How to Create an Amazing Subscription Website in Less Than a Day

Website & Technology November 19, 2021

Terry Ibele

By Terry Ibele

"I want to create a subscription website where people pay to get access to my community, resources, and publications.”

That's what Lily, a stay-at-home mom who ran her local Library Association, wanted to accomplish.

When she began to Google how to do this, she ran into some trouble.

Most of what she came across told her to use Wordpress plugins, write code, or hire a freelancer. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the know-how or the budget to do any of those things.

Luckily, I happened to meet Lily in an online forum and showed her the easiest way to create a subscription based website all by herself.

In just a weekend, she had everything set up.

And in just a few days, two new people had registered and paid for her subscription service online.

Read More: How to Develop a Successful Subscription Business Model for Your Organization

If you’re like Lily and want to set up a subscription website for your organization (but don’t have the expertise or resources to do so), you’ve come to the right place. In this guide I’m going to explain the best and easiest way to do this.

Create a membership website free  

What is a Subscription Website?

A subscription website (sometimes referred to as membership website) is a site, or section of a site, with restricted access. This means that people have to sign up as a member and often pay a fee in order to access it.

Of course, the content on your website must be valuable enough for people to want to pay for it. Here are a few examples of the types of content subscription websites typically offer: 

  • Industry publications (white papers, surveys, reports), and newsletters
  • Courses, webinars, and guides
  • Private member directory (especially for associations and business groups)
  • Exclusive invitations to events and conferences
  • Discounts on products/equipment/services for a specific industry or geography 
  • A forum that members can use to communicate with each other 

Why You Should Set Up a Subscription Website

A great subscription website helps achieve two things:

1) Build an online community of like-minded individuals who share interests and values, and

2) Generate recurring revenue from monthly member dues.

The best part, a well-functioning subscription website helps you do both of these things automatically. This means that new members can sign up, pay member dues, and start engaging with your website's content without you lifting a finger. 

This is because subscription sites have powerful membership management software running in the background that can take care of the following: 

  • register new subscribers or members
  • process monthly dues and set up recurring payments
  • update subscriber profiles in one centralized database
  • email subscribers with invoices, reminders, monthly newsletters, event invites, or any other sort of communication
  • distribute resources like courses, industry reports, and other materials

Overall, a good subscription website can save you about 20 hours a week or more in administrative work. It takes care of processing and updating information while you can focus on other tasks, like creating value for your subscribers.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Creating A Membership Site

 

Why Use Membership Management Software To Create a Subscription Website

While there are many paths you can take to build your subscription website (build it from scratch, hire a freelancer, integrate subscription-plugins for Wordpress, etc.), one of the easiest ways is to use membership management software.

Membership management software is a type of software built to help subscription and membership organizations grow and save time and money when it comes to administrative work.

On one hand, it will allow you to create a professionally designed subscription website in a matter of minutes, complete with:

  • subscriber-only access pages
  • join us page and subscription form
  • member directory
  • community forum
  • and more

The best part is that anyone without any technical expertise can use it, because of its easy-to-use, drag-and-drop tools.

On the other hand, membership management software also automates and eliminates a lot of administrative work, such as:

  • processing registrations and payments
  • designing newsletters
  • automating reminder emails
  • summarizing finances

This means that once your subscription website is up and running, you won't have to do as much work to maintain it and keep your members happy. 

Subscription Website Software

 

The #1 Membership Management Software to Use

Here at Wild Apricot, we're proud to be voted the #1 membership management software on the market and help over 20,000 membership organizations save time and money.

You can start your free, 30-day trial of Wild Apricot here. We also have a free, basic plan which you can use indefinitely. More details on our free plan are here.

WildApricot Subscription Website

“The most impressive thing about Wild Apricot is the ease of building. We went from zero website to a functioning website with the specific things we needed in three days. It was amazing, and the app makes accessing all the admin info so easy on the go!”

-T Anderson, Big Country Home Educators

 

One of the best things about Wild Apricot is that it's an all-in-one platform. You won't need to set up separate processes like MailChimp for your emails, Excel for your database, or WordPress for your website.

WildApricot Subscription WebsiteFree Trial WildApricot Subscription Website

If you need help with which types of pages to build, which subscription levels to set up, and how to import your contact database, check out this guide on how to set things up in 5 easy steps with no technical expertise.

7 Examples of Great Subscription Websites

Here are seven examples of subscription websites built using Wild Apricot. When you browse through these sites, be sure to keep an eye out for the following:

  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Join Us pages with different membership levels
  • Event calendars with online registration and payments
  • Membership directories
  • Members' only access areas
  • Slideshows of member and event photos
 

1. Old Dominion Boat Club

Subscription Club Software ODBC  

What we like: Their upcoming events and latest news are embedded as widgets on the homepage, so it's easy for site visitors to stay in the loop.

 

2. ATV Association of Nova Scotia

ATVANS Subscription  Website Examples

What we like: Their "Join Us" and "Renew" buttons are prominent and appear on every page. No matter what page a potential member is visiting, they're always prompted to join. 

3. Association of Professional Humane Educators

APHE Membership Subscription Example

What we like: Their homepage is beautifully designed with impactful photos and useful links, creating a straightforward and inviting experience for site visitors. 

4. Newark Chamber of Commerce

Newark Subscription Website

What we like: They have a publicly available page full of useful resources. If potential members can have access to these for free, the benefits they'd get as paying members must be even better!

 

5. Southern Business Women’s Network

 SBWN Subscription Website Example

What we like: They have an online store where visitors can buy a gift membership for someone who'd benefit from being a member. It's a great way to attract new members who otherwise wouldn't sign up themselves. 

6. New Choir

NC Subscription Website Example

What we like: They have their Facebook and Twitter feeds embedded on their home page, keeping their site visitors in the loop and inviting them to follow them on social media. 

7. Pacific Group Golf

PGG Subscription Website Example

What we like: They have very informative pages about membership, benefits, and how to join, making the process nice and simple for members who are considering joining. 

 

If you’d like to browse more examples, here’s a list of 25 subscription sites setup using Wild Apricot.

Or, if you're ready to set up your own subscription website in Wild Apricot, keep reading to learn how to get started right now.

6 Elements You Need to Start Building a Subscription Website

Before diving into the technical aspects of how to build your subscription website, let's take a look at some things you need to have prepared before you start. This includes the most important pages your website will need to have, the content you'll publish on those pages, and your plan for getting traffic to your new website.

1. Mission

  • Why do you need a subscription website?
  • What are you hoping to achieve with it?
  • Who is the website for?
  • How will members benefit from their subscription?
  • What problem will the website solve for your members?

The answers to these questions will help guide your website building process and help you make the right decisions at every step of the way.

2. Valuable Benefits

Create a comprehensive list of benefits that your members will receive. Make sure they're attractive (i.e. worth paying for) and relevant to your target audience. If you can, conduct a survey with a small group of potential members to see what kinds of benefits they'd like to see. Remember, also, that this is not a one-time process — you'll need to regularly check in with your members to see if they're still seeing value in their membership and if not, be ready to revise what you're offering. 

Read More: 25 Members' Benefit Ideas to Attract and Retain More Members

3. Membership Model

Great subscription websites offer multiple membership tiers in order to accommodate different needs and budgets. Offering more than one tier will also help you attract more members — for example, if someone can't afford or isn't interested in a top tier, they can sign up for a cheaper option with less benefits instead of not signing up at all. Many organizations also offer discounted or free tiers for students or retirees. 

4. Website Content

Before setting up your website, make sure you have planned out which pages you'll be building. Common pages include:

  • Homepage
  • About Us
  • Upcoming Events
  • News
  • Resources
  • Membership Information/Join Us
  • Contact Us

Be sure to also think about which pages will be open to the public in order to entice them to join, and which will be restricted in a members-only area of your website. 

5. Website Launch Plan

Start by setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals related to your website launch. What are the different sub-projects and when do they need to be completed in order to have your site published by a certain date? Who is involved in building, testing, and approving the website before it goes live to the public?

6. Marketing Plan

The work doesn't stop when your new subscription website is finished. Now, you need to think about how you'll spread the word about it and get people to visit and consider subscribing. Create a marketing plan that will help you: 

  • Notify your existing community about the new website (via an email campaign and social media posts)
  • Encourage your existing community to share the website within their own networks
  • Attract new visitors through social media and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Identify other organizations you can partner with to help promote your site
 

The Complete Step-By-Step Process to Create a Subscription Website in Wild Apricot

Here’s how to create a subscription website from scratch with Wild Apricot.

Step 1: Start a Free, 30-Day Trial of Wild Apricot

You can find the free trial button on Wild Apricot’s home page.

 

Step 2: Enter Your Info

To access your free trial, simply enter your info and click Activate your Wild Apricot account.

Start a trial

 

Step 3: Take a Tour (Or Skip It)

Once your account is activated, you’ll be asked if you’d like help setting up your trial. If you choose yes, then you'll be taken through an easy setup guide that will help you hit the ground running.

If you choose to skip the guide, you’ll be taken straight into the back end of your new Wild Apricot website. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll take you straight to the back end of your Wild Apricot website.

How to Create a Subscription Website  

Step 4: Navigate to Site Pages

Once you are in the back end of your Wild Apricot website, navigate to Website > Site pages in the menu. This will take you to the website editor where you’ll see the pages of your pre-loaded website (which you can completely customize later).

 

Subscription website 

Step 5: Restrict Access to Pages

On your Site pages, click Add page to add a new web page to your website. Alternatively, you can also edit an existing page.
 Subscription website add site page

 

Once your new page is added, scroll down to the sub-menu item called Access Levels. Here you can see an option called Restricted. Clicking this option will restrict the web page to members only.

Subscription website restrict access

 

You’ll also see options to restrict the web page however you like: by admin level, member level, or by member group.

How to Create a Subscription Website 

Step 6: Set Up Membership Levels

Navigate to the main menu again. Go to Members > Levels.

 

Subscription website add member levels

 

Wild Apricot already gives you three sample membership levels: Professional, Regular, and Student. You can edit these levels however you like (price, access, recurring payments, registration requirements, etc.), or create new ones.

Once you’re done, you can notify prospective members of your new membership website where they’re be able to register and pay for online membership.

Step 7: Chat With Wild Apricot Coaches

If you need help with our system at any point during your trial, feel free to get in touch with one of our friendly coaches. They’ll be more than happy to help you set up your website as quickly as possible.

Best of success building your subscription website!

Additional Resources:

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

Leave a Comment

Comments

  • Vic Dorfman:
    Hey Terry, I'd have to agree that WildApricot is one of the easier platforms that I've worked with.
    I've got several customers who use (and love) WA.
    Some folks do prefer WordPress (the tinkerers) but it's more time consuming than using an all-in-one app.
    Would love to see more in-depth case studies like Lily's example above. :)'
    Best,
    Vic

Search: WildApricot.com 

Filter:
About results ( seconds) Sort by: 
Sorry, an error occured when performing search.