How to Build a Membership Website in Under a Day
Trying to build a membership website is a sizable undertaking.
Wrestling with technology, creating content, building your audience and generating buzz to ensure a successful launch; it takes a lot to get your ducks in a row.
However if you’re already able to bring some of those elements to the table from day one – such as an already established audience who are eager to buy from you, or a wealth of content curated from past projects; then it’s entirely possible to build a membership website a lot quicker than you may think.
Realistically, you can have a fully functional website up, running and ready to take paying members in less than 24 hours.
Who this approach is right for
- You have an existing audience who are engaged, ready to buy, and you’ve decided that a membership is a great way to serve them.
- You already have content created, such as online courses, worksheets etc; and you want to build a membership as a way of bringing them all together.
- Your membership is going to be heavily community based, either without any premium content to speak of, or where that content is positioned as an occasional extra bonus rather than the main draw.
- Your membership will supplement a coaching program, client work or some other form of services where it will – at least initially – be offered as a free “value-add” for paying clients.
Make sure your expectations are realistic
Let’s not beat around the bush. Chances are that a membership site that is set up in just a day is not going to be at the same standard as one that’s had more time and attention given to it.
As such you need to be realistic about the end result.
No, it’s not going to look at amazing as that one site you love that’s been running for years and has an amazing design.
No, you’re not going to have time for all of those really specific bells and whistles you really want in terms of features and functionality.
We’re shooting for “good enough”, so you have to accept that it won’t be everything you want it to be initially; however the best memberships are always evolving, a constant work in progress; so the good news is that you can iterate and improve as time goes on.
Manage your expectations, commit to imperfection, and the process of getting your membership site up in under a day will be a much smoother one.
Keep the technology basic
Without question one of the main things that slows down the development process of most membership websites is trying to wrestle with code, plugins and all of that nonsense in order to make them perform some sort of very specific function that they’re not necessarily designed to do.
The key to moving quickly when you build a membership site is to keep things simple.
Within the Member Site Academy we have courses for each of the most popular WordPress membership plugins, where we do a step-by-step walkthrough from installing the plugin to being ready to open the doors to your membership site.
These courses are typically no longer than 90 minutes, and we don’t skip anything.
Just 90 minutes from installation to launch. Now of course we’ve been doing this a while so we may be more comfortable with tech than you are, so let’s assume it takes you twice as long; that’s still only 3 hours to build a membership site and have it ready on the technical front for you to start taking on paying members.
That’s no time at all.
If you’re using WordPress, then you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to membership plugins; and if you’re having a hard time choosing them you can download our membership plugin comparison chart to make quick work of figuring out which to use.
When it comes to the look and feel of your site, then again you need to keep things simple. The easiest thing in the world would be to just stick to one of the default themes that comes with WordPress. You can easily customise this with your logo, and it’ll be a lot easier to switch to a more attractive theme later.
Stick to the essentials.
As long as people can register, pay and log in, and can then access protected content, you have a working membership site.
If you’re looking to build a membership and be up and running in under a day, then you really don’t need much more than that.
Rethink Content and Community
Of course starting a membership website isn’t just about getting the tech in place.
Most memberships offer 2 core elements: content and community.
The community side is easy enough. As much as I’m not a huge fan of using Facebook groups for paid memberships, when the clock is ticking I’ll happily let you escape my soapbox rant since using one will be the absolute quickest way to add a community to your site.
Just promise me you’ll make plans to move to an on-site forum later on, okay?
When it comes to content, however, it’s a lot harder to simply click a few buttons and have an amazing course or library of tutorials, downloads and other awesome stuff at your disposal.
So how do you create enough content to make your membership a worthwhile investment when you’ve only got 24 hours to work with?
The answer is… you don’t.
Create Content in Real Time
Don’t create any content upfront.
Instead, create a calendar of upcoming live webinars that will be available only to members.
This way rather than having to spend weeks or even months creating content in advance; you get to create it in real-time.
And the beauty of this – aside from eliminating one of your biggest pre-launch tasks – is that people are more forgiving of a live training session being a little rough around the edges than they typically are of a pre-recorded course; so you don’t need to stress over editing or getting everything perfect.
Of course every live training session will then be recorded and added into a training library or archive; creating permanent value for both existing members and for new ones.
You’ll want to ensure that there’s a webinar scheduled within the first week or opening your membership, and maybe even in the second week too so that you’re not leaving your initial members twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do after they join.
We find that a monthly mastermind call or Q&A session is often one of the most popular elements in a lot of memberships, and they’re require very little work upfront; so with this, your webinar training schedule and your Facebook community then you have the makings of a pretty substantial offering with next to no effort required before launch.
Make the most of what you already have
If you’ve created other online products in the past then you may consider adding those into your membership too, in order to make good use of existing assets without adding to your workload.
You can even do this with your lead magnets, video series or anything else you’ve had available freely for people opting into your email list.
Even though this is stuff non-members can get if they opt-in to each and every one of your landing pages, the convenience of providing it all in one location has value and adds an extra element to your membership.
Tell your audience as early as possible
Even if you are in a position where you’re trying to build a membership site in just a day, I’m guessing you didn’t just wake up this morning and decide this was what you wanted to do.
As soon as you decide to build a membership, start telling your audience what’s coming. Perhaps even set up a waiting list page in order to capture their interest.
It’s easy to make assumptions about how excited your audience will be about your latest project; and while cramming this all into 24 hours is certainly short-cutting the usual levels of time, effort and resources that building a membership involves, you still don’t want to get through that only to discover that it was all a waste and your audience simply aren’t interested.
If you’re already working with clients one on one, or have been running some sort of group program; or maybe you’ve been selling standalone courses that will now be included in your membership – then you may look to get those people inside your new site as your ‘seed members’. Depending on your relationship with them, you may decide to grandfather them in with discounted or even free membership.
Having some initial members onboard will go a long way to quickly building momentum in your community.
Hire an emergency techie
If you want to build a membership site in under a day, you haven’t got time to bang your head on the desk trying to deal with tech bugs, and you definitely don’t have time to try to find a developer to help you on short notice.
If working to such a tight timeframe, we definitely recommend pre-booking someone to help you on the tech front if anything goes wrong; paying them to clear their diary for a set period of the day on which you’ll be working.
Murphy’s Law dictates that if you do hire backup, you won’t need it; but the ability to call on someone at the drop of a hat will be a difference maker if something does go wrong.
Make a lot of noise when you launch
This is a given for any newly launched membership, but it goes doubly for one that’s been bootstrapped in just 24 hours.
If you already have a rabid audience then obviously that will help you; but even then you need to galvanize them to spread the word and help you make a lot of noise about the opening of your new site.
You don’t have time to wait for the slow burn of content marketing, or to build out lengthy, complex funnels. You need a quick way of getting in front of as many people as possible.
Live video is a fantastic way to do this. Not only does it enable you to reach a large audience but it can also be used to give your launch more of an ‘event’ feel; broadcasting a countdown to the doors opening, streaming as you pop the cork and then excitedly name check every new person who joins your community.
If you have a budget to work with, then also consider scheduling a Facebook ads campaign for your launch day too, creating custom audiences from people who have already opted into your mailing list or liked your Facebook page.
Plan for Day 3 and Beyond
Day 1 you build…
Day 2 you launch…
Ideally you will already have an idea of what you want your membership to ultimately become, so when you have your site up and running and have recruited your first injection of new members then you should start focusing on the next steps.
Involve your members in this, encourage them to give feedback, find out what they’d like to see.
Your best ideas will come from your existing member base; they’re the ones who will shape the direction of your site.
Whatever the reason for your need to build your membership website in a just a day, it’s important to recognise that this approach shouldn’t be the norm as your membership grows.
This isn’t about finding shortcuts or always taking the easiest path, and that mentality won’t serve you well long term.
Instead the purpose of what we’ve covered in this article is to help you to execute quickly and build a membership in rapid time rather than allowing the process to drag on for months and risk losing momentum or missing opportunities.
And even if you don’t plan to build a membership quite as quickly as we’ve discussed here then hopefully you can apply various aspects of this approach in order to greatly accelerate your project.