11 digital recurring subscription ideas creators can start today

Commerce Monetize Your List
16 min read
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Most creators are familiar with the feast and famine cycle.

Some months are great—your digital products fly off the cyber shelves, and your schedule is packed with projects.

But other months, you struggle to find work, and sales trickle in. The entrepreneur-roller-coaster isn’t quite as fun as the ones at your local fair…

For a smoother ride, you need a way to develop consistent income. And what better way to do that than by starting a recurring subscription?

What are recurring subscriptions?

Recurring subscriptions are products or services people pay to access for an ongoing basis or set amount of time. It can be a digital product—like access to paid newsletters—or services you offer in the form of a monthly retainer.

Although subscription businesses are nothing new (the earliest subscription business started back in the 1600s!), they continue to grow in popularity as more businesses realize the benefits of adding subscriptions to their offerings. You might even use subscription businesses yourself, like the meal-prep subscription HelloFresh or Kobo’s monthly ebook subscription.

And while subscriptions are convenient for the consumer, they’re equally convenient for creators. Any niche can introduce a recurring subscription, and you have unlimited power to customize your subscription to fit your biz. And with ConvertKit, you can set up your recurring subscription within minutes (we’ll show you how later in the article).

5 reasons creators will enjoy the recurring subscription model

1. Easy to run and manage

We get it: Your plate’s overflowing, and you have no room (or brainpower) for much else. But adding a subscription to your offerings doesn’t need to take up large chunks of time.

The Membership Geeks surveyed over 2,000 membership creators and found that 46% of subscription owners spend only one to ten hours a week maintaining their subscriptions. If you can carve out a couple of hours each week, you can run a healthy subscription.

2. Stability and peace of mind

Nothing is worse than starting a month wondering how you’ll foot the bill to cover your expenses. It’s a feeling many creators experience at some point in their journey.

Subscriptions minimize the ebbs and flows of business by providing cash upfront so you can start each month with money in the bank. Over 50% of subscription creators surveyed say their members stay subscribed for over one year, giving you major peace of mind every month.

3. Scale faster

Unlike client work or one-on-one coaching, where you can only work with a specific number of clients before your schedule fills (or worse, you get burnt out), subscriptions let you serve more people without any extra work. Plus, there’s no need to hire a team or support staff to help you grow your subscription—you can easily do it as a party of one.

4. Increase upsells

You’ve likely heard how much easier it is to sell to an existing customer than a new one. When you’re constantly interacting with your subscribers, they’ll get a taste for the products and services you offer. As they become more familiar with you, their trust will grow, making it easier to convert them with larger offerings. As a result, your income grows even more.

5. Automatic payment

When invoicing clients, you often need to wait 15, 30, or even 90+ days for payment. And we’re not taking into account the clients you need to hound for payment.

With subscriptions, you set up recurring payments to happen automatically which allows you to put less mental energy towards chasing down payments and more towards creating incredible content.

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11 types of digital recurring subscriptions you can start right away

1. Coaching and teaching

Ideal for: Creators who teach subjects that require ongoing support or where the subject matter changes frequently.

If you’re in the business of teaching and have courses or coaching programs, consider turning them into a subscription. Under this model, subscribers pay to access your knowledge on an ongoing basis.

Coaching works well in niches that need ongoing support, like fitness or personal development.

recurring subscriptions
The Scrappy Athlete provides coaching for people looking to train and race. Image via The Scrappy Athlete.

For industries like social media marketing, where algorithms are always changing, setting up a subscription program (instead of a course) lets you provide up-to-date information for subscribers.

recurring subscriptions
Image via Girl on the Go.

2. Paid newsletters

Ideal for: Experts who enjoy writing and want to share exclusive content.

If you have a loyal audience who eagerly awaits each email you send, why not launch a paid newsletter? You don’t need a massive audience for a profitable newsletter, but you do need to follow some best practices:

  • Solve a problem your audience has
  • Pack your paid newsletter with highly-relevant information
  • Consistently search for ways to delight your readers each time you land in their inbox
  • Infuse each newsletter with your unique voice and personality

The Monthly Tax Roundup sends out easy-to-understand newsletters that break down complex tax laws:

recurring subscriptions
Subscribers learn about taxes for $9 a month. Image via Monthly Tax Roundup.

You can also brand your newsletter as reports or whitepapers if you’re serving a sophisticated audience. For example, the Monthly REIT Research Report sends out reports of real estate investment trusts (REITs) every month to their paying subscribers.

recurring subscriptions
Image via Monthly REIT Research Report.

3. Communities and networks

Ideal for: Leaders who can cultivate a group of like-minded individuals.

Individual networks are shrinking, and people are searching for new ways to connect. If you enjoy organizing events and hosting meetups, consider creating a paid community for your audience to network.

Networks don’t need to be large to be effective, either. You can start a paid online community with only a handful of people. Add things like a private Facebook community or periodic Zoom meet-ups to keep your communities engaging.

Marketing agency owner Aleia Walker keeps her subscription engaging by hosting monthly happy hours for members:

recurring subscriptions
Grab your favorite cocktail or mocktail and meet up with Aleia and other marketers. Image via Aleia Walker.

And the Postpartum Monthly Chat Support allows members to submit unlimited questions—perfect for anxious moms new to motherhood:

recurring subscriptions
Get all your motherhood questions answered in the Postpartum Monthly Chat Support. Image via Postpartum Monthly Chat Support.

The inner workings of your community depend on what will benefit your audience most. Before launching your community, take time asking people what they’d like to see inside.

4. Book clubs

Ideal for: Avid readers who want to lead thoughtful book discussions or authors who’d like to feature their books as reading material.

Book clubs are buzzing. Even celebrities like Reese Witherspoon and Andrew Luck have started their own. But you don’t need celeb status to run a thriving book club. Host your book club by sending out book recommendations and meetups to discuss the readings.

recurring subscriptions
The Akwaaba Akademy hosts book clubs for parents and children. Image via Akwaaba Akademy.

And if you’re an author, consider using your own books as monthly reading material. Chef D Malfi puts a twist on the traditional book club by sending out one book a month with her recipes. Instead of discussions, she hosts live cooking lessons on Facebook and YouTube.

recurring subscriptions
Pairing live cooking sessions with each month’s cookbooks adds an interactive element to Chef D Malfi’s cookbook club. Image via Chef D Malfi.

Pro tip: Increase your earnings and make some affiliate money by using affiliate links to promote each month’s book.

5. Fan clubs

Ideal for: Bands and public figures with devoted fans.

If you’re a public figure, there’s a good chance you have devoted fans who crave the chance to be part of an exclusive club. Use your fan club to host virtual meetups, show behind-the-scenes, share exclusive discounts, and give access to one-of-a-kind merch.

The band Pink Martini gives members of their fan clubs everything from discounts to signed merch to meet and greets at their shows:

recurring subscriptions
Each membership level offers more exclusive products than the one before. Image via Pink Martini on Patreon.

To make your fan club as special as possible, ask fans what types of merch and goodies they’d be happiest to get.

6. Retainer packages

Ideal for: Freelancers and service providers.

If you don’t sell products, you might be thinking that recurring subscriptions aren’t for you. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Freelancers and virtual assistants (VAs) can offer clients monthly retainer packages in return for a set amount of work. Developer Stephanie LaTorre offers Angel Packages, so businesses don’t need to worry about plugin updates and hacked websites.

recurring subscriptions
Stephanie offers to keep her clients’ sites in tip-top shape on a subscription basis. Image via Stephanie LaTorre.

Retainer packages benefit both parties: You receive predictable work while the client knows precisely how much money they’ll spend on your services each month.

To figure out what you should offer for your retainer packages, check which services you tend to provide the most. For example, if you’re a designer who spends lots of time creating graphics for social media, your clients would probably love a package where you give them a set amount of designs each month.

7. Sponsorships and donations

Ideal for: Creators who share valuable free content for their audience.

Maybe you don’t want to commoditize your content but still want reliable recurring income. In that case, consider asking your audience for sponsorships and donations. With all the free content swirling around, you might not feel like people will actually donate, but that’s far from the truth: People want to pay their favorite creators for the hard work they do. Even social media platforms like Twitter have created tip jars to help creators earn a living.

Keep in mind you must provide your audience with highly valuable content if you plan to ask them to sponsor or donate to you. Otherwise, they might not see a purpose in their donation.

Podcast host Brandi Stanley uses ConvertKit to set up recurring donations monthly, quarterly, or yearly to support her podcast.

recurring subscriptions
Brandi gives subscribers the option to sponsor her content. Image via This Plus That.

Offering different tiers of support makes it easy for your audience to donate in an amount that fits their budget.

8. Resource libraries

Ideal for: Creators with vast collections of content and resources.

If you’re constantly creating new content, but don’t know what to do with it, bundle it up in a library and offer members unlimited access. You can put just about anything into your resource library, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

  • Fonts
  • Stock photos and videos
  • Webinars
  • Worksheets and printables
  • Graphics
  • Templates
  • Audio and music
  • Meal plans and recipes
  • Sewing patterns
  • DIY tutorials

Photographer Alicia’s stock photography subscription library is home to over 10,000 photos and templates.

recurring subscriptions
Pixistock has thousands of photos and templates for members to access. Image via Pixistock.

To keep people around for longer than a month, fill your library with content that people won’t be able to consume within 30 days.

9. Advertising opportunities

Ideal for: Creators who have an engaged audience but don’t want to create any new offers at the moment.

Maybe you’re excited about the idea of a subscription, but you don’t want to create any additional products. The solution? Advertise someone else’s product by offering advertising opportunities to other businesses who serve a similar audience to you.

For example, sell ad space on your blog for a monthly set fee. You can use a WordPress plugin like Ad Inserter to insert the ads into your content automatically. Or, if you have a private community like a Facebook group, offer businesses the opportunity to promote their offerings within your group.

Awaken Conscious Creation sells advertising space on their website for $111/month:

recurring subscriptions
Creators who want to try subscriptions without developing their own products can offer advertisement opportunities. Image via Awaken Conscious Creation.

10. Access to Software as a Service (SaaS)

Ideal for: Developers who can create useful tools and software to help their audience accomplish a task.

Big brands like ConvertKit, Monday, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud instantly come to mind when you think of SaaS. But you don’t need to become the next ConvertKit to dip your toes into the world of SaaS.

recurring subscriptions
Zocial is a social media tool people can access for $69/month. Image via Zocial Monthly.

If you have the chops to develop software, create a useful tool to help your audience automate mundane tasks.

11. Host live classes

Ideal for: Creators who want to cultivate a community through live sessions rather than pre-recorded classes.

Let’s be honest, some activities are more enjoyable in real-time. You can connect with other people, get instant feedback, and you’re held more accountable. Blythe Stevens is a dance and yoga instructor who hosts live dance classes for her subscribers:

recurring subscriptions
Subscribers who join Blythe’s membership get unlimited dance and yoga classes over Zoom. Image via A Blythe Coach.

And because Blythe isn’t confined to actual studio space, she can host an unlimited number of people. Some ideas for live classes include:

  • Fitness classes
  • Art classes
  • Guided meditations
  • Personal development workshops

Pro tip: Keep recordings of all your live classes and add them to a library. You can upsell subscribers and charge an extra fee to access the library.

3 steps to create your own recurring subscription

By now, your head is likely swirling with all the ways you can offer a subscription to your audience. Luckily, subscriptions are just as easy to create as they are to run.

1. Pick how to package your subscription

Our recurring subscription ideas will open a world of possibilities for your subscription business. You can either pick one to start or bundle multiple options together.

For example, you might love the idea of offering group coaching sessions but also have a resource library chock full of great resources. There’s no reason why you can’t bundle those two together to create a product unique to your business.

Three factors that go into choosing your subscription:

  1. How much time you’d like to invest. For more hands-off subscriptions, offer digital products that don’t take much time to create or deliver. If you want to invest more time, offer coaching or live classes.
  2. What your audience wants. Survey your audience to see which subscriptions they’re most interested in.
  3. What interests you. You need to create ongoing content for a subscription, so make sure what you choose is something you’ll be excited to create.

2. Create a product with ConvertKit Commerce

You might wonder whether you can manage a recurring subscription manually, but manual subscriptions are complex. Subscribers will join on different days, meaning you need to track when everyone’s payment is due and then put aside time to collect it. In the end, you’ll spend more time analyzing spreadsheets and chasing down payments than you will working on the material for your subscription.

However, using ConvertKit Commerce, you can collect recurring payments and deliver your products to subscribers automatically. And aside from the ability to set up recurring subscriptions, ConvertKit Commerce gives you the option to sell digital products and collect tips from your subscribers, allowing you to test and try different streams of revenue for your biz.

3. Set up your recurring subscription in ConvertKit

After creating a ConvertKit account, head to Earn > Products.

convertkit subscriptions

Next click the Create a product button.

convertkit subscriptions

Give your subscription a name and set its price. You can add monthly, quarterly, or yearly pricing options.

convertkit subscriptions

Choose what type of subscription you plan to offer:

convertkit subscriptions

Then customize your domain name.

Next, create your sales page to encourage people to sign up for your subscription. You can quickly add your own text, photos, and change the colors. After you’re happy with your sales page, make any necessary adjustments to the checkout, confirmation, and receipt email and hit publish.

convertkit subscriptions

After publishing, a screen will popup with details on how to share your product.

convertkit subscriptions

And that’s it—you’ve officially created a product with recurring payments. ConvertKit will handle the recurring payments so you can focus on providing exceptional content to your members.

Start earning recurring revenue with subscription products

Being a creator comes with many challenges, but not having enough work to get you through the month shouldn’t be one of them.

Offering recurring subscriptions lets you smooth out the peaks and valleys of running your biz so you have more stability (and income) as a result. As a bonus, you can tailor your recurring subscription to your business and spend as much or as little time running it as you’d like.

Start your free ConvertKit Commerce trial today and start earning recurring revenue for your biz!

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Dana Nicole

Dana is a freelance writer who works closely with B2B SaaS brands to create content people enjoy reading. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading a good book (the scarier, the better). See what she’s up to at www.dananicoledesigns.com

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