Are you an expert in your field looking to monetize your knowledge by creating an online course or membership website?
Or, perhaps you’re a digital agency looking for a platform that allows you to create unlimited websites with a lifetime deal?
Or, maybe you’re a content creator wishing to sell and automate access to your premium content?
Whatever your reason is, creating a membership website can be a great way to generate recurring revenue and build a loyal customer base.
In this blog, we’ll guide you through setting up your own membership website with the right platform. We’ll also share the tricks to creating and managing content, handling payments and subscriptions.
We’ll prove you don’t have to break the bank by spending money on expensive SaaS based platforms. You’ll also still have full control over your website.
By the end of this tutorial, you’ll be able to build the following type of membership website.
You can also follow our video tutorial to create your membership website.
So, let’s get started!
- What is a membership website?
- How many people use membership websites?
- Why should you create a membership website?
- Why use a plugin instead of a cloud-based platform?
- What you need to build your own membership website
- How to create a membership website
- How can a visitor become a premium member to get VIP access?
- Bonus tips
- The final outcome
What is a membership website?
A membership website is a way for you to restrict access to exclusive content or features that are not available to all visitors.
It’s just like a local club where users have to pay a membership fee to get in.
Once users are in, they will get immediate access to all sorts of awesome content like articles, videos, forums, online courses and any forms of content you can imagine.
Content that’s not available to anyone else.
It’s like having your own little secret world on the internet!
The best part is you can manage all of your members, their payment, access and all that good stuff, all in one place.
It’s pretty much a win-win situation, both for you and visitors who are willing to pay for a premium membership!
We’ve seen a surge in demand for subscription services, and as a result, the subscription industry is booming. It has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the global economy.
Not convinced? We’ve got all the numbers to prove it!
Here’s a quick snapshot of the subscription economy:
- “Over 50% of all software revenue will be generated from subscription models by 2022” – Digitalist
- “80% of existing vendors are using subscription based business models in 2020.” Gartner
- “41% of households have opted to subscribe to at least one music streaming service.” Deloitte
- Subscription billing vendors have experienced an average annual growth rate of between 30-50%. Paypers.
- “53% of senior finance executives stated that 40% of their organization’s revenues are sold through subscription models.” CFO
- “34% of U.S. households will no longer have a traditional television subscription.” Variety
- “69% of households have at least one video streaming subscription.” Deloitte
- “Among 504 senior business leaders from various industries, including retail and finance revealed, 70% of them believe that subscription models hold the key to growth.” Global Banking and Finance
- “The average small business spends over $15,500 each month on Software as a Service (SaaS) products.” Blissfully
- “Small businesses are found to utilize an average of 20 or more paid SaaS subscriptions.” MemberPress
- “A survey revealed that 23% of C-level executives and board members are including subscription and membership models in their future strategies, while 17% of businesses plan to launch new or additional recurring revenue businesses in the near future.” MemberPress
- “76% of businesses have reported that adopting a subscription-based model has helped them to retain customers and build long-term relationships with them.” MemberPress
According to Membershipguys.com, “43% of business-to-consumer (B2C) membership sites charge between $25-49 for their monthly membership fee. The next most popular price range was $14-25.”
We recommend calculating your own investment and annual running costs when deciding how much to charge.
Then you can determine the fee for an individual membership plan to cover your costs and make a little profit too.
A membership website is a great way to increase engagement and generate revenue for your business.
There are many benefits to having a membership website, including:
- Recurring revenue: You can earn a steady stream of income from a membership website by charging recurring fees.
- Increased engagement: Members are highly likely to come back to your website if they feel the exclusivity and higher perceived value.
- Better data and analytics: When you have paid members, you have their email address and perhaps other information. You can retarget them for upselling or cross-selling later.
- Building a sense of community: A membership website can foster a sense of community among members who can interact and engage with one another through forums or other means.
- Personalization: You can segment your audience and offer different levels of memberships and access to content. This allows you to deliver a more personalized experience.
As you can see, you can use a membership website as an active source of income while building your reputation and producing unique and exclusive content.
Unlike a cloud-based platform, a WordPress website allows you to enjoy full control over your website.
You don’t have to store your user data on third-party platforms or share it with a provider. This can help you keep your user data more secure and private.
A third-party cloud-based service is not as customizable or extensive as a WordPress plugin either.
Think of using cloud-based services as renting a house. You can stay there but you don’t own it and you can’t decorate, renovate, or rebuild it.
Using a WordPress plugin lets you customize it to your heart’s content. You can do what you like, how you like, when you like. You have full control.
Here are the tools you need to create your membership website:
- Hosting platform
- A theme and a website template
Then you’ll just need the time to put everything together, which this guide will help you with.
Creating unique content people are willing to pay for is a whole other matter and something we can’t help you with!
Creating a membership site using SureMembers involves the following steps:
The first and foremost step in creating a membership website in WordPress is to get a domain name and a web host.
Your domain name is the URL or address people will use to access your website. Think of it as the street address for your online business.
When choosing a domain name, it’s important to pick something easy to remember and reflective of your brand.
Once you have your domain name, you’ll need to find a web host platform to host your website.
There are many web hosts out there to choose from, so be sure to do your research and find one that is reliable and offers the features you need.
Once you’ve chosen a host, you’ll need to sign up for an account to set up your website.
Installing WordPress on your host:
Once you are done with setting up your domain and hosting, it’s time to install WordPress.
Usually, your hosting provider will have the option to install WordPress directly from your account. If not, you can download it from WordPress.org and manually install it on your host.
During installation, you can create a username and password for your WordPress website.
After the installation is complete, you will be able to log in to your website dashboard and start customizing it.
You’ll be able to do this through the WordPress interface, which is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
Once you’ve got the basics, you can move on to the next step in creating your membership website.
A theme will change the overall look and feel of your WordPress website. You’ll find a plethora of free and premium themes out there.
Some will be free, others you’ll need to pay for.
We recommend using Astra as it’s a lightweight, customizable theme that is perfect for building membership websites.
To install Astra, log in to your WordPress Dashboard and go to Appearance > Themes.
Now, click on the Add New option.
Search with the keyword Astra.
Hit the Install button.
Now select the Activate button.
That’s how easy it is to activate a theme!
Astra offers a variety of Starter Templates you can use as a starting point for your site, or you can create your own custom design.
Starter Templates include designs for almost all types of website. The templates are easy to import and they ship with predesigned pages and layouts.
Here are a few Learning Management System (LMS) templates that you can use to build your membership website.
SureMembers is a unique membership WordPress plugin because it provides a wide range of features that make creating and managing a membership website easy and efficient.
Some of the key features that set it apart from other membership plugins include:
- Very easy to use. You don’t need to be a tech wizard to set up your membership site.
- Allows you to create unlimited membership access groups and manage them with ease.
- Easily integrates with SureCart to receive payments from popular payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal, Mollie, Razorpay, and Paystack.
- Offers a variety of options for protecting your content including section lock, entire website lock, page lock, post lock and drip content.
- Provides an easy way to manage your members and subscriptions.
- Offers a wide range of customization options to suit your needs.
- Offers lifetime deals with the ability to create unlimited websites.
- Affordable and cost-effective compared to other membership plugins.
It’s a comprehensive and versatile plugin that makes creating and managing a membership website a breeze.
It is exclusive in the sense that it offers a lifetime deal and the ability to create unlimited websites.
If you’re looking to set up a membership site, SureMembers is definitely worth considering.
Please note that SureMembers is a paid plugin so you need to buy it from SureMembers.com.
Upon purchasing the plugin, you’ll get the plugin right in your email inbox in a .zip file format with the license activation code.
Now, you need to download the .zip file and upload it to your website to activate it.
Navigate to the WordPress admin dashboard and go to Plugins > Add new.
Click on the Upload Plugin button.
Select the Choose File button.
Select the .zip file of SureMembers, hit Install Now.
Activate the plugin.
Now, you need to activate the license key. Select SureMembers from the left menu.
Next, click on the Unlicensed option from the top right corner.
Now, insert the license key and hit the Activate License button.
Congratulations! You have successfully activated the license key.
Now, exit the popup.
Now, you need to create an access group to whom you want to give access to the restricted content.
For the purpose of the tutorial, let’s create two access groups. One is Free Membership and the other one is the VIP Club.
We’re showing you the one with VIP Club as the process of creating a plan is the same as for free membership but with the extra steps to set up a subscription.
To create the access group, click on the Add New button.
Name your access group. (We’ve called ours VIP Club).
Now you have a user group, it’s time to restrict some content.
The best part of SureMembers is that you can restrict any type of content ranging from the entire website to specific posts or pages.
You can even restrict a specific area of a page!
To restrict content, click on the drop down menu from the Protected Content section.
Now, select the content type you want to restrict. We’re selecting the Specific Pages / Posts / Taxonomies etc. type for this tutorial.
Now, select the post, pages or taxonomies (Tags or Categories) from the dropdown menu by searching them according to their name.
Just enter the title of the post you want to restrict and hit Enter to add it to the protection list.
If you want to protect all of your posts except one or two, you can exclude them by selecting that certain post using the dropdown below.
Just enter the title of the post you want to exclude and hit Enter to add it to the exclusion list.
Content dripping is a feature when you want to gradually make content accessible rather than making everything accessible at once.
It’s a way to keep the content fresh and members engaged.
With SureMembers, you can effortlessly set the rules of content dripping. To do so, select the Add Drip Content button.
Now, search for the content that you want to give access to VIP Club members.
Now, assign the days, hours, minutes and time format (AM/PM) when your content will be visible.
You can add and schedule multiple content dripping options as you see fit.
Now, let’s configure what to show if an unauthorized user wants to access protected content.
This is basically what would happen if someone who is not logged in or not a member of the group tries to view protected content.
To set this rule, you have two options in SureMembers:
- One is to redirect the user to a certain page such as the pricing plan page or checkout page.
- The other is to show a certain message like “You need premium membership to view this content” or simply “Protected Content”.
For this tutorial, let’s set a message for unauthorized users.
You can do it by selecting the Message option from the drop down menu under the section Unauthorized Access.
Turn on the toggle button, In-Content.
Now, you’ll get an option to insert the message you want to let unauthorized visitors know that the content is protected.
Since we’re restricting the content, let’s try Protected Content!
With SureMembers, you can enable the exact expiration date for the access group.
For example, assume that you have set the expiration date to 1 month and someone buys a membership plan on 1st January 2023. That means the membership plan will expire on 31st January, 2023.
You can do it in two ways.
- By using the Relative Expiration date.
- By using the Specific Expiration date.
The Relative Expiration date is an amount of time like 6 weeks. The Specific Expiration date is a set date like February 28th, 2023.
Let’s create a relative expiration date for your membership website.
Turn on the Enable Access Group Expiration from the Expiration section.
Select Relative Date from the dropdown.
Insert the number of days after which the access group expires.
Finally, save the Access Group.
Congratulations, you have successfully created an access group!
Feel free to create as many access groups as you want to make your membership website work how you want it.
That’s how intuitive it is to create an access group with SureMembers. Told you it was easy!
Restricting the visibility of part of a page is another way to sell memberships. You can tease enough of the content to entice a visitor to subscribe without giving too much away.
You can do it very easily with SureMembers.
You can do it using the WordPress block editor and with a third-party page builder like Elementor as well.
To restrict a section of your webpage, navigate to the WordPress admin dashboard and then select a post or page and select Edit.
Select a block section or container section and then hit the Restrict This Block dropdown from the right side.
Next, set a rule on whether this block will be shown to a particular membership plan by selecting Is In or Is Not In option.
Now, select the membership plan you want to assign to the block.
Save changes by clicking the Update button.
Now a visitor will see part of the page.
To restrict a particular section or block, select the Edit with Elementor option of a page or post.
Select the Advanced tab.
Now, select and restrict a block by assigning it to particular members.
Here, for example, we’ve assigned the Access Group, VIP Club.
Update the post or page.
That’s how you can protect a specific section of your web page or post!
Having a membership website is all very well, but you need people to be able to pay for membership.
With SureMembers, you can enroll users in two ways:
- Manually assigning user access groups.
- Automatically assigning user access groups by integrating with SureCart.
To add an access group manually, head to the WordPress admin dashboard and select Users > Add New or edit an existing user.
Set the access group by searching it.
But it’s not a convenient way to deal with a large volume of user data. Meaning you don’t eventually want to assign all the users one by one, right? That will be tedious!
That’s where SureCart can help!
SureCart is a great platform to sell digital products or content and automatically enroll users to your membership website using SureMembers.
After you install and configure SureCart on your website, navigate to SureCart > Products.
Full instructions on setting up SureCart here.
Select a product. If you don’t have any new products, feel free to create a new one.
Now, we need to integrate the product with SureMembers. So, hit the Add New Integration button.
Click on the dropdown menu and select SureMembers from the list.
Choose the Access Group for the product. Click the dropdown and assign the Access Group. We’re selecting the VIP Club for this example.
Hit the Add Integration button to complete the process.
You can also allow your users to download protected content by providing a downloadable file using the Add Downloads option.
Now, you can include a downloadable file.
Click on the Copy Links button to reveal the purchase link. You can use it anywhere on your website to sell a product.
Click on the Done button to exit.
Now, you can use the URL on any web page as required.
Apart from PayPal, SureCart supports Stripe, Mollie, Razorpay, and Paystack to receive payments.
To allow a user to buy the membership, you need to configure the checkout page from SureCart.
To do this, head to the WordPress admin dashboard and then go to Pages > All Pages.
Now, click on the Edit option for the Checkout page.
By default, SureCart is in Live mode. As we are testing for the first time, we’ll be using Test mode.
Once you’re finished testing, remember to switch back to live!
To set the Test mode select the dropdown option.
Select Test mode from the dropdown.
Make a test purchase or sign up and make sure everything works as it should.
Make any changes required and switch to live mode once you’re happy.
Now, if anyone purchases your course and membership plan, they will be in the VIP Club and can access your website’s exclusive content!
Please note that while selling your digital products in the European market, you can set up and collect EU VAT effortlessly with SureCart.
Let’s assume Adam wants to see your blog posts by purchasing a premium membership.
Here’s how he can do it:
- If you don’t want to use SureCart, you can also use WooCommerce to create a membership product and integrate it with SureMembers.
- You can also use SureTriggers to add any user to an access group from SureMembers.
SureTriggers is an automation tool that connects various WordPress plugins and SaaS services together, allowing them to seamlessly share information and perform tasks automatically.
For example, when someone submits a form with Fluent Forms or other apps from SureTriggers, you can use it to add that user to an access group created with SureMembers.
We hope this tutorial will help you create your own membership website in the most efficient way.
You may think that this is a lengthy process. That’s because, we have shown the SureCart integration and we have incorporated the idea of choosing a domain, a web host, and installing WordPress.
If you feel like you are getting stuck with any of these steps, drop us a line below. Someone from our team will get in touch with you in no time.
Does this look like something you might do in the future? Do you already use SureMembers? Tell us about it below!
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