As a content creator, your ultimate goal should be to earn consistent and predictable revenue on a recurring basis. The most effective way to do that is by offering a unique selling proposition via an independently-hosted membership subscription business.

This eliminates the following “business models”:

  • Begging for one-off donations. You might have good months. You might have bad months. Either way, unpredictable and inconsistent.
  • Begging for recurring donations. Donator is not getting anything that they can’t already get for free. One of the first items to be cut in a budget crunch because no value is exchanged.
  • Relying on YouTube ad revenue. You are at the mercy of YouTube overlords to not decrease your revenue share or worse: demonetize your videos. Unpredictable.
  • Relying on Patreon revenue. You are at the mercy of Patreon overlords to not decrease your revenue share or worse: delete your account. Unpredictable.

Here’s what you should do instead:

Sell access to exclusive, members-only content

The most logical extension of a free content operation (like a YouTube channel) is a paid content operation.

Think of your free content as the “gateway drug” to your paid content. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Post shortened videos on YouTube, post full-length videos in members-only area. May be frustrating to those conditioned to full-length videos for free.
  • Post short/quick (but complete) videos on YouTube on a daily basis. Post a longer show (perhaps 30 minutes long, a la Last Week Tonight) on a weekly basis.
  • Post some short/quick (but complete) videos on YouTube on a daily basis, and the rest in your members-only area. Use your best judgment to decide which videos go where.

You will likely need to outsource video production and editing to a third-party (a service we do not currently offer) if you’re not already, in order to manage operating both free and paid content operations at the same time.

Sell access to the same content: but ad-free

I get it. Producing videos takes a long time and you cannot imagine doubling your efforts on a separate exclusive/premium video production without getting burnt out.

But consider this: what if you simply reposted the same videos you posted on YouTube in a private member area of your website?

Because you’re uploading and serving the videos outside of the embedded YouTube player, viewers would not see ads.

However, if the viewer already has YouTube Red, or your videos have been demonetized, this is a tough value proposition to make.

Furthermore, YouTube Red is only $9.99 per month. If all you’re offering in your private members area is ad-free videos you already post on YouTube, you’d have to price your offering at less than that to make sense.

But there is an easy way to add additional value that YouTube Red cannot compete with.

Sell access to members-only forums (and by extension, access to you)

Your videos are popular, get a ton of comments, and you typically do not have time to respond to any more than a select few. Your email address is a closely guarded secret.

Access to you is valuable. And you can sell that access on a mass scale in the form of an online, members-only community that you participate in.

You don’t have to make any promises about your own activity in your own private forums, but it wouldn’t hurt to drop by and respond to topics every now and then.

By requiring a subscription payment for access, you’re effectively rooting out spammers. You can likely recruit a couple passionate subscribers as volunteer moderators to keep your forums from going off the rails in your absence.

Sell access to discounts on your ecommerce store

If you sell one-off products, offer automated discounts (if hosted on the same website) or coupon codes (if hosted off-site) to your members.

If you don’t sell products, but some of your digital friends do, ask them to see if they could provide a modest coupon code for your members.

Just have a “Perks” page on your website, accessible only to members, that lists every single bonus you were able to wrangle. To really build up intrigue, expose the exact perks to the public, but hide the actual coupon code until they sign up as a member.

Selling access to a glorified coupon book is probably not enough of an intriguing value proposition on its own, but is a nice bonus when combined with any of the above business models.

Sell access to the kitchen sink

Also known as the Amazon Prime model.

I’m not going to go into every single benefit of Amazon Prime, but here are a few reasons why I gladly fork over $99/year to be a member.

  • I spend over $2k/year on Amazon. I have a 5% cashback card available only to Prime members. This alone pays for itself.
  • I do not have to pay Netflix, because I can watch whatever TV shows and movies I want for free with Amazon Prime Video.
  • I do not have to pay iTunes/Spotify/whatever, because I can download tons of free songs with Amazon Prime Music.
  • I do not have to pay Dropbox, because I get free unlimited photo/video storage with Amazon Photos.

I could go on, but basically, because it would cost me more money to not be a Prime member, it’s a no brainer to continue.

While lofty, this should be the goal you strive for in your own membership business. You should be providing so much value to your subscribers, it should be a no-brainer for them to continue their membership.

Posted by Leland Fiegel

A web developer with over a decade of experience. Leland is a big advocate of "owning your platform" and encourages it by writing about it at Own Your Platform. He also runs a WordPress theme shop called Themetry and a community forum for WordPress users called WP Chat.

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