Should you charge people to read content on your website?
At first, you may ask yourself, “How could I charge for information that can be found for free on the web?” But, if you think about it a little longer, you may find that this model is the perfect solution for your business.
To help you make up your mind, let’s explore the pros and cons of a subscription-based website. And if you decide it’s a go, I’ll also share my tips for creating a membership-only site of your own (spoiler alert: it’s so easy). Let’s get started!
Here’s a list of the best practices for creating a membership website.
What is a Subscription Website?
In a subscription—or membership-based—website model, you charge a recurring fee for access to your content. There are two basic ways to implement a subscription website:
1. You can place some of your content behind a membership wall.
This option allows you to still provide value to your people who aren’t willing to join your membership site yet. If people aren’t familiar with your brand, they may not be sure about joining your club. So, this gives you the opportunity to prove your value.
In this model, you can continually promote the membership-only section of your site.
One of my favorite examples of this subscription model is from Dashing Dish. Site owner Katie Farrell offers a mix of free and premium recipes on her health-focused site. You can upgrade to a membership and receive exclusive, premium-only recipes and additional resources.
2. You can place all of your content behind a membership wall.
One option here is to create a course and host it on its own URL, i.e. MySupercalifragilisticexpialidociousCourse.com (it’s available, but I wouldn’t recommend that as a domain name!). With this site, you can provide all materials related to your course in one central, distraction-free location.
The Pros of a Subscription-Based Model
There are a lot of great reasons to go for a subscription-based model. Let’s go over the best reasons below:
This is an obvious benefit to offering a subscription-based website. When you charge for membership, you have a built-in stream of revenue. You create one product and make recurring sales on that product every month. Plus, you don’t need a lot of people to bring in a healthy revenue.
Let’s say you have 100 paying members on your site. If you charge each of those people $25 per month for access to your content, you’re making $2,500 per month on subscriptions alone.
A Sense of Community
With your premium membership, offer the perk of community. You can create a private Facebook group for just your premium members. This can be an incredibly useful way to support and empower your members without you doing all of the heavy lifting. Members can help each other with questions or problems, and then you can chime in when you’re available. You can also offer office hours—which are dedicated times when you’re available to answer questions posed by those in your membership community.
A Better Experience for All Users
When you depend on your membership to support your business, you don’t have to sell ad space on your site or do paid sponsorships. You can give an ad-free experience to your visitors, without worrying about the sustainability of your website.
A Community of Highly Motivated Members
When someone signs up for your membership site, they’re ready to do the work it takes to succeed. It’s a rewarding experience for both you and your member to work toward a goal together. You can be a part of their success.
The Cons of a Subscription-Based Model
Now, let’s take a look at the cons you’ll face with a subscription-based website.
The number one disadvantage to charging for access to your site is that you simply won’t have as many eyeballs on your content. You won’t be able to help as many people. That sucks.
On the other hand, since you’re charging for your expertise, you’re able to devote more of your time and mental focus into creating a product that’s well worth it. The people who sign up will receive a high quality experience with your brand. That’s because you’re more likely to invest when you know others are investing in you.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
When you charge for a product, the people who invest in your product will have a higher level of expectation. You’re likely to run into some unhappy customers. There’s bound to be someone who doesn’t jive with your membership site and demands their money back. Immediately.
The best plan of action is to go in knowing that not everyone will love your product. You will most likely need to do refunds. Be prepared, and be quick to do solve the problem. That way, you minimize any negative word of mouth, and perhaps you can even salvage your relationship with the unhappy customer.
Also, consider offering a free trial. Give prospective members a peek at what you offer. This can be a useful filtering technique.
Short Term Stays
The average churn for most subscription-based websites is between four to six months. In other words, most subscribers will leave after six months. This is why it’s better to offer annual subscriptions instead of month to month ones. If you do month to month, you’ll have to constantly prove that a subscription to your site is worth the charge. An annual subscription gives you more of an opportunity to prove the value of your membership.
How to Create a Subscription-Based Model on Squarespace
Here’s another pro of membership-based sites: They’re very easy to set up. In fact, if you’re using Squarespace, all you need is one tool that allows you to offer subscriptions on your site. That tool is: MemberSpace. Catchy name, right?
With MemberSpace, you don’t need to know how to code. Here’s how it works:
You sign up (they offer a 14 day free trial).
You enter the website address you’d like to be members only (for example www.MySite.com/members).
You add content to that page.
You choose the payment type you’d like to go with (recurring subscription, one time charge, or free).
It’s really that simple, which I love.
What if you don’t have Squarespace?
I Want to Hear From You
Would you consider offering a subscription or membership on your site? Why or why not? Leave your comment down below. I’d love to hear from you.
Don’t forget to download this list of best practices for creating your membership website.