Building a membership into your creator business can be a lucrative add-on to help you grow and scale.
With memberships, you get access to recurring revenue (unlike selling products one time). That’s what makes memberships such a great business model for creators—they can encourage predictability in your business that, let’s be honest, sometimes feels like it’s built on water.
Ride the waves of your creator business with confidence by launching a successful 6-figure membership that you can rely on as a steady income stream.
What is a membership?
Memberships give your biggest fans access to specific content, events, or experiences. In return for access, your fans pay a set amount of money each month, quarter, or annually. Creators like Molly Burke use memberships to offer different types of exclusive goodies to their most dedicated fans.
Subscribers to Molly’s membership get benefits like:
- Early announcements
- Exclusive photos
- Patron-only polls
- Weekly livestreams
- Discount codes on merch
- Free merch
- Special emails
Memberships are a great way to take your most dedicated fans and turn them into regular customers of your creator business. Instead of selling somebody one t-shirt and hoping they’re interested in your next merch drop, you can create predictable, monthly income through your membership.
Creators use memberships to scale
Blogging for Devs, a paid newsletter and community for developers by Monica Lent, brought in $3,869.66 in January of 2022. That’s recurring revenue coming directly from her biggest fans. As Monica continues to make organic content for her online audience, she has a place to send her followers if they’re interested in learning more about blogging as a developer.
Memberships scale creator businesses by giving them a steady foundation to build on. Monthly payouts (or larger payments from annual billing) give creators the funds they need to keep their business running and invest in their future endeavors.
Mushfiq Sarker, creator of The Website Flip newsletter saw the opportunity for expansion in his business by offering a membership he calls, The Website Flip Club.
Since 2020 when I launched The Website Flip as a free newsletter, I've been actively doing case studies of our business that we buy and then grow. To compensate for my time doing the newsletter full-time, I launched the Club. In the Club, members would get exclusive case studies that were not open to all newsletter subscribers.
The free newsletter allowed me to gain a following and then funnel those users to a paid subscription that paid the bills.
– Mushfiq Sarker, The Website Flip Newsletter
Deciding which membership is the right option for your audience comes down to two strategies: looking at the audience questions and feedback you get consistently or asking your audience what they’d love to get exclusive access to.
Here’s how to figure out what your audience would love to see you offer in a membership.
How to figure out what to offer in your membership
Deciding to launch your membership is a big commitment. Unlike posting to social media, you can’t hit a creative wall and take a break from creating and sharing content. With your membership, you agree to give people a slice of your creativity regularly. So make sure your creator business is ready for that commitment by choosing the right membership option for you.
To figure out what benefits to offer in your membership:
#1: Look for repetitive questions your audience is asking
These questions tell you exactly what your audience is looking for from paid products. If they’re always asking for specific advice on getting started podcasting—you know they’d love a membership for newbie podcasters. Or, if they’re asking you where they can find a community of like-minded people, you have the green light to create that community!
#2: Ask your audience what they’d look for in a membership
When in doubt about new products and memberships, ask your audience. They’re happy to let you know what they’re interested in—but, you have to ask. Use ConvertKit tags to poll your audience with 3-5 membership benefit ideas and see which are the most popular. Then, keep your audience in the loop about the results and let them know the membership is coming soon.
Add tags to your questions in your ConvertKit emails to poll your audience on what they’d like to see from your membership.
Your membership can offer one big benefit (like a paid, weekly newsletter) or a few different benefits (like a paid, weekly newsletter, access to the community, and member-only events). If you can’t decide how many benefits to add to your membership, start small. Build out the foundation of your membership and continue to work on it as you get feedback from your members.
Mushfiq Sarker narrowed down the content he’d charge for in The Website Flip Club. “Quality content not found anywhere else—this is our key offering. In our case studies, we show them step-by-step how we achieve growth so they can take the findings and apply them to their businesses. The return on investment for them is exponential.”
Knowing that quality was behind the doors of his membership, he was able to launch with confidence. Even though launching can sound scary, it’s a lot easier than it seems. We’ll show you how.
How to launch your membership
Launching your membership is a matter of getting your ducks in a row. Jimmy Daly, creator of Superpath, didn’t look for monumental success from his membership launch. He just wanted to get the ball rolling and amplify his membership moving forward.
Build your audience first, then try to convert a small percentage of them. Starting from scratch is so difficult, but it’s not terribly difficult to sell to folks who already know and trust you. I launched Superpath Pro to an email list of a few hundred people and converted 25 paying customers in the first week. It wasn’t massive, but it was enough momentum to get rolling.
– Jimmy Daly, Superpath
There are a couple of things every membership needs before it launches:
- A schedule for when you’ll create exclusive content for your members
- The platforms where members will access their benefits
- The page where people sign up to become members
- A strategy for getting people warmed up as they decide if they want to become members
First, schedule time to work on your membership benefits. Make sure what you’re offering is realistic to your schedule so you know you’re giving your members what they paid for.
Second, figure out how to give members their benefits. If you’re building a community, are you setting up a Discord, Slack channel, or Facebook Group? Situate all of the platforms needed for your members to virtually walk into your membership and hop around their different benefits.
Third, find a place for your audience to become members. Use ConvertKit landing pages to ask people to join your membership and share the benefits, and set up recurring membership products through ConvertKit Commerce, so each member gets charged as needed (monthly, quarterly, or annually). Just choose Subscription under Product Details:
Creators use ConvertKit Commerce to charge for recurring membership fees, like those on paid newsletters.
And lastly, aside from your online content, you can create a lead way to get people to join your membership through a free course, ebook, webinar, or training. Monica Lent uses a free 7-day email course to turn her online audience into email subscribers. During those 7 days, she promotes her membership. With this strategy, Monica gained 1,048 email subscribers in the first two weeks of launching her membership.
And just like that—you can hit launch on your very first membership and start watching that recurring revenue stream in. Now, your priority is keeping those members for as long as possible by maintaining your membership.
How to maintain your membership
Maintaining your membership is like tending to a garden. Sometimes you have to pull out a few weeds. Other times you realize you have to redo an entire section. And sometimes, your garden is thriving so much you have to figure out what to do with all of the surplus.
With memberships, you’ll focus on smaller administrative tasks that keep your membership rolling, add new benefits based on member feedback, and figure out how to house more members as your community grows. You’ll always have a pulse on what your members need from you and what you can do to improve their experience (these can be free add-ons or upsells).
Brett Larkin, creator of Uplifted Yoga keeps an eye on what other influencers and brands are offering in her niche to figure out what to offer and charge, and how to differentiate from similar memberships as they pop up. She’s always looking for ways to maintain and improve her membership.
When building my brand's membership package, I was always looking at my competitors to ensure that I was offering something unique and original. Look at the gaps in your industry, and figure out what you can offer in your package that fills those gaps. By researching competitor data and industry trends, you can build a membership package that solidifies your brand's message, and offers something completely different to your audience.
– Brett Larkin, Uplifted Yoga
Just like gardens, memberships are always in flux. What you’re doing today isn’t what you have to do 6-months from now. If you’re charging $20/month now, you can raise your price in the future as your membership matures and becomes more valuable. Don’t be scared to raise the price on your membership as time goes on.
All you need to do is show your members what they’re getting in return, like a community of like-minded people.
How to build community through your membership
Community is a large part of memberships, whether that’s through your own coaching and support or the communities. People want to join spaces where they can interact with like-minded people (like Monica’s community of developers interested in blogging). By giving them resources (either through you or each other), they’ll get the results they’re looking for from your membership and become long-term members.
It’s important for us to over-deliver in our membership plans. We don’t want our customers feeling slighted for selecting one membership over another.
– Shayna Price, creator of PrimoStats
Shayna knows the key to creating a happy community of members is taking care of them. Her team doesn’t stop impressing her members after they hit the subscribe button—they want to keep wow-ing their members with the results they can achieve through their membership.
Create a community within your membership by offering benefits like:
- Channels for members to talk to each other
- Daily, weekly, monthly topics to discuss
- Scheduling AMAs with you, community members, or other experts
- Having members opt-in to 1:1 calls to get to know each other
- Hosting virtual trainings or happy hours
- Offering in-person meetups in popular cities
If in doubt about what your members are looking for from the community—send out an email with ConvertKit tags to ask them what you could do to improve the community aspect of your membership.
Like using tags to poll your audience, there are a lot of ways to make creating and maintaining your membership as easy as possible. For example, adding as much automation as possible.
Automate your membership to scale your creator business
Memberships are a great way to scale your creator business. But, you want to scale strategically so you don’t add hours of extra work to your schedule as you try to keep your membership afloat.
With ConvertKit's creator marketing platform tools like ConvertKit Commerce to sell recurring subscriptions, landing pages to turn your online audience into members, and visual automations to take you out of the onboarding process—you can spend all of your time focusing on your members and how to keep improving your membership.
Creators use ConvertKit to scale their business while automating time-consuming tasks.