Should You Create an Online Course or a Membership Site?

August 7, 2021

Should You Create an Online Course or a Membership Site

If you’re someone who loves to teach or is an expert on a specific topic, you should consider reaching out to a wider audience. This way, you can make your skills and ideas profitable and start getting paid for your hard work and time.

A great way of doing that is by creating either an online course or a membership site. A membership site provides users with access to regular content and a community to engage with, once they’ve subscribed to a monthly or annual membership plan.

On the other hand, an online course has a one-time fee but provides a limited amount of content. This means that users can pay a one-time fee to get access to a single lesson or multiple lessons, not fresh content throughout the month.

Depending on the type of content and your goals for the future, deciding on what’s the right option for you can be a challenge. In this article, we’ll go over a few things you might want to consider before deciding whether to create a membership site or an online course.


Questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to create an online course or a membership site

Let’s take a look at a few important questions you may want to ask yourself before choosing to create an online course or create a membership site.

#1. Can you create engaging content regularly?

Can you create engaging content regularly?

One of the most important factors that will help you decide between the two options is whether you can create fresh content for your audience every day or not. You need to consider the topic you cover and decide if it’s ideal for you to create content regularly for your students.

It’s best to not have students subscribe to a membership plan if they won’t have access to regularly updated content. Instead, if you don’t have fresh new topics that can be shared with your students as lessons, creating a detailed online course is a better idea. This way, you don’t compromise on the quality of work you do and your audience will see much more value in your content if they have to pay for it once.

A membership site requires you to provide regular new content for topics that are covered in your membership program. This ensures students stay engaged with your content every day and don’t bail out of their monthly subscription early. Members will find more value in paying a monthly fee and having access to fresh content every day. As a result, you’ll have to put in more time and effort in creating content and keeping members engaged.

#2. Are you willing to do this long-term?

Are you willing to do this long-term?

Are you considering doing this long-term? Or you’re just planning to do it during your summer holidays and keep it going as a side hustle? These questions are important in deciding what’s the best option for you.

Membership sites require a long-term commitment and don’t really start “working” instantly after you launch your site. In simpler words, you need to provide new content regularly and keep your members engaged or they will consider canceling their monthly subscription. It’s a lot of work for someone who’s looking to do this part-time.

On the other hand, online courses don’t require a long-term commitment from you and start generating sales usually soon after you launch them. In other words, online courses can be compared to doing projects once a year, you don’t have to commit to building and creating a community around a topic for the whole year.

However, online courses can also require additional attention from you. This means that you will have to put in some extra time after creating the online course in customer support queries and helping resolve any issues learners run into.

#3. Do you cover longer topics or shorter ones?

Do you cover longer topics or shorter ones?

Depending on the topics you cover, it can be a challenge to decide whether to go for the long-term membership site or create multiple lessons in the form of an online course.

Membership sites work the best if you want to help your audience solve their problems by producing helpful content. This way, you can provide content to your members for ongoing problems or longer topics and help keep them engaged for the whole duration of their subscription period.

But if you have an end goal with covering your topics, creating online courses might be the best option for you. Online courses are comprehensive and can help solve a problem quickly. This means that students can quickly go through your content and solve their problems, without having to constantly come back for new solutions. Although, online courses may also have a decent number of topics covered in them but not as detailed as one would expect in a membership program.

#4. Does an online community matter to you?

Does an online community matter to you?

An online community is the heart of any good membership site. This is where members can visit and engage with your content and find like-minded people. Online communities are a big thing for membership sites as it offers a better learning experience for members. You can answer and respond to your student’s questions and help solve any problems or confusion they might have regarding the topic covered in your membership program. As a result, members find it much easier to stay engaged with your content throughout the subscription period.

However, looking at this from a different perspective, this also means you need a lot of extra time to do all this extra work of creating and managing an online community. There’s always the option to mod some members of your community to handle all the time-consuming work for you and manage the community.

On the other hand, online communities are also a thing for some online course instructors. The communities work and function the same way but without much interaction from the course instructor. Students don’t expect interaction with you when they face problems, they’re usually out to share with the community of people just like them. This can be beneficial for you as it can save you a lot of time and work in dealing with customer support 

#5. Do you require recurring income?

One of the most important factors that can help you decide between the two almost similar options is income. Do you require a stable, recurring income every month or year? Or do you want to do this as your side hustle?

A membership site can provide a stable recurring income monthly, quarterly, or yearly – it all depends on what your membership subscription plans are. This also means that members also expect you to keep providing them more value against their money by giving them access to engaging content regularly. But if they don’t find value in your content, it’s hard to generate a monthly or annual income stream as members won’t be willing to subscribe to you again next month.

On the other hand, online courses are a bit more predictable. This means that when you create an online course and sell it in your market, that’s when you expect some income back. You don’t have to worry about the uncertainty of people subscribing to you next month or not, students just need to buy your online course once.  It can generate variable income depending on the topics your course covers, your market, or the niche your online course covers. In addition to these factors, it also depends on your competition.


Depending on what your aims are for the future, it’s much easier to decide whether you want to create and run a membership site or create an online course for your students. If you’re looking to do this full-time, a membership site might be the better option for you, but if you’re looking to do this as a part-time thing, creating online courses for your audience will work the best.

Let’s go over a few pointers that can help you decide whether to create an online course or a membership site:

  • If you’re thinking of creating an online membership site, the first thing you should consider is if you can generate content regularly or not. Members paying a monthly fee will want to have access to fresh content regularly or else they will cancel their subscription.
  • Think about whether you’re ready to commit long-term to a membership site or want to go for a more casual, short-term approach by creating online courses.
  • If you’re looking for a recurring income stream, memberships are the way to go for you. But if you want a more project-based income, online courses are the best option for you.

Now that we’ve covered all the questions you should have in mind when deciding between the two options, hopefully, you’re in a better position to take the next steps.

Do you have any other points in mind that can help readers decide whether to create a membership site or an online course? Let us know in the comment box below

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