By Kelsey Castle
You don't need to work outside the home to earn a lucrative salary. With a little web savvy, you can generate income from your very own membership site. Once you find a niche topic that you think will engage and draw in members, you're not far away from hosting your very own membership site.
The Purpose of Membership Sites
Being the owner of a standard website can bring in money through advertising, but a membership website takes it a step further by allowing you to generate funds through a one-time or recurring membership fee.
The key to a successful membership site is finding a topic that brings readers back time and time again, whether it's for the community you've built, such as a message board, important updated information from experts in the field, or some sort of incentive, such as job leads.
Membership fees can come in the form of monthly or yearly recurring payments or a one-time fee that allows the user access. Some membership sites also use a tiered system, with gold members being offered more benefits than silver and bronze members.
How to Make a Membership Site
The simplest way to make a membership website will depend on your level of tech-savvy, whether you currently have a website in place, and how much work you want to do. It's a good idea to start by simply hosting a non-membership website to see what the demand for your content is and if you have an audience. There's a lot of free content available on the Internet, so you want to make sure you have the information for which people are ready and willing to pay.
If your site is currently hosted on WordPress, there's an easy plugin you can install to create a membership site. For others, it's a little bit more complicated. You have to figure out how to handle payments, how to lay out the site, how to deal with privacy, and so on.
The best method depends on your level of technical knowledge. Do you have the knowledge to do the research and build the site? If not, consider either hiring someone who can create a membership site for you and teach you the ins and outs, or use a site such as WordPress, which makes it easy for you.
One key thing to remember is dealing with search engines. You don't want people to be able to search the information behind a paywall, but you do want them to be able to find your homepage. Again, this is where technical knowledge comes into play – you'll need to add no archive and no index tags, as well as make sure your plugin doesn't index the pages. If this all sounds like gibberish, consider speaking with an expert to help you out.
Just like everything else in the world, it's not always easy to make money from a membership site. You have to make sure you're doing it right. That means the price point has to be right, the ease of use has to be right, and, of course, the content and benefits of membership have to be right.
If you currently host your own website, you can't expect your readers to now pay for the same content they've been getting for free all along. In this case, you'll want to gradually implement a membership tier, such as paying for the privilege of certain communities on a message board site or premium listings for job postings. Don't neglect to continually update your content, or members could get bored or feel like it's not worth their money.
The information on membership sites could fill a book. Being successful might take a little trial and error, as well as help from people more knowledgeable than yourself. However, once you succeed, you'll feel validated that you're able to secure an income without ever leaving the home.
Kelsey Castle is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in business topics such as payroll companies. She has a degree from Penn State.