The membership model: a powerful way for creators to earn

The membership model: a powerful way for creators to earn
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A membership business model is one of the best ways for creators to make a stable and sustainable income. Diversifying your income as a creator or entrepreneur is critical to managing the risks and ensuring long-term success. A membership business can be a way for you to add an additional source of income that's more reliable than other sources, like YouTube ad revenue or brand sponsorships. 

Whether you want to add an additional income source to your business or focus solely on building a membership business model, let's discuss the pros, the challenges, and successful membership business examples.



What is a creator membership business?

A creator membership business is a business model in which you charge a monthly, quarterly, or yearly fee for access to a content library or other perks. You might offer digital content, webinars, access to an exclusive community, and so much more. It's one of the best ways for content creators to make money. 

Pros of the membership model for creators

Membership business offers many incredible benefits to creators, coaches, and entrepreneurs:

1. Memberships provide a stable and sustainable revenue stream

A membership business can offer you a stable and sustainable recurring revenue stream. Each member pays a monthly, quarterly, or yearly subscription, meaning you can predict precisely how much you'll make each month. 

That can be a breath of fresh air, especially if your other income sources are less reliable, like sponsored deals with brands or ad revenue on your YouTube videos. 

Also, you don't need a large audience to make that stable and sustainable income. You set the price for your membership, which means you can charge a fee to hit your profit goals even if you have a smaller audience. 

2. Memberships are a great way to boost customer loyalty and build trust

Running a membership business allows you to build a deeper connection with your audience. Because the membership creates an exclusive and intimate space where your members can have more direct access to you and your time, you can build trust and brand loyalty much more quickly than with other business models. 

Often, the students who join your membership are already more interested in what your business offers than your average audience member. So, that gives you a unique insight into what your audience loves about your business and wants more of. 

3. Memberships have big scaling potential

As we already mentioned, you are the one who determines the pricing for your monthly, quarterly, or yearly membership. Combine that with strategic marketing efforts, and you will have infinite scaling potential. This is very important for coaches, who often can hit the ceiling with their income. 

As a coach, you trade your hours for money directly, and you only have one way to scale--increase your hourly rate. However, you might reach a limit to how much you can charge. A membership business allows you to avoid trading your time for money directly, allowing you to increase your income without increasing your rates or working more hours. 

Cons of the membership model (and how to overcome them)

Of course, just like with any other business endeavor, there are some cons to the membership business model. Here are some of those disadvantages and how to overcome them:

1. Have to deal with churn

While the scaling potential is infinite, you must deal with churn daily when running a membership business. Your members may leave after a month or two, which can happen for various reasons. Sometimes, it can be due to your content, or sometimes, it might be due to changes in people's lives, like their financial situation. 

A huge part of your work will have to be dedicated to managing churn rates. That requires skills you need to develop or outsource, adding extra work to your plate.

Solution: The best way to overcome a high churn rate is to pay attention to your audience's thoughts, feedback, and behavior. A high churn rate can actually be good for your business—it's a telltale sign that something is not working. Pay attention to what makes people leave and work on improving that part. Not only will it fix the high churn rate, but it'll also enhance your business's overall health.

2. Continuous efforts to create content

Another downside of a membership business is that it takes a lot of effort to keep up with content creation. What's even more challenging is that the content has to be high quality, valuable and engaging. Your members will expect nothing but the best each month, and it can take a tremendous amount of time and effort to keep up with it. 

Solution: Great planning skills are essential here. Make sure you're planning your content way in advance, and consider implementing content creation hacks like content batching to maximize your efforts. 

Another thing to consider to make things easier is to focus on finding ways to recycle content you already have. Maybe you did a podcast episode a long while ago on a topic. Why not take some bits from that podcast episode and turn those bits into a worksheet, a PDF, or a webinar for your members? 

Also, pay attention to what your members want and like. Often, you can get the best ideas for engaging content directly from your audience. So, optimize your time by creating content on topics you know your audience wants to see and consume. 


Membership model examples

If you're skeptical that the membership business model for creators works, let's take a look at a few examples of creators who have successfully implemented this business model.

Katie Wismer 

Katie Wismer is a six-figure self-published author and editor with multiple income sources. These include ad revenue from her YouTube videos, royalties from book sales, income from freelance editing clients, and Patreon memberships. 

On her Patreon, she has bonus content about self-publishing for other self-published authors, as well as an exclusive look behind the scenes at what her life as an author and an editor looks like. 

The Societe by Boss Babe 

The Societe is an exclusive membership site for creatives and entrepreneurs who want to level up their skills and network with others. It's the perfect example of how upscale a membership business can be. The Societe membership is $997/year, and members get access to content, webinars, an online community, and coaching from the founders, among many other perks.  

The Bloom Method 

The Bloom Method is a niche wellness membership site that generates over $87K in monthly revenue. Bloom team offers workouts for moms at all stages of motherhood on their app, as well as community and other wellness resources. You can get a monthly, quarterly, or yearly membership to access all of their content. 


Ideas to jumpstart your membership business  

If you want to dip your toes into the membership business but are not sure where to start, here are a few ideas to help you get a jumpstart on brainstorming:

Behind-the-scenes content

Creating a membership website to share your behind-the-scenes content with your audience is a great idea for creators in many different niches. Chances are, your audience is curious to see how you operate, create and live. 

Author Katie Wismer shares behind-the-scenes content about her author and editor business with her Patreon members, giving them a peek at what it's like to be an author on a day-to-day basis. Another great example is writer, actor, and producer Issa Rae. She shares the behind-the-scenes of video production by her media company with her Patreon members.

Private community

Another superb and easy-to-implement membership business idea is to create an exclusive private community that people can join for a monthly or yearly fee. You might offer the opportunity to chat with you directly and connect with others in your audience. 

Illustrator RossDraws offers a private Discord community for his Patreon members to connect and chat with other like-minded people who share their love for his creativity. 

Bonus content library

Monthly bonus content is another excellent idea for your membership business, and it can work very well for many industries. As part of the bonus content library people can access for a monthly or yearly fee, you can offer them workshops, worksheets, or digital downloads that complement your online courses. 

Wudan Yan, host of the popular freelance business podcast The Writer's Co-op, offers a membership for all podcast listeners. For $3/month, they can get a bonus podcast episode, or for $9/month, a bonus podcast episode every month, plus a library of resources that help freelance writers apply the information they learned on the podcast. 

Should you create a membership site?

A membership business model works for those creators and entrepreneurs who want to generate recurring revenue with infinite potential to scale. The subscription business model is also for those who want to focus on building a community and engaging with it to build customer loyalty, trust, and superfans of their business. 

One great thing about a membership business is that it works for various niches and industries. It also works with many different types of content, from educational and inspirational to entertaining (think Netflix). 

Some industries benefit more from it than others. For example, a membership business can be highly effective for wellness and fitness businesses. In the health industry, the results come from a long-term commitment, which makes recurring membership a great way to build a successful brand.  

A membership site is also amazing for everyone in the education industry, whether it's business coaching or language learning. Teaching and learning are continuous processes; a membership business accommodates that well.



Now, let's answer some of creators' most frequently asked questions about the membership business model.

How do I start a membership site?

The first step of creating a membership business will be determining what your audience wants from you–what sort of content they are willing to pay for and what is missing from their lives. Once you nail that down, you can start planning the content you'll sell for your members. The next step will be to find the right platform to host your membership business. Once you're done with content creation and setup, you'll want to dedicate a generous amount of time to market your membership website to your existing and new audiences. 

What are the best membership platforms for creators?

The great news is that you can choose from many great platforms for building a membership business. Here's a basic breakdown of what's available:

  • Subscription platforms: Patreon is the most popular, but there are others. These platforms offer easy setup, no coding or design experience needed, and they handle the payments. 
  • WordPress website: With the help of plugins like Memberpress, you can build a custom membership website with a beautiful design and all the features you might want. The downside is that it requires coding and website-building knowledge. 
  • Squarespace: Website builders like Squarespace (and others) often have integrations that allow you to set up a membership website easily. It requires some website building and coding knowledge, but it's much more beginner-friendly. 
  • Teachable: Our platform makes it easy to set up a membership business. With just a little design knowledge, you can create landing pages, and we handle all the payments and other tedious tasks. 

How much should I charge for my membership?

It depends. The amount you charge for your membership will depend on many different factors, including your industry, niche, offers, and how much your audience is willing to pay. 

Offering behind-the-scenes content as fan memberships for your audience will have a different price tag than offering business workshops, mentorship, and resources to help people start or grow their businesses. 

The good thing about a membership model for businesses is that the pricing is highly flexible. You can set the rates as high or low as you see fit. For example, your membership fee can be $5/month or $300/month, depending on what you choose to sell and to whom.

Karolina Wilde

Karolina Wilde, Karolina Wilde is a freelance writer. Her work has been published on Better Marketing, The Ascent, and Sexography reaching over 25,000+ readers. In her free time, you can find her podcasting, reading, or creating TikTok videos.

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