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If you want to start a membership for your business for exponential income, there are a few things you need to know. First, hosting platform options. The second is pricing information. Third, are the expectations that accompany memberships.

As with all business experiences, your membership is not going to look the same on day one as it looks months or years into it. It is okay to change things, and change is almost always necessary.

Samantha’s membership started as a meetup to take photos and create Instagram content in 2018. When Covid hit, the membership changed to virtual meetings. The membership changed the scope of Samantha’s business from 1:1 consulting to a full-time membership, which gave her more income and freedom.

Memberships can help you leverage the freedom of time to live the life of your dreams.

Check out episode 115, How to Implement a Memberships Site to Transform and Scale Your Business with Jennifer Dopazo

Dispelling the myth of passive income

Samantha likes to refer to passive income as exponential income. Because money is really never passive, it comes with work. But, it is about working smarter, not harder. With all of the technology we have available to us, it is possible to work smarter and work less. Samantha is all about creating exponential income that breeds authenticity, community, and support for the people who are involved with it.

What happens to your income when you start a membership program?

If you want to start a membership simply for passive income, it may not be the right fit for you because there is work that goes into it. It is similar to a bar graph where in the beginning, the work and time you put in is way high while the income is little to nothing, but as you grow and build, the change. The time and work become less, and the income increases. When you have happy members, they basically do the growing for you. This shift in the work/time to income ratio occurs approximately 3 to 6 months into the membership.

As you grow, you aren’t putting more work or time into the membership. You may have backend things to do, but a lot of people have community managers for that, but it is really minimal. But what you will see is exponential growth in income because you work the same amount of time in front of your people and more people are able to view it, which means more income.

Is there a “best practice” platform to use to start a membership?

In 2020, many companies launched membership platforms. The platform you chose will depend on your business and your goals. All good memberships will have three things, community, accountability, and education. If you don’t have all three of these things, the likelihood of success is low. Not all memberships will have community, accountability, and education in equal amounts.

If your membership is education-heavy, Kajabi may be the best platform for you. However, if your membership is more community and support-heavy, you might need a platform that helps cultivate community more. As well as promote communication. Kajabi is not interactive, people do not interact with one another on that platform. Samantha had to create a Facebook group for a place to go live. Her membership was called content and connection so it was imperative to have a place to build connection and community. Kajabi could only host content.

Never use Facebook to host a membership

Samantha highly recommends avoiding Facebook as your membership platform for a couple of reasons.

  1. You don’t own the Facebook platform and you always want to have ownership of your content.
  2. It is not just you on Facebook, there are a lot of distractions. It doesn’t breed prioritization.
Two platforms Samantha recommends for hosting a membership

The two platforms, or apps, that Samantha now recommends are Mighty Networks and Circle. Mighty Networks and Circle are dedicated apps on your phone with in-app and push notifications. There are a lot of in-app features similar to the features of Facebook but they are less expensive.

Samantha recommends avoiding website plugins because you don’t have the option to send push notifications and they don’t have the same quality or level of features. The notification piece for a group is vital. Everyone has so much going on in their lives that in-app and push notifications are key for getting people to show up within the membership.

Thinkific and Teachable are like Kajabi. They are all online course platforms that decided to make a membership option. This makes sense because it is a good idea for anyone who has an online course to create a membership for the students once they complete the course. If you are going to do a course and then graduate your students with a membership these platforms make sense.

To reach a large membership audience you may need to use a broadcast-style meeting

If you have a large membership, you may need to use a webinar format and do a live broadcast to your group using a broadcast program like Zoom or Stream Yard, or others. You can then take questions just like you would on a webinar. Mighty Networks and Circle both have their own live-stream capabilities within the membership group.

What to consider about price when you want to start a membership?

Samantha discourages her students from doing an annual membership. If you have to close your membership you will have to give value add-ons to those in the annual membership or credit them, which can be problematic if you already spent the money.

Because annual memberships aren’t a recurring charge, people will forget about it and may not participate. In California, there is now a law that requires business owners to allow members or subscribers to relinquish their membership and you cannot have a requirement on the time a person is a member or subscriber. One way around this would be to have an annual contract administered through Honeybook or Dubsado instead of a monthly payment.

The same thing applies to quarterly memberships. People may choose to skip a quarter. That is not a good energetic match. You want people in your membership who are going to put in the same energy as you are.

Pricing is a personal conversation but it is easier for someone to say yes to $49 or less than it is for them to say yes to $51 or more. This is a psychological thing. There is a wide scale of pricing for memberships. Your price should be determined by how much access the members have to you.

If member access is restricted to questions in a group forum, the price will naturally be lower than if the members have Voxer or Direct message access to you which is more like 1:1 time with you.

Samantha recommends a pricing scale. Start at a founder’s rate until you reach 100 people and then the price goes up. If you don’t have a cap on the number of members, the price will be lower. If you are limiting the membership the price will be higher. A rule of thumb is that anything under $50 is easier to say yes to and it won’t hurt badly if a monthly subscription is. But you have to be cautious about your energy. The last thing you want to do is give too much and resent your membership.

When you want to start a membership you need to be clear on the expectations for membership offerings.

Historically, people were present for their membership once a week. However, since Covid, people have been taking a hard look at their time and where they spend it. If you want to make your membership a priority in your members’ lives, once a week may be too much. If you only show up live once a month and offer additional information in other formats throughout the month people will prioritize their time with you. However, if you are showing up three times a week, you may only have three people show up for each event.

Where should you take payments for your membership?

Samantha recommends owning the place you take payment of membership fees, not collecting them inside of the app or program you are using. The platform could go down and the sales pages and discounts aren’t always great so it is best to use Stripe. This way you can have control of your sales page and the money collected.

Before you start a membership, recognize that Building your membership is the easiest part.

Samantha explained that building your membership is the easiest part and the real work happens when you start presenting and growing the membership. She recommends having help because it is demanding. The support you offer your members is just as valuable as your seeking help for yourself, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Book Recommendation

Samantha recommended reading Atomic Habits and 100 Days to Brave.

About Samantha Harris

Samantha is a membership mentor focused on helping industry leaders create exponential income via membership communities that create an impact. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs step away from hustle culture, beat burnout, and live in the freedom they were created to embrace. Samantha is the founder of The Clarity Co., a membership platform with chapters in 9+ cities around the U.S., which is the first hybrid online and in-person membership created to simplify content creation and connect with like-minded business owners.

Learn more and connect with Samantha:

Samantha Harris Website

Download my free eBook on the Purpose to Results™ Method for building a strong foundation for long-term brand and business success. 

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