How Much Should a Membership Site Cost?

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I don't know if it was COVID or what, but with everyone locked up in their homes, more and more people started looking at building online businesses. And that drove people to online courses and membership sites – which I love! But with all these new projects getting started, there's one question that comes up over and over again – “How much should a membership site cost?”

I often get the question after someone has already gotten their first quote. And what's crazy is that while two third of the folks that send me emails think it's too high, one third often think the price is too low.

The variance out there is crazy!

What makes the cost vary so much?

The problem with estimating projects is that it's fraught with risk.

Why? Because trying to figure out how much to spend on a membership site is a conversation between two ignorant parties.

I don't mean ignorant in a negative way (like dummies). I mean it more like “opaque.”

The developer doesn't know what “additional” questions to ask the customer because they are thinking of membership sites and what they have to build. Not every site out there that the customer may have seen or experienced. So they're in the dark.

The customer doesn't know which features are simple and which ones are super hard. They don't even know that some of their requests are not actually part of a membership site. So they have no idea that they should be extra articulate about it. They don't know that when they bring it up later, they're talking about a massive change in scope.

As a result, estimates vary dramatically. They're shots in the dark.

How much should a membership site cost?

How much should a membership site cost? It depends on four factors. Here they are.

First, it depends on the scope of features. The more things you want, the more someone has to spend time building. It's a no-brainer and most people understand (on both sides) totally understand this.

Second, it depends on the complexity of integrations. We know that every membership site is going to have to integrate with other pieces of software. But some are easy, and others are much harder. Some are straight up impossible!

Third, it depends on the other “applications” that are wanted. We were sitting here talking about a membership site and then suddenly the conversation went to an event calendar. Or a membership directory. It makes perfect sense. But it's another system with all its own requirements.

Fourth, it depends on who is doing the work. Let's face it, not all builders are equal. Those that do this work often will move faster than those who are building a membership site for the first time. I've built hundreds of them, so I charge much more than a new and hungry developer looking to make a name for themselves. (To be clear, I'm not available for membership projects.)

Is it worth paying more for the experience? I think so. Because they know how to catch issues early in a project. And the last thing you want is to have someone catch a problem much later in the project and then tell you that they have to start all over again.

Choosing the platform you use will impact the cost of the project

Before I show you this calculator to help you determine how much to spend on a membership site, I should highlight another dynamic. I've evaluated a bunch of membership plugins, and even some non-WordPress platforms.

I've told you about my friend who I helped build a membership site for. We used WooCommerce to build her membership and course-based solution. But that's not where we started. We started with Podia.

But as we did more and more work, it became apparent that our particular needs didn't match the platform. Which was a bummer. Because we had to start again on WooCommerce.

Every platform and plugin is good for something. But not every product will do what a customer wants. And everyone has to know that – both the developers and the customers.

That's why I think it's worth working with someone who knows a bunch of platforms, rather than someone that only works with one system. Because when you get into the details and want something that the platform can't do, you may be in a costly place.

The Membership Site Calculator that might help you

I built this calculator to help you figure out how much you might need to save for the development of your membership site. To be clear, it doesn't include a budget for your design. So think of this range as the floor of the estimate. Know what I mean?