This guide will provide you with information to help your business transition to the membership model.
First, we’ll cover some of the benefits of the membership model before looking at some businesses that are well suited to making the transition. Finally, you’ll get some ideas on how you can make the switch.
Whether you want to stop trading time for money, add an extra revenue stream to your business, or transition your business away from its current model and create a membership site, this guide can help.
Benefits of the Membership Model
One of the most attractive benefits of transitioning to the membership model is the potential for recurring revenue.
If you can sign up members up on a subscription basis, you’ll be receiving payments at regular intervals, on a consistent basis.
Sure there will be some churn as members leave your program. However, there is much you can do to minimize this. If you’re consistently attracting new members, then not only will this neutralize the impact of those who leave, but your income will grow.
With recurring revenue comes predictability. If you’re working as a freelancer or even running an agency you’ll be familiar with the cycles of feast and famine.
One month you might have more work than you can handle, other months you see a dip in income. The membership model can help generate a more predictable income stream that makes financial planning easier.
Another big benefit of the membership model is the potential for passive income. While your project will probably require a lot of work up front, as well as ongoing maintenance and upgrades, not to mention the admin tasks associated with a growing list of members, the potential for passive income is greater than if you’re just a regular service provider.
If you take a few days, a week, or even longer off work, depending on how you’ve set up your membership business, the money will still be coming in from your existing members and new sign-ups.
If you’re used to running a business where you're the main asset and the person who does all the work, then another benefit of the membership model is the greater opportunity for scaling and outsourcing.
Depending on the type of membership site you create, there might be lots of tasks that you could outsource to local staff or remote workers.
If you’re offering an online training program (more membership site ideas can be found later on in this article) then you can hire staff to work on the administration of your course while you focus on content creation.
For those offering access to assets, such as stock photos or code snippets on a subscription basis, for example, you could employ people to help with creating those items.
The membership model has lots of scope for automation and processes, making it easier to outsource and scale than a regular freelance gig.
Recycle and Repurpose Your Content
Instead of creating one great WordPress website for a single client, then moving onto the next project, you could instead produce a high-quality WordPress theme and make it available to all of your members.
The same applies to many other items that you might be producing for your clients on a one-off basis. If you’re providing coaching or consulting to your clients, then you could reuse your knowledge and create videos and other training content that you publish inside your membership site.
Instead of working on a one-to-one basis with the people you help, the membership site model let’s your repurpose and recycle your skills, knowledge, and other assets to work in a one-to-many relationship.
So now that we know some of the main benefits of the membership model, let’s see what types of businesses can make the transition.
Businesses That Can Transition to the Membership Model
The good news is that with a bit of creative thinking, most businesses can transition to the membership model in some way or another.
Coaching and Consulting
Those who are experts in their field, or at least have enough knowledge that people are already paying them for their time, are ideal candidates for embracing the membership model.
Sharing your knowledge and experience and making it available behind a paywall on your website is an effective way of helping more people while also earning recurring income in the process.
Service providers such as freelance graphic designers or coders can transition their business to the membership model too.
Designers and illustrators could start a subscription service where their members get access to a set number of stock images or editable templates each month in return for a recurring fee.
Developers could create products similar to those that they build for their clients and make them available to their members.
It’s also possible for creators of physical products to make the transition to a membership model. Subscription boxes are becoming increasingly popular.
Instead of offering products that can be purchased on a one-time basis, you could switch to letting your customers sign up, become members, and then receive products on a regular basis.
This has worked for beer, clothing, coffee, and books to name just a few. You don’t even have to be the creator of the products, just someone who knows how to curate an attractive subscription box each month.
If you’re still not sure how your business can transition to the membership model, the last section of this article has some advice on using your skills and expertise to start a new membership project that’s separate from your current business.
Ideas for Transitioning to the Membership Model
So if you’re sold on the concept of creating a membership site and shifting your business to the membership model, or you just like the idea of adding an extra string to your bow by offering this as an extra, here are some ideas to help you get started.
Offer Productized Services
One option is to switch from offering bespoke services to creating a productized service. One example of this could apply to freelance writers.
Instead of approaching each client differently and offering them a personalized service based on their individual needs, try creating just one package and marketing that to your target audience. For example, this could be a subscription package that includes 4 blog posts of 500 words each month, for a set fee.
With a productized service, your customers sign up, join the membership program, and although you’re producing unique articles for each member, everyone gets the same amount of content in the same format each month. This removes a lot of the negotiating and other time-consuming tasks that come with offering each client something different.
Another benefit of offering productized services as part of your membership program is that you’ll be working from strict processes and procedures, rather than treating each job as a unique task. Due to this, outsourcing and scaling are much easier as your staff can follow these systems to provide the same service to all of your members. As companies like Design Pickle have shown, this approach works well with graphic design so there’s a good chance it could work for the services you provide.
Create Educational Content
As mentioned earlier, if people are paying you for your expertise, then you can monetize that knowledge and make it available to your paying members.
There are countless ways to impart your knowledge online and your membership site can include a range of different types of content, including text, videos, audio, and more.
Build a Community
One way to supplement your business income is to create an exclusive community that only your members can access. The community could be available to anyone who wants to sign up or it could be just for your existing clients and customers. The membership site could be a space where your members can communicate with each other, without or without your input.
Your role could be organizing and hosting online events, or something less hands-on, such as moderating the interactions of your members. Fully transitioning your business to the membership model with this approach could involve adding more content and features to your community, so that it becomes more useful, allowing you to charge more for access.
Start a Completely New Venture
Maybe you can’t see a way for your current business to make the transition but you’d still like to enjoy the benefits of the membership model, such as recurring revenue and serving a wider audience.
If that’s the case, then you could start a completely new venture in a field that’s unrelated to your business or at least separate from it. Do you have any hobbies or areas of expertise that you think people might be willing to pay to connect with you about or learn from you?
Maybe you’re an experienced piano player and would like to monetize this hobby by creating online training material to teach others how to play. Perhaps you love working out and would enjoy motivating others to get fit and healthy.
You could even create a membership site that’s separate from your business but teaches others how to start working in your current field. For example, if you’re a freelance photographer, rather than moving that business to the membership model, you could create a separate membership website that teaches others how to enter the world of freelance photography. Or maybe a membership site that helps your audience take better photos is a more appealing way to monetize your skills.
With the right tools and commitment to creating useful content as well as a willingness to market your project to your target audience, creating a profitable membership site is possible for many people.
Remember you don’t have to be an expert in your chosen field, you just need to know more than the people you’re helping.
But before you get started, be sure to check out our guide to validating your membership site idea to avoid wasting time, effort, and money on a project no one wants.
Hopefully, this guide on how your business can transition to the membership model has sold you on the benefits of doing so and given you some ideas on how you can do it.
It won’t be easy, and it will take away from the time you can spend on your existing business. But the rewards can make it worthwhile, especially if the idea of recurring revenue and predictable income, as well as the ability to scale and generate passive income, are appealing.
Can your business transition to the membership model? Please let us know or ask any questions in the comments below.