How to Create a Membership Site for your Thinkific Course

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How to Create a Membership Site for your Thinkific Course

How to Create a Membership Site for your Thinkific Course

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.

Related: How to Price Your Online Course (Complete Guide)

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.

These 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 setup 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.

Netflix

Hundreds of new movies and shows every month? Sign me up!

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 an 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 in 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.

Actually, in a recent episode of Work-It-Wednesday, we discussed some of the benefits of creating a membership site, as well as a few things you can do to keep your students engaged and build a sense of community among them.

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:

Katie Evans Membership Example

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:

Bundles

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!

Course bundles are available on Essentials, Business, and Advanced plans.

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 enrol 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.

Email Notifications

Email notifications are available on Essentials, Business, and Advanced plans.

Drip release

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)!

Drip Schedule Course Date

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 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.

Drip Schedule

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!

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  • Lisa Dickson

    Thank you for this post – very helpful.

    I would like to know more about how to set the course up on the inside – how to welcome your memberships students and have them navigate around your bundles of courses.

    Typically in a membership site you log in and are greeted by a landing page with a welcome message (this is the heart of the site), links to site tour, bundles of content, freebies, members directory (sometimes), links to a Facebook page etc.

    How can I achieve something similar in Thinkific that really engages with the subscriber?

    • Hi @disqus_kTmHYj7xQ6:disqus! Sorry for the delayed reply. Great question!

      Because we allow for so much customization of themes (though this requires a level of HTML/CSS knowledge), you could likely set that up however you choose! We also have the option to add Additional Pages so you could make multiple sections if needed.

      Another option would be to host the “site” on your own and then just use Thinkific to deliver the course content.

      I noticed you jumped into our Facebook Group for advice on this and got in touch with Rob, so awesome—hope to see the results of that soon 🙂 If you need any additional help just get in touch with our Support Team at customers@thinkific.com and someone can help you walk through the possibilities for your vision.

      This is definitely something interesting to think about on our end for the future of what we could potentially deliver to our course creators 🙂 Thanks!

      • Caseron Cloud Accounting

        I did wonder about hosting it externally, but as the courses are all in Thinkific I would prefer students to only have to log into one platform.

        Rob is building some custom pages – they go live today! I think that will do what I want! Time will tell if it increases conversions!

        There is still so much functionality that could be added – look forward to Thinkifics future development!