Imagine having a steady stream of income every single month. Sound too good to be true? With a membership site, it’s a reality. In fact, many marketers will argue that membership sites are the best business model you can have.
So what is this elusive money-maker? Membership sites are websites that offer exclusive content to members with a login and password. Often members pay for this content, which is where the cash comes in. For example, a membership site that charges $20 a month for its content with 500 paying members is making a cool $10,000… every month as a result of a recurring charge.
Unlike membership products (also known as subscription services), such as Dollar Shave Club, BirchBox or Blue Apron, membership sites are entirely digital. For someone like me who sells a physical product (art) as opposed to a service, this can pose a problem. However, if I were to use my art knowledge and create a membership site with paid classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced students, I could turn my skills set into a steady stream of passive income.
Pretty sweet, huh? This sort of business model works well for all types of business, especially those in the service industry. For example, personal trainers can offer new workouts weekly to members, or business coaches can offer online courses and free weekly webinars for a recurring monthly fee.
You can choose to either create all your content at once for new members to access, release new content monthly or develop a drip-content model, which generates a timed release and slowly “drips” content to members, preventing them from downloading all your content at once and then leaving.
And, if you have a blog, you can choose to have free blog content that promotes your premium content, which people must pay to access.
Kartra empowers you to create a membership site as well as create different payment tiers. This is a useful feature if you want to have multiple price points. With Kartra, you can also add your membership site to your product cart and place it on your webpage so people can purchase access directly.
Get Started with Kartra’s Membership Page
To begin, I clicked on “My Memberships” in the main navigation on the left. From here, Kartra whisked me to a page that briefly explained what a membership site is and gave me the option to create my own. To do that, I simply clicked the green “+” button.
Here, I was prompted to name my membership site. Kartra then ushered me to a page with a series of steps I needed to complete.
Content is King
The first step was the content of my page. I clicked on a blue button linking out to the builder. Instantly, a tutorial page appeared that walked me through how the builder is laid out. While the format is somewhat similar to the page builder, there are some distinct differences.
The membership site has a fixed layout with a sidebar on the left and content on the right. There are also no pre-designed templates, so I was winging it! I did have the option to customize certain things on the page, such as my logo and the navigation bar color.
Once in, I quickly designed an intro page, explaining what my membership site was and the different course categories. I then went to add a few categories, as I had decided to have three content sections: beginner, intermediate and advanced.
But I couldn’t. I kept dropping the category tool onto my navigation bar like the tutorial told me, but it would instantly rebound and return to the toolbar. Puzzled, I noticed there was no “post” option either (like the tutorial had told me there would be).
What is going on?! I thought. It wasn’t until I contacted customer support that I realized my browser wasn’t expanded fully on the screen.
You see, I’m a chronic multi-tasker. I have two browsers open with 20 tabs at once and I’m always pinging back and forth between those – Skype, Photoshop and more. As a result, I almost never let a browser take up my whole screen (unless it’s Netflix). Normally, this doesn’t affect me but the Kartra builder is designed with today’s minimum 720p screen standards (1280p of width). Once I maximized my Kartra screen, all of a sudden the categories dropped in.
And you know what else happened? The option for posts appeared as soon as I placed a category on my page. Turns out, posts are only available upon creating your first category.
Note: A post can be a blog post, a video, an image or a downloadable file.
Kartra recommends setting your sections up first and then going back later and adding your individual posts. However, one thing I noticed was that if I didn’t have a post under a section, that section wouldn’t show up in my navigation on page preview. Once I added posts, upon hovering over the navigation, members can see the different pieces of content and their descriptions.
You can have as many posts as you like, but I recommend adding as much content as you can to make your membership site worthwhile to paying members.
Note: If you choose to add a button to a page on the membership site, it can link to an outside URL, a Kartra page or one of your posts. It cannot, however, link to a section category.
Complete The Configuration
Once I got the basic structure of my membership page set up, I saved it and Kartra brought me back to the configuration steps.
The comments section was next. Here, I could enable or disable commenting on specific posts. If you want your posts to have more of a blog type of feel with two-way interaction, keep the comments on. However, if you want your content to be more standalone and don’t want to spend time moderating content, turn them off.
After I finished configuring my comments, I had to configure my membership access levels. This step is incredibly important if you want access tiers, such as bronze, silver and gold membership.
To do this, click the blue “Add” button.
Here you will be prompted to name a new tier. Once you’ve done that, you can choose to turn sections on or keep them unavailable. For example, if I chose to do tiers, my “bronze” tier would only be able to access my beginner content. Meanwhile, my “silver” tier would be able to access intermediate content in addition to the beginner content. And my “gold” tier members would be able to access everything, including advanced content.
In addition to tiers, this section is where you can schedule “drip” content, if you choose to go down that road. To do this, click the drop-down to the right that says “Instant access.” There should be one of those next to every individual post. Here you can choose to…
- Instantly give your members access (I recommend doing this for at least a few pieces of content),
- Schedule content to go out X amount of days after signup (many businesses drip a couple of new pieces of content every week or month), or,
- Schedule the content to go out on a specific date. The specific date is useful if you have timely content, such as a holiday meal guide.
Note: Keep in mind that you schedule drip content by the individual post, and all posts default to “instantly upon signup.” If you’ve just set up your sections so far and not your posts (or you’ve recently added new posts), you will need to come back into this editor later and schedule them.
You can also manage your locked posts (posts that are not available yet, but dripped over time) and set up email notifications to members when a new post unlocks.
Once I scheduled my content, I moved on to the next step: adding a Helpdesk. Since I already set up my Helpdesk in a previous post, I decided to add an icon in and allow users of my art membership site to use the same Helpdesk.
Next up in my list of steps was setting up a welcome email to go out. This is the email your new members will get after they register. Kartra helped me out by setting the basic structure up and inputting details like the user’s name, password and login page. From there, I just spent a little bit of time customizing it and making it pretty, following the same steps I used when I first explored the Kartra Email builder.
Afterwards, Kartra prompted me to set my automations and then I was done with the initial setup! While it’s a bit of a lengthy process to lay the groundwork, it saves time in the long run.
Prep Your Site to Sell
At this point, I’ve spent hours creating quality content and scheduling it to drip out weekly. The hard work is in my rearview mirror…now I just needed to add it to my product cart and let the passive income stream flow.
To do this, I merely followed the same steps as I did when creating my first products in my initial walkthrough of Kartra. The main difference was instead of setting a one-time fee, which I do for my original paintings, here I set a recurring monthly fee and lowered the “return” rate to seven days so users couldn’t get a month’s worth of content and then leave with a full refund.
I also only needed to list this as a digital product this time, as there was no physical product to ship (yay for lower overhead). However, this meant that under “Accessing your product contents” in the “Post Sale” step, I needed to select “Kartra Membership” and specify the access level. If you have multiple tiers, add them as an upsell or downsell product to your main membership funnel.
Once I added the product to Kartra, I simply placed it on my sale’s page by following the same steps I used when I explored Kartra’s Page Builder. You can also create a new page for your membership site, with a long explanation and testimonials to increase sales for it.
Join the Membership Club
For the sake of total transparency, I’m not going to tell you setting up a membership site is a piece of cake. It’s a lot of upfront work to build meaningful content that people will want to buy. In fact, quality content can take months to create. And you’ll want a decent amount of content. However, once you’ve set it up, your job becomes easy…especially if you have Kartra by your side.
You can choose to continually work on adding new content or plan for an online course that only runs X amount of months. Once you have members, you have a steady stream of income rolling in, and you’ve just got to work on maintaining your current members and bringing in new ones. Kartra handles all the rest — such as payment processing, timed releases and more.