The 10 Steps To Creating A Successful Membership Website

Self-Hosted Membership vs. Hosted Websites

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One of the most common questions I get asked about membership websites is around the best way to actually stop talking about building one and taking the plunge and getting it built.

Generally speaking, there are two options that most people go for, hosted and self-hosted membership.

Carry on reading below to find out more information on which option is suited best for you.

Hosted software

This usually works with an online tool that you’ll pay for monthly. 

This tends to be software like KajabiPodia or Thinkific.

Hosted membership platform logos

They host all of your content for you, your courses, videos, members and billing which is great and makes a hosted membership website easy to build, manage and run.

The big benefit is that you can quickly and easily get things set up, but on the flip side you’re limited in what you can actually do, and you have to pay monthly to keep the site going and the biggy you don’t actually own the website! You’ll be building on rented ground.

A huge downfall of a hosted membership site is that you are not in full control of your branding and marketing, hosted membership websites usually have a set structure, but you must follow with no wiggle room. 

This can be frustrating for yourself and your members as you may not be able to deliver the full user experience and education that you want too. 

Hosted software for membership sites is a great way for people who want to get their foot in the door with a membership website. Hosted software is usually cheaper than Self-Hosted overall, much like renting is cheaper than taking out a mortgage at first.

The majority of our clients come from hosted software sites that want to take their membership to the next level, they want the customization and functionality.


  • Easy to set up, an ‘out the box’ solution
  • Contacts are usually managed from the backend of whichever hosted site you choose.
  • Usually a low monthly cost. A hosted membership site is an affordable premium solution.
  • Easy creation of products and services


  • Less user experience customization
  • Usually cannot distribute certificates
  • Limited integration with marketing platforms
  • Less branding customization
  • You usually need a separate platform to build your sales funnels with


Self-hosted Membership

At a glance, a Self-Hosted WordPress membership can be daunting, confusing and just cause a lot of headaches. You’ll have to think about hosting, plugins, themes, video hosting and membership management BUT don’t let that put you off! It can be simpler than you think.

 The big benefit here is that this can be completely custom built to suit your exact requirements, and because you’re not reliant on a tool, you don’t have to pay for the tool every month although you may have to pay a plugin fee or two each month. Everything on a self-hosted WordPress Membership is yours to keep.

Membership website URL example

The only real negative with this approach is that they’re a little more complicated to set up, but if you’re using an agency like MemberLab, you don’t have to get involved with the build.

Self-Hosted WordPress Memberships give you room to grow and your users a better experience overall.

Learn more about MemberLabs services


And in any case, it’s vital to ensure that you can make additions to the site as you grow, evolve and expand. Having to migrate to an entirely new website in 12 months is no fun, especially when you’re only doing it because you chose incorrectly in the first place.


  • More flexibility for user experience and features
  • Deeper integration into your favourite marketing tools
  • Bigger and better branding
  • You own and control the site
  • Usually built with business scalability in mind


  • Complex to set up
  • Requires maintenance each month (Usually just updating plugins)
  • Higher Security risk
  • You usually need a different platform to build your sales funnels with.


Which Membership Platform should you choose?

I’m not here to tell you which one to choose, I appreciate thats probably not what you want to hear.

Obviously I would like you to use MemberLabs services but I understand that not everyone who’s going to visit this blog post will want to do that or even that our services will be right for them.

Either self-hosted or a hosted membership website should be considered as a viable option for anyone who is going to start their own membership. You’ve got to evaluate where you are on your journey, weigh up the pros and cons and get to work.

Just because something is more affordable does not make it the right choice, would you buy Heinz ketchup or store brand?

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