Membership websites (or portals) are a very popular delivery method for online courses and programs.

The most obvious advantage is that membership websites tend to produce a steady, or residual, income. There is nothing better than a site that charges a subscription fee and makes a steady income from repeat clients or members. The membership fees are usually set up for a specified amount of time and that could be monthly, quarterly or even yearly.

If you are presenting your coaching services as a teleclass or as group coaching, a membership site is an excellent delivery method. These portals are committed specifically to your coaching program and only your students can access the valuable information and tools you provide there.

How does a membership site work and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

membership site

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Here’s the short version of how course delivery via a membership site works:

  • Set up your Membership Site. You can load all your materials – videos, audios, homework etc. into your site much like the chapters in a book. Each “chapter” or “module” can be time released so information is dripped to students as needed.
  • Enroll you students. They have immediate access to the course materials on line or download to their computer. You can also give them access to any “bonus” material.
  • You can include a forum (depending on the site software used) where students can interact or ask you questions. However most people link to a Facebook Group for this purpose.

The advantages of a membership portal are:

  • It is evergreen. Starting a new class every 3 months? No problem. Make a few quick edits to your portal and you start enrolling the new class!
  • You can repurpose the content. After your first class, you have the recordings from each of your awesome live presentations. Maybe you want residual income without having to repeat the class live? With everything in the membership portal, you can now sell access to the portal as a “self-guided” coaching program.
  • Convenience for your students. All class dates, materials and recordings are in one convenient place. You students don’t have to search for that email you sent them last week. They just log on to the portal and read or download at their convenience!
  • No Email issues. Since all materials and recordings are in the portal, there are no worries about attachments to emails and recordings to large to send.
  • Easy FAQ. Students will have questions and, of course, some may not know how to download. Instead of your inbox being flooded with these questions, you have a convenient FAQ page where they can get specific directions.
  • Students feel valued and part of something special. We all love the exclusivity of “membership.”

membership site disadvantages

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There are a few dis-advantages of using a membership portal of course:

  • Initial Cost.
    • You need a website to host your membership portal on. This can be done on your primary business site or a subdomain. The cost of that depends on your hosting provider.
    • Membership site software. This is a tool to manage all the functions of your portal. There are many choices ranging in price from free to hundreds of dollars.
    • Unless you are a “technical” person and have some have extra time to set up your own portal, you’ll have to hire someone to set your portal up for you.
  • Ongoing Cost.
    • Ongoing hosting fees – depending on your host. I use Bluehost which allows me to set up multiple subdomains without any additional hosting fee.
    • Monthly fees for your membership site software. This will depend on what software you use. Some do not have monthly fees and others can cost several hundred dollars.
    • Here again, if you’re not techy, you may need someone to take care of the ongoing site maintenance, updates and customer care.

If you are thinking about setting up a membership site, I highly recommend you don’t do it yourself. You should work with someone who is experienced creating and a managing membership sites. If that’s not in your budget, should at least invest in a consultation with an experienced person.

However, if budget is a big concern, let me raise another word of caution. Although there are very good WordPress plugins that are low cost for your site, creating the site is a substantial investment. If you’re not ready to make the investment, I would recommend you stay with more traditional ways of course delivery.