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The 10 Steps To Creating A Successful Membership Website

Can One-Time Payments Work For Memberships?

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Are you considering adding a lifetime payment model to your membership site? 

A lifetime membership or one-time payment option comes with a load of benefits, but it’s not quite as simple as that. How exactly does it work? Is there anything you need to avoid? And how can you make sure it’ll work for your business?

Surprise, surprise, it’s not a straightforward decision. So here, for your perusal, are our thoughts on one-time payment memberships…

What Do We Mean By One-Time Payment Memberships?

Offering a one-time payment membership means that a client or customer only needs to pay you a single sum of money, once, to become a member and access your content forever. 

No recurring payments, no caveats, nothing. 

It’s like the Marmite of the membership owner community, with only around 10% of memberships offering a one-time payment option for lifetime access. 

Why Choose One-Time Payment Over Monthly Subscription?

To some, it sounds like lunacy. Get paid once?! For a membership site?

Why take payment once when you could take payment regularly? Well, it might surprise you to know that a one-time payment has its benefits.

Short-Term Cash Injection

In some circumstances, you might need an influx of cash. It’s one of the most common reasons we see business owners adding a lifetime membership payment option.

Are you a start-up that needs help getting over the hill to profitability? Maybe the cost of living crisis means you’ve taken a hit on your monthly income. Whatever the reason, a one-time payment option could be the no-brainer business move you make this year to keep you thriving. 

Invested Members

Are you hoping to build a community full of long-term, active members?

Although a recurring monthly payment leaving someone’s bank account can strongly inspire members to use what they’re paying for, that doesn’t mean that lifetime members forget all about you.

Lifetime payments are usually a much larger one-off payment, meaning members who have opted to join in this way really believe in what you’re offering and will strive to help it succeed. They want their money’s worth!

Low Total Membership Cost 

Sometimes, the full cost of your membership is simply too low to make a monthly membership work. 

Less Admin All Round

Offering a lifetime membership option means you’ll have a little less work to do. Instead of the monthly admin and banking fees associated with processing recurring payments, you’ll be met with one single onboarding process, and then it’s job done.

Combat Churn Rates

Do users tend to leave after a few months of membership? You might be doing everything you can think of to keep them loyal – sometimes, member churn just happens.

When you offer lifetime memberships you can get more money out of each new member and gain followers who, having departed with a lump sum of cash, are far more likely to stick around, become advocates and help towards your success in whatever industry you’re in.

What Are Some Examples Of Lifetime Memberships?

There are loads of them out there, but here are a few big names you might recognise to give you a feel for how lifetime memberships can look.

National Trust

A charity and membership organisation for heritage conservation in England, the National Trust gives members access to amazing places full of historical interest and natural beauty.

Anyone can pay single admission prices to visit a National Trust site for the day. But the National Trust is a membership organisation, so if you’re looking for regular outings and explorations, you might consider one of these options:

  • An annual pass. Individual, joint and family options are available, and these range from £10 a year for a junior to £133.80 for a family pass. 
  • The lifetime pass. For £1,845 you alone can gain forever access to all NT sites UK-wide. Or if you want to visit with your family, you’re asked to part with £2,415.

Let’s compare costs. For a family, a lifetime membership is only worth it if you would have renewed your annual membership 19 times. And for an individual, the lifetime pass pays itself off after 24 years.

Calm is an app designed to help users to relax and get a good night’s sleep through a variety of resources such as guided meditations, soundscapes and breathwork exercises. 

The first week is free. If it’s worked for you and you’re up for carrying on with the quest for better sleep health, you can pay £29.99 for a year’s membership or £300 for lifetime access. The lifetime cost for Calm is 10x the annual cost, so the lifetime investment would pay for itself after 10 years of use. 

Neil Patel

Forbes calls him one of the top 10 marketers. 

Neil Patel is an SEO expert who runs an online community for people and businesses who want to make more money through better SEO and marketing. You can opt to pay monthly for access to his Marketing School – this ranges from £29 a month for an individual to £99 for large businesses – or join forever with a one-time sum of £290 or £990, respectively.

How Can You Make One-Time Payments Work Longterm?

Now you might be thinking that there’s a problem with one-time payments. 

Sure, no one’s going to turn down an influx of cash. But surely you’re front-loading your revenue? You get it all in one hit, making it much harder to forecast and manage cash flow.

And you’d be right. This is the #1 issue with lifetime access models and the blocker many businesses come up against when they start trialling one. You see, unless you’re confident that you’ll sell lots of lifetime memberships each month, you need other things for one-time payments to work in the long term.

Here are some ideas to consider for supplementing your lifetime membership income:


This subheading covers anything that members don’t already get as part of their membership, but that has value and could be of interest to them. Things like merchandise and books fit the bill, or other items that complement what your members are already subscribed to receive.


Upselling is about providing opportunities for established members to purchase a more expensive product or subscription. When we’re considering lifetime memberships, upselling often means enhancements to the membership itself, either as a one-off or periodically.

This might come in the form of a VIP club, a bonus 1-2-1 video call with you or something else that would be of high value to your members. 

Cross Selling
Cross-selling means getting members to part with their hard-earned cash for products and services that are unrelated to what they’ve already bought but are likely to be of interest regardless.

These could be yours if you run multiple businesses or other products and services from separate businesses that you’re in partnership with – meaning you get a cut of the sale. 

What Other Payment Options Are There?

If offering the lifetime or one-time payment model seems like too big a step, for you and your members, you can always offer an annual membership as we’ve seen in the examples above. Or even a bi-annual membership.

By gaining members that way, you will still reel in a big influx of cash without the commitment of forever. And those loyal members that pass a certain milestone – say 5 continuous years with you – may well be more inclined to commit to a lifetime investment when offered. 

Lifetime Memberships Run Best Alongside Supplementary Income Streams

A one-time payment strategy can work, but you have to be confident that it’s going to work for you before embarking on the addition to your membership site.

Have you done some homework? Is your pricing 100% spot on? Will you have enough continuous interest to ensure an ongoing income stream? Will your site be going strong in years to come, long enough for those lifetime members to feel the value of their purchase?

Not sure you’ve got the answers to some of those questions? Get in touch to talk to our membership website experts and get a demo of what we can do to support you.

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