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Starting a Membership Site and Why It Was the Best “Do Less” Decision We’ve Ever Made

Starting a Membership Site and Why It Was the Best “Do Less” Decision We’ve Ever Made

It was May 2016 and we were in Orange County at our friends James and Chelsea Wedmore’s pre-wedding celebration, when I got to talking with this super nice guy about our business and what was working and what wasn’t.

At the time we had a still very itchy baby who wasn’t sleeping much, and I was very much in the Fertile Void in terms of business creation. I just couldn’t seem to figure out what our next best move should be. I’d said what I needed to say about money and now felt as if I was treading water until my next big idea showed up.

I also shared that while we were making great money (high six-figures), I didn’t like the feeling of living launch to launch. We would put a ton of energy into a promotion and make great revenue from it, but then in order to get revenue coming in the door again we had to repeat the same cycle over and over. Honestly, I was tired of launching and feeling like we were in a boom/bust cycle.

In this conversation, I happened to be pouring my heart out to Stu McLaren, one of the world’s leading experts on membership sites, and, not surprisingly, he asked me if I’d ever considered creating a membership for the benefits of recurring revenue and building a long-term relationship with customers instead of selling them one-off products.

I knew that we could attract people and that building community is a real sweet spot for me because it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life pretty naturally, but what I didn’t know was what the membership was going to be about. And I knew “join my awesome community” was not going to be that compelling an offer.

Then I got the idea to teach a course for female entrepreneurs about planning their promotional calendar around their personal cycles, lunar cycles, and the seasons rather than pushing all the time (which I’d realized from experience only leads to burnout). As I was talking to Mike about my idea he said, “That’s your membership.”

I knew he was right, and we got to work rolling it out. One of the best investments we made was flying to Toronto to work with Stu privately to get our entire launch and content strategy mapped out.

(If you don’t have the time or resources to fly to Toronto and work with him one on one, he’s offering a free training right now that goes over the very same strategy and philosophy that we learned with him in person. It’s called the Recurring Revolution and you can click here to access it for free.)

When I meet someone like Stu whose values and lifestyle I respect and who has the business success to prove that what they teach works, I am extremely teachable and I simply follow their instructions.

Launching our membership for entrepreneurial moms who want to have more by doing less, Origin™, under Stu’s guidance, turned out to be one of the very best decisions we’ve ever made in business to allow us to do less.

Here’s what I love about having a membership as the bedrock of our business model:

1. Building an ongoing relationship with our members: I’m a people person. While selling digital courses is gratifying in some ways, I really missed the experience of seeing people evolve over a longer period of time, but I knew I didn’t want to coach people. A membership is the perfect way to foster a community of people I get to know and witness blossom over time in a way that we didn’t have when we were only selling one-off courses.

2. Content batching = time saved: I create two new pieces of content a month for our members, a How To lesson and a Maven Masterclass interview, and then there’s a Q&A and a Member Spotlight each month, too. I’ve found that batching the content ahead of time has allowed me to prepare several months of content in just a few days, so the time commitment to keep the membership going is not only minimal, it’s actually incredibly joyful.

3. Recurring revenue: I’d experienced the power of recurring revenue already through our network marketing business, so it wasn’t totally foreign to me, but adding a membership to our business took it to a whole other level. Now instead of living launch to launch and having to expend a ton of energy and time to make a big chunk of revenue, only to have to repeat the whole thing a few months later to pay our expenses, we had predictable revenue coming in from our membership each and every month. We have so much more freedom and predictability in our business and life now and way less stress.

If you don’t have some kind of recurring revenue in your business, you’re eventually going to burn out. 

Starting a Membership Site and Why It Was the Best “Do Less” Decision We’ve Ever Made

If you’re craving a recurring revenue business model and you think a membership site might be the way to go for you, Stu is the guy to learn from. Not only does he know what he’s talking about (and our results along with those of thousands of other students prove it) he’s also an incredibly kind, generous person who I’m honored to call a friend.

Click here to get access to Stu’s free training, The Recurring Revolution.

I don’t believe there are any accidents, and I know we ran into Stu when we did because we were meant to create Origin™ with his guidance. Not a day goes by that I don’t take a deep breath of gratitude and relaxation because of our membership site and what it’s done for our life and business.

OVER TO YOU:

Have you ever thought about creating a membership site? What are your biggest questions about it? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be happy to answer personally!

  • Candace Turner says:

    Hi Kate…im for sure drinking Stu’s kool-aid! I have started a consulting business and am also a visual artist. The consulting biz seems like a shoe-in for membership model. I wonder though…what are your thoughts on a membership for my visual art? I’m thinking something like fabletics…any insights?

    • Kate Northrup says:

      So are you thinking of creating a membership around people buying your pieces of art? I don’t know much about that particular niche and if anyone has done that successfully but I bet Stu does so make sure you join his workshop (which it sounds like you already have at http://www.katenorthrup.com/tribe) and as part of that you’ll be able to join his free Facebook group where there’s great conversation going on about memberships and what works and what doesn’t. I wonder if there’s another spin on the visual art piece that you could offer as a membership model…like art instruction or helping people get in touch with their own creative process. If one of those appeal to you that could fit beautifully into a membership.

  • Sophie says:

    i found that by offering the first month free, people joined but then wouldn’t input their payment details, so couldn’t access the content but they wanted to try before committing. How can I get round this? Thanks

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I don’t know that offering the first month free is necessarily the way to go. We didn’t use that strategy because we figured if someone wanted to try it for a month they could pay $37 and we make cancelling really easy. So you might want to try simply having them pay to try it out because usually a membership isn’t that expensive to begin with that someone wouldn’t want to just try a month if they were interested.

  • Mallika says:

    LOVED this post and it came at the right time for me! I am a brand photographer and I work 1-1 creating a high touch, customized experience for my clients. And there is so much truth to the burnout challenge – I have found myself in this place a few times. Recently, I have been considering a membership/community based service for my audience. Thanks for the tip – I will be checking out Stu. Question for you – do you find the upkeep and retention stressful?

    • Kate Northrup says:

      I’m so glad this resonated with you Mallika and I love that you’re thinking outside the box about how you could offer this in your own community! I personally don’t find the upkeep or retention stressful. I love creating the content and then we have really solid systems in place to make sure that everything gets uploaded. Stu McLaren really set me up for success with his Tribe course (www.katenorthrup.com/tribe) in terms of the HOW to run the membership so that it would be as low-stress as possible. And as far as retention goes, I actually really love tinkering with the membership and with how we offer things and what we offer to get our retention higher and higher. It’s like a really fun, service-oriented game. Hope that helps!

  • Kelly Hickey says:

    Hi Kate!

    Thanks for taking the time to read this message! I saw your note that you would personally read and answer any questions and I couldn’t pass that up!

    I’m brand spankin’ new, well my company is at least, but I know what I want and I’ve got an idea of how to get – due in part to you! (Website is being put together now, logo finalized, I’m in the last pushes of this baby now!:)

    My company, Strong Women Co, is my life’s passions and callings all tied up together! I’ve always wanted to work for myself but I had a string of well-paid mini-careers that kept presenting themselves to me. Now I know it was all just a part of my training to get here! I bow.

    I’m the kind of gal that passed in my thesis for my Masters in Gender Studies and the next day flew to the desert to work and live with an all-male crew looking for gold and copper underground. I was sick of preaching to their choir and wanted to understand men and masculinity better so I could could be more effective at effecting social change. Fast forward a 5 years and a helluva lot of experiences later and I see that women really need support and helpful tools, particularly professional women and women in male-dominated industries. I’ve had several jobs where I was the only woman in the room, on the committee or in the job. I looked for help, support, assistance and but couldn’t find any. I want Strong Women Co to change all that.

    Strong Women Co is all about helping women be their strongest, happiest, healthiest selves through:
    Coaching programs, workshops, and monthly membership services

    My question is about how to build a list for a monthly membership model when you are starting from scratch? I want the freedom and steadiness of a monthly membership revenue since I think that’s what will allow me to sustain a happiness level that promotes my creative expression. But mostly, I know my members will realllly benefit from it.
    My plan is to promote some coaching programs (one-on-one and group), do some workshops and keynote speeches, do a several facebook lives and lots of other fb and Instagram promotion.

    Any other suggestions/Additions/subtractions/thoughts/gut-reactions you’d like to share?

    Thanks agian.
    Mad mega love,
    Kelly

    PS- You are an inspiration. Thanks for the work you’ve done on yourself so that you could help others like you do.

    PPS- I’m loving many parts of Origin. But I do miss the weekly link to the cosmic weather in the calendar. xoxo

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Hey Kelly! Thanks for your message. You sound like you’re up to amazing things and the world is lucky to have you!

      As for list-building – have you followed the List Building How To in Origin? That’s an all inclusive of my best list building ideas. The only other one is Facebook and Instagram ads to a freebie that’s super valuable to your ideal customer (think: something that gets them an immediate result they’re looking for so something like a 5 Tried and True Strategies for Remaining Confident in a Male Dominated Workplace or something like that). A quiz can also be a great list-builder that can take off quickly (e.g., Are you giving your power away to the guys at work? Take this free quiz to find out (and learn how to stop!))

      Stu gave some really great examples of people launching successful memberships with lists as small as 250 people on our Facebook live so you may want to check that out here: https://www.facebook.com/katenorthrupcommunity/videos/1923403597682171/

      Thank you for being part of Origin – every member means the world to me so that includes you! As far as the Cosmic Weather…have you checked it out and seen how detailed the monthly one is now? It’s just as detailed as the weekly one used to be, now we just post it once a month on the first of the month so that you can use it more effectively for your planning purposes rather than only knowing a week in advance. I hope that helps!

  • Julie says:

    The links to Stu’s free training are not working. HELP :)

  • I keep trying to access Stu’s Free Training but every time I click on the open box to enter my email address, it kicks me out.
    Please advise.
    Thanks.
    Sylvia

  • Nicole says:

    Hi There Kate! Thank you for the advice. I’ve got everything setup for a subscription and wanted to double check if I’m on the right path…and here you showed up! Bless you. Great information and inspiration. the link to Stu’s training is not working. What to do?

    Warm Regards,
    Nicole

  • Carmen says:

    Hi Kate, just love the clarity you add in every single post, this couldn’t be any different. Thanks!!! Kate, could you please help me clarifying if building a membership community is for people who have already their business for quite sometime? I’m starting to build my own business, currently doing B-School, do you still recommend it? Thanks!

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Building a membership could absolutely be something that you do as one of your first offerings so you could certainly start your business there. But focus on the list building first as you’ll need a community to offer it to!

  • Jenn says:

    Perfect timing – and LOVE the entire article – Thank you!!
    Link isn’t working and would love to see.

  • Jeannine says:

    I’ve been participating in the Tribe workshop. Amazing content. Loved your story and started following you. I’m A yoga teacher and will be launching my membership site in April. Right now my focus is the technology piece moving my current website over to word press so that I can have the membership plug-in. I am planning on doing live classes via Zoom that will also be recorded. I’m getting ready to celebrate my 5th year of teaching and I’m launch to expand my reach without having to expand my current space (I rent studio space in a Wellness coop). My niche is 55+ and I don’t teach mainstream yoga. I teach accessible yoga and mindful meditation. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Emily Madill says:

    Hi Kate,

    I just joined Tribe – thank you! I did sign up for the webinars through you, so I’m hoping my sign up is through your affiliate code? I think this is the exact right step for my business that will help me serve my community in a more personal and interactive way. I’m really excited! Thank you, thank you, thank you :)

    • Kate Northrup says:

      Yay! Welcome to Tribe! I do see you in our affiliate portal so you’ll receive our bonuses, too. Congratulations on taking this step – you’re going to LOVE the course!

  • Sharon says:

    Hi Kate!
    I’ve been thinking a lot about this – I burnt out at my last job/career and I’m not looking to do that again! I currently run a self-care subscription box with a Facebook group component and I’m wondering if this is essentially the same thing. Do you think there needs to be a separate website for something like that? Trying to start with the MVP and scale as we grow. Thoughts?

  • Hi Kate

    Thanks for the awesome info.

    Membership sites is quickly becoming my favorite business model for passive income. Plus by using PLR content as content and idea generators generating quality content is a lot easier.

    I think re-using older blog posts could be another good option for more membership content. As long as the content you’re adding is quality and helpful to your membership.

    Would love to see a post on how to retain members for longer.

    Mozie

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