How Much Does It Cost to Build a Membership Website in 2022?

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Membership Website

Are you trying to figure out how much does it cost to build a membership website?

To answer this common question, we’ve completed a detailed estimation study. Our findings suggest that creating a membership site in 2022 costs between $10 and $1,345 in initial setup fees, with recurring monthly costs ranging from $65 to $772 per month.

However, your actual membership website cost can vary significantly depending on a few factors. In this guide, we’ll give you a complete breakdown of the costs and share some tips on keeping them down.

Let’s start.

What Does the Membership Website Cost Depend On?

While several factors influence the cost of building a membership site, you can generally group them into three brackets:

  • Membership Tools: The choice of tools will have the biggest impact on your membership website cost. Not only can the cost be higher or lower depending on the tools you use, but it can also mean higher upfront investment vs higher monthly costs.
  • Membership Website Features: As a general rule, the more features your membership site has, the higher the costs will be. These features can include a membership community, branded mobile apps, etc.
  • Website Design and Development: Your membership’s look and feel can also impact your costs. If you choose to have a custom membership site designed, you can expect to pay more than if you use a pre-made membership site template.

Now that we know what membership site cost depends on, let’s take a look at each of these factors in more detail.

Membership Site Platform

To build a membership site, the first thing you’ll need is a software platform.

When selecting one, you have three options: self-hosted, hosted, and all-in-one solutions. Each option has pros and cons and differs significantly in cost.

For membership sites, WordPress is the most popular self-hosted solution. While the platform is free to use, you’ll need a premium membership plugin.

We recommend using MemberPress. It is a feature-rich plugin that offers all the essential membership features, including a learning management system.

MemberPress requires annual payments; its regular cost is between $179 and $399 per year.

MemberPress pricing plans
MemberPress pricing plans

The next option is to use a hosted membership platform. Unlike self-hosted options, hosted solutions include hosting for your website and content.

There are two options we recommend: Thinkific and Kajabi.

Thinkific is a standalone membership platform, and it mainly offers features for hosting your membership content and engaging your members.

Thinkific costs $99/month; you can have unlimited students and host unlimited courses and content. If you’re an advanced customer who needs scale, you may need the Premier plan, priced at $499/month.

Thinkific pricing plans
Thinkific pricing plans

Kajabi, on the other hand, is an all-in-one membership software. It goes beyond the core membership site features; it also offers tools for blogging, funnels, email marketing, etc., so you can run your entire business on the platform.

The pricing for Kajabi starts at $149/month and can go up to $399 per month.

Kajabi Subscription Prices
Kajabi Subscription Prices

For most people, a hosted membership builder will be a better choice for two simple reasons:

  • Hosted platforms are easier to use, and you can get up and running quickly. Using WordPress, on the other hand, requires more technical knowledge.
  • Hosted solutions work on a pay-as-you-go model and require less upfront investment than WordPress.

Please check out the following guides if you need help picking the right membership site platform for your business.

Domain Name and Hosting

Every membership site needs a domain name and website hosting.

Regarding hosting, Thinkific and Kajabi (hosted platforms) won’t need separate hosting. Only when using WordPress, you’ll need to buy website hosting separately.

While decent shared hosting for WordPress starts for as low as $10/month, they aren’t suitable for hosting membership websites.

Membership sites are more complex than regular websites, and we recommend that you host with CloudWays. A suitable plan should cost you $50 or $96 per month, depending on your requirements.

Cloudways pricing plans
Cloudways pricing plans

Apart from hosting, you’ll need a domain name, and this applies to all three options. You can buy one for as little as $10 from a domain registrar such as NameCheap, and then you’ll have to pay a yearly renewal fee of $10.

Website Design Cost

One of the most crucial elements of a membership website is getting the desired look and feel.

If you’re not a developer, you should get a website theme and a drag-n-drop page builder to create your website design. What options are available depends on the membership software you use.

With WordPress, you literally have unlimited options. There are tons of WordPress themes and page builders. However, based on our experience, we recommend using Astra as your theme and Elementor as your page builder, which cost $59 and $49 per year, respectively.

Using these two solutions, you can build your site easily.

Coming to Thinkific and Kajabi, these platforms include pre-built themes and a drag-n-drop page builder. Neither option requires you to purchase anything extra, so the cost is included in the subscription.

However, standard themes and a page builder can only take you to a certain point. If you want a completely custom design, you’ll have to get a custom theme built for you.

A custom theme will give you complete control over every aspect of your site, but the cost for a custom website design is considerably higher. In fact, the typical pricing starts from $3,000.

Online Community Platform

One of the most important features of a membership website is an online community.

To offer a community, you’ll need an online community software.

For WordPress, we recommend using BuddyBoss. The main advantage of using BuddyBoss is that you can constantly upgrade your experience with extra plug-ins and features as you scale.

Regarding pricing, the plugin costs $228/year. There’s no monthly option.

BuddyBoss pricing plans
BuddyBoss pricing plans

When using Thinkific or Kajabi, you don’t need to purchase a separate community builder. Both platforms have a native community feature that allows you to create a membership community.

However, you may still want to use a specialized community platform (e.g., Circle) as it offers more powerful community building and engagement features.

Video Hosting Solution

Video is the most popular form for delivering content in a membership site. Whether you create online courses or just deliver standalone training, you’ll be using videos.

If you opted for WordPress for your membership site, you’d need a separate video hosting service.

While it’s possible to upload your videos on WordPress itself, we strongly recommend not doing so. Video hosting involves a lot of technicalities, and you’ll be better off using a specialized service.

We suggest using Vimeo as your video hosting solution.

Although the cheapest plan is $7 per month, you’ll need at least the Pro plan, which costs $240/year and allows up to 20GB weekly storage. The more expensive Business plan—which costs $600 per year—offers up to 5 TB of video content storage.

Vimeo pricing plans
Vimeo pricing plans

If you plan to use Kajabi or Thinkific, you won’t need to worry about purchasing a separate video hosting solution, as both include unlimited video hosting for all members.

Email Marketing Service

Email marketing is an essential tool for any online business.

Whether you want to create email marketing campaigns or send weekly newsletters, you’ll need an email marketing solution.

Of the three platforms, WordPress and Thinkific don’t offer email marketing solutions as part of their platform, so you’ll need to find an external solution.

We believe the best one to be ActiveCampaign. Subscription prices start at $15/month, allowing up to 500 subscribers.

As the number of email subscribers grows, so will the subscription cost. If you have got 10,000 contacts, you should expect to pay $174/month.

ActiveCampaign pricing
ActiveCampaign pricing

Talking about Kajabi, it comes with email marketing tools, including features for automation. The lowest-priced plan allows for 10,000 contacts and unlimited marketing emails.

Mobile App Options

Due to the ubiquity of smartphones, creators look for more mobile-friendly ways to deliver their membership content.

Of course, the most popular method is to build a mobile app and depending on your site platform, different solutions are available.

If your membership is built with WordPress, you can use BuddyBoss to launch a membership app. As part of this offering, BuddyBoss will create branded iOS/Android apps for your membership as part of this offering.

This is separate from their web-based community solution and comes with an additional cost. Its Done For You service costs $2,348 one-time payment and $219 per month afterward.

Since you’re already using BuddyBoss for your community, it makes sense to get an app built by the same company as things will be more seamless.

BuddyBoss App pricing
BuddyBoss App pricing

When it comes to hosted solutions, the story is a bit different.

Currently, Thinkific doesn’t offer a native app solution, and, unfortunately, the only way to create one is by developing a custom solution.

Custom solutions are incredibly expensive, and you should expect to pay upwards of $10,000 plus a significant amount for ongoing app updates and maintenance.

On the other hand, Kajabi stands out by offering a native mobile app for iOS/Android devices. The apps are free for your members, and you can activate them in a couple of simple steps.

However, remember that they’re Kajabi apps and not white-label apps. If you need branded apps for your membership site, you’ll again need a custom solution.

Additional Costs to Consider

There are several additional costs that you should consider before starting your membership site. However, since they’re specific to each creator, it’s hard to give a precise estimate.

  • Payment Processor Fees: Stripe and PayPal are the most commonly used payment gateways. In the US, Stripe charges a 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction fees, whereas PayPal charges a 3.49% + $0.49 per transaction. There’s no fixed cost to using these gateways, and it will be based on your membership revenue.
  • Cost of a Virtual Assistant: Once your membership website is set up, you may decide to hire extra help with the day-to-day running of it. Common tasks that a virtual assistant can do include customer service, content production, etc. Costs will vary depending on how much they work for you.
  • Advertisement Costs: This cost will depend on how you find and convert potential customers into members, which will vary greatly between sites. Popular advertising channels include Google, Facebook, and YouTube.

Now that we’ve looked at all the membership website cost factors, let’s put together an estimate for the platform-wise total cost.

Total Membership Website Cost

The total membership website cost has two components—upfront yearly payments and monthly costs. We cover both in this section.

Additionally, we’ve included a range of values to reflect the different requirements and sizes of membership sites that you may run.

1. WordPress (Self-Hosted Option)

As a self-hosted option, the initial upfront investment to create a membership website on WordPress (MemberPress) is incredibly high, ranging between $765 and $1,345 (paid yearly).

However, the ongoing monthly costs are relatively low as most services require an upfront payment. The monthly cost of running a WordPress membership site stands between $65 and $270.

ServiceUpfront Cost (Paid Yearly)Monthly Cost

Membership Plugin

(MemberPress)

$179 – $399/y

$0

Domain Name$10$0
Website Hosting$0$50 – $96
Website Design$108$0
Online Community Platform$228$0
Video Hosting$240 – $600$0
Email Marketing$0$15 – $174
Total Cost$765 – $1,345$65 – $270

2. Thinkific (Standalone Hosted Platform)

As a hosted site, Thinkific already has all the core features required to run a successful membership website. It includes website hosting, video hosting, and a community feature as part of your monthly subscription.

As a result, your upfront cost is incredibly low—around $10. Instead, you’ll pay a higher monthly cost, which ranges between $114 and $772.

The cost varies greatly depending on your needs and the size of the membership website you’re building.

ServiceUpfront Cost (Paid Yearly)Monthly Cost
Thinkific Subscription

$0

$99 – $499/mo

Domain Name$10$0
Website Hosting$0$0 – included in the plan
Website Design$0$0 – included in the plan
Online Community Platform$0

$0 – $99/mo

Video Hosting$0$0 – included in the plan
Email Marketing$0$15 – $174
Total Cost$10

$114 – $772

3. Kajabi (All-In-One Hosted Platform)

Kajabi is the most comprehensive solution for building a membership website on a single platform. As a result, the platform has more inbuilt features as well as a higher subscription cost.

With Kajabi, the initial setup cost is just $10, and the ongoing monthly cost is between $149 and $498.

ServiceUpfront Cost (Paid Yearly)Monthly Cost

Kajabi Subscription

$0

$149 – $399

Domain Name$10$0
Website Hosting$0$0 – included in the plan
Website Design$0$0 – included in the plan
Online Community Platform$0

$0 – $99/mo

Video Hosting$0$0 – included in the plan
Email Marketing$0

$0 – Included in the plan

Total Cost$10

$149 – $498

As you can see, the membership website cost can vary significantly depending on your choice of membership software.

With hosted solutions (Thinkific and Kajabi), your initial investment is incredibly low, and you pay a higher monthly fee. In addition, the ease of setting it up and the fact that no technical knowledge is required make them extremely attractive membership website solutions.

While WordPress is more technical and requires more upfront investment, it gives you more flexibility in terms of features and design customization.

Option

Upfront Cost (Paid Yearly)Monthly Cost

WordPress

$765 – $1,345

$65 – $270

Thinkific

$10

$114 – $772

Kajabi

$10

$149 – $498

While the above costs apply to most membership sites, these can vary significantly if you opt for custom solutions.

For example, if you want a completely custom-designed membership site, you can expect to pay $2,500 to $4,000 for it.

Similarly, if you need branded apps for your membership, you should expect to pay at least $2,000, with further ongoing monthly costs.

There we have it, folks. Our study to answer the question, “how much does it cost to build a membership site in 2022?” is complete.

If you need help building your own membership site, do check out our epic guide on membership creation.

If you have any questions or need more help choosing the right tools, let us know in the comments below.