I wrote this over a week ago, got sick, and then pulled it back up. After reading it over, it's really nothing new so if you're already knowledgeable about the topic there probably isn't much for you. However if you haven't gotten into it yet, this may alleviate some doubts so I decided just to post it. Here it is: I'm back. And I'd like to start off with something that will make you recurring income. Not just an extra couple hundred dollars in affiliate commissions... I'm talking about a decent income if you know how to do it correctly. This has been my passion for the past two years, but I've really amped it up the past few months and I have a few large projects planned for the near future. It's membership sites... don't quit out now. Stick around and you might actually make some money online. Membership sites are where it's at. This section of the forum simply does not have enough quality content when it comes to creating a profitable membership site. It seems that making a memberships site is a foreign idea to most people so I decided to create a thread on the basics of creating a successful membership site. If you are about to quit out and browse other threads because you've heard membership sites require some startup money, read the side note below. Side Note: You need to stop looking at your purchases as "expenses". When you are spending money to get started online (in this case for a membership plugin, autoresponder, etc.), consider it an investment. An investment by definition is: "the investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value." By having a quality membership plugin, you are going to be able to to create a more effective memberships site and make more money than you would without one. (This principle can and should also be applied to other tools needed for successful internet marketing) Let me break down the basics of a successful membership site for you... Step 1: Niche There are plenty of awesome keyword research and 'how to find a niche' threads here so I won't bore you (even though some of you right now are begging for it... just use the google! (reference to this thread)). I will say this, and it might be some of the best advice I've ever been given, "why try to make money on a keyword where people aren't looking to spend money." If you are attempting to create a profitable membership site with a membership fee of $27/month (we'll talk about pricing later), then why primarily target people who are looking to get free information? Another note about the niche: it does not matter how much you know about the topic, as if you read on, you'll see most of the content we get will be from other sources. And while I know that's the typical eBook advice, it really is true. The thing that I've found is that I generally go with niches that I do know at least a little bit about, because it's stuff I'm actually interested in. I would never try to make a membership site on becoming a professional ballerina because I would hate every minute of it. So there is some truth in what you're feeling about not wanting to do something you're not interested in and know nothing about. When I started out I just found something that was fun and interesting to me. I didn't know much about it, but I learned a lot in process (oh and did I mention made a lot of money too?). It doesn't get much better than that. Step 2: Domain Name Here is another tip that I've been given over the years that is so true: It really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter the name you choose. Just go with it. Heck pick up xgfgf and make that brandable. But should I get a .com or .net or what kyle? IT DOESN'T MATTER. the only thing... if the .com is taken and it is a site with a lot of traffic, don't go and get the .net. Try to get a '.com' if you can, but don't stress too much over it. Just pick a name, get the domain, and move to the next step. Step 3: Membership Plugin/Script The most common questions asked in this section: "what is the best memberships site script?? Please someone help me I need to know!". People are asking this, but wouldn't know what to do even if they had a solid membership site script. Let me tell you what the best membership site script is: IT DOESN'T MATTER. Just pick one and stick with it. I started out by looking up videos on how to make a free membership site using password protect and slowly moved onto some random $49 membership plugin and eventually made it onto DAP. If you're just starting out, chances are you won't know how to use some of the functionalities and capabilities of the "higher end" membership scripts and plugins so don't worry too much about that. If you really don't have the money to purchase DAP, aMember, wishlist, etc etc , that's alright. Go with something smaller, but know if your site is going to handle a couple thousand members at the minimum, it's worth seriously considering investing in a membership plugin. I generally just use a wordpress base and then the DAP membership plugin. It's easy. If you'd rather use it independent of WordPress be my guest. Set it up and get everything running. I'm not going to blast my affiliate link because I hate when people do that, but if you want some money off DAP just send me a PM. I'll give you 100% of the commission I get from the sale after 30 days. If you can find someone that is offering an instant discount go with that. It really doesn't matter what membership site plugin you use. They are all about the same. Just pick one, learn it, and stick with it. Step 4: Paid AND Free While you may think this is obvious, I've done a JV with 2 different people over the past year that didn't have this figured out. The best structure (if-you-will) for a paid membership site is to have a free membership and a paid membership. I really don't get the people that think it's not necessary to offer some sort of free content. The guy I'm JVing with now is currently making roughly $8,000/month with his site and he doesn't offer a free membership and really doesn't see it as beneficial as he's already making 8k and just wants paying customers. I am trying to help him understand that by offering some sort of free content, you are dramatically increasing the possibility that one of those free members (or many of those free members) will become paid members one day. All in all, in my experience, having free content or even just a free "report" has proven to be immensely impactful in bringing new paying customers to your site. By having free content available you are aiming for 100% of visitors to sign up for something. YOU WANT THEM ON YOUR LIST. If it's only paid and the visitor isn't interested in purchasing a membership the first time they vist, you lost them forever. Suppose BHW was only Jr VIP and above. Everyone had to pay $97 to sign up. Would you have signed up? No, you wouldn't have. But are you a Jr. VIP now or do you want to be a Jr. VIP? If not, do you think you might want to become one in the future? Of course you do. And that's exactly the logic behind having free content (well for the most part). Step 5: Structure You now need to decide on the "structure" of your site. There are various forms of membership sites. I won't go through them all, but you can simply have a bunch of written articles and have that be the paid member content. Another great option is to make it into a video course and have various modules for different facets of the niche... The most powerful way to do it is to make a video course. Also by doing so, you are able to protect your site from being ripped (copied). Copying content is huge nowadays, but if you have all your content on amazon s3 and have some extra protection, your content becomes very hard to duplicate. This is as far as I'll go into the structure as it's pretty straightforward if you're just getting into membership sites. Either put out the content as bunch of pages of written content, or make videos. Step 6: Content? ...but I don't have content Kyle! Well that's OK. Now that you have your niche, domain, WordPress, membership script/plugin, the structure, etc., you need to have content! CONTENT IS KING (sound familiar?). Here's the golden ticket: Forums are your best friend. I have gotten the best content over the past two years from forums. You can't beat this type of up to date content. It's incredibly easy to spin, and when you are getting it from 2-5 different forums , its unbeatable. Especially if you're starting out with something as simple as video game strategy (which is actually the niche I started out on). When a game first comes out, people are going crazy on the forums. You can get strategy guides and rip them straight from the forum and put them on your site. So now copy and paste, or rewrite/spin the content. Better yet, make each post into a video. Then post it up on the site. The more content the better. Studies show that if a member is a member for more than 4 months, they will be a lifetime member (whether they forgot about it and are continually getting charged or they may love it and want to support it). By the way I made that up, but it's for the most part true. You can also recruit people from forums to be content writers on your site. For a video game niche, just say you are looking to sponsor someone who is willing to write content / strategy guides for your website. If you're looking to do videos (which is a great form of promotion) you can also get people to do it for free if it's video games (as well as many other niches). Just ask them if they'd like to join your "network" and they'll be head over heels for you. You can also go the route of outsourcing content creation to a VA. I would highly suggest this, but most people are apprehensive if they don't have much money to invest. Outsourcing the work will only cost you around $300/month and you'll have someone working for you full time scraping forums and creating unique articles for your site. This is very powerful, but it also requires an initial investment. For those of you looking to spend the least amount of money as possible, I would suggest starting your site with content you've gathered from google, other sites, youtube, forums, etc. and then once you have some revenue, invest in a VA and have your content grow and your membership site explode! Step 7: Build Reputation This is a step no one seems to get. It's called, "fake it until you make it." That's another tip from one of the wisest and wealthiest people I know. You probably know of him or have at least seen him on TV...anyway, this step is super important. Build reputation in your niche or at least look like you have it together. Depending on the niche, you will need a certain amount of followers/fans. If it's something like video games you should start with 10k or so. If it's a small niche like underwater basket weaving, you're probably good with having just 600 followers as that might make people stop and think, "Wow they must know their stuff!" Facebook fans are more expensive. So if you start with 10k followers, try 1-2k fb fans. If you can afford more, then go for it. But for just starting out we just want to put on the facade that our site is somewhat of an authority site in the field we're in. Also, this number will grow naturally as you continue to add content and grow your site, but you should also grow it "unnaturally" as you continue your membership site. Some people will disagree with that, but if I started a new fitness site and started out with 10k followers, I may get 14k followers within the first three months (legit followers), but I should also be buying more so that my numbers are steadily increasing... If you're still confused, here's a good example. I made a strategy site for some video game a few years back. One twitter account I didn't have any followers to start out and the other one I had roughly 20k followers. I made identical tweets to both accounts. Within six month I had about 312 followers on the account that started with 0 followers and about 34k followers on the one that started with 20k. Enough said. To sum this section up: Build up any publicly viewable source that indicates the authority of your site (fb, twitter, etc.). Note: 1,000 twitter followers is roughly going to cost you $2, while 1k facebook followers is roughly going to cost you $10-15 Step 8: Looks are everything "Don't judge a book by it's cover." ...The saying that does not apply to the internet. You will win and lose members solely by the looks of your site and more importantly, landing page (most likely the home page for you). It's worth it to pay $97 for an incredible landing page as that may make you $10,000+ over the course of your membership site. I can't harp on it enough. You need to be looking sharp. Looking good is half the battle, just kidding, it's pretty much the whole battle. I know this is probably your first time even thinking about creating a membership site, so if you absolutely cannot invest anything into the project, just go with a simple free wordpress theme like shell lite or something similar. It's not the best, but it will definitely get the job done. Once you get more established or are on your second or third membership site, you'll have money to invest in a design and you'll be incredibly satisfied with the benefits and extra earnings it can bring in. While it's hard to statistically compare the differences (though you could with A/B testing), a custom design is always makes a more profitable membership site than a pre-made theme. Step 9: Autoresponder You need an autoresponder. Yes mail chimp will work with under 3k members, but trust me, you will get more than 3k free members over the course of your membership site's life. Some will stop coming to the site and remain on your list... that's a whole different story. But anyway... get AWeber. It's solid and somewhat easy to use for beginners. It integrates with every membership plugin and you need it. Again, if you are looking to spend nothing on this project... first I say sorry as you won't be as successful as fast you could be, but then I will say it is alright to use mailchimp when you are first starting out and investigating this whole internet marketing thing. Although AWeber is just $1 for the first month so if it doesn't work out you lost yourself one double cheeseburger, and if it does work out and you don't want to pay the monthly fee, just export all of the opt-ins to mailchimp. Yes, I understand DAP "has a built in autoresponder", but depending on who you host with, every single email it sends will get send to the spam folder. You also don't get detailed statistics about your email blasts which will be super important down the road when you know what you are doing. If you want some money off let me know. I'll give you 100% of the commission I get after 30 days. Again, I'm not doing this to get anything out of it. I'm just trying to help people out so if you think it's sketchy for some reason it's all good with me. You can search for a discount elsewhere or just pay full price. Oh speaking of price... Step 10: Pricing But what price? Don't price a membership anything below $5 a month. You're just cutting yourself short and costing yourself members. "What ? Why would I be costing myself members if I priced it low. That will beat out my competition!" To that I frown... If I told you I'd sell you my brand new Nissan 370z for $1,000, you would probably think twice am I right? You might think, "I wonder what's wrong with it." Or "what's the catch?" If you are claiming to have incredible content that will either make your visitor more educated on a topic, or make them money, and you claim it is going to teach them so much and add so much value to their lives, then why put such a low price point on it? I now price my sites at a minimum of $17/month, but the site I'm launching in a month or so is going to be $47/month. Think about it. Just 100 members and you're already making almost $5k/month. Heck, with just 10 members you're making $470/month. I know for some of you reading right now, you'd kill to even be making that much! Even if your site sucks, the content is mediocre, and you blow at promoting it, you just need to have 10 of the 2.4 billion people using the internet in order to make decent money. I like your odds. Step 11: Over-deliver... Duh. Always over deliver. Everyone has heard this but no one does it. "But you don't understand Kyle, I overdeliver when I sell things, I give bonuses!" Oh nice so you're like 99% of the other sellers offering bonuses. Wow you really set yourself apart there! No you don't. In fact, to me (and a lot of people subconsciously) a lot of bonuses screams "my content sucks so I'm going to try to put in a lot of extra crap to make it worth it." While I hear you that bonuses are good, just use them in moderation. One of the most powerful things you can do, is after a member signs up, you say oh yea sorry we didn't tell you about this, but here's free access to another area or product (that we sell for $27). And then better yet, when they've been a member a month (29 days to be exact), send them a message, oh yea by the way, we really appreciate that you've stuck with us for a month. Here are a bunch of unadvertised bonuses! We hope you stay with us another month as there are more even awesomer bonuses to come! We can't wait until you get there!" If they were thinking about canceling, they may now think twice as if there is more free stuff to come! Let's pause... have you heard of anyone doing this? No. Only I do it. And it works. Step 12: Advertising / Acquiring Members What good is it if you have the best product in the world, but no one knows about it? If you have a solid membership site, that's great. But if no one knows about it, you make no money. So you need to promote your site somehow, but how? There are thousands of eBooks and a couple solid threads here about getting exposure for your site. Meathead1234 made a great post [HERE] about setting up google alerts and promoting through that. This is an incredibly effective way to promote your site because these leads are highly targeted. YouTube videos work wonders (depending on the niche). If it's a video game, put up as much gameplay and strategy as you can and always mention your site and put a link in the description. This will easily get you visitors to your site. While you're getting content from forums, you can also get members from forums. You can either just put a link in your signature, or you can create a bunch of accounts and PM the crap out of the member base. These are highly targeted leads and most people will visit your site and check out the free content (at least), and some will convert to paying members. Those three ideas are just really basic and easy methods of getting at least some people to your site. Browse the forum and search a bit for more effective ways to get members. I also have an incredible source for gaining paid members, but I'm not willing to share it at this time (and please don't PM me about it). The point is, gaining paid members is a lot easier than you'd think. I really hope this gives you at least a starting to point to creating a solid and successful membership site... best of luck to you. Well it's really late and I'm too tired to look this over and revise it. That's all I could think of off the top of my head so if there's anything I missed or things you think I should add or go into more detail on, make a post and I'll get back to as soon as I wake up. ------------------------------------------------ I'm probably going to regret this after offering it up, but I am willing to take a look your membership site and give you tips on how you can improve it and make more money with it. Again, I'm just trying to offer up my help. If you don't want to "give away" your site or niche idea or think I'm just going to turn around and be direct competition with you, then that's cool you don't need to contact me. But for people that want to see if they're doing it somewhat correctly or want to know where they can improve, just shoot me a PM and I'll get back to you within a day. If you need anything else from me or have any questions, just let me know. Thank you for reading.