Who Else Wants To Make Up To $6,587 Per Month With A Simple Membership Site?

After Yaro Starak interviewed me, then the Shane Melaugh video interview, many people emailed wanting more detail on how I created such a successful membership site in a hobby niche (over $300k in less than 2yrs).

Some questions were about niche selection, others about the technical side, the member retention strategies, promotion of the sales page and many other great questions.

Rather than answer them individually, this post will answer them all (hopefully)… If not, please submit your question in the comments below this post. I will gladly answer any question you have.

First up, let’s look at the pros and cons of a membership site…

Pros of a Membership Site

Model Trains For Beginners Insiders Club

Model Trains For Beginners Insiders Club

  • Monthly recurring income – make the sale once and, provided the customer is happy, they pay you month after month. There is nothing better than starting the day looking at 20, 30 or 50 emails from Clickbank (or Paypal) advising you of new subscription renewals. It sets the tone for the day in an incredibly positive way. It inspires you to do more, to make the product better… Procrastination becomes a thing of the past.
  • Predictable and stable income – once you have some history, you know exactly what your conversions are, how long members stay and can very accurately predict your income in the future. This provides for a very stable business.
  • High average customer value – when I started in the model train niche, I sold a $27 ebook so my average customer value was $27. After bolting on the membership component it jumped from an average customer value of $27 to $110.00. This not only made it much more attractive to affiliates (I was paying 70% commission), but it also increased the value of the website to potential buyers.
  • Building a very sellable asset – a well constructed membership site, in the right niche, with a great conversion funnel becomes a valuable asset that can be sold fairly easily. Potential buyers are taking over a cash machine, where the future income is very predictable. This is very attractive to buyers. Membership sites typically sell for a minimum of 2.5 times the average yearly profits. You may never want to sell, but it is nice to know that you have an asset that can be sold for a nice big payday in the future.
  • You don’t need to know your subject – when you own a membership site, you have options. You can be the expert and provide the content, you can take the role of reporter where you interview people, you can be the publisher and hire experts to provide the content, or be a mixture of all (or some) of the roles.
    [box]I knew very little about model trains, I hadn’t owned a model train since I was 11 or 12, but YouTube is a goldmine of free information. Model railroaders with 30 years experience happily provided their videos and expertise when asked.You will be amazed how easy it is to get best selling authors, professionals and people with decades of street-smart experience to give you all the information you need (and most of the time for free).[/box]
  • Work in one niche – a common mistake of internet marketers is to operate 2 or 3 sites in different niches. The excuse is that they will test different niches, and when one does better than the others, they’ll focus on that one. The problem is that the start up period is incredibly important. This is when the foundations are built.
    If you are spreading yourself across 2 or 3 niches, it will take you many months of wasted time to decide on one niche to focus on, and then abandon the others. That makes no sense to me. Do your research correctly in the beginning, choose one niche, then commit and FOCUS. You will then give yourself the highest possible chance of success.
  • Only need 1 month of content to start – This is the best part, because it reduces the time needed to take your product to market. You only need 1 month’s worth of content and then you can start promoting the site. When your first members are in month 1 of your membership site, you are creating month 2. You only need to be 1 month’s worth of content ahead of the oldest member.

Cons of a Membership Site

  • Memberships sites don’t work for all niches – more on this later in the niche selection portion of this post.

That’s a huge amount of pros with only 1 con. Hopefully I have convinced you that owning and operating a membership site is the IDEAL business for you.

But, I did say that a membership site won’t work in all niches, so which niche will it work in?

Which Niche?

Choosing your membership site niche is the most important part of the process.

You should take your time with choosing a niche. List all the options, do your research and then rank the list from best to worst. You want to be confident that the time and resources you will be investing into your membership site is well and truly worth it.

[box]Owning a membership site means you do not have to be an expert in the niche. The best membership model is where you are the publisher and engage experts to provide the content. This content could be provided in an interview format, podcast, video, or article.[/box]

A good niche for a membership site is one where you can sell memberships all year round (evergreen market, not seasonal), the market already pays ongoing fees for things like a magazine subscription, the market likes to belong to groups and they buy stuff online.

Let’s look at all of those in more detail:

  • Evergreen niche – this is so you can make sales all year round, rather than in one season. There are some exceptions like the model train niche which is a seasonal niche in the US and Canada, but evergreen in Australia and New Zealand. In the US it tends to be a winter hobby because people spend a lot more time inside.
  • They buy magazines – if there is a magazine based on the niche, this is a very good indicator that an online membership website will work.
    Magazines are expensive to produce and they make money from the advertisers and copies sold. Advertisers won’t advertise in a magazine that is not selling. So, if there is a magazine in circulation, there are people paying the magazine subscription. And if they are subscribed to a magazine, there is every chance they will subscribe to your membership site (if it’s any good). People interested in a niche, usually want all the information they can get their hands on.
    And don’t be overly concerned about price… Model Railroad magazines are around $7/mo and my membership site access at the time was $27/mo.
    A great place to look up magazines is at magazines.com, amazon.com and magsdirect.com. Take note of the categories in the left sidebar to give you some great membership site ideas. I always subscribe to the ones in my niche, so I can keep up with what’s new, and for great ideas on future content.


  • They belong to groups – online forums, Facebook groups, Yahoo groups are an indicator that people are congregating and wanting to belong. Your membership site can contain a forum which will be exclusive and provide a great attraction. To find forums in your niche Google “your niche” + forum.
  • Buy stuff online – this is important. You want members to pay you online, so you want to be in a niche where the people are already buying stuff (related to the niche) online.
[box]Using all the criteria above, you should list up to 10 membership site ideas. Then rank them from the best to the worst. A good way to rank them is to think about your membership site 12 to 18 months in the future. Will you still be motivated to create the content, interview experts, answer questions and participate?[/box]

Once you have the niche selected for your membership site, the next step is to plan the content of your membership site…

What Content?

When I owned the model train membership site I was subscribed to every model railroading magazine available. This gave me a very good idea of what my competition was doing and it gave me a huge amount of ideas for future content.

Membership sites can be set up differently. One way is to drip feed monthly content starting at month 1 (typically used for training) and the other way is to provide information specific to that month (just like a magazine).

Your content needs a ‘stick factor’ to keep them subscribed. You want content that keeps them coming back.

Here are a few ideas for your membership site content…

  • Core training.
  • Expert interviews and articles.
  • Monthly newsletter (digital or physical).
  • Training videos, audios and articles.
  • Member tools like calculators, progress tools, etc.
  • Ask the expert questions and answers.
  • Recommended resources.

The best ideas for content come from asking your members. They will gladly tell you what they want.

I made this a part of my autoresponder sequence. Every 6 weeks an email would automatically go out to the members asking what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what we could do to improve the site. Some of our best ideas came from this feedback… And the members LOVED the fact that we listened to them.

Now that you have an idea of what content you can provide your members, the next step is building your membership site…

How To Build A Membership Site?

The easiest way to build a membership site is to buy hosting with a domain and install WordPress using Fantastico in your cpanel. This is a 10 minute job.

[box]If you don’t know how to do this, I’ll do it for you, for free (submit a request)… As long as you purchase your hosting using this affiliate link (it won’t cost you any more).[/box]

Once you have WordPress installed, you want to install a WordPress plugin called Wishlist Member. Wishlist Member is the awesome plugin that magically turns your WordPress Blog into a full blown membership site.

It creates the login page, allows integration with most autoresponder services and payment services, allows drip fed content, multiple membership levels, sequential content delivery, and so much more. It’s easy to install and the excellent tutorial videos make it simple to set up. Watch the video here for more detail on Wishlist Member.


Once you have your basic membership site configured, you will need to integrate an autoresponder and payment processor. My preferred tools for these are Aweber for the autoresponder and Clickbank for the payment processor.

Both are simple to use and provide great support for those infrequent times when things go wrong. This a summary of what you need to build your membership site:

What Does It Cost?

It amazes me how inexpensive it is to set up a fully functional membership site. Considering the amount of technology that is required for all the different integrations and automation, it really is incredibly cheap.

If you haven’t set up a membership site before, you may not understand how complex it is, but software like Wishlist Member makes a complex task very simple.

Here is breakdown of the costs to set up and maintain your membership site.

This totals $190.65 to initially set up your membership site and $30.96/mo plus $10.69/yr to maintain your membership site.

That is a lot of functionality for a small outlay.

Now, let’s see how much money you can make from a membership site…

How Much Money Can You Make?

From my testing with different membership sites in different niches, I have seen different cycles with subscribers. But, if I averaged the numbers out over a 12 month period, the following average statistics seemed to apply…

  • 33% of members will cancel the ongoing monthly payment within the first 30 days.
  • 33% of members will stay subscribed for 3 months.
  • 33% of members will stay subscribed forever.

Now, those stats are very general, but if you worked with those as your worst case scenario, you will have a good idea of future earnings.

membership site revenue calculator

Membership Site Revenue Calculator

Here is a great membership site revenue calculator by Scott Boulch, which will allow you to play with a few different numbers.

Let’s run through an example…

If your membership site was $27.00/mo and you added 1 new member per day, you would make 30 x $27 = $810.00 in month 1.

In month 2 you add another 30 members ($810.00) but 10 members from month 1 cancel while 20 renew. You would have a total of 50 members x $27 = $1,350 in month 2.

In month 3 you add another 30 members ($810.00) but 10 members from month 2 cancel while 20 renew and 20 renew from month 1. You would have a total of 70 members x $27 = $1,890 in month 3.

In month 4 you add another 30 members ($810.00) but 10 members from month 3 cancel while 20 renew and 20 renew from month 2 and 10 from month 1 renew (10 from month 1 canceled because they had stayed the average 3 months). You would have a total of 80 members x $27 = $2,160 in month 4.

Now you can see how quickly you could earn $4,000, $6,000 and $10,000 per month with a simple membership site, making just 1 sale a day at $27. If you start making 3, 5 or 10 sales a day your income sky rockets… But, you are still putting the same amount of effort into the monthly content.

[box]Please note that to simplify the calculations I have not allowed for commissions paid to affiliates or traffic (promotion) costs. The calculations assume that you would make all the sales yourself, using free traffic strategies. This calculator makes it easy to calculate your returns.[/box]

So, now you know how to choose a niche, how to set up your membership site, what content you could provide, what your costs are, and how much money you could potentially make.

Next, you need to know how to promote your membership site…

How Do You Promote?

As a membership site owner, if you are positioned as the publisher, you do not want to be focused on traffic. You plan the content, get the content from where ever you decide, and publish it.  Traffic should be left to the people that specialize in traffic generation.

Your focus should be on having the best possible membership site in your niche. By doing this, your members will automatically spread the word and promote for you.

However, you need to do a little promotion in the beginning to get your first 100 members. This will also allow you to test and improve your conversion rates.

The quickest way to your first 100 members is to buy traffic from websites that already have your future customers as readers, or PPC (Adwords, Bing ads, Facebook ads, etc). If you want a great course that shows you how to buy traffic, watch this video.

If you don’t want to pay for traffic, but have a lot of time and are prepared to work hard on traffic, then read this post.

Once you have your first 100 members, you will know what your conversion rate is, and can then approach affiliate marketers and joint venture partners. They then do all the traffic generation for you.

This is how I sold over 4,000 model train memberships. I listed the product in Clickbank, made my first 100 sales which improved my Clickbank gravity and average $/sale. This then made my product appear on the radar of some of the best Clickbank affiliates, and then they took over with 100% of the product promotion.

Affiliates became my one and only traffic source…

Now, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. There are ways I recruited affiliates (400+), and I also created a well equipped affiliate center, which made it easy for affiliates to promote my product. But, this is probably something I can provide more detail on, in a future post.

What’s The Next Step?

You now know the basics of everything there is to know about building profitable, but simple, membership sites.

You can see the massive potential, the monthly recurring income and the creation of a very sellable asset.

[box]This is the exact strategy I used to build a model train membership site which made over $300,000 in less than 2 years (includes the sale of the site).[/box]

I don’t know your work ethic, I don’t know anything about you, but I believe there is no better business model than creating a membership site, if you put the work in.

Chris Farrell has over 5,000 members paying him $37 per month according to this interview with James Schramko. That’s $185,000 per month. Okay, he has affiliates selling his program, so let’s say he gets half… That’s still $92,500 per month!

I had over 4,000 members pass through my model train membership site, before I sold it for 6 figures.

And if you want more examples click here and scroll down to see the portfolio of membership sites using Wishlist Membership software.

You will be amazed at the different niches people build successful membership sites in.

Hopefully I’ve got you thinking and wanting your very own membership site.

If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments below. If you have any feedback or comments, please leave them below. If you have any family or friends that can benefit from this information, please share it with them.

Let Me Help You

If you’ve got excited about owning your own membership site, and like the idea of recurring income and a big pay day… I would like to help you.

I’ll get on Skype with you (one-on-one) each week and help you through every part of the process.

I’ll help you choose a niche, plan the content, engage experts and help you build your membership site.

I’ll then help you get your first 100 members and recruit top affiliates.

AND… I’ll even help you sell your membership site, once it has some history (I sold my model train membership site for 6 figures).

With me to hold you accountable, with my experience guiding you along the way, imagine what success you would have in 12 months time?

Your investment for one-on-one coaching would be $497/month.

But let’s put that investment into perspective.

[box]My results were $359,515.79 in 23 months, from a model train membership site.[/box]

Now, I don’t know you. I don’t know your work ethic and I don’t know your level of perseverance. So, I can not guarantee you will get a similar result.

You could do worse, or you could do better.

But… Let’s say you needed 3 months of coaching to establish a great membership site. Your investment over 3 months would be $1,491.

Plus, we need to add the $190.65 cost to build the site, plus $30.96/mo maintenance costs.

Your total investment over 24 months would be $2,424.69

And, let’s say you did really badly and only made 25% of what I made with my model train membership site.

$359,515.79 x 25% = $89,878.94

That sounds like a great investment of your time and money to me. Like I said before, there are no guarantees though, because it depends on you actually doing the work.

The secret is in having someone that is experienced (and has achieved the results) to keep you motivated, and on the correct path, to achieve the recurring income you deserve.

Think about it, and compare it to the results you have achieved from internet marketing in the past.

I am here for you and would love to help you. If you are keen to go ahead, the coaching offer is below.

If you have questions please contact me here. I am also happy to talk to you on Skype and answer any questions or queries you may have. Just leave a message here and I’ll get back to you.


Ian McConnell

P.S. You may be wondering why I would coach you, when I could make a lot more money building membership sites for myself. And, the reason is that I absolutely love teaching how to implement this stuff… The best part is watching other people’s lives change, as their entire month’s bills are paid from the first week of subscription payments in that month… It’s exhilarating, it makes me feel alive, and I work hard to make sure the client achieves their goals.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that because of the thrill, I tend to over-deliver in a massive way. And, because of this, I have to limit the amount of people I can coach on a one-to-one basis to 10. I just can’t handle any more. The buy links below will become inactive when I am at full capacity. So, if you are thinking about taking me up on the offer, please don’t delay… This is going to be fun and profitable for you.


One Hour of Coaching

One Hour of Coaching is if you don’t want to commit to monthly coaching, but need an hour of my time to ask questions and get answers to anything related to internet marketing, business and more. You get to choose how many hours you would like, and how you would like to use the time. For example, if you purchase 3 hours, you could have 3 x 1 hour calls over 3 weeks. Coaching calls are made using Skype and a recording of the call is sent to you after each call. Payments are made with Paypal or a debit or credit card.

Add To Cart – $197 for 1 hour

[/box] [box]

GOLD Level Coaching

Gold Level Coaching includes up to 2 hours of one-on-one coaching per month and unlimited email access to me. You can use the 2 hours on one call or you could have 4 x 30 minute calls spaced a week apart, or any variation you like. Coaching calls are made using Skype and a recording of the call is sent to you after each call. In addition to the one-on-one coaching calls you can ask as many questions as you like via email. I usually answer these emails within 24 hours (Mon-Fri Australian business hours). You can cancel the coaching in any month. Payments are made with Paypal.

Add To Cart – $497/mo

[/box] [box]

PLATINUM Level Coaching

Platinum Level Coaching includes up to 4 hours of one-on-one coaching per month and unlimited email access to me. You can use the 4 hours by having 2 x 2 hour calls spaced a fortnight apart, 4 x 1 hour calls spaced 1 week apart, or any variation you like. Coaching calls are made using Skype and a recording of the call is sent to you after each call. In addition to the one-on-one coaching calls you can ask as many questions as you like via email. I usually answer these emails within 24 hours (Mon-Fri Australian business hours). You can cancel the coaching in any month. Payments are made with Paypal.

Add To Cart  – $997/mo


PLEASE NOTE: We reserve the right to increase these prices at any time. As a paying client you will be exempt from any future price increases. If you cancel, the new prices will apply. Coaching time not used in one month can not be accumulated into the next month and there are no refunds.

Another Option

If you want more, or a different option, you should check out Jason Fladlien’s Members Lab training. I highly recommend it. It is a 4 hour webinar and Jason goes through all the fundamentals of setting up membership site and much more. Jason has sold millions of dollars of memberships over the years, so he knows a thing or two about membership sites.

Jason has an interesting ‘hybrid’ type of membership which is ‘low touch’ but encourages members to stay subscribed for life… It’s very interesting. Read more here.

>> How You Can Create Your Own Super Profitable Membership Sites

  • Siegfried

    Hello Ian!
    It is really insightful, inspiring article – I already got few new ideas after reading it!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
    Best Regards

    • Ian McConnell

      Thanks Siegfried

  • Owen

    Great post. Is it possible to use Optimize Press for the WordPress theme and also for the membership site, replacing Woo themes and Wishlist?
    Also,would you say you are a membership site coach, mainly? I was listening to Dan Miller being interviewed by Jaime Tardy and in the interview he said that there were different types of coaches. He has several coaches himself, one for mindset, another for business, another for online business and so on?

    • Ian McConnell

      Hi Owen,

      Optimizepress works well for a drip fed, tutorial type membership site, but not a content driven site.

      I am busy setting up a membership site now (with Optimizepress) which will be teaching members how to go from idea, to implementation, to profiting and then selling a membership site.

      Each week members will get a link to a one page tutorial, with tasks to be completed. It will be drip fed every week over 3 months… Optimizepress is perfect for this because each new member comes in at week 1 and progresses to week 2, etc. I also don’t need the extra security, because I am happy for members to share the weekly tutorials (it will mean more sales for me)… I’ll demonstrate how this works in a future post.

      However, Optimizepress wouldn’t have worked with my old model train membership site. That’s because each month contained new content (like a magazine) and new members were coming in on the current month. Wishlist allows you to only give access to the monthly content in the month that members come in on, and hide all the previous content.

      The big benefit with this, is that the archived content can become stand alone products… or what I did (after building 12 months of content) was mix it up and offer it at different membership levels and different price points.


      • Ian McConnell

        Yes Owen, I specialize in membership site coaching only.

  • Irwin

    Hi Ian,

    I stumbled on your blog and I have to say really nice work! I recently started a blog to document my online journey and I have a difficult time putting out quality content, it’s more of like a “notepad” for me. Because I know how difficult it is to continuously produce quality content on a blog, I have a whole new respect for really good bloggers like you.

    I’m glad I found your blog and keep up the great work!


    • Ian McConnell

      Thanks Irwin, I appreciate your kind comments.

  • Mizan

    Hi Ian,
    It’s so inspiring for the straggler and those who are trying to start a career online based.You pointed out few important things. You focus on some few problems and solved it which is the best part of your article. Thanks for your cool writing.

    • Ian McConnell

      Thanks Mizan. It’s amazing how many people just do not focus, and it’s their downfall.

  • Bec

    Hi Ian, This is a fantastic article and very relevant to what I am currently working on implementing. I have a quick question. How can I ensure that my subscribers stay subscribed for my minimum 12 month membership? I use PayPal and according to them, they are unable to enforce a minimum period. I wish to offer all of my digital products to my subscribers and don’t want them to just download everything and unsubscribe. Does that make sense?

    • Ian McConnell

      Hi Bec,

      That’s correct, you can offer a fixed term membership (for example 6 months at $37 per month), but payment processors will not force people to pay the full term.

      It’s up to you to give your customers enough value, that they want to stay as a member for the full term. There are a few ways to do this…

      One way is to drip your content, and get people excited about the next months content. You do this by sending out an email, a day before the next payment is due, that tells people what they are getting in the next month.

      Another way is to provide enormous value, so that people believe the entire cost of the membership is well worth it. This essentially makes your membership a payment plan.

      You could also provide a community, or incorporate ‘pain of disconnect’ strategies. This keeps people subscribed.

      Have Fun

  • Bec

    Hi Ian, thank you so much for your valuable comment/reply. You have reinforced exactly what I was thinking but was unsure if it was correct or not. I really appreciate your feedback. Cheers, Bec

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  • Carol Amato

    Hi Ian,

    I just heard the interview you did for Shane – WOW! It so intrigued me that I came right over here to sign up to your list.

    I look forward to gleaning much wisdom from you.

    Thanks so much for all you share. 🙂
    – Carol Amato

    • Ian McConnell

      Thanks Carol, I appreciate your kind words.

      I love your website… You have some great information on there and the videos are very professional. What mic are you using? I think I need to get one of those 🙂

      Just out of interest, which part of the interview intrigued you? Was it the offline experience, the $300k from model train info, the membership setup, the traffic strategy, or something else? It will be interesting for me to know…

      Thanks again,

  • Ben

    Ian… So when someone signed up for your model train membership they came in on the new months content?

    Or did they start from the beginning?

    Some customers would be on month 3 some on 2 some on 1 etc.

    Or did you combine the two?

    The niche I am considering seems like they would need to start from the beginning to get the basics, but after a few months the basics would be covered and the magazine style content would be the best.

    Could you elaborate a bit on your method with the model train site?

    • Ian McConnell

      Hi Ben,

      Everyone came in at month 1…

      The best membership site model is one that teaches step by step. Because then you can create a membership site that everyone starts at month 1 and goes to month 12 (for example).

      The best part is you build the membership site and then it’s done! It’s now a sellable asset.

      Have Fun

      • Ben

        Awesome… that sounds perfect.

        How many months of content did you have for your Model Train niche? Or are the new owners still producing new content?

        • Ian McConnell

          Hi Ben,

          You only need 1 month’s worth of content to open the doors. Then you need to stay 1 month ahead with your content.

          In the model train niche I had members who had been around for over 24 months… That’s not typical!

          I believe the industry average for membership sites is 3.5 months.

          Have Fun

  • Hi Ian,

    This is definitely some great information on creating a membership site. I have been thinking about creating one.

    I was just wondering if it was actually worth my time and the work that I would have to put into it.

    I never realized the stats of the people who leave in 30 days, and the ones that stay members. Very informative.

    I will definitely be back to read some more. Thanks for sharing.

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