If you’re passionate about a subject or topic, a website or blog is a fantastic way to share your opinions, expertise and tips with others. A membership website is a great way to build a tight community around your content, reward your most loyal followers, and build deeper ties with your audience. Do it right, and you’ll even be able to monetize it, if you choose to. With WordPress, you can create a membership website in less than an afternoon, with minimal technical experience!
Take an example from Emily DuPlessis’ playbook. She was an English teacher, who turned into a real estate agent, who later opened a membership site called Rental Rookie where she provides valuable insights for those who are just starting their careers as realtors. Her consultations not only allowed her to earn a wage but help hundreds of new experts along the way.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to create your first membership website with WordPress.
Making a Membership Website
In order to get started with making a membership website, you will be needing a valid domain name, WordPress hosting or web hosting and a membership plugin. Generally, using the self-hosted version of WordPress is recommended, as you’ll have more control over your site. Additionally, you should also install an SSL certificate to keep visitor data secure.
Every membership website has its own unique profile and they host content that can only be accessed if you are a registered member. To complete the registration process, you will have to pay a certain fee or create a profile that can be customized as well. Alternatively, you can let users register and view free content, but restrict certain special content for paid members only. Let’s learn how.
In addition to hosting, a domain, and SSL security, you’ll also need to prepare and select other plugins. For example, we recommend using Yoast SEO for optimizing content, Contact Form 7 for letting unregistered clients get in touch easily, and to add Google Calendar or a similar plugin if you plan on hosting member’s only events or streams, to help you and your visitors keep track of important dates. We recommend making the list of plugins you’ll need before starting, but to install them last. You’ll need to make sure the additional plugins are compatible with your membership plugin.
Here are a few simple steps which can be followed to create a WordPress membership website:
1. Membership plugin
Selecting the right WordPress membership plugin is the first step to developing a fully functional membership website. In order to select the best-suited plugin, you are required to determine what type of website you want to build and what are the main features that need to be added.
Membership plugins now include advanced features like user registration through which you can sell paid content, paid digital downloads, and subscriptions out of the box. After you have selected a membership plugin, you need to install, activate and configure the plugin manually.
Usually, WordPress allows a single role to each user such as a website administrator or a user. Regular visitors can also become subscribers as they are given low-level access compared to that of an administrator. For a WordPress membership site to function fully you will need to get familiar with WordPress user roles, as they’re essential for secure member management.
Furthermore, a membership plugin can be used to create new user roles, assign multiple roles to any user or restrict access to a specific user role only. We recommend opting for a plugin like Restrict Content or MemberPress.
2. User Registration
After the plugin has been installed successfully, the next step is to enable user registration in WordPress. To complete this process, go to Settings in your WordPress dashboard and select General.
Search for the Membership option and click on the “Anyone can register” checkbox. Save the change to your settings and the membership will be automatically enabled on your WordPress website.
After completing the user registration process, you can also enable specific subscription plans by going to the Membership subscription tab in your WordPress website’s dashboard. This step may vary depending on your chosen plugin. If you’re using MemberPress, you can find their user manual here. For starters on the left sidebar find the MemberPress dropdown and select Memberships.
You can also add descriptions about each plan and provide relevant information to the visitors as well. Configure the length or duration for the available subscription plans and set the price for each membership plan so that visitors can simply select the best-suited option.
When it comes to MemberPress, it will automatically generate a custom subscription form all of your created plans, simplifying the process. You can easily integrate these forms on custom pages using shortcodes.
After you are done with defining your plans, you can either make it active or inactive and assign a user role to be associated with your new plan. Generally, new subscribers are assigned to a basic membership plan.
You can get a basic overview on how your site is performing on the MemberPress dashboard by going to the Reports tab seen in the screenshot above.
Additionally, you’ll find these tabs:
- Products – where you can create subscription products.
- Groups – where you can list features that later can be easily compared by visitors.
- Rules – here you’ll be restricting access to the content that is members only.
- Coupons – with MemberPress you’ll be able to create discount coupon codes here.
- Reminders – this is the automated email section.
- Subscriptions – here, as discussed previously, you’ll be able to create subscriptions.
- Transactions – a list of all logged transactions.
- Reports – an overview of your site’s performance.
- Options – plugin’s configuration section.
As you can see membership does have an incredibly extensive feature set that will cover almost everything you need for your site.
3. Content Restriction
After you are done with the registration and membership setup process, the next step is to choose the content which you have to restrict on your WordPress website. To complete this step, you can approach the Content Restriction settings in your plugin’s dashboard and select the best-suited options. For MemberPress, you’ll have to go to the Rules tab.
Furthermore, here you will find multiple options to restrict content to either all logged-in users or to a certain type of subscriber. You can also add a customized message for users who are not given access to see a specific post because they’re not the right type of paid user.
For setting the basic rules, go to the base MemberPress tab.
Here you’ll have to select the pages or posts you want to protect, in our case it is a single page called “Documents.” Afterward, under the “Access Conditions” section you can select which previously created plans can access it. Simple as that.
Meanwhile, under the Rules tab, you can set up advanced rulesets, that may be required for complex membership sites. Keep in mind, that while using this tab you should read the user manual, to help avoid rule conflicts.
4. Add a Payment Gateway
The last thing to do is set up the payment gateway. Luckily, MemberPress offers some great options out of the box. With this plugin you can use:
- Offline Payments
- Manual Transactions
All you need to do is navigate to the Payments tab and from there choose your preferred option, linking it to your PayPal account, bank, etc. MemberPress provides a chart that can help you choose the best payment gateway for you and your clients:
Additionally, you can learn about the pros and cons of each option on their knowledge hub post here.
This will help you in accept and collect payments on your website easily. Once that is complete, you’re ready to start posting content, and make money from it.
WordPress membership websites are a great means of promoting and selling premium posts or content to your followers or site visitors. Along with sales and profit advantages, membership solutions also help protect content and restrict access to paid members only, while letting you easily monetize it. After reading this article you know how to create a WordPress membership website with the help of MemberPress. We hope it helps you on your journey. Good luck!