While creating a paid membership site can be lucrative, it is hard work and requires a lot of planning. Most importantly, you need the right membership model.
Are you trying to give individuals access to a library of courses you’ve created? Do you want to bring your audience together and form a community? Or is your purpose to simply entertain them?
There are numerous profitable membership site ideas. With this article, we’ll help you better understand the options available to you and walk you through the characteristics of ten proven membership site ideas you might want to consider.
Are you ready to start? Let’s begin.
- 1. Course Membership Sites
- 2. Community-Based Memberships
- 3. Group Coaching Membership Sites
- 4. Downloadable Resource Membership Sites
- 5. All-In-One Membership Websites
- 6. Service-Based Memberships
- 7. Lifestyle or Fitness Memberships
- 8. Entertainment Membership Sites
- 9. News Membership Sites
- 10. Patron Membership Sites
- Membership Site Ideas Wrap Up
1. Course Membership Sites
One of the most popular membership site ideas is course memberships.
Course memberships give users unlimited access to an extensive course library in exchange for a monthly or annual fee.
According to research compiled on membership websites, nearly 60% of creators who start a membership use online courses as the core deliverable for their audience.
Course membership sites often focus on a specific niche or career area and can help learners readily find and learn skills most relevant to their job or hobby.
The ease in identifying a course or sequence of courses and being able to take them all in one place for a manageable subscription fee is a vital attribute of a course-based membership.
You won’t need to add new courses all the time, but you’ll want to start with enough so your prospective members can see that enrolling in your membership will be worthwhile and that they won’t run out of courses that may interest them.
We don’t advise starting a membership site if you only offer a few courses. Instead, exploring alternative membership site models may be in your best interest until you build your course library.
You’ll also need to recognize that you may have users with different skill levels (e.g., beginner to advanced), and it’s critical to create learning pathways to serve them.
For example, StationX, a cybersecurity training platform, offers a VIP membership so members can access their entire library of course offerings and learn from top experts in the space.
In addition, they’ve included a customized training roadmap, a career guide, and practice tests, so members at every ability level can get the most out of their membership.
To build a course membership, you can use an online course platform like Thinkific that allows you to create unlimited courses and charge subscriptions.
2. Community-Based Memberships
You’ve probably heard the creator-inspired adage that goes like this: “they come for the content, but stay for the community.”
More than any other feature or attribute, personal connection is the driving force behind many successful membership sites.
The data also reflects this sentiment. In fact, 68% of membership site owners say that the most crucial feature they provide is a community.
A community-based membership’s primary purpose is to promote engagement and boost retention. It might include open discussions, masterminds, hosted Q&A, and live events to spur interaction.
The value of a community-focused membership is also derived from its exclusivity.
Members will pay for the opportunity to learn and share new ideas with others in a safe, moderated online space without fearing what kind of unfiltered audience you might find on prominent social media platforms.
For instance, Smart Passive Income (SPI) Pro is a community-based membership for digital entrepreneurs that requires potential members to apply to join.
Once your application is approved, you need to pay a quarterly or annual membership fee. Part of SPI’s vetting process is ensuring the community is small, focused, and limited to members who actively want to be there and contribute.
In SPI Pro, you’ll find topic-specific channel discussions, 1:1 messaging amongst members, monthly challenges, and the opportunity to pitch your business or idea for group feedback.
To create a community-based membership, you can use an online community platform like Mighty Networks.
3. Group Coaching Membership Sites
The key characteristics of a group coaching membership site are:
- The inclusion of a limited number of students or members
- A clear plan or roadmap for your coaching group to follow
- A transformation or desired outcome
- Ongoing access to a coach or expert
Group coaching can allow 1:1 coaches to scale up their services to impact more members and create opportunities to generate additional income.
Conversely, it can also provide a path to scale down a larger community with an exclusive premium offering with enhanced benefits.
In either scenario, a group coaching membership emphasizes connection, community, and communication amongst its participants—and here is where the value lies.
They can be on nearly any personal or professional topic you can think of and usually require members to apply to ensure a good fit before joining.
For example, Charly Caldwell of Success Academy offers group coaching through his Life & Business Mastery Community.
He offers monthly group coaching sessions and live Q&A sessions where his students can engage with him and each other in small, lively groups. Because coaching is a premium offering, he charges a $297 monthly fee.
4. Downloadable Resource Membership Sites
Downloadable resource membership websites provide users with access to a vast library of resources and tools they can use as soon as they sign up.
You might find downloadable resource membership sites that allow their members to download items like:
- Stock photos
- Photo filters
- Web page templates
- Software plugins
Unlike other membership websites we’ve discussed, you don’t lose access to past downloads when you cancel.
The asset will continue to belong to you, and you may continue using them perpetually. However, be sure to read the fine print just in case there are any other restrictions you need to know.
Creative Market is a popular marketplace for buying themes, templates, graphics, etc. When you join their membership, you get a certain amount of credits, which you can use to download design assets.
Once you download an asset, it’s yours to keep even when you cancel your subscription.
5. All-In-One Membership Websites
Up to now, the membership site ideas we’ve discussed have focused, for the most part, on one specific thing—be it courses, community, group coaching, or downloadable resources.
The all-in-one membership site, instead, pulls from various membership website ideas and incorporates elements of all of them in one place.
While this type of membership is versatile and can open lots of options for you, be careful not to spread yourself too thin.
If you’re considering using an all-in-one membership, we recommend that your membership site have a core focus and add other features as you build it out.
For instance, you might choose to offer a membership with a community focus but may also include access to a small library of online courses and downloadable tools and resources over time.
It’s always helpful to ask your members what activities and content they want to see and then build in those directions.
Knit Camp, a membership about knitting, is a great example of a membership site following the all-in-one approach.
Olive Knits offers monthly patterns, live workshops, field trips, a tutorial library, and a growing community of people passionate about knitting. Moreover, users can access the content and community through their membership apps.
They do an excellent job of giving their members a varied experience that can appeal to users at any experience level.
The best platform for building an all-in-one membership is Kajabi. It allows you to build a membership website with courses, coaching, podcasts, and community.
6. Service-Based Memberships
A service-based membership site gives your members access to a service for a monthly or annual fee.
They can include a variety of professional service areas related to:
- Business and marketing
- Content writing
- Graphic design
- Coding and web development
Rather than paying for a service on a per-project basis, a service-based membership lets you charge a simple monthly fee to your audience. Additionally, this model lets the membership site owner develop a more stable and recurring revenue stream.
For example, Kimp is a monthly subscription-based design service offering unlimited graphic design and video creation solutions.
They allow members to upload their graphic design and video requirements to a dedicated design team and a proof—depending on the project type—is ready for review within one to three days.
Scale, speed, and service quality are essential when deciding if creating a service-based membership is right for you.
7. Lifestyle or Fitness Memberships
A lifestyle or fitness membership site is different from a content-based one primarily because it is more goal-focused.
While education may be a component of this type of membership, its key feature encourages members to take the next step in their health journey.
To facilitate this activity, they surround members with numerous learning tools and resources to meet them at their ability level.
Carb Manager, for instance, is a health-focused membership site that provides its users with the tools and support they need to live a healthy lifestyle.
Members can measure their data through smartphone/smartwatch app integrations, use chef-inspired recipes, and receive personalized meal plans and shopping lists.
Because fitness and lifestyle membership sites aim to help members modify behavior or develop better habits, offering a standalone membership app on your phone or watch is a compelling feature.
Apps such as these can allow users to track and measure their activity, calories, and consumption with ease.
You may also find workshops, specialized courses, and a community attached to this type of nutrition-based membership.
8. Entertainment Membership Sites
If you subscribe to Netflix or any video streaming plan, you know how entertainment memberships work.
They’re not necessarily designed for learning something new. Instead, their primary purpose is to entertain the audience.
This form of entertainment could include video or music streaming, live events, podcasts, and narrated audiobooks.
Entertainment sites don’t have to be large, either. Niche memberships can be pretty successful as well.
For example, kweliTV celebrates global Black stories and amplifies Black storytellers from North America, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Their video streaming membership encompasses indie films, documentaries, web series, children’s shows, animation, wellness, business content, audio stories, and more.
Members can watch kweliTV content across numerous apps and streaming devices.
In this case, you’ll need a provider like Uscreen to handle the setup and delivery for your own OTT platform.
9. News Membership Sites
News membership sites provide access to news content depending on their area of focus (politics, sports, weather, science) and regional coverage (local, national, or international).
News memberships may also include some additional perks or benefits that could consist of specialized content, access to events, or live Q&A sessions with authors and editors.
Usually, a media company offers these types of memberships, but that’s not always the case with the advent of subscription-based email newsletters and video channels operated by independent creators.
For instance, Substack, a newsletter subscription platform, has more than a million people paying for newsletters run by well-known journalists and writers.
The Berkshire Edge is a local online news organization that offers a membership to its audience for three pricing tiers and a unique perk: advertising.
While much of their news coverage and email updates are free to their readership, two paid tiers include ten days of free advertising in a specific space in their online news section.
The perks of this particular news membership are relatively limited and serve a more philanthropic goal to encourage their users to support the site’s financial sustainability.
10. Patron Membership Sites
If you were to describe a patron membership site, you could almost call it a membership-lite.
Patron membership sites aren’t heavily content-focused and don’t offer many extra benefits. Their objective, however, is to engage fans and encourage their support.
They tend to be a simplified form of membership that allows super fans to obtain more access to the creator.
The patron membership site model was popularized by Patreon, a hosted web platform that lets your most passionate fans support you.
The big drawback of using Patreon is that the platform will receive a percentage of your revenue, and you’ll be subject to their terms of service, including the control of your data.
The patron membership site model has grown significantly, and the marketplace offers plenty of other avenues to create a patron site you control.
One great example of a patron site is The Doughboys, a light-hearted podcast on chain restaurants that seek to engage the audience and create a multi-tiered membership on Patreon.
You can see that these membership levels aren’t premium and don’t require a ton of work on the part of the creator.
For passionate listeners, though, they’ll get ad-free listening, unlocked episodes, and entrance into the Doughboys Discord community where they can connect with the creators and other members.
Membership Site Ideas Wrap Up
All the membership site ideas covered in this guide offer a unique selling point.
To determine what model suits you best, you’ll want to assess your existing content, business goals, and audience needs.
We like the all-in-one membership model as it lets you mix and match different offerings to create a comprehensive membership experience for your audience.
After you’ve chosen a membership idea, it’s time to find a platform and start building your own membership site. We’ve written an epic guide on how to do so; check it out by clicking this link.
Do you have any questions about any of the membership site ideas? Did we miss something in this article?
Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!