One of the most difficult decisions online course creators face is choosing what to charge for their online course. In addition to choosing a dollar amount that reflects the value of your online course, you also need to choose how you will charge your students, aka your pricing model.
Do you charge your students a one-time fee to access your course? How long will they have access to your course for? Do you offer a payment plan? Do you charge a recurring subscription fee to maintain access to your course?
These are just a few of the questions you’ll need to answer as you decide on a price for your course, which is why course pricing is such a complex topic.
With a subscription model (often called a membership site), you charge your students a recurring fee in exchange for access to your course. If a student stops paying the subscription fee, they lose access to the course. Naturally, customer retention is a key factor to the success of your membership site.
Membership sites are not to be confused with payment plans. Payment plans are designed to help a student spread the total cost of a course over a specific period of time. Once a student has made all of their payments, they still maintain access to the course.
Fortunately, Thinkific gives you complete control over your pricing model. If you want to charge a one-time fee to access your course, you can do that. If you want to offer a payment plan or create coupon codes for course discounts, you can do that. And if you want to create a membership site with a subscription model, you can do that too.
In this post, we’re going to show you how you can use Thinkific to set up a membership site for your online course. But before we do, let’s talk about why you might want to create a membership site in first place.How to Create a Membership Site for your Online Course using @thinkific #teachonline Click To Tweet
Access to new content on a regular basis
The main difference between a one-time fee and a subscription plan for an online course is that, with a subscription plan, your students are going to expect new content to be added to the course on a regular basis.
Take Netflix, for example. Netflix charges a monthly subscription fee. As a Netflix subscriber, you get immediate access to all of the shows and movies that are already on Netflix and all of the shows and movies that will be added in the future.
If Netflix stopped giving you access to new content, you would eventually run out of things to watch (at this point that would take a while, but you get the point). The value in remaining a Netflix subscriber is the promise of receiving access to new content as it is released. The same logic applies to membership sites.
So should you create a membership site?
As a course creator, if you’re trying to decide between charging your students a one-time fee and setting up a membership site, an important question you need to ask yourself is: are you prepared to add new content to your course on a regular basis?
If you’re not adding new content to your course regularly, or giving your students direct access to you and/or each other, you probably shouldn’t start a membership site. The value of running a membership site comes from having customers that stick with you long-term. Unless they have a reason to keep paying you, they will probably cancel their subscription.
Subscriptions bring in recurring revenue
From a business standpoint, one of the great things about having a membership site is the recurring revenue. Subscriptions bring in recurring revenue that is a more reliable and predictable stream of income than one-time payments.
While one-time purchases are great in certain cases, you might want to consider a membership if:
- You want to launch soon, but have so much content to prepare you won’t be ready for months if you wait to release it all at once
- You teach a topic that is constantly changing and can add new content regularly
- You want to build a community for your students rather than just process single transactions
- You have awesome ideas for bonus content that you can deliver on an ongoing basis—like setting up monthly feedback sessions, live webinars, exclusive interviews, or personal coaching
What a membership site looks like in action
In one of the case studies on our blog, we wrote about Katie Evans from Key To Pictures and the professional photography courses she teaches online. Katie successfully retains students through her Academy Membership plan, which she offers for $36/month. Here is a screenshot of what she includes in her membership plan:
Besides receiving instant access to new content whenever it’s added, as an added bonus, members also receive access to a monthly Q&A/critique session with Katie herself!
How to create a membership site using Thinkific
In Thinkific, we’ve made it easy to set up a membership site using a number of our features:
If you want to add new courses on a regular basis as an incentive to keep members around, you can add as many courses as you want to a bundle. Choose the subscription pricing option for your bundle so that any student that signs up will automatically have access to new content you add to it.
With Thinkific, you now have the option to automatically collect payments in any interval from 1-12 months. This makes it equally as effortless to set up an annual or monthly subscription!
Sequential delivery upon completion
If your material needs to be delivered in a specific order, i.e. your students have to complete Course A before they can access Course B, you can make your courses Hidden and then only give them the link to enroll in the next course once they’ve finished the previous one.
Using our email notifications, you can add a link to enroll to the next course in your completion email.
By setting up all the content from a single course to be released on a drip schedule, students are given a reason to return to your course over and over! You have more control over the pace of how students move through a course—this feature is especially helpful if, like in the example mentioned earlier, you only have part of a course ready to go but plan to release more content later on.
We still recommend having a solid plan in place for what will be created next, it just gives you a little more flexibility when it comes to a launch date (and takes off one more excuse for all the procrastinators out there)!
When you choose to offer your course material as a membership, another reason might be because you have a number of modules ready but simply don’t want a new student to see everything all within the first month. By setting courses to drip based on a student’s enrolment date, they will only receive what you decide to release on a certain number of days after they sign up.
Marketing your membership site
The marketing strategy and tactics used to grow your student base are similar to what’s been covered in other blog posts (you can browse through our Course Marketing posts for a few ideas). To attract more students, you can use everything from Facebook ads to email—just be sure your course sales page communicates the extra value of a long-term membership as clearly as possible.
If you’re looking for other ways to get creative, consider using coupons! We’ve listed off a number of ways to offer free trials, introductory discounts, and ways to retain customers long-term using coupons specifically for subscriptions.
If a membership site sounds like the right fit for your online business, learn how to set it all up in Thinkific here.
How to Create a Membership Site for your Online Course using @thinkific #teachonline Click To Tweet
Have you found success in running a membership site of your own? We’d love to see your examples in the comments!