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How to Create Your Own Membership Site in WordPress

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Written By: author image Natalie Jones

Are you wanting to create your own membership site in WordPress?

If you’re an expert, authority, or influencer in your field, there’s a good chance people will pay to hear your thoughts and follow your lessons. You can monetize your knowledge and create recurring revenue using a membership site.

In this article, we’ll cover what a membership site is, why you need one, and how to create it in WordPress.

Table of Contents

What is a Membership Site?

You may be asking yourself what a membership site is exactly. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a membership site is simply a website filled with content that’s only accessible to members who pay a subscription fee.

Membership sites often include access to an ongoing community. As the owner of a membership site, you’ll need to release new content regularly to keep people paying for access.

The type of content you publish on a membership site can take any form, but articles, videos, and podcasts are the most popular types. Some sites offer courses, scientific papers, and tutorials with downloadable resources. The content should be more valuable than anything people can find for free online.

If you want to create content for an audience, but don’t want to give it away for free, you should seriously consider creating a membership site.

Let’s quickly look at a few of the benefits of creating your own membership site.

Build a Qualified Audience

Your membership site probably isn’t the only product you plan to release. You may hope to write e-books, sell access to courses, or provide services to the same kind of customer.

Your membership site members have a higher level of commitment than average web users. They’re willing to pay for your content, which makes them pre-qualified leads who may buy additional products and services from you in the future.

Instead of spending your marketing dollars trying to drum up new business, you can focus your marketing strategey on people who already buy from you. This is efficient because repeat customers spend more money than new customers – up to 300% – and it’s significantly cheaper to keep a customer than attract a new one.

What makes it cheaper? For one, you already know that customer well. You know their problems, their desires, and what they find valuable.

Additionally, you already have channels in place to reach them. You should have collected their e-mail addresses and other contact information. They already pay to consume your content, so they’re conditioned to pay attention when they see your name.

Lastly, your membership site content is the perfect place to upsell. Articles and videos are perfect opportunities to nudge them toward other products, like one-to-one coaching, paid webinars, downloadable resources, or other services.

Membership Sites Become More Valuable Over Time

As your volume of content and the size and quality of your community grows, your membership site will become more valuable. This increasing value has two effects:

  1. Members will enjoy the value and praise you to their friends and colleagues. This will help you grow the size of your community and thus your income.
  2. You’ll be able to increase your prices for new members to access the same material.

This is unlike most one-off products that have static, unchanging values. The value of your coaching advice won’t change over time. In fact, the value of your physical or informational products will actually decrease as those products wear out or become outdated.

Unlike a lot of basic e-commerce sites, membership sites tend to last. They become more valuable for you and your members over time, just as long as you keep adding high-quality content and features.

Membership Sites Aren’t That Hard to Maintain

If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of building your own membership site, don’t worry. It isn’t more difficult than setting up any other blog.

Generally speaking, there are two fundamental components to a membership site: content (articles or videos) and community features, like a forum or a social media following like Facebook. You aren’t bound to those components, but you’ll struggle to compete with other membership sites if you don’t have them.

Creating content for a membership site isn’t much different than creating content for a free-to-read blog. You’ll want to use a CMS platform like WordPress to publish your content and there are plenty of plugins and integrations to build a community section.

If you don’t want to integrate a forum or chat feature on your site, you can simply create a free Slack workspace for your members. It has all the features you need to manage a team of people.

However, there is one important difference that’s worth mentioning. With a public site, the content itself attracts new users by way of Google searches. But membership site content is hidden behind a login, which Google can’t access.

This means that you’ll need to find ways to drive traffic to your site to get people to subscribe. Many membership sites make some of their content public to grow an audience, but keep their best stuff hidden for paying members.

One way to ensure that your content is Google accessible is to use a plugin like SmashBalloon. Unlike other social media plugins, it allows you to embed your feeds directly to your site’s homepage to grow your followers, save tons of time, and improve your page’s relevant dynamic content.

The Community Can Run On Its Own

The best membership sites come with built-in community features so members can interact with one another. These are exclusive clubs for like-minded people who have similar problems and goals. We don’t recommend starting a new membership site without some kind of community element.

Communities take some time and work to set up, but they eventually cross a threshold where they become self-sustaining. As the number and quality of members improve, members start to help one another with their problems, which means you don’t have to be involved in every thread or comment.

For instance, imagine a member asks the community for advice on their specific situation. Dozens of people reply to their request for help with their recommendations. Some even cite your content. In this case, the member receives help, but you don’t have to do anything to deliver that value. The community provided it.

Keep in mind, however, that this kind of thing takes time. You’ll need to invest yourself in the community until you have enough members to solve each other’s problems in your absence.

Membership Sites Uncap Your Growth Potential

As a membership site owner, you’ll never have to turn down a customer. Unline physical products where you’re limited by what you can produce and services where you’re limited by your time. You’ll never have to say, “Sorry, our order queue is backed up right now” or “I can’t schedule you until next month.”

It doesn’t matter if you pick up one new customer this week or 10,000. There are no inventory costs, labor expenses, or time constraints. Your web hosting overhead may go up a bit, but that isn’t a big deal since the only people who visit your site are paying customers.

This means you can push as hard as you like to acquire new members. The only limitation is your ability to market your site.

You’ll Build a Consistent Income Stream

Membership sites add a layer of stability and reliability to your income stream that just doesn’t exist when you sell one-off products or services. They help you weather the highs and lows that naturally come with self-employment.

Look at it like this: Let’s say you charge people $25/month to access your membership site. (Frankly, that’s pretty cheap. Some go as high as $199/month.) At that price, you only need 80 members to make $2,000/month for yourself.

That isn’t a life-changing amount of money, but it will make you more comfortable. It might give you some freedom to focus more on your membership site rather than your day job.

The major benefit here is that your workload doesn’t scale up with your membership. Serving 80 people is the same as serving 10,000 people. You still have to produce the same high-quality content and interact with your community, but more cash will flow in.

Most importantly, a membership site is something you own. No one can take it from you. You don’t have to rely on the success of an employer or the good nature of customers and clients. Yes, some members will cancel their membership every once in a while, but if you work hard, your membership will only grow.

How to Build a Membership Site

Now that you understand why you should build a membership site, you’re probably wondering how.

A simple way is to configure your WordPress membership site to make some of your content available to users with accounts. Then set up a landing page to collect payment information and give out access once they subscribe.

If you’re a creator, freelancer, or professional who wants to offer in-depth courses, manage your members, and even offer certifications, MemberPress is a great option. It’s the top all-in-one monetization, subscription, LMS, paywall, and membership plugin for WordPress.

With all of that being said, the easiest way to create a basic membership site is to use a WordPress plugin that lets you create new user accounts for paying members and collect payments directly on a checkout landing page.

WP Simple Pay is the #1 Stripe payments plugin for WordPress that allows you to easily achieve both of these objectives.

wp simple pay homepage

With WP Simple Pay, you can also:

  • Accept multiple payment methods, including Cash App Pay, credit and debit cards, ACH Direct Debit, Alipay, Apple Pay / Google Pay / Microsoft Pay, and more.
  • Automate tasks related to your membership site, like creating a new user account and assigning roles in WordPress, and adding new members to your mailing list.
  • Send custom e-mail payment confirmations and messages that keep your members informed about their purchase and what the next steps are. For example, you’re likely going to have to show them how to manage their subscription or how to access your paid content.
  • Create distraction-free, branded landing pages for your payment forms that allow your members to complete their purchases directly on your site.
  • Set up automatic recurring renewals and subscription pricing options/plans that automatically charge your subscribers on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.
  • Create perfect payment forms in minutes without code using the advanced drag-and-drop form builder.
  • Integrate your Stripe payment forms with third-party solutions like Zapier, TrustPulse, and PushEngage to automate tasks, including adding new members to a Google Sheet, creating recent sale notifications to enhance social proof, and sending targeted push notifications.

Remove the additional 3% fee! 

Most Stripe plugins charge an additional 3% fee for EVERY transaction
…not WP Simple Pay Pro!

Now that you know more about the WP Simple Pay plugin, let’s quickly use it to create a subscription payment form for paid content and host it on distraction-free, branded checkout page.

Step 1: Install and Activate WP Simple Pay

The first thing you’ll need to do to create a subscription payment form for your membership site is to install and activate WP Simple Pay on your WordPress site.

Simply visit the pricing page and choose the best plan for your business.

If you’re just starting out, we recommend the Pro plan. It allows you to accept multiple payment methods, pass the 3% Stripe processing fee on to your members, create subscription payment options, and offer installment plans and free trials.

To learn more about the different WP Simple Pay plans, check out our 2023 review: Is WP Simple Pay Worth It?

Once you’ve finished downloading the plugin from your WP Simple Pay account or your payment confirmation e-mail, you’ll need to upload it in WordPress.

First time installing a WordPress plugin? Don’t Worry! We’ve created a detailed guide to help you get started.

After you’ve installed and activated the plugin on your site, you’ll be automaticlly directed to the setup wizard. Go ahead and click on the Let’s Get Started button.

WP Simple Pay setup wizard

If you didn’t see the setup wizard, simply head over to WP Simple Pay » Settings » Advanced tab and click the Launch Setup Wizard button.

2. Connect WordPress to Stripe  

To connect your WordPress site to Stripe, click Connect with Stripe.

WP Simple Pay connect with Stripe

Next up, enter the email address you use for your Stripe account and connect it with your site. If you don’t have a Stripe account, you can easily create one by entering your email address and completing registration.

WP Simple Pay Connect with Stripe

Upon completing this process, you’ll be shown a success page that says Setup Complete. Next, to create a payment form, click on the Create a Payment Form button.

setup complete

Step 3: Create a Membership Payment Form

You should have landed on the payment form templates page, where you can choose from tons of different options.

For the sake of this tutorial, go ahead and choose the basic Payment Form template.

stripe payment form template

Next, from the General tab, add your Title and Description.

Be sure to keep On-site payment form selected as your form Type. This allows you to host your payment form on your own site.

When you’re finished, click on the Payment tab. Here is where you’ll need to add your pricing option, and choose Subscription. If you want to charge your members every month, keep the Billing Period set to month.

Feel free to offer a free trial period to entice visitors to give your content a try.

Next, you’ll see the list of available payment method options. Go ahead and choose Card and ACH Direct Debit to ensure that your members can enroll in automatic recurring renewals.

When you’re finished configuring your payment methods, go ahead and click on the Form Fields option on the left-hand side.

You’ll notice that Email address has already been added for you. Let’s add Name from the dropdown menu and check the box for Required.

Be sure to click on Save Draft.

Step 4: Create a Branded Checkout Landing Page

Now that you’ve created your subscription payment form that will allow new members to pay and sign up, it’s time to create a branded landing page to host your payment form on.

First, click on the Payment Page option on the left-hand side. Click on the box to enable a dedicated payment page. Then, add a descriptive URL, choose your color scheme, and upload a logo or header image.

Step 5: Set up Per-Form Confirmation Messages

Next, click on the Confirmation Page option. Here is where you can add your custom payment confirmation message. Be sure to include any additional information your members will need to know, such as where they can log in to your site to see get access to paid content.

Similarly to customizing the payment confirmation page message, you can also customize this specific payment form’s confirmation e-mail message. Here is an example:

If you’d like to set up automations for this payment form, WP Simple Pay offers a built-in integration with Uncanny Automator, the most powerful automations plugin for WordPress.

To learn how to automatically create a new user account in WordPress and assign new member roles, check out our step-by-step guide.

Once you’re finished setting up your confirmation messages, be sure to preview your form and then click on the Publish button.

Your checkout page should look something like the one below:

There you have it! We hope this article has helped you learn why you should create a membership site, and how to easily create a payment form and a dedicated checkout page for your premium content.

If you liked this article, you might also want to check out our guide on What You Need to Start Selling Digital Products on WordPress.

What are you waiting for? Get started with WP Simple Pay today!

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