preferred method of delivery, your perfect opt in is on this list. Guaranteed.

opt-in ideas

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