Tips on easily starting a membership site with WordPress

Let’s face it: Independent publishers, content creators, artists who have their own websites have been struggling for monetizing their content and their websites and financing their activities since a long time.

Ads have started paying ridiculously low returns for a long time, and guest-posting, sponsored content are difficult to come by and make work.

In this environment it’s no surprise that a lot of website owners have been looking for a reliable way to make a living with their content, or even at least finance their activities.

So it’s no surprise that membership systems are rising in popularity as a means to replace long lost revenue of ads.

WordPress site owners have a great advantage in regard to membership systems, since its quite easy to integrate WordPress with a membership solution, especially with so many WordPress membership systems around. In this article, we list some tips for integrating membership systems with your WordPress site in a way compatible with your audience and their preferences.

So, here we go!

Decide on a format according to your content or service

This is the first and most important step in order to set up a successful membership system for augmenting your site’s income.

Each type of content and the audience who consume that content are unique. They can even differ from site to site for the same type of content.

Understanding your content and the preferences of your audience are keys to deciding which content should be made for members only, and in what format. Some content is very suitable for making entirety of it members only, and some content can benefit much more from a large portion of the content being free for everyone, and only some of it being members only.

Free + Member only method would help you grow your audience by the traffic it generates on your site, and the member only content would create revenue.

Whereas entirely member only content for content types that your audience would agree to get memberships for would be a way to monetize your entire content.

Let’s examine some examples:

You are a travel blogger

You go around the world, discovering unspoiled places or unknown cultural settings and share them with your audience.

For such type of content, you can access more people by publishing most of your content free, whereas making very high-value content, special journeys or travel guides member-only.

Alternatively, you can also have your last stories member-only, and have your entire content that is older than a date or older than a certain amount of days free for everyone.

Think about what would provide value, or even savings to your audience – could your audience benefit from paying for a member only piece of content which tells them how to do save greatly while visiting a popular destination? Or, they would more prefer an episodic story-like format in which they may pay for the latest installment in your stories of adventure?

You publish stories or novels from your WordPress site

Let’s say you write short stories in a given genre.

If you are making episodic posts in which each short story arc is published periodically in certain increments, you can make the last episode members-only. This could provide a good incentive for your audience to subscribe.

Then again, it would depend on how short these short stories are – a short series could not gather enough popularity fast enough by circulating online to make it likely for people to come for the free parts, and then subscribe for the latest.

But then again if you are writing in a longer format, like a novel or an ongoing, never-ending story, this format would help greatly.

You publish Web comics

This is a case with many possibilities – depending on your audience, you can make your latest comic member only, or your archives member only with a low subscription.

Alternatively, you can choose to make your ‘sunday comics’ or specials, which constitute from a larger amount of panels or small storylines, for members only.

If you are utilizing short story lines with your comic, or if you are creating comic adventures (superheroes etc), you can treat it like novels and make the latest chapters member only.

Other potential member only content may include wallpapers, printable posters and other material based on your comics.

You write about finance

Let’s say you publish financial tips, which are useful when they are fresh.

In this case too, making the latest tips member-only and providing the older ones free would allow you to gain audience via the free tips, and the member only content would create revenue.

In contrast, for example, if you are publishing ever-green and always useful financial reports, you can benefit from making the latest reports free for a certain duration, and the older ones members only.

Again in this case, what would provide the most benefit, specifically financial benefit, is the content that would pay to make members only.

You write political commentary or analysis

Such content can be conducive to having larger, in depth commentary or analysis about highly controversial content for members only.

If you are making political analysis that pertains to future political events, having such analysis members-only until the date for the relevant event has passed.

Guides, how-tos on how to get involved with politics can also be valuable for those who seek such material.

You have a recipe site

Let’s say that you have a site which publishes food recipes.

You can have majority of your recipes public, but make a certain category of advanced recipes members-only. Or, have variations of recipes and make all variations member only.


As you see, there are many different types of content, and there are many ways to monetize that content via a membership system. It really pays out to understand your content and your audience before starting your membership system.

Plan your membership tiers

Will you have only one membership tier? Whose members get access to all your member only content for the same subscription fee?

Or, will you have different tiers from different prices, by tying those different tiers to different levels of access to different parts of your content?

Some content is more conducive to a single membership tier, some content is to multiple membership tiers.

Before launching your membership system, you must decide on what tiers you will have, how you will name them and what kind of access and benefits will those tiers provide to their respective subscribers.

Examine relevant sites in your genre which use membership systems. Check out how they structured their memberships, with what prices, and with what kind of access and benefits.

Having a good idea of what kind of tiers are useful for the topic of your site will not only allow you to create a more productive membership system, but also make it easier on your potential future members – since they may have already used a membership site with similar tiers before, they may easily understand and use your site.

You may change and readjust your tiers in future. But starting with a good set of tiers will help a smooth start.

Choose a WordPress membership plugin or a membership system

This is a bit more technical part, but one which is equally important: Choosing a good membership plugin for your site will not only get you going fast, but also help you to grow into the future.

Thankfully, there are a plethora of membership solutions out for WordPress, from the quite technical ones to out-of-the-box solutions.

For example, the solution we offer here at CodeBard, Patron Plugin Pro, allows you to easily set up a membership site in 15 minutes by integrating your site with Patreon and bringing the full power of their membership features and their reputation to your WordPress site.

Patron Pro allows you to connect your WordPress site to Patreon in ~15 minutes and readily provide members only content from your WordPress site. This brings all well known features Patreon famously offers, coupled by the advanced member only content locking features Patron Pro provides. Which is made even better by he fact that it allows you to reach more members via Patreon’s community. Patreon’s community has become so large that they will be paying out $1 billion to those who are using their membership solutions in 2019.

Another major advantage of Patron Plugin Pro in addition to its advanced and easy to use features is that, by using Patreon as your membership payment provider, you offload the risks of collecting payments from your members, fraud, charge backs and similar financial burden. Additionally, since Patreon handles taxes like EU VAT, you avoid having to do accounting for VAT and other forms of international tax and dealing with your local or foreign tax authority. And since Patreon pays you the sum of your entire membership revenue in one go, you could be able to show it as one income entry in your tax returns and therefore avoid having to incur costs or time for accounting.

In contrast, solutions like Paid Memberships Pro or Restrict Content Pro offer you a different approach: They let you collect your payments on your own, by using any payment gateway – like PayPal. While these advanced solutions also provide similar features to solutions like Patron Pro and Patreon, you are responsible with processing the membership payments and dealing with payment providers, fraud, charge backs and taxes. Such solutions may be more suitable for your membership site if you have experience with such financial processes or are comfortable with them.

It is very important to assess the benefits and drawbacks of different membership systems available for WordPress sites and choosing one that suits your own means and your audience.

Listen to your audience

Ask your audience.

Tell them that you are thinking of implementing member-only content and what type of content would be interesting for them to subscribe and become a member to get access to.

Communicate with them to understand their needs and to get them their support.

Think your audience as your community, and consider them as your companions on your journey in your new direction.

Think together, grow together. Remember that your content gains meaning only because of the community which appreciates it. Creating close relationships with your community can pay out in all kinds of ways in the long run.

You may set up a forum system at your WordPress site, or off your site in a forum/community service. Or, if you are using Patron Pro, you can use Patreon’s community services. Alternatively you can install a forum plugin in your WordPress site and still use Patreon’s community services with Patron Pro.

Accept feedback, even content contributions from your community. Create together to prosper together.

Conclusion

As Patreon passes the $1 billion mark in payments to creators, there is little doubt on whether membership systems work for content creators in making a living. They do.

WordPress site owners are already getting in on this newfound way to monetize their content as seen from many creators on Patreon who have WordPress sites, and the general rise of popularity of membership systems across WordPress ecosystem.

By careful planning and implementation, you also can make use of membership methodology in order to monetize your WordPress site and even potentially make a living from your content.

Good luck!

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