Membership sites can help you generate a residual, possibly passive income when done right. And with freely available tools, just about anyone can launch one in a short time.
Here are a few ideas that can get your creative juices flowing for creating a subscription site, or putting content behind a paywall.
Ride the Craze-Wave of a Boy Band with your Community Membership Site
You can utilize community plugins, and establish a community behind your paywall. I briefly ran a site like this in the past. It actually did quite well for the niche, but it was short-run due to popularity, and my attention span. I will give you an overview here and perhaps it will spark some ideas for you.
My live-in girlfriend at the time was a big fan of the New Kids on the Block music group… you know… the boy band with Donnie Wahlberg (Mark Wahlberg’s [aka Marky Mark’s] brother). Well, after the band broke up and they all attempted some solo music careers, they got back together as adults for a tour and an album. My ex was a huge fan and was excited about their return. In addition, they were coming to our city to perform and she wanted really good tickets. I decided to see if I can generate the income for the tickets by monetizing a fan site.
My ex started looking through her old New Kids memorabilia and started buying and selling on eBay. And at the time, eBay was paying well ($50 per referral) for recruiting new people to them. So, I whipped up a quick site with WordPress and a popular premium plugin at the time called phpBay. phpBay allowed me to easily integrate eBay listings into a blog post based on a selected keyword. So, I created posts for each band member, and also for the term “New Kids on the Block”. This showed lists of memorabilia available on eBay, that really got my ex lit up while looking through. Turns out, others were lit up too! Lots of New Kids fans became members of eBay so that they could bid on auctions that they found through my links.
For the membership side of things, it was basically just a private forum that they paid access to, to talk with other fans. And, since I am a tutorial guy, I created some private access tutorials to help people get started making money on eBay with their unwanted New Kids memorabilia. Also, I offered some suggestion on how to go about the bidding process for those that wanted to acquire more stuff.
The New Kids wave didn’t last long, and I certainly spent more time than I wanted on the site. But it was fun and lucrative for awhile.
Monetize your Expertise by Securing your Courseware Behind a Paywall
WordPress makes it very simple to create tutorial and course type content. There are plugins available to get really sophisticated with creating courses, but you could just use the standard “Add New Post” feature to put your course content together.
You can embed videos, audio, and images within your written content. In this scenario, it’s probably best to leverage a fast, cheap service like Amazon AWS to store and stream your large media files to keep people from sharing them.
With a web site like this, you can drip-feed your content to keep people subscribed longer, or offer all the material up front. It’s a great idea to keep your material current and relevant and let your users know when any course material has been changed.
If you can include some tools or software, or any other hook that keeps people using your resources instead of just absorbing your content only, you can get some longevity from your subscribers. Always over deliver!
Also, creating a community here can really keep people engaged and active. Plus, this alone could really keep them wanting to stick around for the long term as they build relationships. Truthfully, this solution is not a lot different than the “boy band” idea presented above, except it is the education aspect that is more prominent than the community aspect.
Offer Discounts for Products and Services to Subscribers
I have seen this approach work in the wild. I have a client that has an online store that also includes a subscription service that offers discount coupons. It currently isn’t embedded directly into the store web site, like it could be easily with existing WordPress tools, because he is using proprietary software.
At any rate, the way it works is: free members always get a 7% discount provided they enter the coupon code at checkout. The $19.97 per month users get a new coupon code each month offering them 13% off. This, and the next discount, could (and probably should) be applied automatically, which can be easily achieved with a one-site solution. At any rate, the $199.97 yearly and $997.97 lifetime users get a new 14.5% coupon each month.
This type of subscription service seems to work very well, as he has hundreds of subscribers that are leveraging these coupons.
Another idea that falls along similar lines that I have been toying with, is a service discount subscription. I haven’t thought it through 100% but I have seen versions of it online. Essentially, the idea is to create a free and public tutorial site. The site will have a multi-step checklist to achieve something online. Say there are approximately 100 lengthy steps, the site will have that many video/written tutorials to help do-it-yourselfers from beginning to end. This type of free tutorial portal should get a lot of referral and search traffic if done well. It could be monetized with AdSense and affiliate links.
In addition, it could be monetized with a service. At the end of each tutorial, you could say: If you want us to take care of all of this for you, the cost is $x. But then, you could promote the discount subscription service which perhaps costs $20/month and allows $40/month of services.
There would be some manual work here to keep track, but it’s not a huge deal. You can use Custom Fields for Users and keep track of things in there. Perhaps you could allow users to bank the monthly amount, allow it to accumulate, and offer a clause that they must be an active subscriber to retain/use the balance.
In addition, as incentive for people to use your affiliate links, and since you should be being fully transparent about your affiliate links anyway, you could say: If you use my affiliate links, I will get commissions. If you are a paid member, email me when you make a purchase with my affiliate link and I will add the equivalent of 50% of the commission to your “service balance”.
You can also offer “exclusive” content, and promote different solutions and programs to your subscribers in an organic way.
I realize that this isn’t exactly a passive-income business, and might feel a lot like having a day job, but there’s a more rewarding way to think about it. In general, people that do things that other people can’t or don’t want to do get paid quite well. Also, doing the same task a lot makes you more and more efficient and skilled at it and eventually your hourly rate could increase when you get it done much quicker. Beyond that, you can outsource the tasks to others at some point (or right away), and still profit. Then you can just work on the management of things.
Membership Sites Offer Residual Income
Regardless of the type of membership site you choose to build, you are positioning yourself for creating a residual income. Drum up an idea to make it passive as well, and then you can be living large and free while tending to your garden, and home schooling your children in an always-spring-time location in South America… if that’s amongst your goals.
Quick Getting Started with a Membership Site Checklist: