The majority of my childhood was spent in the ’90s. And let me tell you—I was all in. From JNCO brand jeans to crying my eyes out at *NSYNC concerts, I was the first to jump on any fad the 1990s would throw at me. The thing about fads, though, is that sometimes you look back and say, “What was I thinking?” (After all, there were the chunks of blue I tried to put in my hair that turned green.) Other times, you look back and say, “That truly was magical.” (I mean, I still listen to *NSYNC, so there you go.) If there’s one fad I’m noticing in the online space, it’s deciding to create a membership site.
So—is the verdict really out? Are membership sites really all they seem cut out to be? In this post, I’m going to break down why I chose to create a membership site on Teachable, why it was the best decision I have made to date in my business, and how you can do the same.
What is a membership site?
You’ve probably participated in a membership site before. If you haven’t, you’re likely at least familiar with the framework. In terms of a membership model, think of a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu. Subscribers pay a monthly fee in order to get the content these services offer behind their payment gateway. They consistently switch up their content every month to keep things fresh.
The same is true for an online membership site. The course creator generates fresh content on a monthly basis in order to warrant the monthly fee for the site. Membership sites usually offer access to all content for a monthly fee, which can make course creators resistant to create this type of course. However, I’ve found my students will generally continue to pay the monthly fee for access to three things: the existing content, the fresh monthly content, and our community.
The payment benefits of a membership site are mutual for both the students and the course creator.
The students pay a much lower monthly fee for the content in a membership site than they would for a typical course that provides lifetime access. The lower price point doesn’t mean the content is sub-par, of course. It simply means more students are able to not only afford the content, but to continue to afford it on a regular basis.
The students benefit short-term by being able to access all content in the membership site and to begin learning from the existing content immediately, at a much lower price point than a traditional course.
The course creator benefits in the long-term from a monthly membership model, as a student’s monthly subscription adds up to more revenue over time than a one-time fee course generates.
The course creator also benefits by being able to plan and produce the content at a much slower pace than creating a traditional course, with the additional benefit of getting paid to do so (create the content). They have another advantage—the ability to survey existing members to find out what their audience wants to learn most about, in order to generate content on a monthly basis.
Membership sites hosted on Teachable
My business is The Virtual Savvy, and I help aspiring virtual assistants launch and grow their business from scratch. In the fall of 2016, I made $40K with my first course launch through Teachable. That $40,000 course launch through Teachable was when I first sold my signature Virtual Assistant Training program. I now open that class for enrollment twice a year and consistently make six figures from each launch. (It’s a one-time payment model.)
In 2017, I decided to add a monthly membership site to The Virtual Savvy’s line of products. The biggest reason why I decided to create a membership site? I saw a real need in my community. (Hint: Listen to your audience!) Virtual Assistants wanted to grow their tech skills, but most YouTube videos are outdated, and it is difficult to piece together random information from all over the internet when it comes to tech. My current students also wanted one place they could go to learn the ins and outs of the assorted technology found in the online world.
I brainstormed how I could solve this problem for my students and give them a valuable course they could use and learn from. Thus, the SavvyVault was born.
All in the details
Here’s how the membership site works for us. Savvy Tech is a $47 monthly membership model with 40 tech trainings and counting. We add at least one new tech training every month.
Students are billed every month to have access to all of the courses. They can also cancel anytime. Because we are delivering new and valuable content every month, most of our students are staying for six months or more. That’s an average of $282 profit for each student.
There are an unlimited amount of new tech tools we could teach on, so it’s easy to decide what courses we should create. Here’s a sample of some of the courses included in our membership site so far:
Course Creation Masterclass
Why was our membership a success?
The three secret weapons that have contributed the most to the membership site’s prolonged success are:
The Teachable platform
1. The community
When it comes to membership sites, I’ve heard people say, “Students come for the content, and stay for the community.” While I personally believe that you should add some piece of new content to a membership site every month, what’s even more important is the community you are building around that site.
Our SavvyVault community is a private Facebook group for current, paid members only. We have a ton of organic engagement as people work through various tech and business challenges together.
We also provide weekly Facebook Live streams. The first monthly Live is when we launch that month’s new courses that will be added into the SavvyVault. Other Live streams include Q&A sessions where we answer various questions that students have about using tech in their business, and expert interviews where we bring in other course contributors and industry experts to chat live with the community.
Now, it may stress you out to think you have to create new content every month for your community. But here is the real power of a membership site: You don’t have to do all of the work.
One of the best ways you can add value to your community is to have guest experts come in, which is exactly what we did for our membership site. We still create our own content every few months, but oftentimes we have others come in to teach.
Specifically, we partner with tech companies to provide trainings for us. For example: Infusionsoft, Ontraport, and Tailwind all agreed to give us their training videos for our students to access through our site. After all, it helps get the word out about their software company, and our virtual assistants get trained on how to use it.
For several of our courses, we receive private training videos directly from the company. Additionally, they often enable us to interview an expert one-on-one to receive insider info and tips on best practices for their tech. Our membership community is able to attend the interviews live through our private Facebook community in order to ask questions of their own.
These partnerships are invaluable and contribute to the success of our course. For example, Infusionsoft gave us sandbox access to their software. We also have a tutorial of Teachable.
3. The Teachable platform
For the sake of transparency, the SavvyVault wasn’t the first course I ever tried to launch. I created other courses in the past, but they were on self-hosted platforms. I spent so much time with just the tech of everything. I was frustrated, and the tech of the course consumed a ton of my time.
When the SavvyVault started coming together, using Teachable as the host for the course was 100% a no-brainer for me. If my students need me to teach them something, it’s so easy to drag and drop a lesson into the course. I can manage my students, see the dashboard on my sales, and everything is so simple.
Teachable simplified the tech part of the course so much that I’ve been able to focus on marketing and providing the best value possible to my audience in order to grow sales.
With the combination of my two courses, my monthly revenue is currently $80,000-$100,000. I attribute this financial success of my business mainly to Teachable’s awesome course creation platform! I truly believe I would not be as successful in my course without it.
How to create a membership site with Teachable
Step one: Have an audience in place
This is a critical step, so please do not skip it. If you haven’t started building an email list, start now. Today. Reach out to your friends and family members and ask if you can add them to your business email list. Start producing content on your blog, and use your social media channels to your advantage. Refer your followers back to your opt-in through your profile and posts in order to collect email addresses and build your audience.
Step two: Decide on your membership topic
This step has to be done after you have an audience. (I’d recommend launching your membership site to no less than 1,000 people.) Engage with your audience through email and social media. Listen to your audience’s pain points. Ask them what they would like to learn from you when it comes to a membership site.
Once you have several ideas in your pocket, brainstorm which topic would most help your audience that you also enjoy teaching on. Narrow it down (but don’t get too specific!), and keep asking questions throughout the whole process.
Step three: Brainstorm a list of courses/features to be added monthly
Once you have your topic and are very clear on 1) who you are serving, and 2) what you’re bringing to the topic conversation, start brainstorming a list of courses and features to be added monthly. I recommend a list of no less than 25 viable topics (at least two years’ worth) to start.
We use ClickUp to plan out our course content:
Again, this is a great way to involve your audience. What do they want to learn about?
Step four: Build your membership site on Teachable
When we first launched the SavvyVault, we decided to structure it on Teachable as a bundle of courses. Our parent course is called the SavvyVault. Each month, we release a new course to our membership by uploading it under our parent course bundle.
The parent course is on a monthly subscription payment model, which means the bundle of courses is automatically included. As an example, here is the first row of our sales page:
Notice the first course is a 43-course bundle. The subsequent courses listed are shown separately, but are all included in the parent bundle.
To create your own membership course, log in to your school (e.g. coursename.teachable.com).
Click on the course you want to function as the parent course (ours is SavvyVault).
Pro tip: It’s always nice to have a welcome video in the parent course along with helpful information for the course, especially if it won’t contain other information. Some useful info for students might include how to change your payment method or manage your subscription.
Click on Pricing in the Dashboard to set up a recurring monthly subscription.
Bundle Contents a little further down in the Dashboard is where you can upload new courses as they become available.
Fad or fixture?
Just like my JNCO jeans, blue (green?) hair, and the popular days of boy bands are gone as fast as they started, some business bandwagons aren’t worth jumping onto. It can be tough to gauge whether a new social media platform or sales funnel model will really work for a business long-term, or whether it’s just another passing fad that will suck time and money away from the focused goal of your business.
However, I truly don’t believe this is the case with membership sites. While membership sites are trending, they’re also here to stay. They are worthy of consideration for most online businesses. The membership site model is mutually beneficial for both the students and the teacher-creator, and I am a big advocate here.