WordPress Membership Sites – The Myth of Passive Income

The idea of passive income sounded great until you got started

People will promise you all sorts of wonderful things – like helping you make money while you sleep. And while it's true that you can earn money while you sleep, it's not true that membership sites represent a general “set it and forget it” money-making scenario. That's the myth of passive income.

Membership sites take time to create new content.

Membership sites also require effort to manage conversions – constantly tweaking your sales copy, calls to action and more.

And we haven't even touched the work that is involved in building them. You start with an idea but then you have 100 decisions when it comes to the plugins you'll use, the theme you'll choose, and all the other features you want to assemble.

None of that is free. And none of it is passive.

Here's what we hear

We hear the myth of passive income in lots of different ways. Here's the one I hear the most. You spend a few weeks creating content. Then you market your membership site and sign up 10-20 customers who will pay you $25-35/month. Once you have that in place, you just need to spend some marketing to bring more new members into your site.

But let's think about that for a second. “All you have to do is spend some money to bring in more new customers,” doesn't explain how you'll keep your existing customers.

What happens when they finish reading those 5-10 articles (even 20)? If they walk out the back door (cancel their membership), then you're spending money to bring in new names that don't stick.

That's a quick formula for never making any profit. Much less any real passive income from a membership site.

[Tweet “When you're thinking about recurring revenue, it's just as important to think about existing members as your new customers.”]

When you're thinking about recurring revenue, it's just as important to think about existing members as your new customers.

4 Non-passive ways to grow your membership site

I'm writing this for all of you, but my buddy Jeff is getting ready to build a membership site at WP Mainline and all of these ideas are what I'd recommend for him. Be sure to check out his site if you're looking for more WordPress news, commentary and his podcast.

Consider yearly memberships instead of monthly

I've said it for years, but the need to keep delivering value on a monthly basis can be a ton of work. So consider a yearly membership instead.

Don't get me wrong, you still have to deliver value.

But it's measured differently than when people have to make a choice every month on paying your fees. So creating options for yearly memberships (at a great price) can make it easier to sell memberships to your site.

Create an upfront offer to whet appetites

I don't normally get to write “whet” but when we're talking about incentivizing prospects, it's the perfect word. It's all about creating an offer that demonstrates your value before a customer decides to spend more money with you.

It doesn't have to be free. Though it can be. But the point isn't the price. It's the size of the offering. You offer something small but incredibly valuable to demonstrate your expertise. Something they value and can appreciate immediately.

Because it's smaller, there is less stress about signing up. And once they experience it, they're ready to trust you for more. And that's when they buy your membership.

Offer a course for a one-time fee

Recurring revenue is the name of the game. And it's why you likely started a membership site to begin with. But that shouldn't stop you from creating a one-time fee offering like a short course.

You can offer it to people before they sign up for your membership (like the last tip), or make it only available to existing memberships. If you do that, it's another reason people sign up for your membership site.

Deliver coupons for ancillary offers

Years ago I worked on a membership site where we delivered a $100 coupon every month, for a membership that cost $50/month. It was a no-brainer for the target market because the value was clear. Spend a bit so you can get even more value than you spent that month.

And if you don't have your own products to sell, you can work with partners to get coupons for their products and make it available to your customers.

WPSessions does this well.

The myth of passive income shouldn't stop you from building a membership site

While the myth of passive income is real, that shouldn't stop you from building a membership website. And if you haven't started yet, and are looking for an incredible bundle of products and services to get started quickly (and easily), you may want to check out WP QuickStarts for Membership Sites by Nexcess.