In an earlier post, I discussed how it was still possible to make money through banner advertisements, however, not near as easy as it once was. Monetizing through banner advertisements hinges on so many third party factors, all which impact fill rates and CPMs, which impact how much money you can make off them.
To make a long story short, banner revenue is inconsistent (at best) and a risky way to run your online business. When I decided to launch my career as an online entrepreneur eight years ago, I knew I couldn’t do it on banner advertisements alone. To be honest, I was making enough money through ads to do so but I knew the risk and uncertainty seen in the early 2000s (in the “dot com bust”) was a cautionary tale of how this is not something one should ever be 100% reliant on.
That’s when I decided to launch a paid subscription model on my website.
This is something that I hope to write at length about in a “series” of posts but since this is first, I want it to serve as an overview. I find that people tend to do better with lists and bullet points than long drawn out paragraphs, so allow me to “bullet” the list.
1. Decide on content. Before you do anything with your paid subscription website, you have to get a clear but concise plan on what you’re going to sell. What can you provide that’s 1) unique and 2) worth buying. This isn’t as hard as you think. The Internet is so vast and expansive, you don’t necessarily “need” a paid subscription for anything. If you look hard enough, you can usually find whatever you are looking for completely free of charge so a lot of content has to do with presentation. I was once told the content in and of itself is irrelevant but it’s actually how you present your content and brand it as a paid product. So whether you plan to lock written content, distribute video/audio content, sell paid forum content or provide some type of interactive feature for paid subscribers, you need to decide on what and how.
2. Produce content. After you have a plan, work on developing this content. Before you even think about locking or distributing you should have something to lock and distribute. I can’t tell you how many projects that I’ve abandoned because I tend to skip this step. I want to make the product a reality before there is ever actually a product. Once you start to develop content, you’ll get an idea or a vision for what your paid subscription service will look like. Is it written, multimedia, something else or a little bit of everything? Regardless, once you have churned out some material, you’ll have a good idea of your service. Once you have produced enough content, have someone you trust go over it. Someone with a good eye for marketing is my recommendation. Seeing how someone else responds will at least provide you with the basis of how you should market it.
3. Lock the content. Prior to launching my first paid subscription website, I told my developer and one of my mentors to just give me a script that will lock text and I could take it from there. I manually updated subscriptions, emailed expiring accounts, etc. Thankfully, this is no longer necessary. Allow me to introduce you to aMember. Not only is this software very affordable but it’s diverse and can handle your project no matter how big or small. It can lock any type of content you could possibly produce and do so much cheaper and more effectively than going out and hiring a programmer. In fact, we’re even going to develop some guides on how to install and use aMember. This software is the real deal and I have successfully used it on a number of projects.
4. Focus on the re-bill. Now that you have decided on content, actually have your content and have locked your content, you have to get subscribers. This is the hardest part, especially if your website is brand new. How in the world are you going to get people to trust you enough to start paying you? Give them the first month for $0.01. Why a penny and not free? Because in order to establish the re-bill through Paypal and/or a credit card processor, you have to charge the card to establish a re-bill. Month one is a penny, after that you hit them at your normal monthly rate. Subscription terms and prices are obviously going to vary depending on what you are selling but I cannot emphasize this enough. Once you get the person to pay you the first time, it’s going to be much easier to keep them. Forget about making money on the initial signup.
5. Market, maintain and support. After you have decided on content, produced your content, locked your content and came up with your “penny special,” now it’s time to market your product. There are a myriad of ways to take your product to the marketplace and social media has made it easier than ever. This post isn’t about how to market your product, so I won’t go into specifics but I advise to utilize free methods first. Post on personal social media accounts, in forums, etc. before you start media buying or dropping a lot on an advertising budget. Collect email addresses, figure out ways to engage your visitors before you spend a lot of money. When I launch a project, I never borrow money or spend in excess on advertising. There are too many free methods out there to start throwing money down this big black hole. After you figure out a way to get people signed up, do anything you can to keep them happy. Keep the content updated, add new content, present the content in different ways and lastly, provide superior customer support. Be nice to your subscribers and approach them with a helpful attitude. If someone is upset or wants to cancel, cancel their re-bill and give them a free month. They still may end up leaving but they won’t forget what you did for them.
All and all, launching a subscription membership content website is a great way to make money online. It requires a lot of work but it’s the most consistent way to make a living online. To do it, you need to decide on content, produce the content, lock the content, focus on the re-bill and then market, maintain and support the product. If you do this, I know you’re going to like the results.