Jelena Rakic - Jul 15, 2020
How Much Does a Membership Website Cost?
Are you thinking about starting a membership website to provide your community members with access to exclusive content? There is no doubt that your business will benefit from this, but before you get started, there’s one crucial question to answer — how much does a membership website cost?
To answer this question, you will need to take several factors into consideration. Even though some options are expensive for a start, they will not affect your budget significantly later on, when it comes to maintenance. Or it can be the other way round.
Let’s break down the cost of crucial things needed to create a membership website and see how much money approximately you need for this endeavor. That way, you can start planning your budget on time. It is also essential that you learn about some of the best membership site platforms, as well as explore the possibility to create a membership website free of charge.
How Much Does a Membership Website Cost?
There is no single answer to this question. The answer depends on your choices, as the variety of options available can suit almost everyone’s budget. The average price of a membership website can range from about $200 to over $11,000. If you ever start wondering whether this is a worthwhile investment, you should look up to some of the most successful examples of membership sites.
One of the most efficient ways to ensure that your membership website is successful is to provide the users with high-quality content that is not that easily accessible anywhere else. This might be tricky to do considering that there is so much information about almost anything all over the Internet, so make sure you choose a new, unexplored niche. That’s what Nick Quah did with Hot Pod, a site that ensures the latest news about podcasting, and it worked pretty well.
Crucial Things to Take Into Account to Determine the Price of a Membership Website
When you get to planning your budget for a membership website, the smartest thing to do would be to write down the crucial factors that will eventually shape the total price, including domain name, website hosting and content management system (CMS). When you learn about the average amount of money needed for these, you can set the minimum cash to allocate before you get started.
You should also calculate some “minor” expenses, such as website design, email marketing, payment processor, and others.
If the total price seems too much for you when everything adds up, the good news is that not everything is lost even then — there are also ways to create a membership website free of charge.
The very first thing that you need to think about when starting any site is your domain name. In addition to some other aspects, this is a crucial step at the beginning because it will incur costs, so you should take the expenses it brings into account.
To buy a new domain name, you can spend as little as $10-$12. However, that doesn’t mean that domain names are by default inexpensive. If you wanted to buy a popular one, you would have to allocate a significant sum of money — some of the most expensive domain names have been sold for tens of millions of dollars. If you already have a domain, then you should consider using it instead of spending your money on a new one.
The next crucial thing to plan is where your membership site is going to “live” — you need to plan the costs of website hosting. When it comes to this, the prices can vary significantly, depending on the option you choose. These are your options and the costs each of them incurs:
- Shared hosting — This is the most affordable option to consider, so it’s usually the most commonly chosen one among people who are just getting started. If you go for this one, you can expect to pay about $10-$15 per month.
- VPS (virtual private server) hosting — This one is a bit more expensive, but it ensures greater performance, as you don’t have to share the server with anyone else. If your budget allows you, you should consider this solution rather than shared hosting. The average price for VPS hosting is between $100-$150 per month.
- Dedicated server hosting — When your site starts gaining traffic, it might be just the right time to invest in a dedicated server. Should you go for this option, you should allocate between $250 and $400 per month.
Content Management System
You can’t really run a website without a proper Content Management System (CMS), right? That’s why your next stop should be deciding on the content management software according to your needs and your budget.
The good news here is that you don’t have to spend a single penny on CMS if your budget doesn’t allow you or you just don’t want to — you can use WordPress completely free of charge.
This solution is popular due to all the great opportunities it offers for top-notch content management, too. It’s enough to say that WordPress powers about 30% of all websites on the Internet. Other CMS software solutions that you can get for free include Joomla and Squarespace, but none offers a wide array of plugin options like WordPress does.
There’s usually no need for custom CMS software, so WordPress works just fine for most people’s membership sites. However, if you change your mind and decide to switch to the rarely needed custom system, you can expect to spend anywhere from a couple of hundreds to thousands of dollars for the membership plugin.
Community building is of great importance for your business, so do think about even the smallest details when building a membership site. So, in addition to the previously mentioned major factors that will shape the final price, you should also take into account the following:
- Website design (from $200 for a WordPress theme package to $5,000 for a completely custom design) — In addition to your membership site being functional, you also want it to look nice, right? That’s why you need to take into account website design. If you have a limited budget, you can rely on regular WordPress themes. These are usually rather simple, without fancy layouts, but can be a good start. If you can invest more, you can hire a web designer and get a completely custom design.
- Email marketing (between $50 and $600 a month) — If you want to attract new members and retain the existing ones, you will need to invest in email marketing services, too. Advanced email marketing solutions, such as Active Campaign, offer a variety of useful options, including integrated email marketing and marketing automation. These will cost you about $50 a month. For even more features, you should be prepared to pay more.
- Membership system ($150-$200 for a premium membership plugin) — You can’t build a site without the membership system. You need it to access content, manage subscriptions and control payment. A premium membership plugin gives you more options than a free version, which covers only the basic needs. For instance, a premium membership plugin allows you to easily transform your current site into a membership website with all the features you need.
- Video hosting (about $160-$320 per year) — If you’re planning to include any video-based content, you will need to host it somewhere outside your website. The problem with keeping this type of content on your site is that it can slow it down significantly when members access it. It’s advisable to use paid platforms such as Vimeo rather than YouTube (which is free) because these platforms have extensive privacy options. If you put your content on YouTube, anyone with a link can watch it, not just your members.
- Payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) — To be able to actually make money on your membership site, you need a payment processor. If you use PayPal, you will pay about 3.4% of the transaction value plus $0.30 per transaction. If you use Stripe, you should expect to pay a flat rate of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction for up to $1M.
- Hiring a web developer (a couple of hundreds or thousands of dollars) — If you are not technically savvy yourself, the smartest thing to do is to rely on a professional web developer to help you integrate all the previously mentioned things and make them work together seamlessly.
The Best Membership Site Platform
Don’t you want to create your membership site with ease, so you can enjoy the process? To make that possible, you should choose the best membership site platform out there — GroupApp. When you use GroupApp, you get access to a variety of features that make running a membership site a smooth breeze.
This platform provides you with a quick and easy way to grow your online community. You can invite members, share content with them, and categorize discussions by topics. Another convenient option is that you can connect the community members with each other, so they can share their ideas easily.
GroupApp also allows you to make money through membership subscriptions. You can set up a membership subscription in no more than five minutes. GroupApp allows you to charge your members a monthly or yearly membership subscription. Another convenient option is to keep portions of your membership website free of charge for a while. This can help you generate leads and then convert them into paying members.
GroupApp also comes with a free online course builder. This option allows you to share your knowledge with your community members or sell content to your community. Our online course builder is simple to use, but it’s powerful enough to cover all your needs and help you keep your members engaged through top-notch courses.
When you use GroupApp, you can use third-party tools and software to integrate your membership community with your favorite software tools, such as Mailchimp, Zapier, Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, and HubSpot. Enjoy smooth automated community management, tracking ROI, and automated marketing campaigns.
No matter the size of your community, you can count on GroupApp to host your membership community for you. This option allows you to save a few bucks, which is particularly important if you’re just starting out and you have a limited budget. Otherwise, you would have to cover hosting costs, which can range from $15 to $600/month.
Tech Support and Customer Success
GroupApp is here for you to take care of all technical issues, so you don’t have to spend time handling technical issues yourself. This way, you don’t have to spend a single penny on solving them, either. GroupApp can also provide you with a customer success manager that is there to help you grow your membership community.
When it comes to pricing, you can choose between three options depending on your budget:
- Free Plan — This one is convenient if you’re just getting started and you only have some personal projects. It allows you to grow a community of up to 500 members and have two membership channels.
- Pro Plan — This option is suitable for growing businesses and creators. It costs $49 a month. If you’re looking for a more affordable solution, Pro Plan can be billed yearly, which allows you to save $117. If you choose this option, you can have a community of 5,000 members and 30 channels. Pro Plan also includes data export.
- Premium Plan — Premium Plan is designed for brands and large organizations. It costs $140 a month. If billed yearly, you can save $336. With the Premium solution, you can have as many as 15,000 members and 30 channels. This plan, too, allows data export.
Other Membership Site Platforms to Consider
- Podia — One of the greatest advantages of using Podia is that it comes with some excellent tools built-in, such as email marketing and messaging features, website builder, digital downloads, and many others.
- Builderall — Similarly to Podia, Builderall also brings you quite a few useful features, so there’s no need for any other external platform. Some of the handy options to take advantage of include blogging and webinar app, website and funnel sharing, on-page SEO optimization, and many others.
- Discourse — Discourse is a perfect combination of a Facebook group, a forum and a chat room. Some of the features that make this an interesting option include badges and instant notifications. Discourse can be easily integrated with your website.
- Kajabi — Using Kajabi allows you to handle sales and marketing on the platform and build a website for your brand. You can enjoy using a variety of features, such as hosting your videos, setting pre-requisite lessons and creating quizzes and surveys.
- MemberPress — This is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. It is a good solution if you need just the basic requirements covered. What’s useful is that you can restrict access to certain pages based on what a particular membership plan allows the user to get.
- MemberSpace — When you use MemberSpace, everything happens on your website, so you have full control over the member experience. Members can do everything they may want without leaving your site — sign in, log in, get the content, manage their accounts.
How to Create a Membership Website Free of Charge?
When your budget is limited and you don’t have enough to get started, there’s no need to worry — there are things you can do to create a membership website free of charge. It might be tricky, but it’s doable. Here’s what you can do:
- Find a free blog to host your website
- Create a sales page by using free tools
- Get an unlisted video to host it on YouTube for free
If you’re looking for a way to create your membership site free of charge, the safest way to solve this issue is to use GroupApp’s Free Plan. This solution allows you to build your membership website for up to 500 members, which is perfect for someone starting out.
Even though it might seem expensive at first, a membership website is, without a doubt, a wise investment for your business. All you need to do is make a detailed plan based on the crucial expenses included in this endeavor. You need to set your budget accordingly right from the start to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to choose from when building a membership website. This endeavor can be rather expensive, but, luckily, there are quite a few top-notch affordable solutions that allow you to create a membership website free of charge, such as GroupApp.
Choose whatever option you find most convenient at the moment and be patient enough to watch all the money and effort you invested in your membership website pay off as time goes by.