7 Ways To Make Money with Membership Sites (+ Examples)

Membership websites can be highly profitable if you manage to tap into the right niche and find an audience. But even if you run a successful membership site, you may be overlooking further opportunities to offer more varied content and make even more money.

Flexible tools like WordPress and MemberMouse give you access to all the features you need to set up and monetize a membership website in multiple ways.

For example, you can sell content like online courses, paywall premium articles, host webinars, and more. Plus, you'll be able to create multiple tiers and payment methods.

In this article, we'll look at 7 different ways you can monetize your membership site, show you some examples of successful membership sites in action, and look at the tools you need to get started.

First though, let's explore what a membership site is.

What Is a Membership Site?

A membership site is a type of website that hides or protects part (or all) of its content so that only members can see it. To become a member, you'll need to sign up for an account. This typically involves filling out some forms and, in some cases, paying for the privilege:

An example of membership websites that make money

Membership sites make money by accepting one-off payments or recurring subscriptions (or both) in exchange for access to premium content and services.

There are different types of membership sites, too. For instance, you'll find subscription-based forums, online magazines, streaming sites, and more.

WordPress supports user registration out of the box. However, it doesn't offer features that enable you to restrict content so it's only available for members. But, with the right plugin, you can add membership functionality to the platform and start accepting payments.

Reasons to Create a Membership Site for Your Business

If you're not yet sure whether you want to create a membership site, here are some of the benefits:

  • Earn a recurring income. If you use a subscription model for your membership site, you'll get recurring payments which can help you stabilize your earnings.

  • Accept one-off payments. Alternatively (or additionally), you can offer memberships in exchange for one-off payments to boost your monthly income.

  • Motivate users to return. Once a user creates an account, they're more likely to return to your website. Naturally, this will depend on the hook you use to get users to register and the benefits you offer.

  • Set up private communities. You can create a membership site that has private community sections like forums. This provides a dedicated space where members can discuss their interests with like-minded individuals.

  • Build customer loyalty. If you become a member of a website or pay for a subscription, you're likely to grow attached to the content and the community. The more value that your content provides, the more loyalty you can nurture.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to set up a membership site for your business is the opportunity to create diverse income streams. As we'll explore, there are multiple ways to make money with your membership site and raise your bottom line.

How to Make Money with Membership Sites (7 Ways)

MemberMouse gives you full control over how you make money with membership sites and process payments. Here are seven exciting ideas to help you get started with this plugin.

1. Courses

Courses and membership websites go hand in hand. Although there's no shortage of free online courses, users are willing to pay for your content if it offers something that they can't find anywhere else.

Online courses are so profitable that the digital learning industry is expected to bring in almost $400 billion by 2026. So, if you have expertise or knowledge in a certain field, online courses may be a great option for you.

MemberMouse enables you to build online courses with its Courses for MemberMouse toolset. You'll get access to an intuitive drag-and-drop builder to create lessons that are only accessible to members:

Courses for MemberMouse

The course functionality is available with all MemberMouse plans. More advanced tiers also provide extra features. For instance, you can set up quizzes and offer certificates to members who complete your courses.

What's more, when students sign up for a course on your website, the built-in navigation can lead them straight to the next lesson. Meanwhile, you can offer time-released lessons, and allow members to view their progress via a dedicated account page.

2. Premium Video Content

Another way to sell content from your membership site is to create videos. You'll find that a lot of video creators on platforms like YouTube offer private content that only members or subscribers can access.

This enables them to monetize their audiences by offering premium video content to those who register for a membership. This can include early access to videos, special series, or behind-the-scenes footage:

How to make money with membership sites

Early access to videos is a great benefit that also saves you from having to create additional content (as non-paying members will get access to the same videos eventually).

Plus, by featuring videos on your own website, you won't have to share a cut of the membership fees with a third-party platform like Patreon. This can offer significant savings if you have a large audience that you want to convert into paying members.

Better yet, MemberMouse gives you the option to restrict videos and other types of content on your website. Keep that in mind while we explore the next few approaches for making your membership site profitable.

3. Paywall Articles

You may have noticed that a lot of popular newspapers have moved toward a membership model for the online versions of articles. This includes The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and more.

Some of the biggest names in publishing have figured out that it makes sense to paywall articles. This prompts users to sign up and pay for a membership if they want unrestricted access to valuable content:

How to sell content like articles

Bear in mind that it can be difficult to get users to pay to read content when there's so much information online. So if you want to use articles as the hook for your membership website, this content needs to offer value that members are unable to find elsewhere.

For example, you might produce tutorials, in-depth reviews, well-researched news articles, and more, or you might just have a very niche hobby or set of skills you can write about.

It's also a good idea to offer some free content or a temporary trial so users can see what kind of content they'll get once they become members.

4. Digital Downloads

Digital downloads is another great way to make money from your membership site. This is because they're much simpler to sell than physical goods as you don't need to worry about inventory space, shipping, or delivery.

These products can include custom media files, ebooks, software, and pretty much anything else you can download that users might be willing to pay for.

While you can give users the option to pay for a subscription and get a certain number of downloads per month, you can also enable a one-time fee for some of your products.

Together with a free plugin like WordPress Download Manager, you can use MemberMouse to set up download links that only members have access to.

5. Access to an Exclusive Online Community

Sometimes, the smartest way to get users to pay for a membership is to leverage community instead of content (or alongside it). This means offering dedicated spaces where members can connect with each other and discuss their interests or share advice.

You can see this all over the web in private forums, invitation-only Discord channels, and comment sections on private websites. The common denominator is that users need to become members (paying members, in your case) to gain access to those communities:

An example of a paid forum

The advantage of this approach is that the communities alone can be enough to convince users to pay for a membership. If you know there's a private forum where hundreds of people discuss one of your favorite interests all day, chances are that you'll consider joining it.

MemberMouse can help you set up private communities thanks to its integrations with forum plugins such as bbPress and wpForo. Both of these plugins enable you to set up forums in WordPress and MemberMouse can restrict access to them for public users.

For example, you might set up a writers' community, where members can give critical feedback on each other's work and offer tips. If you're into gaming, traveling, web building, or any other hobby, you can create a forum where like-minded individuals can discuss issues and help one another.

6. Host Webinars

If you're wondering how to make money with membership sites but don't want to sell pre-recorded content, webinars are a great alternative. These are a type of online event similar to a conference with one or more speakers.

Typically, webinars are promoted well in advance of the event so users have time to sign up to attend:

Examples of upcoming webinars

Webinars can be fantastic tools for driving users to sign up for your membership website by providing an opportunity to showcase your expertise and engage directly with a live audience.

Webinars pair well with other types of protected content, such as online courses and private downloads. You can offer webinars that dig into topics that you don't cover elsewhere. Or, you can provide them as an option for members who want to engage with you directly and get the opportunity to ask questions.

MemberMouse offers integrations with webinar platforms through Zapier. This way, you can connect your membership site with webinar services like GoTo Webinar:

GoTo Webinar

One effective strategy would be to offer attendance for an upcoming webinar to users who sign up for a membership on your website. This can act as a temporary lead magnet to drive up memberships.

7. Use Affiliate Links

Incorporate affiliate marketing into your membership site to open another revenue stream.

By becoming an affiliate for relevant products or services, you can earn commissions on sales made through links shared within your content. This method leverages your existing traffic and content, allowing you to monetize engagements even further without relying solely on membership fees.

Select products and services that align closely with the interests and needs of your members to ensure a natural fit with your existing content.

For example, if your site focuses on fitness, you might affiliate with companies that sell workout equipment or health supplements.

Using tools like Pretty Links and ThirstyAffiliates can simplify managing your affiliate links. These plugins allow you to create clean, cloaked links that are easy to share and track.

MemberMouse affiliate program

Examples of Profitable Membership Sites

Now, let's look at a few examples of membership sites that use some of the strategies discussed above. These were all created with MemberMouse.

Coffee & Contracts offers resources for real estate agents looking for marketing materials that they can use to grow their businesses. The hook, in this case, is the library of downloadable templates you get access to if you sign up for a membership.

Coffee & Contracts is an example of membership websites that make money

Meanwhile, Digits & Threads uses paywalled content and community forums to drive membership signups. This website offers content geared toward Canadian arts and crafts enthusiasts with an exclusive forum accessible with the Studio Membership:

Digits & Threads

Another great example comes from Angle of Attack. This is a highly specialized membership site that offers flight training materials from real-life pilots:

Angle of Attack is a good example of membership websites that make money

This is the kind of content that some might pay thousands of dollars for, but this website offers a lot of it for free. Some of the more specialized content requires payment, so the free courses act as a hook for the paid options, which is a smart way to drive sales.

Lastly, the International Gem Society is a great example of membership sites that make money in various ways. The site offers courses, downloadable guides, webinars, and a forum-based community:

International Gem Society

Some of these perks are available for free but you need to pay for a membership to get access to the rest of them. Having a large library of free content can make it easier for users to find you via search engines, so it can be a smart way to grow your website if you can devote the time to it.

Make More Money With MemberMouse

Throughout this article, we've explored a lot of the features that MemberMouse offers. In a nutshell, MemberMouse is a WordPress plugin that you can use to configure a powerful membership system for your site.

Although WordPress supports memberships, it doesn't offer many built-in features that help you set up a productive membership site. For example, you can't use the base WordPress setup to protect content and create membership tiers.

That said, you can use a handy plugin like MemberMouse to extend the functionality of your site:

MemberMouse features

This way, you can sell content like courses, articles, digital files, videos, and more. Plus, you can access useful integrations to host webinars, set up forums, and create affiliate programs.

What's more, MemberMouse provides a powerful CRM which makes it easy to manage members and track activity. And, you'll get access to useful metrics like churn rate, lifetime customer value, and membership sales.

So if you're wondering how to make money with membership sites, all you need is a WordPress website and a plugin like MemberMouse. Of course, you'll have to get a web hosting service and domain name so that people can find your content first.

Once you have the basics, you can set up MemberMouse and create your membership tiers. Then, you're ready to decide which methods to use to make money, and which content will be exclusively available to paying members.


Running a membership site offers a diverse range of opportunities to generate revenue online. From selling online courses and digital downloads to providing premium articles, videos, and private forums, you can also expand your income through affiliate marketing and hosting webinars.

With WordPress and MemberMouse, you'll get full control over your membership site and revenue. MemberMouse enables you to set up multiple membership tiers, restrict content, and more. It also integrates with platforms like GoTo Webinar and bbPress to further extend the possibilities.

Got questions about how to make money with membership sites? Let's talk about them in the comments section below!

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Amy Harper

Hi! I'm Amy. I'm obsessed with the three W's: Writing, WordPress, and Walking! When I'm not blogging about the WordPress ecosystem, you can find me hitting the trails of the Pacific Northwest with a cup of coffee and my camera.

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