Launching a Membership Site the Quick and Dirty Way

launching a membership site

As the title suggests, I’m no expert on membership sites except I know what doesn’t make a good one. <– I talked about it in this post. Since then, I’ve done it. No, no, not here. On one of my other sites. Let me give you a brief rundown:

  • During the Summer of last year, I started a business with a partner. By “start a business”, I mean we set up a website and tried to hustle up a few clients. The focus of this business was to provide websites and Social Media Marketing services to small businesses in our local area. We got one client. Basically, it was a bit of a fail.
  • I’ve had my site on writing for the web since early 2010. It’s transitioned several times as it originally started out as a portfolio site because I was job-hunting at the time. The value in that site is the age of the domain. There is a lot f potential there that’s never been realized because I’ve been working! Now I’m working there!
  • I have this site…which is about one of my favorite topics to write about. I have the best of all worlds! I can write about writing, I can writing about making money…who could ask for more?

In a moment of frustration, I had a decent idea, I thought. I need to focus on writing because it’s what I know best. If I’m going to build websites and do Social Media Marketing for people, they should be writers! Since I am one of them, I have experience! Thus began the shift.

Niches and Such

I’ve written about niches before. I have a hard time choosing a niche because I have such a wide array of interests. Since ProWebWriter was a writing portfolio site originally, I had all kinds of articles posted there to show my range. The problem was, and has always been, that the site doesn’t retain returning readers. The traffic is mainly from Google where my content answered someone’s search query. I’ve had “gurus” critique my site and say, “You need to choose a niche. You’re everywhere.”

Yeah, okay.

I’ve learned a lot about niches since then. I’ve been through more trial and error than I want to think about. It has always been WAY more “error” than anything else. Internet Marketing is a frustrating endeavor; however, I feel a successful outcome here will be well worth every ounce of frustration over the last decade.

At one point, I pulled all of the articles from ProWebWriter that weren’t about writing. I bought a couple domains to handle a couple subjects near and dear to my heart and moved the articles to those respective sites. That lasted a year. This move ruined the nearly 3k traffic I was getting per month. I let the new sites expire. A couple weeks ago, I found a back-up from ProWebWriter and imported it. My articles are back home! I’m all over the place…deal with it!

Gurus suck!

The Way I Make Decisions: A Disclaimer

I admit, I do a lot of transitioning and not much focusing. I come by it honestly. Thanks A.D.D.! I put a lot of time into writing for my sites. It’s not always the most methodical act. Sometimes, it’s just an idea exiting my brain…and it has to happen right NOW, or I’ll forget what I wanted to say. So, when I make decisions about my websites, I make them quickly. The process goes like this: “This is not working, let’s try this!” *sigh*

Launching a Membership Site

It really wasn’t that difficult. I don’t know how much of a “launch” it was. Not much apparently since I have NO members. I read a few articles, and I know what makes a crappy membership site. One article said “do it before you think you’re ready”. I liked that. It appealed to my “do it right now” impulses. That was really the only thing I remember from the articles. As I recall, there wasn’t much to the why and how. Let’s do a search real quick and see what we find.

First result was this guy’s blog which looks to be amazing. Love that “no guru spam” thing! That’s fantastic. It puts a name on what I HATE about subscribing to “lists”. That reminds me, I need to set up my form on this site! I think I’ll add that “no guru spam” clause to my forms from now on. You know, because I’m obviously a guru? Pshhhhhhhh.

Y’all will probably all go read his blog instead of mine. Ha! That’s okay. Check out those numbers he gets on his member site! I think I threw up a little! He suggests a different members plugin than the one I’m going to tell you about, so keep your options open!

Since his stuff was the first result in Google, I went ahead and input my email to grab his “personal SEO strategy”. He’s doing something right. It’s a UK site #1 in the US. Moving on…

*AFTER THE FACT UPDATE*
I confirmed my subscription and got a download page CHOCK FULL of resources FREE for the taking. This dude is awesome!

Here’s the article I was talking about above from Copyblogger. Also a well-known blogger and authority on writing among other things.

Quick and Dirty

Alright, let’s get to it. As with all my sites, ProWebWriter is built on WordPress, so naturally, I had to find a members plugin. I went with Paid Memberships Pro. It has both free and paid features, but I found the free version to be quite enough. I’m not going to do a full-on tutorial here, but if I do, I’ll make sure you know about it!

As I’ve fleshed out my site and added content, it has evolved. For example, the first thing I added was 10-15 WordPress tutorials that I wrote  myself. Remember the guy from KingHuman’s site that spent $1000 on WordPress  training? Ridiculous! I taught WordPress to myself in a few days. It’s not difficult!

I created a public Page for both members and non-members which includes:

  • A navigation menu to all of the member areas
  • A list of the WordPress tutorials
  • Pricing
  • A blurb about why one might want to become a member
  • A blurb promoting the 24-hour free trial

Pricing

I’m terrible with pricing…just terrible. I’ve never had money, so I’m cheap. Maybe I’ll never have money…who knows? I enjoy products that offer a lot of value like Netflix. Do you realize that other guy’s membership is TWICE the cost of a Netflix subscription!?!

I wanted there to be as much transparency as possible. I realize that the mystery of what’s in a membership probably gets that other guy a lot of sign-ups. I’d love to know his retention stats, though. Who would pay $15 a month for ONE page of PLR that’s not even as long as this blog post? That’s what you get with him. ONE new page a month and NO access to him.

So, this is what I did with my pricing:

  • I went with an initial fee of $14.98
  • I went with a much lower monthly fee: $2.99
  • I added a free trial option so users can see what’s inside and have full access

I went with pricing that I could see myself being able to afford. I’m using this same strategy as I add content. I’m adding content that I can and do use myself!

Niche

The niche is tight…and maybe broad at the same time. I’m focusing on Independent Authors. Writers who need the things I know how to do which is everything they need to build a platform. <– This is kind of a new buzzword in the self-publishing industry. Anyway, I focus on authors over there and I even use this site as a part of my network for writers who want to write for the web. No guest posters yet. It’s tough out here, y’all.

What Else?

In addition to the memberships, I also added a nice set of forums to my site. They are open to the public and center around writing of course. There are two members: myself and a fake account created by myself. 😛 I know, pitiful. So in trying to find out how to get members, I decided to do a giveaway. Yay! FREE stuff! I ruminated on it for a couple days. I can’t really afford to give away anything tangible. I looked around a bit at fancy pens, and books about writing. I looked at notebooks, and moleskins…none of it tripped my trigger.

Both of the reviews I wrote here at StackingBenjis.com about that other guy’s member site cost me 15 bucks each. I had to pay to join his site to see what was inside. So, in addition to that free trial that lets you in, I am currently offering 10 LIFETIME memberships for the duration of the website…5 years and counting. These special memberships include lifetime membership with NO fees into the top tier level. These charter members receive a badge to display on their profile in addition to a few other privileges. Of course, they would be considered first for moderator positions and things like that. However, they would also be expected to help build up the content of the forums and contribute their ideas to help improve the site.

Is it too much?

Maybe…and it’s not working very well. I’m nearly 2 weeks in and still just the 2 accounts on the forums.

Which brings me to…

A Word on Credibility

When I discussed this with some gurus, the fact that I can’t even give things away, they suggested that I had not established credibility. Therefore, if you are planning on doing ANYTHING online, you might want to study up on credibility. I have done everything I can possibly think to attempt establish credibility with the exception of jumping through the screen and introducing myself, so that’s my next experiment. I’m jumping through the screen….nah, but I am going to do some video/vlog/podcast type things and see if that helps.

Get over there and check it out.

 

 

 

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