Membership Site vs. Online Course: Which Is Right For Your Business?
In today’s digital world, there are many ways to monetize your knowledge and expertise online. Two popular options are creating a membership site or offering an online course. But how do you know which is the right fit for your business? This article will compare membership sites versus online courses so you can determine the best choice for you.
Table of Contents
What Is a Membership Site?
A membership site is an online platform where users pay a recurring fee, often monthly or yearly, to access premium content and resources. The membership site platform allows you to host your content behind a paywall. You can create multiple membership levels with different benefits, content access, and pricing.
Members typically get added value like community forums, Q&As with experts, downloadable guides, member-only webinars, discounts, etc. You continue creating, curating, and delivering new content and value to members. This recurring and predictable revenue makes membership sites a great passive income stream.
When To Choose A Membership Site
Membership sites work well for established experts and businesses with a solid content base. They allow you to leverage and repurpose existing content, programs, and resources. The continuity of a membership model keeps members engaged long-term.
Some examples of effective membership site niches include health/wellness coaching, freelance writing, fitness training, financial planning, online business consulting, and more. A membership site could be an excellent choice if you can consistently provide high-value content to members each month.
Benefits Of A Membership Site
Some key advantages of using a membership site model include:
- Predictable recurring revenue that builds over time
- Ability to segment and upsell members to higher tiers
- Ongoing customer engagement with new content and community
- Deeper relationships and increased customer loyalty
- Can incorporate content from other monetization methods like online courses
- Mid to high price points compared to one-time purchases like online courses
What Is An Online Course?
An online course lets you package your expertise into a structured learning program delivered digitally. It is typically focused on teaching a specific skill or helping students achieve a tangible outcome. Online courses are one-time purchases, often sold through your own platform or on marketplaces like Udemy.
Online course content is usually video-based, with short lessons that students complete in sequence. You can include PDF workbooks, quizzes, assignments, community forums, and more. Course lengths vary greatly, but most are over six hours, spanning four to eight weeks for students to complete fully.
When To Choose An Online Course
Online courses are ideal for tangible skills and topics that can be systematically taught. For example, courses work well for learning web design, photography, marketing, software programs, cooking skills, and other technical abilities.
Courses allow you to teach the same materials at scale. They can attract new audiences and position you as an authority in your niche. Beginner-friendly topics and high-demand skills that can be taught online are best suited to courses.
A popular online course can become a significant income stream with the right marketing. While sales are not recurring, courses depend less on ongoing content creation.
What is the difference between a course and a membership site?
A course follows a structured curriculum and has a specific duration, providing learners with access to a defined set of materials and resources. It typically involves a one-time payment and offers more interaction and support from instructors. On the other hand, a membership provides ongoing access to a library of content and resources without a strict curriculum or timeline. Memberships often have recurring payments and offer more flexibility in terms of content access and duration.
What is a membership course?
A membership course is a hybrid model that includes the features of both a course and a membership. It provides an organized curriculum similar to a typical course, but with the added benefit of continuous access via a subscription system. In a membership course, students often pay a monthly fee to get access to course materials and resources. They can complete the course at their own speed.
Benefits Of An Online Course
Some of the major upsides to selling online courses include:
- Attract new student leads and expand your audience
- Deliver high value through a comprehensive learning program
- Sell at any price point from low cost to premium pricing
- Passive income potential after the course is created
- Showcase your expertise as an authority in your field
- Offer certifications or credentials upon course completion
- More scalable than highly individualized coaching and services
Now that you understand the basics of membership sites versus online courses, let’s recap some of the key differences:
- Memberships provide recurring revenue; courses offer one-time sales
- Memberships require ongoing content creation; courses teach static materials
- Memberships build relationships and community; courses focus on structured learning
- Memberships offer varied content types, courses center on video lessons and materials
- Memberships can monetize existing content assets; courses teach new specialized skills
- Memberships work for broad topics; courses work for tangible teachable skills
There are pros and cons to each model. Combine them, and you can diversify your revenue streams while leveraging your unique strengths as an expert. With the right plan and execution, both options can be very successful. Do thorough research to determine if a membership community or online course best matches you.
Conclusion on Membership Site vs Online Course
Membership sites and online courses each have their benefits and drawbacks. Evaluate your business’ capabilities, target market, and monetization goals. With the right model that matches your strengths, you can build a profitable online business and make an impact by sharing your knowledge. Determine the strategy that aligns with your long-term vision. Then, craft a high-quality offering that delivers value and transforms lives.
11+ years strategic communications, marketing, and project management experience. I am a trainer at StarWood Training Institute, focusing on online courses for project management professionals.