Owning a membership website can be a great way to not only earn a passive and stable recurring income, but to also build a loyal community of subscribers who are more than happy to devour your content as well as help support and position you as an authority figure. If you teach people for a living, offer coaching and/or training programs, then building a membership website around that can be a great way to earn more doing what you love. In this post, we’ll look at how you can build and manage your own membership website easily and profitably.
Affiliate disclosure: Just to be transparent, some of the links on this website are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we will earn a commission but there will be no additional cost to you whatsoever. This is how we manage to keep creating free content. We never recommend any affiliate link that will not benefit our readers.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is primarily aimed at business owners in the learning and training industry, including but not limited to:
- Independent Teachers
- Coaches (Fitness, Dance, Personal and Life coaches)
- Real estate agents
- Anyone who already sells online courses
Why you need a membership website?
Since the pandemic hit, a lot of businesses were badly affected and many have had to shut down. Due to this, the more savvy business owners started looking for ways to do business online. The learning and training industry were no different, especially with schools and colleges having to migrate to online learning. Even coaches were affected, whether it be fitness, dance, and even life coaches. As a result, many of them are now starting to adapt to the new normal and take their business online to ensure continuity. Perhaps this might even resonate with you and your own business.
If you’re a teacher, coach or trainer, you can do either one of three things.
- Wait for the lockdown to come to an end and then go back to the way it was before.
- Start your own online membership website (and potentially even grow your client base!).
The former can be a good option but you’ll never really know when the next outbreak comes up again and another lockdown occurs again.
The latter is the more smart option and now would be a great time to start to stay ahead of the curve.
There a few benefits of owning and managing a membership website:
- You can continue to interact with your clients (whether it be your students, or your coaching clients) regardless of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
- Build trust and loyalty.
- Position yourself as a trusted authority and expert in your field.
- Increase your revenue as more people find out about you online.
- Stable and predictable revenue from monthly subscriptions from your clients.
- Your clients would be more focused on what you’re teaching (compared to Facebook or other social media where they can get distracted by other content).
As you can see, the most important benefit of owning and managing a membership site is the branding and trust, which can position you as an authority and expert in your field.
Personally, I would more likely join a training program from someone who owned a professional looking membership website, than someone who does training using an existing platform like Facebook Groups.
Facebook Groups are great though and I’ve learned a great deal, but I’d be more hesitant to pay to join a Facebook Group based training unless it’s an authority figure I know.
A lot of subscription sites have blown up since the pandemic, especially video-based subscription sites. People are happy to pay monthly subscription to sites like Netflix or online learning video-based platforms like SkillShare. In fact, sales have exploded for subscription sites since the pandemic. Now would be, perhaps, one of the best times in our modern history to start a subscription-based membership website.
Do you need a membership website?
You should only consider creating a membership website if you meet the following criteria (as a general rule of thumb):
- You have a library of existing content. For example, if you have a number of online courses/books/posts/videos on your topic, a membership site can be great for you.
- You have an existing client base. This could be your students or clients who already know and trust you. They should trust you enough to be willing to pay you monthly for your services.
- You are able to continue providing content or leverage team members to create content for you on a monthly basis. If you’re able to create at least one useful content each month, then students would be happy to keep paying the monthly subscription. If you aren’t able to provide new content or some kind of personalized support on a monthly basis, then a membership website might not be a good fit.
What do you need to build a membership website?
Here are the steps and all the tools you need to build a membership website from scratch:
- Buy a domain and web hosting
- Setup a WordPress or Wix website
- Add a plugin to enable membership
- Add a payment gateway and enable multiple payment methods
- Add membership tiers or levels
- Add pages and lock content based on member tiers
- Add an email provider (like MailChimp) to collect leads
- To get more advanced, build in a reporting system to see how your clients are interacting with the platform.
All of this is too technical, time-consuming and a little complex. It’s what probably drives most business owners away.
You could hire a developer to set this all up for you, but you’ll also have to bear the ongoing costs to running and managing your membership site.
The easiest way I know to build a membership website
There is another way to build an entire membership website from scratch quickly and easily.
It doesn’t require a technical developer or you having to become one to build a membership website.
Best of all, it allows you to manage your membership site with ease so that you can focus on what you do best: Teach!
And that’s through a tool called Kartra!
There are other tools out there that can do similar things like Kartra.
However, I found Kartra to be the best all-in-one tool that can pretty much replace every tool you have.
There’s no need to get plugins for membership, payment gateways, email providers and so on.
Everything is built right in.
You can even use Kartra to build and replace your current website.
I couldn’t find any other tool that had a comprehensive feature list as Kartra for building membership websites.
The main benefits of using Kartra
Here is a list of benefits of using Kartra over any of its competitor platforms:
It’s not just a membership website builder
It’s an advanced all-in-one software for creating almost any kind of website. It combines the best of MailChimp, ClickFunnels, ZenDesk, Teachable among others.
You’ll save a lot of hassles and costs as everything you need is in the one place.
You can do advanced customizations
You have complete control over the complete look and feel of your website.
It’s super intuitive
There is a visual builder with drag-and-drop functionality. If you need a button on a page, it’s as simple as dragging a button element and dropping to the page. You’ll save further costs as you don’t need to hire a developer as you can quickly do it all on your own.
Plenty of Done-For-You templates to choose from
I haven’t actually seen many other platforms do this, but you can choose from a library of done-for-you templates for various functions created by other Kartra users that you can use and customize to your liking.
Advanced marketing automation features built in so you can make sales and get clients on autopilot.
You can drip content like a pro
This means you can make some of your content available after some time once a client subscribers. For instance, say you get a client who joins your membership website for the first time. You can have some welcome content to begin with to show your client their way around the membership portal. Then 2 day later, they’ll automatically see some beginner training content in their portal. The drip feature is also available for email. This can be a great way to keep your clients signed up long term on your membership website and prevents them from binge-consuming all your content in one go.
Analyze data to see how your clients are progressing.
You’ll be able to see analytics info that you’ll really be interested in seeing. You can see how engaged your clients are, where they are dropping off and so on so that you can produce or tweak your content to make it even more awesome!
Awesome support team.
The support staff are super friendly and can help you whenever you have issues. They have live chat support and ticket-based support. There’s also a training center so that you can learn everything about Kartra.
Who Kartra is NOT for
If any of these apply to you, then perhaps Kartra may not be a good fit for your business:
- You are tight on budget and just need a basic functional membership website with limited features. If this is the case, then perhaps Podia might be a better fit. Click here to learn more about Podia. Bear in mind, although the costs might appear high with plans starting at $99/month, you can easily make it back with 1 – 2 clients (depending on how much you charge your clients). In general, you will save more costs down the line as you don’t need to spend on integrating with other platforms for your email marketing, live chat support, funnel builder, etc.
- You don’t want or don’t really care about the visual aesthetics of your membership website. Platforms like Podia can help in this aspect. The templates from Podia do look stylish but it will have a similar look and feel with other Podia-built membership sites.
If you’re not sure if Kartra is the right fit for you or you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to me via Messenger here.
What does a Kartra website look like?
Kartra is used and trusted by thousands of coaches, experts, consultants and trainers all over the world for their membership websites. Their support team is great (and super friendly) whenever you need help. There are a few live examples of membership websites made with Kartra that you can check out. Here are a few notable ones to check out:
- Megan Minns – helps online course creators, coaches and consultants grow their business and hit their goals.
- Trade Room Plus – a membership site to learn about professional live trading.
- Actual Fluency – dedicated to learning any foreign language regardless of age or background.
As you can see, each website has its own distinct look and feel. And it’s something you can build on your own within a day probably.
The 5 steps to launching your membership website
Follow these 5 easy steps and you’ll have launched your first membership website within a day.
- Go and sign up to Kartra here. (You can try out a 14-day trial of Kartra for $1. They currently have a promo where you can get it for 30 days.)
- Go to “My Memberships” on the left-hand side panel.
- Press the “+ Membership” button. It’s the big green button on the right-hand side.
- Give you membership site a name. You can create multiple memberships if you wish.
- You can then go through each tab of the wizard filling out relevant information you need for your membership portal.
I’d recommend you try this out for the 30 days. In addition to the above, try and get some of your existing clients onboard (perhaps for free) to beta test to the new site and let them give you feedback. It’s a great idea to get your clients involved as they will ultimately be surfing on your membership site the longest.
Additional steps: If you (and your clients) are happy with the membership site. It’s time to start driving traffic to it. I’ve created a blog post about the best way to drive traffic to your portal (using free traffic methods only, so none of that Facebook ads stuff). You can check out that blog post here.
Should you get Kartra for your membership site?
I’d highly recommend Kartra as it’s one of the best membership website builders available in the market right now.
Having said that, you should only get Kartra if you already have clients that are happy to pay you monthly and you are able to consistently put great content on your website. You don’t need to worry about the technicalities of your membership site and can just focus on creating great content for your site and supporting your clients.
If you’re relatively new or just starting out in your business, I do not recommend Kartra. It is a little on the expensive side with plans starting at $99 per month. Those costs can quickly add up if you aren’t able to build up your content library and/or paying subscribers. This is why if you already have an established client base, you’ll find it more cost-effective rather than expensive. Mainly since you don’t need to purchase any other tool to integrate as a lot of features are already built-in.
In terms of content, Kartra is only suitable for digital content only. It isn’t suitable for physical products. For that, something like Shopify or Magento might be more suitable. There are ways though, to integrate Kartra with a platform like Shopify. So if it’s important to promote or sell physical products through your digital program, then Kartra can still work.
Finally, if you have an extremely large client base that you need to regularly send emails to (we’re talking like over 100,000 people), then Kartra won’t work well. There is a cap (although I’m not sure if this will change soon). It gets more expensive depending on how many emails you need to send. You can find out how much you need to pay on the pricing page. If you do have a large client base, then you’d have to integrate with a dedicated email provider like MailChimp or ConvertKit.
Also, I have to let you know that setting up can be a little tricky and overwhelming as there are so many features in Kartra. You’ll have to spend time going through their training course to get comfortable with it. The training course is detailed and thorough and there is a lot to go through. So you will need to dedicate time to this. Having said that, the learning curve is not so steep and you’ll be able to master Kartra fairly easily once you get used to it.
That’s it! I hope you found this blog post useful. Now go ahead and sign up for the Kartra trial so that you can see it in action!