Do You Need to be an Expert to Start a Membership Website?
Memberships give people the opportunity to tap into the skill, knowledge, and expertise of the site owner.
After all, people join memberships to achieve a goal, make a change, or complete a transformation.
Helping people to achieve those goals and grow into the person and lifestyle they’re aiming for is awesome – and it’s a very appealing career!
But what if you don’t have a discernible skillset or knowledge base that fits with running a membership site?
It’s going to be harder to run a membership, no doubt!
But… it’s not impossible.
Callie and I put our heads together to work out four ways you can start a membership website without having the prerequisite of knowledge and expertise.
We also think there’s one tactic you should avoid at all costs.
Do not fake it till you make it
Let’s not hang about. If there’s one piece of advice we want you to avoid, it’s this!
Fake it till you make it, blagging it, winging it, hit and hope, building the plane as it’s flying.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s a sure-fire way of causing a lot of upset for people and difficulty for yourself.
You may hear this kind of advice a lot but, when it comes to memberships, it just isn’t going to work.
Pretending you’re an expert and hoping the gaps will fill themselves simply will not work.
Firstly, misleading and tricking people is just not on. I would never advise it or encourage anyone to do it.
Secondly, moving past the ethical argument, you’ve got nowhere to hide.
Your members are going to be engaging with you and this strategy relies on someone or something else plugging the gaps when it’s only you who can do so.
It will rapidly become clear to any unfortunate members who join your membership that you cannot provide the value they are looking for.
They won’t pay their second month, they’ll ask for a refund on the first month, and then get to work on sharing their awful experience online.
Instead of this disastrous approach, why not try one of these four ideas?
Get good at something
It’s not a quick fix, but nothing good comes easy!
Pick a topic that you’re interested or involved in.
Take several months and throw yourself into it.
You don’t have to be an expert in everything – in fact, the best memberships help people solve specific problems, rather than general ones.
You’ll succeed with memberships that teach people ‘how to make stoneware pottery’ or ‘create healthy recipes’, not ‘how to do creative stuff’ or ‘going to the grocery store’.
Even if you don’t have a specific skill from which to create your membership, you will have a general area of interest.
Not having a super-specific skill set already is potentially quite good if you’re starting out, as you can focus more time and energy on perfecting the things you’re most interested in.
Say you like digital marketing… but within that, you know that live video is really effective and interesting.
Take 3 or 4 months to learn everything about it – even down to a specific platform, let’s say Facebook.
Then you can become an authority on it and confidently teach others about it.
Be a host, not an expert
There’s a saying that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room”.
Make your membership the right room with this strategy!
If you’re a silver-tongued networking nerd, you might just have a superpower that could create an amazing membership site.
Use your networking know-how and cavalcade of connections to your advantage by bringing together experts in your chosen field to curate membership content from their expertise.
Obviously, this involves higher up-front costs – people shouldn’t work for free! – but if you know the right people in your area of choice, you could create something incredibly valuable here. You can effectively make your membership the authority of authorities!
Make your membership the single point of access that anyone interested in your field needs for the collected wisdom and vision of its top players.
This could take the form of podcast interviews, webinars, courses, or any number of other content pieces.
There’s a lot of power in facilitation.
This way, your passion and interest, along with your soft skills of making connections and planning, are all you need to make an amazing membership!
Run an interest-based community
The majority of memberships are about helping people achieve a goal or reach a certain stage.
Not all of them are though.
You can start a membership that is purely an interest-based community.
Now, interest-based communities aren’t so much about a goal as the journey, giving people a place to come together and share their ideas and discuss your chosen interest.
Think online forums, live chats, and Slack workspaces or WhatsApp groups.
It’s worth pointing out that these memberships aren’t going to be as compelling to members in terms of what they’ll pay, but they’re still valuable and there are ways you can monetize a membership like this.
Consider having a free ‘basic’ platform and a paid upgrade for members who want full functionality or added extras.
There is also the opportunity to earn income from advertising (either directly or by selling space on the site). And don’t forget good old affiliate income!
Start a membership that sells Private Label Rights material
Now, Private Label Rights material is a bit of a funny one. There are people out there who use this strategy in a morally gray area but – when done properly – it can provide a lot of value for members.
Before I go into the details, for anyone who isn’t aware, PLR material is content that other people have created that you purchase the rights to so that you can reuse it and, yes, sell it.
I don’t disagree with this approach in theory. In fact, I think there are great ways you can work with others to create valuable content and create great membership site content. White labelling material, joint ventures, content exchanges, and other similar models are cool and work well.
PLR memberships are slightly different, though, and can often become very crowded, very questionable, very out-of-date.
That’s because a lot of PLR content have no limit on the number of sales, and so the market is saturated with the content that is most readily available to people trying to make a quick buck.
You can start a membership with great value that is run positively and ethically, though.
Take the time to research, validate, and hand-pick your PLR content (rather than just buying anything and everything you can) so that you are actually giving your members valuable and relevant material.
Which strategy will you try?
There we have it – four approaches you can take to start a membership site without having all the expertise and knowledge in the world.
They each come with some caveats, they each have their pros and cons, and it’s down to you to make them work in a way that is genuinely useful for members and feels right for you.