Creating Paid Membership Websites
By Eric Hammer
Paid membership websites can be a great way to make money.
The key is to actually create a web site that people will want
to pay for and to differentiate yourself from the crowd that
In most cases, paid membership websites open up some of their
site to the public at large and wall off a section of the website,
offering "premium" content only to paid members. So
for example, dating web sites may allow you to view the profiles
of people who are on the site in advance, but they will require
you to pay in order to contact someone whom you find on the site
that sounds interesting.
It pays to consider also what kind of websites people are
willing to pay for. News websites for example have traditionally
been a very tough sale, with even large newspapers such as the
New York Times having quite a bit of trouble finding a formula
that will allow them to charge for content while actually keeping
readers. Dating web sites by comparison often charge for access,
however the competition is fierce so you need to either find
a specific niche which is unserved or underserved (large gay
men in Northern Europe for example, or devout Mormons in South
Informational web sites are a mixed bag. If the information
you have on your web site is truly valuable and unique, then
you may be able to create a successful paid membership site.
Keep in mind however that information is easily replicated and
it may not be long before someone else recreates the information
on a free web site and competes based solely on advertising.
How Much Can You Make?
It is all but impossible to answer this question regarding
paid membership sites. The amounts they charge literally run
the gamut from sites that collect micropayments of around $1-$3
a month to sites that charge as much as $100 per month. It depends
on the content you are offering and how much of a market there
is for that content.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
First and foremost, keep in mind that if you identify a market
that would be a good candidate for paid membership websites and
are successful, you will attract copycats who will try to undercut
your prices. There is nothing you can do except be first with
an idea and continue to keep your web site updated and fresh
to offer your customers the best experience possible.
It also pays to start out the first six months to a year with
teaser rates which offer a very low threshold to entry. Generally
however, starting out completely free is a very, very big mistake.
Once customers get used to something being completely free, its
extraordinarily hard to convert them into paying customers. You
are much better off charging a small fee and then raising prices,
perhaps offering "one month free to try out our service"
than simply offering the service free to all comers for a limited
time. Even if you were to specify that the free service is available
for the first six months or a year, youre likely to face
a user revolt once you start charging a fee.
Also, keep in mind that there are thousands of things that
people will pay for. Popular examples include dating sites, subscription
music services, movie and TV download sites and some kinds of
premium news sites (the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs
Magazine for example offer a limited amount of content for free
and then charge for access to the rest of the site). Pornography
web sites are of course also popular paid membership sites, though
not everyone is comfortable with that kind of material.
Keep in mind also that you can easily earn additional income
from advertising on your web site, especially in the free areas
of the site, though advertising should be kept to a minimum in
Qualifications / Requirements
Bottom line, you need money to make this work. Youll
need to hire a killer web designer who can come up with a slick
looking web site that truly grabs the visitor from the start
and gives them a very good reason to stay.
Be prepared also to pay to get content for your site, at least
at first. If you are running a dating web site, youll need
to spend heavily to advertise to get your first customers to
sign up. In this case, the first month free is often a good idea.
Some web site owners also pay companies that specialize in seeding
material on their web sites (the idea being that no one wants
to be the first one at the party).
If you run a site with other kinds of content that people
might pay for, make absolutely certain there is content and a
significant amount of it available which is worth paying for.
If you are offering videos for download for example, 50 or 100
videos is not going to cut it. You need to open your doors with
several thousand and keep adding regularly. It goes without saying
that youll have to license that content from the copyright
holders or your paid membership website will have a very short
Start with plenty of research. Whatever topic you are going
to offer on your paid membership website, hunt down your competition.
If there is no competition, ask yourself why there is no competition
(is there a market for this? Maybe the idea of starting a dating
site for Eskimos who want to meet Israeli women wasnt ever
done because there simply isnt that much demand for it).
Check how much other sites similar to yours are charging and
offer cheaper prices while being sure to match their user experience
(nobody will pay $5 per month for your dating site which has
15 people on it when they can pay $10 per month for another with
20,000 people on it).
Finally, as noted previously, hire a killer web designer to
make sure your site really pops. Do not skimp on this or on your
content. These are the two things that will be critical in attracting
Apple: Start a Paid Membership Site Podcasts
A couple of interesting podcasts showing how this is done.