Whether you’re an online coach, a marketing consultant, or a podcast host, membership websites are a great way to expand your offerings as a creator.
Building a membership website is one of the best ways to own your audience and create a direct monetization channel for your business — which has become more crucial as social media becomes a less reliable income stream. In fact, 25% of creators estimated they’ve lost $1,000-$9,999 in revenue due to social media algorithm changes.
If you want to create a successful membership website, then you need the right tools.
Let’s go over the best membership website builders, what features to look for from your membership website builder platform, and how to create a membership website that successfully engages your members.
What is a Membership Website?
A membership site is a website or section of a website that offers exclusive access to premium, gated content for subscribing members. Premium content can include anything from online courses to webinars to podcasts. Subscriptions are usually paid on a monthly or annual basis in exchange for access to the members-only content.
Membership sites are a great way to monetize your content and knowledge as a creator. These platforms enable you to create recurring revenue by setting up monthly or annual subscriptions. Other benefits of a membership website include direct communication and connection with your audience, improved customer loyalty, and increased authority in your niche.
6 Features to Look for in a Membership Website Builder
Once you’re ready to build a membership website, it’s important to research the different platforms and their capabilities. Every platform is a little different — the best builder for you is the one that matches the needs of your business and can grow with you.
The best membership website builders make it easy to run your online community, diversify your business, and engage with members without any extra hassle or stress on your end.
As a creator, there are certain elements that you’ll want to look for to make your subscription website a success — everything from content and membership management to branding and analytics.
It should go without saying that your membership website builder must have strong membership management capabilities. The membership management software you choose will become even more important as your community grows. The more members you have, the stronger your platform needs to be to accommodate the needs of a growing community.
For example, one way to manage members is to set up a clear and helpful onboarding process for new members. This can be done by creating automated email sequences that outline community guidelines, membership perks, and anything else they can expect from joining your membership platform.
Some other membership features you may want to have are member profiles, engagement tools, and easy-to-use payment methods for members to pay their subscription fees.
Your membership website should offer a diverse range of content to keep members engaged. Some members may prefer to read long-form blog posts while other subscribers enjoy watching short videos. It’s up to you to create multiple ways for members to consume your content and get the most out of their subscriptions.
This also means your website platform must be able to handle various content formats — everything from videos to podcasts to written content. If your site is built on a CMS (content management system) like WordPress, it may be equipped to handle a range of content but these websites can be tricky to manage. Using membership management software for your content management eliminates any technical coding needs.
If you go with a dedicated membership website builder, then look for features that can help you manage a wide range of content. Kajabi, for instance, supports everything from blog posts to podcasts to videos, and even landing pages.
It’s also a good idea to look for communication features that make it easy to share content and announcements. You can do this by posting in your community forum or by setting up email marketing funnels that alert members with personal messages when new content goes live.
Community section or forum
Community is the cornerstone of any membership platform. Oftentimes, the premium, exclusive content isn’t the only reason why people become paying members. Another appeal of subscribing to a membership community is the potential of connecting with like-minded people. Communities offer members a chance to expand their network, share advice with one another, and develop a sense of camaraderie.
A community section or forum is where your members can communicate with one another and directly with you. This can include direct messaging features, live video sessions, or a Facebook-style feature where members can create a post and other members can like and comment on it.
While you can use communication platforms like Discord, Facebook Groups, or Slack channels to build a community, a membership website builder with built-in community tools offers seamless communication and membership management capabilities.
For instance, let’s say you start a membership community on Facebook Groups. One of the biggest challenges that’ll come up as you gain more members is content moderation. It becomes increasingly difficult to manage every conversation and comment in real-time, especially if you’re a team of one.
If you anticipate a growing community, look for a membership website builder with community features that help you manage and automate conversations.
You’ve worked hard to establish your own brand. Your audience associates certain colors, fonts, and styles with your brand so it only makes sense to extend that branding onto your membership website.
Your membership website builder should make it easy for you to develop a branded website. Some website builders, like Kajabi, include customizable templates so that your website and landing pages can be personalized to match your brand. You can update the fonts, colors, and images while keeping the general structure of the website template — saving you time and headaches that often come with building a site from scratch.
If you want to make better business decisions, then you must track your membership site’s analytics. Getting key insights into data around traffic sources, landing page conversions, and subscription metrics helps you understand what content is performing well, which landing pages and CTAs are driving traffic, which emails generated the most clicks, and what subscribers are most engaged with.
To better keep track of all of these key metrics, it’s best to look for a subscription site that keeps your analytics all in one place. In Kajabi, for example, you can easily access your membership site’s analytics in your dashboard. Not only can you see an overview of revenue, opt-ins, and page views, but you can also stay on top of real-time data like recent transactions.
Ability to diversify
Once you’ve built a dedicated following, you can expand your offerings and scale your business to support your members in new ways.
Listen to your members to determine which channels to pursue next. Let’s say you offer a self-paced online course on your membership site. If your members consistently ask for more content or advice after they’ve completed the course, you may decide to launch a weekly podcast or offer one-on-one coaching services.
No matter which revenue streams you want to expand to next, whether that’s online courses, podcasts, physical products, or even events, your membership website builder needs to be able to support them. Think long-term when choosing your website builder so you can build with future revenue streams in mind and your site can scale with your business.
12 Best Membership Website Builders
Now that you know which features to look for, it’s time to figure out which membership website builder is best for your online business now and in the future.
Here’s an overview of the best membership website builder platforms:
- Mighty Networks
- Wild Apricot
Let’s go over the features and benefits of each of these so you can choose the best subscription website builder for your creator business.
Whether you’re an online coach, a fitness instructor, a podcast host, or an art educator, Kajabi’s membership website builder is the best option if you’re looking for an all-in-one membership management software for your online business.
No matter what stage you’re at in your business, Kajabi makes it easy to launch your membership website, create various content, set up recurring revenue, and build a community. And if you’re not a web developer? Not a problem. Kajabi offers pre-made, high-converting website templates that can be easily customized to match your brand through a drag-and-drop editor.
With Kajabi, you get access to built-in membership management tools that help grow, manage, and automate your business so you can focus on creating content and interacting with members while your business runs in the background.
Plus, if you already have a community or audience, Kajabi makes it easy to streamline every part of your online business or expand into new channels. Whether you want to offer online courses or publish podcasts, you can combine multiple revenue streams with your Kajabi membership website.
- Drag-and-drop website editor and customizable website templates
- Create unlimited, high-converting landing pages
- Ability to host multiple digital products such as community, podcasts, and online courses
- Built-in email marketing automation funnels
Pricing: Starts at $119 per month.
2. Mighty Networks
Mighty Networks is another membership site builder worth checking out. With a focus on community, Mighty Networks offers course creation tools but also encourages members to connect with one another through real-time chat and community feeds.
If you’re looking for a real-time, conversational format for your membership site, Mighty Networks might be a good option for you. For example, if you host a book club, your members may benefit from having real-time discussions through a live stream or active chatroom.
- Community-driven elements such as discussion forums and messaging
- Live streaming capabilities so members can watch and discuss in real-time
- Ability to host both live events and pre-recorded courses
Pricing: Starts at $33 per month.
Another membership website builder platform is MemberSpace. However, MemberSpace is more of an integration than a standalone membership software. With MemberSpace, you can turn a section of your existing website into a members-only space.
This platform works best if you want to add a subscription option to your existing website. MemberSpace is compatible with popular website builders including Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, Notion, and more.
- Create tiered access for members with free and paid plans
- Connect MemberSpace to multiple websites
- Unlimited members
Pricing: MemberSpace offers a free plan to get started. Paid plans start at $49 per month.
If you have a Squarespace website, you can integrate membership features onto your site if you want to explore the subscription format for your business. Squarespace makes it easy to set up a nice-looking website without any design skills thanks to its premade templates and drag-and-drop editor. The website builder also includes commerce capabilities which makes it a good option if you want to offer digital or physical products for your members.
However, if you’re hoping to include a community aspect in your membership website, you’ll either need to use a separate community app (like Facebook Groups or Slack, for example) or integrate a plugin like MemberSpace since Squarespace doesn’t include community tools.
- Design-forward website templates
- Commerce capabilities, specifically for physical products
- Easy-to-use website-building tools
Pricing: Individual plans start at $16 per month.
Webflow is a no-code website builder that makes it easy for non-technical people to design websites through its visual building tool. Like Squarespace, you can create a visual and responsive website from scratch or by using one of Webflow’s templates.
If you choose to build a membership site using Webflow, you’ll need to add a membership management tool like Memberstack (which we’ll share below) to your tech stack.
- Responsive web design
- Create password-protected pages
- Ability to add custom code for more customization
Pricing: Webflow offers a free plan to get started. Paid plans start at $14 per month.
Memberstack is a subscription and membership software that integrates with your existing website. The primary focus of this tool is on enabling payments and subscriptions to gated content or members-only pages.
Memberstack also has many security features such as two-factor authentication and captcha logins, making it ideal for tech brands or SaaS companies that want to launch subscriptions.
- Manage subscriptions for gated content and memberships
- Easy payments through Stripe
- Secure user authentication through social logins and 2FA
Pricing: Memberstack offers an unlimited free trial. Once you’re ready to launch, paid plans start at $29 per month.
Another website builder, Wix can also be used to add a membership or subscription element to your site. Wix is a good option for those who offer in-person memberships such as fitness classes or training sessions. You can also use the Wix Members Area to offer free trials, subscriptions, or discounts. The members-only area can help you build private services within your existing website.
- Online scheduling and booking
- Branding tools like a logo maker to create your brand from scratch
- Ecommerce capabilities to sell digital and physical products
Pricing: Plans start at $16 per month.
If you’re comfortable with web design, consider using WordPress for your membership site. WordPress offers more customization options than other website builders, making it ideal for those with web development skills. It’s also a well-known CMS which makes it ideal if you plan to share blog posts with your members.
While you don’t necessarily need to be skilled in web design to use WordPress, the website-building platform can be tricky for beginners if you’re creating a site from scratch. However, If you’ve already built your site using WordPress, it can be convenient to expand it for your membership site.
Since WordPress is a website builder and not a dedicated membership site platform, you’ll need to integrate a software or plugin. There are several WordPress membership plugins you can use to build a membership site including:
- Built-in blogging for creators who want to offer long-form content
- Huge plugin library
- Free to get started, but you’ll need to pay for hosting
Pricing: WordPress is free to get started. Paid plans start at $4 per month and go up to $45 per month.
Another option for your membership site, specifically if you want to offer online courses, is Podia. Podia is a platform designed to help you sell digital products like online courses or digital downloads like ebooks.
Podia’s website builder and hosting services are free with an account, which is a great benefit if you’re getting your business off of the ground. However, Podia lacks full customization when it comes to building websites and landing pages that align with your brand. Podia offers a handful of customizable blocks — like sign-up forms, text, and buttons — but they offer limited design choices.
- Free account includes website builder and web hosting
- Link in bio tool to create shareable pages on social
- Ability to host your digital products
Pricing: Podia offers a free plan to get started. Paid plans start at $33 per month when paid annually.
10. Wild Apricot
Wild Apricot is a membership website builder designed for large organizations and nonprofits. The membership management software offers an extensive member database as well as member management features like an automated application process, group memberships, and a membership directory.
You can customize one of their premade website themes with your brand logo and colors or use Wild Apricot to build a membership platform within an existing site. If you choose to use your existing website, you can embed Wild Apricot’s widgets like event calendars or donation forms.
- Ability to create multiple membership levels
- Mobile-friendly website themes
- Event management to help track registrations
Pricing: Plans start at $60 per month.
Teachable is another membership website platform. Like some other membership sites, Teachable enables you to create and offer online courses to subscribers or members. You can house your online courses on Teachable which offers no-code capabilities to build your website and landing pages.
While Teachable makes it easy to host your online courses, it doesn’t include other features you may want for your membership community such as an active blog to share resources with members.
- Responsive website design
- Connect custom domains
- Customizable to match your brand’s fonts and colors
Pricing: Teachable offers a free plan to get started. Paid plans start at $29.25 per month when billed annually.
If you’re a gamer, a podcaster, or even an artist, Patreon is another membership platform you can use to showcase your work. You can use the platform to share work with fans who either pay a recurring fee to support you or purchase digital products from your shop.
However, Patreon is more of a curated portfolio than it is a website. While this format makes it easy for members to navigate, it doesn’t give creators much room to create a branded experience.
- Free to get started
- Ability to create membership tiers
- Commerce tools to create a digital shop
Pricing: While it’s free to sign up for an account, Patreon takes a percentage of your income to cover platform fees such as payment processing and currency conversion.
How to Create a Membership Website
Once you’ve decided which membership website builder is right for your business, it’s time to create a membership website that attracts and engages members.
We have a more detailed guide on the steps involved in creating a membership website here. But below, let’s break down an overview of what goes into the best membership websites.
Choose a membership model
The first step when creating a membership website is to decide which membership model you want to structure your business as.
A membership model differs from the initial business plan you may have set up for your business. Instead, it should outline the service or product you're selling and the way that you sell it.
To give you an idea of the different ways you can structure your membership website, here are some common membership models:
- Online course
- Personal coaching
- Group coaching
- Content library
Maybe you know that you want to offer memberships or subscriptions, but you’re unsure which model makes the most sense for your business or which model your audience prefers. Don’t sweat it — you can always launch your membership site using one model and then switch it up when you learn more about your audience’s needs.
Design your membership website
The next step in building a membership site is to actually design it. The main pages your membership website needs are:
- Product page
- Content library
Your membership website may also include a member area or community section. You can create landing pages or dedicated sections for everything your membership site needs — it’s totally up to you and your business needs.
As far as the design goes, your membership website should reflect your existing brand. The best option is to choose a membership website builder that offers full customization so you can match your colors, font, and logo to your business.
But if you opt for a third-party membership tool with limited design and customization options, try to create a look and feel that’s as similar to your current brand as possible.
Making sure your membership website matches your current branding helps establish trust and familiarity with your audience and potential members.
Determine your pricing and set up payment methods
The price and payment method you set up depends on the membership model and content you’re offering members. A creator who offers one-on-one coaching services would charge members differently than someone who creates a content library for their members. You may also want to offer a free trial or decide which content will be considered exclusive content and which pages on your membership website will be open to anyone.
Here are a few ways to structure your membership pricing:
- Monthly fees
- Annual fees
- One-time fee (e.g., lifetime access to an online course)
Not sure what price point to start at? According to the 2022 Online Membership Industry Report by Membership Geeks, the average membership business charges between $25-49 per month.
When calculating your membership site pricing, just be sure that the value of the content matches the fee you’re asking for. For example, if you want to launch a subscription website, figure out what’s included in the recurring subscription and determine what a fair subscription fee would be for the value of the content. A member who’s paying $50 per month for exclusive access to your content library will likely expect a lot of new and exclusive content each month compared to someone who’s paying $5 per month.
Another consideration when creating a membership website is to make sure your website builder is equipped with easy-to-use payment methods. Most people these days expect online payments to be seamless and stress-free.
This means your website builder should be able to process online credit card payments and recurring payments through a processor like Stripe. The last thing members (or you) want to worry about is whether or not their payments are going through.
Final Tips for Building a Membership Website
Building a membership website is a great way to scale your creator business. Not only do membership websites and subscription websites enable you to set up recurring revenue, but they can also help you reach a wider audience, build trust and authority, and create more value within your niche.
Here are a few more tips to keep in mind if you want to build a membership website.
- Choose the right membership website builder: The right membership website builder allows you to build a membership website that meets your needs and the needs of your audience. If you have plans to build an online course, then your website builder needs to be able to support a variety of learning formats such as videos, blog posts, and maybe even one-on-one sessions.
- Make member experience a priority: Membership sites should be easy to use, engaging, and informative. Paying members expect a certain level of content or community when they subscribe to your offerings. Deliver on your promises, listen to member feedback, and prioritize ease of use to keep your members around longer.
- Analyze your membership site’s performance: To get the most out of your membership website, you have to know what content is working well and what’s not. The best membership site software comes equipped with built-in analytics features that let you know which pages are getting the most traffic, which email sequences are driving conversions, and which products are generating the most sales.
Membership websites are a great way to expand your offerings and scale your business. As long as you have the right membership website builder, you can successfully monetize your content, provide increased value to your audience, and reach even more people online.