There’s a lot of buzz these days about membership sites. One of the most common questions is: are they really a viable way to earn some passive income?
The short answer is, yes—if you’re willing to put in the time. You might look at it more as “semi-passive” and not exactly “passive.” But any way you look at it, the income potential is real!
In this article, we’ll break down some reasons why membership sites are a good means of additional income. We’ll also go over how you can maximize the passivity of your membership site revenue and then show you how to get started with your own income-generating website today.
Do membership sites provide passive income?
Passive Income, Defined
First, let’s sort out some definitions. What exactly are we talking about when it comes to passive income?
In practice, there are two types of passive income:
- 100% passive income
- semi-passive income.
To be considered a source of 100% passive income, the business has to generate regular income that requires zero ongoing effort. An example might be royalties from a finished piece of artwork. It’s something you can set and forget.
However, when referring to passive income, most of us are really talking about semi-passive income. It’s revenue that is generated regularly but…
- Requires a significant initial time investment and
- Requires some level of ongoing effort to maintain
It’s a big mistake to approach semi-passive income with a “set it and forget it” mentality. Here’s an example. If you gathered materials, created an online course, did a bit of marketing, and left it at that, you’d just be setting yourself up for failure. Why?
- Content is not a one-time thing. First off, content can only last you so long. Times and trends change. The relevance of your content will change accordingly. It’s not as simple as kicking back and relaxing while the checks flow in.
- Support should be ongoing. Secondly, ongoing support and top-notch customer service are vital to maintaining good customer engagement levels. These things take time and effort.
So, what’s the verdict on the membership model?
Membership sites and online courses generate semi-passive income. In addition to initial effort, they’re businesses that require attention and maintenance to achieve success.
To have a profitable membership site or online course, you need members who stick around. To keep your customers on board, you need to…
- Continually produce fresh, high-quality content
- Maintain your existing content to keep it relevant
- Provide excellent customer service
- Monitor your customer churn and execute customer retention strategies when applicable
All of the above require ongoing effort. However, what makes the membership model such a great income generator is that you can control the ratio of initial to an ongoing effort.
Your goal should be to minimize ongoing effort so that your site is as passive as possible. Let’s talk about what the initial efforts should look like to get you there.
How to maximize passivity (or get regular revenue for less ongoing effort)
A successful membership site can definitely rake in some low-effort income. However, it’ll take a bit of effort invested to get to that point. There are three important things you can do to make your membership site’s income as passive as possible in the long run:
1. Start off on the right foot
If you put in the initial hard work, you’ll start off with an excellent product you’ll never need to recreate. For example, if you create a set of high-quality tutorial videos for your basket-weaving enthusiasts’ site, that’s already a great start. You won’t have to update those videos for some time.
With great evergreen content as your base, you can move forward and continue to build off what is already working.
If you can’t think of any content ideas, don’t despair. You might have a hobby or skill that makes creating great content come naturally to you. Or maybe there’s a certain field you’re passionate about.
2. Develop (and follow) a content strategy
No matter how good your start is, you still need to release new content to keep your customers engaged.
There are many options for this:
- Set a schedule to release new content monthly, biweekly, or even weekly.
- You could also implement a content drip, where you slowly feed your content to your subscribers over a longer period of time. Dripping content allows you to take a batch of content and draw its lifespan out to the maximum.
Whatever strategy you choose, it’s most important that you stick with it. Consistency is absolutely key to keeping your customers’ loyalty and building your brand’s reputation.
3. Outsource your customer service
Another thing to consider is support. Providing a consistent level of support for your site is a big factor in keeping your members satisfied. There are many ways to improve customer relationships through support.
In reality, a site without a customer service system won’t be nearly as successful.
If you’re aiming to maximize your passive income, chances are you’re a solopreneur or part of a small team. In either case, it’s probably in your best interest to outsource your customer service.
First, in the online world, customer service can make or break your business. Excellent customer service is a learned art. By outsourcing, you’re making sure it’s served up by pros from the start. That’s extremely important as your brand is establishing its voice and reputation.
Second, customer service can be time-consuming. While automated services support the passive model, they can be less effective and lack that personal touch customers appreciate.
LTVPlus has a dedicated support package that presents the perfect solution for smaller teams. It saves time, ensures excellence, and provides that personal touch – all in one. Having a team of skilled agents focused on support frees up your time to work on your site’s other elements and keeps the income low-effort.
Now that you have an idea of what it takes to maximize the passivity of your site, here’s how to get started.
How to create a membership site for your hobby
These days, people spend more and more time on activities outside their careers. Some people do cross-stitch, some hand-craft quilts, and some have taken up cooking elaborate meals (I’m sure you might remember the sourdough craze of early 2020).
All these hobbies and activities generate great content naturally. If you’re already spending time on this type of hobby, you’re in a great place to launch.
There are a lot of ways to start a membership site. The easiest way is with MemberPress—the world’s most popular paywall, LMS, subscription, and membership site plugin for WordPress.
The plugin addresses all the membership-site creation problems people were running into – especially the technology barrier. Now, MemberPress can transform any WordPress site into a membership site quickly and easily – no coding required.
1. Start with a WordPress site
Before you get rolling, you’ll need to have a WordPress site up and running. Fortunately, it’s super easy to do. Check out this official tutorial if you don’t have a WordPress site yet. Once that’s done, you’re ready to plan your content.
2. Create your members-only material
Next, consider your hobby and the people (like you!) who are into it. What’s something they’d be willing to pay for?
Depending on your hobby, there are different routes you could take…
- Start a members-only forum or chat space to foster a community around a passion of yours.
- Post videos, guides, or tips and tricks on your hobby.
- Do a multi-step course on how to get started with your hobby.
- Link with your eCommerce site, if you have one.
- Do all of the above!
Figuring out what type of content people will pay for is a vital first step. Now on to the nuts and bolts.
3. Install the MemberPress plugin
Choose one of the MemberPress paid plans. Each has different perks, so you’ll want to take the time to decide which level is the best fit for you.
Once you’ve signed up for MemberPress, you’ll download the plugin via a ZIP file. From there, head to the WP dashboard to install and activate MemberPress. Once that’s done, you can get started with setting up your membership plans.
4. Set up the membership plans
The next step is to set up the membership plans your users will be able to choose from. You can have a single plan, or offer more than one level (and paywall your content accordingly). Go to MemberPress > Memberships > Add New. Here you can name your plan and set up price, billing, and so on.
Once that’s set, you need to figure out the rules of access for each membership level.
5. Set up membership rules
Membership rules define what content your members can access and how they can access it.
To edit these rules, go to MemberPress > Rules > Add New. Here, you can select the content that will be restricted on your site.
You can choose content based on tags, pages, categories, posts, or groups. From there, you can set membership conditions to determine who sees what.
For example, a Beginner membership might include access to posts and videos, while a Pro membership might give access to all the content on your site.
6. Add Your site’s login page and registration link
Now, you’ve got to set up how your users will login and get access to their content. In your WordPress dashboard, head to Appearance > Menus > Manage with Live Preview.
Scroll down and select Menus > All Pages > + Add Items. Click on the drop-down arrow next to Memberships, and select your plan as shown below.
Now, your members need a way to access their accounts. Go to MemberPress > Settings > Pages. From there, select the drop-down menu next to MemberPress Login Page, and choose Auto Create New Page. You can change the page by clicking on Edit.
7. Set up communications channels and customer support
Now that everything’s set up on the backend, you’ll want to create a method for communications and support.
As I said, outsourcing to a dedicated team of agents (like LTVplus) will save you time and tons of resources.
The main takeaway
So, is it really possible to generate passive income with a membership site? The answer is a resounding YES… if you’re willing to make an ongoing effort to keep your users engaged and provide them with high-quality support.
If you’re up for that challenge, a membership site can be a great way to earn passive income – and also have some fun while you’re at it. Don’t forget to check out MemberPress for more valuable resources on membership sites.