Launching a Membership site was one of the greatest things my wife and I have decided to do. There are just a few things that I wish I'd planned for when we started our first membership site — we were excited but didn't quite know what we were jumping into.
Here are some things that it would have been nice to know when we started:
1. Membership Sites are all about Customer Support
When things don't work for your paying members they'll want answers–and they'll want them fast–not tomorrow or the day after. Once we launched I really didn't realize that I'd be putting out small fires a few hours each and every day. It goes like this: password reset email doesn't come through? You better be ready to reset manually. Billing issue? Get a refund or cancellation out asap and figure out whats going on for them (happens A-LOT when people get confused). Your customer never heard of PayPal before? be ready to explain. There are hundreds of reasons your members may want to contact you…and you need to be ready to dish out some good old fashioned customer service. I personally try to reply within 10 minutes of some feedback. If it takes longer then that I always apologize.
I wish I'd known that there was always going to be customers who have issues but I'll tell you that you'll save yourself some headaches if you just pick your membership plugin very carefully–with everything you'll have to deal with already, you will simply not have the time to deal with poorly written or unmanaged software and plugins. Straight up.
2. Expenses need to be accounted for
When planning a membership site it's easy to run the numbers and get pretty excited about how much money you'll be making. But it's important to realize how many expenses you're going to have in addition to your revenue.
From hosting and payment gateway fees to auto-responders and affiliates, I just didn't realize how many expenses I'd have each month. And it seems like at each and every step of the way I encounter more monthly fees for products and services that I need to help me run and expand my business.
3. Assemble a team
If our website crashes right now I can pick up the phone and call someone. Down the whole chain–from our hosting service to our main web tech guru, these folks will pick up the phone, talk to me and make stuff happen. It's beyond critical that you have a “team” in place from day one. We didn't get our team together until the end of our first year and it was really tough going. Lesson learned.
Of course this isn't everything I wish I'd known but just the most important stuff. It's important to realize that a membership site is less of a destination and more of a journey. Despite the bumps along the way, having a membership site has helped us make so many new friends, do what we love and live on our own terms.