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The 10 Steps To Creating A Successful Membership Website

8 crucial things to look for when hiring someone to build your membership website

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As you probably already know, the ability to build a membership website isn’t something that just anyone has, it isn’t an easy task, they are pretty complex websites compared to a standard website.

With eCommerce, hidden content and members management, they cause some interesting challenges.

Without the right skills, experience and planning, they can become a nightmare. You’ll end up with a site that doesn’t work well, is hard to manage and will annoy your members and lose you money and possibly your reputation.

Due to the complex nature of membership websites finding agencies or freelancers with experience can be tricky.

Most people will say they can and give you a good price.

They then realise it’s not so easy and they’ll come back asking for more money, get fed up with the project or worse come back and tell you they can’t do it.

All of these scenarios are very common, and each will cause you unneeded stress, wasted time and a half-completed membership website. That can’t be launched and may require starting again.

How to find the right person to build your membership website

That won’t cause you sleepless nights and thousands in extra hidden expenses.

The good news is that there are people to help. But if you want the perfect site, you need to do a little work upfront to define your site and then find the right person.

So the first step is to understand

  • what it is that you need to create
  • what type of person and what qualities they need to have.

Let’s get stuck in.

Plan your membership website to win

In order to be a success when you build your membership website you need a plan.

Without a plan, you won’t have a clear roadmap for yourself and your new team member.

Even membership site experts need to be given something to start with, a place to begin and then it is down to you to direct them towards what you want to accomplish.

Having a clearly defined and well thought out brief can help you to hire the right person.

Here is a list of what necessary things include in your brief to help hire the right partner to create your membership website:

This will help to avoid confusion and frustration and scope creep.

Click here if you’re looking for some tips on planning a membership website. Thats another one of our blog posts that lists 10 steps to creating a successful membership site

Question 1 – What do you do and whom do you help?

You know what you do but your web guys won’t lay it out in simple terms.

Who is your membership site for, who is your ideal customer, and what are the benefits to them of being a member?

We specialise in [Insert your expertise], and we help our clients to achieve [Insert their goals or transformation] with our [Insert solution]

  • How will you solve their problems and help them to hit their goals?
  • What kind of transformation will they achieve by being a member?
  • How will the content help them?

Once you know this, you’ll know what type of content you’ll need to create to help them and the variety of features your site will need for your members.

Helping you to determine the right type of style of design, layout and content to create for your site for that type of user.

Understanding your ideal client will also help to go a long way to marketing your membership site a lot more effectively too.

Click here for tips on how to market your membership website

Question 2 – What do you want to achieve with your membership website? 

When looking at what you want to achieve with your membership website, you’ll need to have a clear idea on what your goals are, what does success look like for you?

What does success look like

  • How many members would you like after the first 12 months?
  • How much monthly revenue would you have?
  • How many courses have you sold?
  • How many people have left your membership site?

Knowing this will help to form the pricing and the strategy around marketing your site.

Please try and be realistic, if this is a brand new site and you have no database or prospects it will take time. When you build your membership website you can’t expect instant results. If you have an engaged email list and you’ve been teasing the new website for a few months, you’re much more likely to have a more successful launch.

Question 3 – What features will it have?

It’s essential to have an idea of what features you want so that you can find a person who has experience building sites with those features.

Just adding features for the sake of it because you’ve seen it on another site and you think it’s cool is not a wise move.

It should serve your long term content plan and also help give members a better experience.

Ask yourself.

  • What content types will you have
  • Do you want users to interact with each other through a community forum?
  • Do you want to be able to sell other items and courses
  • What features would help your ideal client and how they use the site?
  • How many membership levels do you plan to have?
  • Will I need members to be connected to my CRM

It’s important to know what’s essential and what’s not as this is what you’ll be getting a proposal/costing for.

If you just write it down for the sake of it and you don’t really want it you will end up with a proposal that’s way too expensive.

Features can be added whenever you want them in the future, so don’t go too mad now.

If you start sending in feature requests during the project you are likely to be hit with extra charges that you don’t expect which can cause frustration for you both and put a strain on the relationship with your web team.

So I recommend you get a price for the exact features you want and then anything else is phase 2 or phase 3.

Check out our blog post ‘5 common features of a WordPress membership website’ click here to view it!

Question 4 – Design

So, what exactly does your membership website need to look like?

Are you more worried about how you want it to look or how well it works for your members? (hint the later is always the most important thing to think about)

What do you require the person you are hiring to do? Do you need to create a new logo or adverts for the membership website? Do you want to completely re-do an already existing website?

You can ask the person you hire for opinions or suggestions, but you must have some fixed ideas to get started and be sure of everything in your mind.

Include a design example

If you have a design in your head, then this can help to speed up the process. You can show applicants what you want to achieve by creating your own sketches.

Include Ideas Of What You Like

If you have seen ideas of what you like either background images from stock imagery or someone else’s website that you like, then it’s important to share this. The right person will be able to take this, understand your design and your taste and then give you some of their own ideas based on this.

Say What You Like And Don’t Like

Do you want something sophisticated, minimalist or playful? Find examples of what you like and make sure you include them. Say what colours you like, and you can also include examples of what you don’t like as this will provide further ideas and instruction to whomever you hire.

Time to choose the right partner to build your website.

To freelance or not to freelance

So, now that you have your membership plan all down on paper and super clear, it’s time to get it out there and watch the applicants come flooding in.

Now if you post on freelancer sites like Upworks you will get floods of applicants, they are usually all fighting for the same work. They will tell you that they can all do exactly what you need. The reality is they won’t, and this could cause a long and expensive road.

You will also be willing to sit through all the applicants to find the diamonds from the rough.

The other choice is to go find an agency that specialises in Membership websites and get in touch directly through them. There won’t be as many as you think.

The next thing is to find out if they are going to be any good.

It can be difficult to work out whether the soft skills such as design talent and project management skills are any good until you hire them.

However, you can find out the basic technical skills that anyone has, their experience and expertise.

All are vital in choosing a partner for the job. Let’s dive a little deeper into the qualities to look for when selecting your membership website creator.

1 – Experience in creating membership sites.

Sounds like a given but many people make the decision based on price alone.

It’s always an interesting debate as to whether you hire someone more expensive over someone more affordable.

There are always going to be good and bad at any price range.

A project that might take someone with no experience one day to complete might only take someone experienced a couple of hours to do the same job with fewer mistakes.

You’re paying for the mistakes they’ve made in the past and all the lessons they learnt working with clients before you.

The process of creating and testing custom membership sites and the common issues that crop up after they have been launched.

This knowledge and expertise is invaluable. Don’t devalue this.

I can remember the first membership website I built was a real challenge and it’s fair to say that it wasn’t the best site it could have been. I was learning on the job and the mistakes I made and lessons learnt we’re then passed to the next site and then the next until I felt we had the whole process, tools and user experience down.

As a team, we have created well over 30 membership websites, and we are still finding ways to improve the sites we build or areas that could be used better for the client and their members.

I can also remember hiring freelancers who clearly under quoted then asked for more money and when I refused to pay threatened to hack my servers and take all my sites down.

So just because it’s cheaper now doesn’t always mean it’s going to be less expensive in the long run.

2 – Did they question or respond well to your requirements?

Since you have gone to all that trouble creating the perfect membership site plan, it would be rude for someone not to read it before applying.

However, you might be surprised how many people just apply for every job going without looking at them correctly and without properly considering what the job actually entails.

To eliminate these types of applicants, it is a good idea to hide a particular question in your job description. It could be something as simple as “what is your favourite website?” and that way you can see if they answer that particular question.

All you are doing is testing if the applicants have read your job post correctly and whether they understood it. If they do not acknowledge all of your questions, you know they are either not very detail-oriented, or don’t care that much about the project.

You should also get some questions back about some features and different aspects of the membership site. If they ask you to explain it in more detail or ask you to jump on a call to discuss it in more detail, this is a good sign.

3 – What skills should they have?

These are the basic skills that anyone to help you to run, launch and build a membership website should have.

  • Domain management and website hosting.
  • Web Designer Skills should include: Adobe XD, Photoshop, Illustrator (or any image editors), User Experience skills
  • Coding skills, CSS / CSS3, HTML / HTML5, jQuery and PHP.
  • Systems: WordPress, Membership plugins.
  • Payment systems: Stripe, Paypal
  • CRM and Marketing systems, Mailchimp, Aweber, ActiveCampaign, Facebook Pixels, Google Analytics

4 – Do they have a process or frameworks?

If you find a company that has processes or frameworks in place happy days, this will show you that they are professional and take this very seriously. That they have done it so many times, they want to make it more efficient for themselves but also for you.

  • Do they have a proven process of the way they deliver the project?
  • Do they have preferred plugins, tools systems and they can explain why this is the right choice for your requirements
  • Do they have their own theme or layouts that they prefer to use for Membership sites
  • Do they have any frameworks
  • Do they have an onboarding process
  • Do they have a project manager and have time milestones for your project
  • Do they have pre-launch testing and checklists

Process and system give you both a little structure and will help the project to go a lot smoother. Respect this and give a big thumbs up to anyone that has them in place.

when you build your membership website remember it’s not a sprint but a marathon.

5 – How fast do they get back to you?

When you hire someone to do anything you expect excellent communication, having them be responsive and able to give you quick feedback is a must.

If you need to talk to them, you want to be able to reach them as soon as possible or know you can book a call or get a response to an email in a specific time frame.

Freelancers that go AWOL or don’t respond for a few days can leave you worried and frustrated. Ask about the team and ask about the average response rates to emails.

What are their preferred contact methods?

While they could be busy with other clients and projects, if you are employing them to do a job, then you do deserve a decent amount of attention too, so don’t forget that.

When you build a membership website it’s all about teamwork and communication. At Memberlab we build membership websites for a living and at the moment we are a team of 7 and we’re still growing!

6 – Ask for examples of previous work:

The proof is always in the pudding.

Find out if the type of work they have done in the past matches your job requirements as this will also give you a sense of what each person is capable of.

Can they demo a few membership websites to you, share examples of how the features you’re looking for work and if they could work for you or be adapted to your needs.

Some people will likely have portfolio pages on their sites, so take a look at these and ask them to walk you through some of these sites.

7 – Look for good feedback from previous clients

Everyone can say they are good at something, but nothing says it better than actual customer reviews and case studies.

This is an excellent way to gauge if you can trust this person or agency how they work rather than asking for references.

Customer ratings should give you unbiased feedback of the person. In contrast, a reference will usually be a good one as no one will ever ask a previous client for a recommendation if they know they weren’t pleased with the work they did for them.

Look at the Google reviews, Facebook reviews, and the testimonials on their website.

8 – Do they offer you a guarantee?

If a company or person is so confident that they can deliver on what they say they can, they will have some sort of guarantee.

I’m not recommending that you try to negotiate a guarantee with a supplier or only choose the ones that do and ignore the ones that don’t. The fact that they have a guarantee should give you a little more peace of mind that they are serious and are willing to back up their words.

If they have a guarantee, they will also expect you to keep your end of the bargain.

I’ve had it many times where a company has tried to negotiate some clause into the contract where if you don’t hit a deadline by x date you take 10% off the project fee. Only for the client to not hit the very first deadline they agree on for supplying content.

Remember that this is a relationship built on honesty and trust if you put too many barriers and conditions in the way. You may just ruin that or scare the perfect partner away.

To wrap up

Choosing the right partner to build your membership website is essential. If you want the right one, you’ll have a smooth experience and end up with a membership website that your members will love but can scale with you.

If you choose the wrong person you are more likely to end up with a site that doesn’t work very well, is hard to maintain and will leave you with less money, less time and a very bitter taste in your mouth.

Whatever type of partner you decide to go with to build your membership website follow these steps and you’ll have a much higher chance of success.

  1. Create a website plan of action that includes your goals and exact requirements.
  2. Posts your job on freelancer sites or research agencies
  3. Speak to and vet the candidates that you think are right
  4. Get your website built and ready for launch.
  5. Launch and grow your membership website and create a recurring passive income
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