If you’ve decided that you’re going to start and run a membership site, you need to set aside a budget for it. There are many costs and hidden fees that can ramp up the expenses every year if you’re not careful.
Once you’ve jotted down everything you need for starting and running your membership site, you can decide on a more accurate budget. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different costs you should consider before you start making a budget to start and run your membership site.
Costs To Consider When You First Start And Run A Membership Site
Before you start making the budget for your membership site, consider these costs so that you have a more accurate idea of how much it’s going to cost you.
#1. Website Hosting
Website hosting is the foundation of your membership site. You need website hosting for your membership site to get it online. It’s also important to keep in mind that membership sites are not the same as most websites on the internet such as blogs, portfolio sites, or online stores. In fact, membership sites receive a lot of traffic regularly and people access content on them regularly.
Good quality hosting is necessary to make sure the user experience doesn’t get affected on your membership site. You don’t want members visiting your website to view content only to find out later that your membership site is down or not active. That not only affects user experience but can also lead members to bounce off your website or worse, cancel their membership. Although you can technically go for a shared web hosting plan if you’re just starting out, it won’t suffice once your membership site starts growing.
If you’re looking for a budget option for website hosting, you can go for shared hosting which will cost you $10-$15 per month. A more professional option would be a quality VPS which can ramp up web hosting costs to about $100-$150 per month. But if you’re looking for the highest quality web hosting solution, a dedicated server is the right choice for you. It can cost you around $250-$400 per month for the highest-tier web hosting option. The good news is that most web hosting providers let you upgrade your hosting plan later on.
#2. Domain Name
Before you start producing content for your membership site, you want to make sure it stays exclusive to your brand name. Ideally, you want the domain name of your membership site to be the same as your brand name or as close to it as possible. This way, your domain name also represents your brand and people will have an easier time finding you on the internet.
If your membership site is a standalone website, you’ll need to buy a domain name for it. One downside to this is that if the domain name you want is already taken, be prepared to pay more than the normal price for it. The domain name’s owner might be willing to sell it to you for more since you need it to enforce your brand identity. In addition to this, you can also buy different extensions for your domain name such as yourbrand.biz or yourbrand.net.
If you’re creating your membership site as a sub-domain of an already existing website, you don’t have to pay for the domain name. That domain name will be considered a sub-domain for the parent website. But if your membership site is a standalone website, you can buy a domain name from domain name registrants like GoDaddy which are around $5-$10 per year. To ensure your domain name stays safe, you can buy multiple versions of your domain. This can cost you around $20-$40 per year.
#3. Content Management System
WordPress is the most popular option for a content management system for your website, and best of all, it’s free. You can use WordPress as the content management system for your membership site unless you need a custom, bespoke solution. There are also other low-cost content management systems but none of them can be comparable to WordPress. Additionally, if your requirements are unique, a custom content management system might be the best option for you.
If you’ve decided to use WordPress as the content management system for your membership site, it won’t cost you a dime and it’s still the most professional option.
#4. Membership Plugin
It goes without saying: to run a membership site, you’ll need a membership plugin. A quality membership plugin handles everything from payments to the management of subscriptions and allows members to access content easily on your membership site.
A good membership plugin will let you handle payments from members every month. It should also provide site owners intuitive tools that let you manage memberships and restrict access to premium content. Since members want to access your content daily, making sure they can do it quickly and conveniently is essential for a successful membership site.
Check out 7 Things You Need To Know When Choosing a Membership Plugin for more information.
In addition to a membership plugin, you’ll need a good community-building plugin if you’re thinking about adding a community to your membership site. Two of the most popular options for community plugins for WordPress are bbPress and BuddyPress. Both are free to use and provide the basic functionality you need for adding a community element to your membership site.
You can use the free version of a membership plugin like s2Members or Paid Memberships Pro to get your website up and running if you’re low on budget. It’s great for starting out, especially if you don’t have the budget for a quality membership plugin. A more professional option would be going for a premium membership plugin which can cost you around $150-$200 per year. In addition to this, you can also go for a completely custom solution or a modified version of a specific plugin. It can cost you a lot more or a lot less, depending on what you need.
#5. Website Design
Since you’re already spending so much on the functionality of your membership site, you should consider making it look good. This means that you need to have good website design along with the functionality for a successful membership site. In addition to this, you also need to consider how your membership site looks on the back-end for your team members or staff members.
Website design can cost you a lot if you’re looking for something completely custom. This involves hiring a developer that can help you make the look and feel of your membership site unique, intuitive, and exactly how you want. But if you’re low on budget, consider using a regular WordPress theme to keep things simple and within your budget.
If you decide to use a free WordPress theme or one of the default themes, it’ll cost you nothing. This can be a great option for membership site owners who are low on budget or just starting out. Similarly, if you want to go for a premium WordPress theme package that includes page builders and page templates for membership sites, it can cost you $100-$250. For some themes, you might have to renew your license annually and pay extra for support. For a custom membership design, a developer will charge you around $2000-$5000, depending on your requirements.
#6. Payment Processor
Since you’ll need to accept payments on your membership site, you need a secure payment processor. Two of the most popular options are PayPal and Stripe. Although they don’t have a subscription fee, they do charge transaction fees.
PayPal charges 3.4% of the transaction amount and $0.30 per transaction, although this changes based on your location and according to the type of PayPal account you use. Stripe, on the other hand, charges $2.9% flat plus $0.30 for every transaction.
Additionally, if you’ll be accepting payments from members through credit cards, you’ll need an SSL certificate. This means that you’ll need to install an SSL certificate on your domain to accept payments from members.
You can get started with PayPal for free. The only downside to that is, customers will have to go to the PayPal website to make their payment. If you’re also looking to take credit card payments through Stripe, you need an SSL certificate which can set you back about $100 per year. In addition to this, it will cost you an extra $40 for enabling PayPal Payments Pro with the Recurring Payments add-on.
To figure out how much it’ll cost you to start and run a membership website, you need to consider things like website hosting, domain name, content management system, membership plugin, website design, and secure payment processor. With these things in mind, you can set a budget for the year and be prepared for the costs involved in starting and running your membership site.
Which membership plugin are you thinking of using on your membership site? Let us know by commenting below.