Chances are you're reading this from home right now. Maybe you've been laid off. Maybe you're stressing out about how to continue when your career and livelihood may have disappeared seemingly overnight.
No matter what you're going through, you're probably thinking hard about your future and how to transition from this disaster into something stable. We want to tell you something that might make you feel better: many successful entrepreneurs get their start after a crisis, a realization, or a complete overhaul of their lives.
In 2007-2009, there was a global financial collapse. It's often described as the worst global crash since the Great Depression, and people around the world wondered what would come next.
And what did come next? The way we think, work, and build completely changed.
These startups, all of which are essential to our way of life now, were born out of that panic:
- Uber (Started as UberCab)
Out of these, the story of Airbnb hits home the most. Three guys were broke and worried about paying the rent. They needed to figure out a way to move forward. One of the men, Joe Gebbia, sent an email to his friend, Brian Chesky:
“Brian, I thought of a way to make a few bucks—turning our place into ‘designers bed and breakfast’—offering young designers who come into town a place to crash during the 4 day event, complete with wireless internet, a small desk space, sleeping mat, and breakfast each morning. Ha!”
This small email in a time of mounting uncertainty for three men turned into a company that is worth $31 billion today.
The point is, times of change can birth icons. In times of despair and uncertainty, you can completely overhaul an era. Times like these are when you grow to understand yourself, and you have the option to take a chance.
Now is the time to question everything you've known. What have you held off on doing because of things you had zero control over? Here's a better question: With the means and help available to you now with tools like WordPress and MemberPress, what could you create?
And here's an even better question: What WILL you create?
Experts are waiting around every corner. What holds most people back is time. Well, the universe has now handed you some time (for better or worse). It's up to you to choose how you’ll use it!
Why Should I Start a Paid Membership Site?
Starting a business is a huge step. Thankfully, you have more than enough help in this day and age to make something substantial without all the fuss.
Both WordPress and MemberPress make it easier than ever to start your new membership site.
Once you know how to start, there's another important question: How will you succeed? The best-made plans require dedication, a realistic approach, and focus. Let's talk about successful membership sites for a moment.
How Do I Start a Successful Paid Membership Business?
To run a successful membership site, you need:
- A customer experience mindset
- Genuine love for, and dedication to, your topic
- An understanding of how your topic solves problems or encourages growth
To make concrete plans, you need to know what you're getting into. We've compiled 24 Membership site ideas that you can build while you're home, and you can get started right now.
This list is by no means exhaustive! Consider this article a compilation of ideas you can bookmark and come back to again and again. Take notes, do more research, make plans, and find the membership model that works best for you. True success for a membership site grows out of focusing on your topic, marketing non-stop, and planning, planning, planning.
The following ideas can fit into many different categories, so you might see some overlapping. That’s okay! The important part is finding something you can take away from this article to build your own personalized plan.
MemberPress is the best WordPress Membership plugin. Use it to make your membership site ideas a reality today!
Following are 24 membership sites (ordered in groups) you can start while you're waiting out the quarantine.
One of the most popular types of membership sites is the content library. Content libraries are typically vast collections of blogs, videos, audio, or any other type of content that can help members solve a problem or learn a trade. Your members get access to your library of solutions once they pay your membership fee.
Access to content libraries can be split a number of ways. You can give members complete access to the full library as soon as payment is received. You can offer a portion of your content library membership site for free and charge for the rest (in the style of sites like Copyblogger).
You could even offer tiered memberships, giving access to some content for lower-paying members and all content for higher tiers. MemberPress makes this part easy, so it's really up to you!
Content library membership sites are a fantastic way to make money, but they take a lot of time to build and maintain by continually adding fresh content. Besides the substantial marketing needed to succeed, content creation can be overwhelming if you're working by yourself.
If those aspects aren't deal breakers for you, you can find major ongoing success and an extremely loyal membership base from running a content library.
Following are some more specific membership site ideas that would be considered content library membership sites.
1. Template and Stock Membership Sites
This is a popular and high-performing membership model. Template sites are a great place to enlist user-generated content to encourage sign ups and longtime memberships.
The nature of these sites makes pricing highly customizable. Sites like themeforest.net allow users to make free accounts, but their actual products cost money. Their clients are both the buyers and the sellers.
Sites like Rawpixel, on the other hand, require a monthly payment for access to their vast library of stock photography and templates.
There are plenty of sites you can make in this format. A few ideas include:
- Stock photos, videos, or illustrations
- Website templates (especially WordPress, Joomla, etc.)
- Plugins and add-ons
- Business/marketing/development plan templates
- Legal contract templates
- 3D characters
2. Recipes and Cooking Membership Sites
Cooking is a huge part of life for families across the world. In some cultures, entire families take a role in the cooking process, bonding and spending quality time together. Online cooking communities are no different, and cooking membership sites are a hit with people of all ages. Healthy Grocery Girl is a great example.
In the quest for better health and bigger savings, many people look online to find their next recipe. These types of sites give a huge boost to college students, busy mothers, and bachelors across the globe. Many cooking membership sites boast video libraries, weekly meal plans, and shopping lists.
Cooking sites are massive hits. Take your cooking skills and spread the wealth!
While freelancers and gig workers are in high demand, it can be a hassle to find actual clients. Running a service membership site, such as Codeable, helps you build a tribe of buyers, clients, and customers who pay you regularly for your skills. You can also run a site that connects freelancers with clients, but that’s a bit more involved.
On the other hand, you can start a simple service-based membership site with any marketable skill, such as these:
- Marketing and business services
- Coaching services
- SEO services
- Tutoring and homeschooling
- Coding and web design/development
- Accounting services
- Legal services
You can also start a service like TaskRabbit in your local area, where your members are both workers and clients.
Here are a few more marketable service-based membership site ideas to consider.
3. Coaching Membership Sites
Right now, thousands of people are realizing that they have no idea how to run their business or work their job from home. If you've been where they are now, uncertain and ready for change, and you're ready to share the knowledge, a coaching membership site could be for you.
Offer your members expert knowledge on entrepreneurship, working from home, or career coaching. (Check out Create Your Career Path for an example.) You can turn nearly anything into a coaching opportunity, and coaching sites are notoriously successful (especially in times like these).
4. Content Production Service Membership Sites
Content is an essential part of any business, small or large. Offering bulk content services to members can prove to be lucrative, especially combined with a monthly plan that includes other business services.
Think social media marketing, editorial calendar creation, or other skills that can help with content distribution. WordCandy is a great example.
Consider charging based on content volume and type, or providing a certain amount of content per month (five blogs a month for the low level membership, etc.).
While this is a great business model, content production is time consuming. It's a better idea if you have a team to work with you, or if you don’t plan on customizing every piece of content.
5. Digital Art Service Membership Sites
If you have artistic talent, you're in demand! Businesses are trying to create unique experiences for their leads, and there's no better way than with branding and visuals.
You could offer memberships that provide customized designs for businesses, graphic design services for the life of the membership, and more. You could also license your art to businesses for a certain number of uses.
Groups and Micro-Communities
People need each other, and we need space to congregate. Group and micro-community membership sites offer a place to chat, socialize, and share knowledge. The era of the micro-community has come back full swing, especially at a time like this.
It probably seems like an uphill battle to monetize any forum or community. More and more, though, people are tired of unfiltered content and all-access conversations.
A lot of potential members are looking for a more structured environment that lets them have important discussions, enjoy the presence of others, and share their knowledge without the fear of trolls or uninterested parties.
In other words, the success of your group or community site will be determined by how specific it is, how you deal with trolls and time-wasters, and UX. If you run a tight ship, plenty of people will pay to get on board.
There are so many examples of micro-communities that we'd need an entire blog to even scratch the surface. Here are a few you can start thinking about.
6. Classifieds Membership Sites
As with many membership site ideas listed here, the success of your classifieds site will hinge on how niche your subject is. You can create many membership options, including the following:
- Offer a limited number of posts for free
- Charge based on the type of posting (job postings, for instance, could cost more)
- As with many dating sites, you could limit users abilities to read and send messages without a membership
But be careful not to be too restrictive when building your classifieds site. It's easy to push users away.
7. Auction Membership Sites
Do you have an interest in antiques and vintage items? An auction site might just be the perfect fit for your membership site. As someone knowledgeable in the antiques industry, you can create a secure forum for people to buy and sell these sorts of items, then charge a membership fee for the benefit of that security.
If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, you might want to check out WPAuctionSoftware, a plugin that makes configuring an auction membership site super simple.
8. Entertainment or Fandom Membership Sites
Do you know everything there is to know about Star Wars, Harry Potter, or any other huge fandom? Or do you even just know more than the average fan?
You can monetize your love for different entertainment mediums by starting a fan site with news, wiki entries, or general information. While this type of membership site will definitely attract a lot of viewers and readers, it might be hard to monetize without spending the time needed to become an actual personality.
Speaking of that…
9. Patron/Fan Membership Sites
People need entertainment, and the modern era brings platforms that help consumers support their favorite entertainers without a middleman.
Patron membership sites can double as content libraries. Members pay to access the work of a specific group or person. Some are even built with general support in mind instead of an exchange of goods.
People want to help their favorite creators continue in their creative processes, and they can be willing to offer support over a long period of time.
There are plenty of sites that help creators access their fans directly. A site that takes a cut of your profits isn't the best option to make a fan or creator site work—in fact, it can become a sort of middleman itself.
That’s why many creators decide to cut the middleman and start their members-only site with MemberPress. This gives them full control over their content and eliminates any deep cuts to their profits.
10. Creative Community Membership Sites
Artists, writers, musicians, and most creative people want to talk about their creativity, and they want to share their knowledge. Sites that bring people together to discuss tips and stories about their favorite creative skills are a huge hit.
Sites like DeviantArt, Stories.com, and Behance show that giving people a platform to show off their skills attracts a wide audience.
11. Hobby Membership Sites
Hobbies are essential, and hobbies build community. These types of sites are usually full of valuable content talking about the world around certain hobbies, giving tips and tricks, and more.
For instance, a crochet community membership site might have blog posts and articles dedicated to the best hooks to use for different projects, but might also include course offerings that teach newbies how to get started. The same website might offer an active forum, video guides, and alerts about local sales on yarn and materials.
Magazines and print journalism have seen a huge nosedive in the last decade. As more people read their news and fiction on phones and e-readers, fewer people are investing in newsstands and bookstores. Radio is making a huge comeback in the form of podcasts, and the internet is king when it comes to our entertainment.
With that being said, there are countless readers, watchers, and listeners who are always looking for something to digest. Online publications see large and loyal membership bases.
Publications also offer great options for monetization. Sites like Medium charge members a monthly fee for helping writers learn how to get paid, encouraging growth, and avoiding ads. On the other hand, you have the monetization style many publications use — you can charge a flat weekly or monthly fee for access to articles and blogs.
Those are the big guys, though. You can (and should) start small and still be able to build a lucrative publication.
Here are a few examples of online publication memberships:
12. News and Journalism Membership Sites
Times have changed! With the open atmosphere of the internet, there are lots of sites that offer news, political opinions, and general observations. With your own news or journalism membership site, you can inform the public about topics that matter to you, and you can do it without having to run anything by an editor.
Plenty of previously print-only magazines and newspapers have adopted this model. Chances are some of your favorite news source require a monthly subscription to access content after a certain point. You can do the same!
There’s no need to paywall every single thing, especially in the beginning. Show potential readers that your opinion matters with enough free content to get them hooked. It’s best to engage often and provide extreme value to see any success with a news or journalism business.
13. Serial Fiction Membership Sites
A publication type growing in popularity is serial fiction. Sites like Webtoons, Tapas, and Wattpad offer memberships to readers, and in exchange, readers are given access to and notifications for new works of fiction on the platforms.
The content on these websites is published over a period of time and released in installments. While this type of membership site can be lucrative, it does require a level of talent and dedication.
14. Podcast Membership Sites
You might hear people jokingly warning you not to start a podcast during the quarantine. And maybe you thought about listening. But if you have something interesting to cover, and you're considering starting a podcast, don't let the naysayers get you down.
Podcasting is a trendy and profitable format right now, and plenty of people are on the lookout for their next favorite podcast. Your fanbase will want to discuss your episodes, engage with you, and see show notes and sources. Give them the space to do so without outside interruption, and they'll love you (and pay you) for it!
Another idea is selling courses and other merchandise to your podcast audience.
When used with a plugin like Blubrry PowerPress, MemberPress allows you to protect your podcast feed based on membership levels.
While podcasts are an excellent choice if you’ve already built an audience, it can take a long time to acquire a substantial listenership. You won't feel the benefits of podcasting with a smaller audience, and you'll need the time to build and expand. So keep in mind — this is an idea best utilized by people who've already built a following or who are in it for the long haul.
But, if you're a master researcher, niche expert, or just generally well-spoken and organized, a podcast might be an excellent move for you.
Workshops and Courses
What's the difference between a workshop and a course? While it's mostly semantics, there are a few differences between the two. Workshops will typically have more exercises, homework, and things for the participants to try out.
Workshops are more likely to be administered in the form of a live (or previously recorded) webinar using a video conferencing solution like Zoom. Workshop teachers are a bit more involved, while courses allow you to work at your own pace (or a designated pace).
If you're interested in starting a course-based membership site, you should check out our built-in add-on, MemberPress Courses. It allows you to create and sell courses using a visual, drag-and-drop builder. And it's included at every level.
15. Life Skills Training Membership Sites
There are a lot of people out there who come from small families. There are even more who don’t have anyone to show them the ropes when it comes to cooking, searching for apartments and housing, and other integral parts of growing up and setting up a life.
This disadvantage presents a huge opportunity for people who are knowledgeable with life skills and hacks, and that knowledge can lead to a great online business.
Teach other adults how to take care of things they might have missed out on learning. You can compile a ton of life skills and offer a membership site that covers them all, or find a niche topic and expand on it. A few ideas:
- Disaster preparedness (definitely appropriate for our current global situation)
- Food and water storage systems
- Braiding and fashion
- Apartment hunting or first-time home buying
You can make money with your life skills membership site by offering a knowledge-base, compiling the information for courses and downloads, or even running hands-on training sessions using a solution like Zoom.
16. Software and Tools Training Membership Sites
Whether using Adobe Creative Suite for personal or professional reasons, chances are most people could use a helping hand with this somewhat complicated software.
Another viable option for software and tools training is sites that offer add-ons, plugins, and cheats that are custom-made for popular programs.
Consider creating courses that help your customers master software with a high-learning curve:
You can also give people technical overviews on equipment needed to run certain businesses. Think microphone and studio setups for voiceover actors, podcasters, and audio professionals. Keeping people informed on these topics will convince them to keep their membership month after month.
Certifications and Training
Certification and training sites are probably some of the most popular and profitable membership sites. The clear ROI demonstrated by these types of sites makes signing up more attractive to prospective members.
Plenty of people need to be better at what they're doing to advance in their careers. You can offer training for subjects that will increase your members' viability and desirability in an unstable job market. You can also offer your services on top of the training.
Make money with certifications and training sites by charging for:
- Access to content libraries
- One-on-one video training or personalized sessions
- Paid certifications (offer certificates)
- Paid courses that are required before members have access to certifications
You could help your customers get existing certifications or create your own certifications that prospective employers can view on your site.
Following are some membership site ideas that fit into the certification and training membership category.
17. Marketing and Business Training Membership Sites
Marketing is hard, but it's essential for business growth. With that in mind, you can train others to market their products and services in ways that fit their business models.
Sites like DigitalMarketer and Hubspot are great examples of this. They've crafted names as reputable and highly sought sources of digital marketing information. They're both so big now that their certifications carry more weight than some actual degrees!
Consider offering training in areas like:
- Digital marketing
- Affiliate marketing
This type of training is invaluable and stands out as one of the more lucrative membership site types. It takes a lot of growth to see success, but it’s worth it if you have the knowledge.
18. Coding and Web Development Membership Sites
Coding is an in-demand skill right now. With the current state of things, it's not looking like coding skills are going to fall out of favor anytime soon.
Like Codecademy, you can take members through hands-on training that shows (and tells) the valuable skill of coding. No matter the coding language you choose to cover, potential members will be happy to pay for a certification that could launch their careers.
This type of site might require some custom coding on your part along with MemberPress, but hey, you’re an expert so that should be no problem!
19. Resume and Job Preparation Membership Sites
Resume-writing itself may be too small a subject to create a membership site around. Instead, consider job preparation. Job preparation as a whole includes many additional skills that could warrant a monthly payment, such as tips and tricks, and lots of updated information.
This is another site that can be multiple things at once. Offer to edit and create resumes, allow community-based critiques and grading, and show plenty of examples for maximum success.
20. Networking and Modern Job Skills Membership Sites
There's an art to networking.
Much like studying and school prep, finding a job can be a skill on its own. Offer members a way to learn the art of cover letters, dressing for the job they want, and acing interviews.
You could include things like:
- Tips and tricks for networking events
- Event schedules and discounts
- Job skill courses or kits
- Cover letter examples (and services)
- Community critique
- Other essential job skills
21. Finance Training Membership Sites
With money being such a vital part of our lives, it's interesting that most people don't understand it at all. You can change that with a membership site dedicated to financial literacy, financial services, or just financial training in general.
Consider topics like:
- Stocks training, walk-throughs, and guides
- Financial advice
- Credit repair guidance
- Tax and IRS help
22. Test Preparation and Study Help Membership Sites
If you're a tutor, this is a great idea to consider. Test prep and study membership sites see a steady stream of students of all ages looking for consistent help. Your offered services might include video tutoring via a service like Zoom.
Helping people get ahead in school, or get ready for college, will always be a viable membership model. There are many places to start, but if you're drawing a blank, consider one of these:
- Preparation for the MCAT
- ACT testing
- LEED certification
- Special needs curriculum
23. Homeschool and Online Learning Content Library Membership Sites
Speaking of tutoring, we're seeing an unprecedented number of children being taught from home. It's a timely need. Parents all over the world are scrambling to make sure their children can learn with massive school closures. If you have a background in education, you can offer courses that help make the adjustment more manageable.
Even after we all get back to normal, many parents will want to continue their homeschooling journey. Setting up your own online school or resource membership site for homeschoolers could put you front and center when that happens.
If you have a hobby or personal skill you've been honing your entire life, now's the time to treat it seriously. It could turn out to be a great way to make a living.
Consider the following creative and personal development membership sites ideas.
24. Music/Art/Writing Membership Sites
We don't believe in starving artists. It's been said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. When you think about it, aren't you already an expert when it comes to your favorite creative outlet?
Chances are, you're also an expert at your favorite hobby, and you can share that knowledge with members wishing to learn more. Kara Bullock Art, an art education site built on MemberPress, is a great example.
What could be better than teaching members the art of creativity? Some may want these skills for their job search. Others may just want personal growth. Either way, people are more than willing to pay for one-on-one training, video courses, and how-to guides on their favorite creative outlet.
25. DIY Membership Sites
Upcycling and at home fixes will never go out of style. Create a DIY membership site to give members ideas and guides on transformations they can do themselves. Consider topics like the following:
- Furniture refinishing
- Home repairs
26. (Bonus!) Fitness and Nutrition Membership Sites
Here’s an extra bonus idea! Fitness and Nutrition membership sites are consistently the most profitable. That could be because everyone needs to exercise and eat right to stay healthy, but not everyone has access to expensive personal trainers or nutritionists.
Consider starting a fitness-based membership site based around:
- Weight training
- Cardio / Aerobics
- Sports training
- Food and nutrition facts
- Meal planning
Also, there’s never been a time when people needed home-based fitness and nutrition training more! So if you have a background in fitness, personal training, or health and nutrition, this is an idea you must give serious consideration.
Ready to Start?
Remember the financial collapse we mentioned at the beginning of this article? Chances are, many aspects of life you're used to were born out of that sudden change. A lot of the services and businesses you love were created out of a need for something new and radical, by those willing to take a chance.
We're all learning the meaning of starting over right now. It's time to take yourself, your hobbies, and your skills seriously.
Hopefully, you've found something in the list above that gives you ideas for your own movement. There are so many ways to create your own business these days. And with plugins like MemberPress, you can turn your membership site ideas into a profitable business more easily than ever.
Remember that the most significant skill you need to craft a successful membership site is a customer-first approach. Your customer's experience is what will grow your business, attract more members, and keep them where they are: dedicated to your idea.
We hope you stay safe, stay inside, and that you keep your own well-being top of mind in these troubled times. Here's to your success at starting one of the top paid membership sites out there!
Do you have your own great ideas for how to start a paid membership site? Let us know in the comments!