Since I first dipped my toe in the water of memberships back in 2014, I’ve experienced them both as a member and as the person behind the scenes, supporting clients with building, promoting and delivering courses, memberships and online training. When you decide to build a membership site there are a huge number of things to figure out, from the name of your membership to the tools you’re going to use to deliver it; from marketing strategy to pricing. One thing you will definitely need is a platform to host your content – your course videos, audios, presentations and workbooks.

Note: the external links on this page are NOT affiliate links, so I won’t be compensated if you click!

 

So how do you choose a platform for your membership site?

There are many options for where to build the online course part of your membership, depending on your budget, where you’re positioning yourself in the market, and how you intend to work and engage with your members.  You can choose a relatively inexpensive off-the-peg solution such as Teachable, or have a web developer create a bespoke membership site for you.

Some people will start off using something like Teachable, then transition to having something more tailor made on their own website later on, when they have more resources, have tried and tested their business model, have the support of a virtual team to manage the techie bits.

What are the pros and cons of the different approaches?

 

‘Off-the-shelf’ solutions

Teachable and Thinkific are good examples of this: pre-existing platforms created by someone else, where you can pay a monthly or annual fee to be able to upload your course content, add some branding and start selling.

Pros

No build – just upload. No need to figure out WordPress or pay a web developer to build your course – just create your content (videos, audios, PDFs, presentations) and upload it all. You save a tonne of time and money – win.

Use your own domain. Depending on the payment plan you choose, there is usually an option to host your course on your own domain, so members don’t feel they are leaving your site to access your courses.

The money’s taken care of. The platform will manage your subscription payments – you set the prices for your courses, create course bundles and coupon codes and then let the system manage it all with full automation.

Simple to learn. Not only will it be easy for you to upload and manage your content, but anyone you hire to help you with your business will be able to get up to speed quickly. So you won’t have to invest in training your virtual assistant or team in a bespoke system.

The tech stuff is sorted. No need to worry about things going wrong in the back end – you’ll never need to see or deal with any of that. Leaving you to focus on creating awesome content and building and engaging with your audience.

Cons

Branding. Yes, you can add some branding to these platforms, but only minimally – it will still be pretty obvious to your members that you’re using an off-the-shelf platform. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it really depends on how you want to be perceive and where you’re positioning yourself in the market.

Structure and layout. If you use a pre-existing platform, you’re pretty much stuck with the layout and structure they’ve created. So if you’re not 100% happy with the way your videos appear, or how your members have to navigate your content, there’s not much you can do about it. Higher payment plans may offer more options for customisation, but it will never be anywhere near as flexible as having your own website.

Tax. If you’re in the UK/EU, digital products are taxed. This doesn’t apply if you’re offering a live element with your membership (such as live coaching calls or meetups), but as you can’t deliver those live elements via sites like Teachable or Thinkific, you will have to pay tax on course sales.* (It is possible to have members pay you outside of the platform, but having to manually manage all your payments and memberships can get pretty unwieldy once your membership increases.)

 

 

Bespoke solutions

If you’re looking to have more control over how your course or membership looks or is used, and have more scope for developing your membership further in future, you may want to investigate a more bespoke option. You might want to look at building your membership on your WordPress website, or having a web developer set this up for you.

Pros

Total control over appearance. If you design and build your course yourself, you’ll be able to have complete control over how it looks. You’ll be able to brand it exactly the way you want, design the layout of the pages and have the membership part of your website look exactly the same as the other pages.

Greater flexibility. You’ll be able to control the layout, navigation and how it’s used. And you’ll be able to add bits in and make changes as you go.

More professional. Done badly, you could end up with something that looks less professional than an off-the-shelf platform! But done well, you’ll have a membership site that is fully branded and gives an instant impression of quality and professionalism. If you’re serving a discerning audience and aiming to build a membership empire you probably don’t want your members thinking you’ve gone for a cheap, off-the-shelf option – you want them to be able to see that you’ve invested in a bespoke solution that reflects your brand quality and is tailored to their needs.

Cons

Higher upfront cost. While you won’t be paying a platform every month for the privilege of using their service, you will probably need to pay a developer to build your membership site – and this will work out more expensive than platform fees.

Could work out more expensive overall. There may also be monthly or annual costs for things like plugins, which can work out more expensive than subscriptions to off-the-shelf plugins.

Longer set up time. If you want to get started right away, an off-the-shelf platform will allow you to set up in a couple of hours. Obviously, it’ll take much longer (probably 6 weeks at least) to have a bespoke membership site built.

Steeper learning curve. Off-the-shelf platforms like Teachable are easy to use and hard to mess up; WordPress can be a steeper learning curve, and if you intend to be uploading your content yourself, you’ll need to know how to use it.

More to go wrong. Someone will need to keep your site themes and plugins updated, and be there to troubleshoot problems in the back end. A membership site created in WordPress will need to ‘talk’ to other systems – a membership plugin such as AccessAlly; your CRM – and if techie things go wrong, unless you’re good with that stuff, you’ll probably need support to deal with it.

* Disclaimer: I am not a legal or tax expert and am only offering suggestions based on what I have found out through the course of doing my job. Please refer to HMRC for clarification and advice on digital tax.

 

For more info on other factors to consider when you’re setting up a membership site, read this post.

Are you planning to launch a membership site in 2019/2020?

I support my clients with building, marketing and managing their memberships and online courses, helping them to:

  • Create and upload course content
  • Join the dots behind the scenes to automate processes and make things run smoothly
  • Find the right apps and tools
  • Integrate their CRM, course delivery and marketing

If you'd like to have a chat about your membership, you can get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute chat here.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about you, your business, and your goals for the coming year.

Since I first dipped my toe in the water of memberships back in 2014, I’ve experienced them both as a member and as the person behind the scenes, supporting clients with building, promoting and delivering courses, memberships and online training. When you decide to build a membership site there are a huge number of things to figure out, from the name of your membership to the tools you’re going to use to deliver it; from marketing strategy to pricing. One thing you will definitely need is a platform to host your content – your course videos, audios, presentations and workbooks.

Note: the external links on this page are NOT affiliate links, so I won’t be compensated if you click!

 

So how do you choose a platform for your membership site?

There are many options for where to build the online course part of your membership, depending on your budget, where you’re positioning yourself in the market, and how you intend to work and engage with your members.  You can choose a relatively inexpensive off-the-peg solution such as Teachable, or have a web developer create a bespoke membership site for you.

Some people will start off using something like Teachable, then transition to having something more tailor made on their own website later on, when they have more resources, have tried and tested their business model, have the support of a virtual team to manage the techie bits.

So what are the pros and cons of the different approaches?

 

‘Off-the-shelf’ solutions

Teachable and Thinkific are good examples of this: pre-existing platforms created by someone else, where you can pay a monthly or annual fee to be able to upload your course content, add some branding and start selling.

Pros

No build – just upload. No need to figure out WordPress or pay a web developer to build your course – just create your content (videos, audios, PDFs, presentations) and upload it all. You save a tonne of time and money – win.

Use your own domain. Depending on the payment plan you choose, there is usually an option to host your course on your own domain, so members don’t feel they are leaving your site to access your courses.

The money’s taken care of. The platform will manage your subscription payments – you set the prices for your courses, create course bundles and coupon codes and then let the system manage it all with full automation.

Simple to learn. Not only will it be easy for you to upload and manage your content, but anyone you hire to help you with your business will be able to get up to speed quickly. So you won’t have to invest in training your virtual assistant or team in a bespoke system.

The tech stuff is sorted. No need to worry about things going wrong in the back end – you’ll never need to see or deal with any of that. Leaving you to focus on creating awesome content and building and engaging with your audience.

Cons

Branding. Yes, you can add some branding to these platforms, but only minimally – it will still be pretty obvious to your members that you’re using an off-the-shelf platform. Of course, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it really depends on how you want to be perceive and where you’re positioning yourself in the market.

Structure and layout. If you use a pre-existing platform, you’re pretty much stuck with the layout and structure they’ve created. So if you’re not 100% happy with the way your videos appear, or how your members have to navigate your content, there’s not much you can do about it. Higher payment plans may offer more options for customisation, but it will never be anywhere near as flexible as having your own website.

Tax. If you’re in the UK/EU, digital products are taxed. This doesn’t apply if you’re offering a live element with your membership (such as live coaching calls or meetups), but as you can’t deliver those live elements via sites like Teachable or Thinkific, you will have to pay tax on course sales.* (It is possible to have members pay you outside of the platform, but having to manually manage all your payments and memberships can get pretty unwieldy once your membership increases.)

Bespoke solutions

If you’re looking to have more control over how your course or membership looks or is used, and have more scope for developing your membership further in future, you may want to investigate a more bespoke option. You might want to look at building your membership on your WordPress website, or having a web developer set this up for you.

Pros

Total control over appearance. If you design and build your course yourself, you’ll be able to have complete control over how it looks. You’ll be able to brand it exactly the way you want, design the layout of the pages and have the membership part of your website look exactly the same as the other pages.

Greater flexibility. You’ll be able to control the layout, navigation and how it’s used. And you’ll be able to add bits in and make changes as you go.

More professional. Done badly, you could end up with something that looks less professional than an off-the-shelf platform! But done well, you’ll have a membership site that is fully branded and gives an instant impression of quality and professionalism. If you’re serving a discerning audience and aiming to build a membership empire you probably don’t want your members thinking you’ve gone for a cheap, off-the-shelf option – you want them to be able to see that you’ve invested in a bespoke solution that reflects your brand quality and is tailored to their needs.

Cons

Higher upfront cost. While you won’t be paying a platform every month for the privilege of using their service, you will probably need to pay a developer to build your membership site – and this will work out more expensive than platform fees.

Could work out more expensive overall. There may also be monthly or annual costs for things like plugins, which can work out more expensive than subscriptions to off-the-shelf plugins.

Longer set up time. If you want to get started right away, an off-the-shelf platform will allow you to set up in a couple of hours. Obviously, it’ll take much longer (probably 6 weeks at least) to have a bespoke membership site built.

Steeper learning curve. Off-the-shelf platforms like Teachable are easy to use and hard to mess up; WordPress can be a steeper learning curve, and if you intend to be uploading your content yourself, you’ll need to know how to use it.

More to go wrong. Someone will need to keep your site themes and plugins updated, and be there to troubleshoot problems in the back end. A membership site created in WordPress will need to ‘talk’ to other systems – a membership plugin such as AccessAlly; your CRM – and if techie things go wrong, unless you’re good with that stuff, you’ll probably need support to deal with it.

* Disclaimer: I am not a legal or tax expert and am only offering suggestions based on what I have found out through the course of doing my job. Please refer to HMRC for clarification and advice on digital tax.

For more info on other factors to consider when you’re setting up a membership site, read this post.

Are you planning to launch a membership site in 2019/2020?

 I support my clients with building, marketing and managing their memberships and online courses, helping them to:

  • Create and upload course content
  • Join the dots behind the scenes to automate processes and make things run smoothly
  • Find the right apps and tools
  • Integrate their CRM, course delivery and marketing

If you'd like to have a chat about your membership, you can get in touch to arrange a free 30 minute chat here.

I'm looking forward to finding out more about you, your business, and your goals for the coming year.