Should you host your membership site on your own self-hosted WordPress site, a fully-hosted 3rd party web site, or on a 3rd party marketplace like Udemy.com?
At DigitalAccessPass.com, we recently got an email from a prospective customer, who said this, in part:
Finally, I have built a course that I will use for content, should I host it on my site, or put it on Udemy and then give free coupons to my members to take it on udemy?
And I’m going to break up my answer into multiple episodes.
So in today’s part 1, before I can answer that question about Udemy, we first need to talk about the 3 options you have for running a membership site.
1) Self-Hosted WordPress Site
2) A fully-hosted membership site
And 3) A third-party marketplace like Udemy.com
Let’s get into each of these in more detail…
1) Self-hosted WordPress site: If you listen to Episode 3 of this podcast – this is episode 14, by the way. So the title of episode 3 was “$1.5 Billion for a Membership Site? Membership Site Dream Team” – you can listen to it at subscribeme.fm/3/ , I have talked about having your own domain, the kind of hosting you should use, and how you should have your own WordPress site, what to use for video, and so on.
So having your own domain registered via Godaddy, your own hosting with liquid web – to support this show, please use my affiliate link , subscribeme.fm/liquidweb/ . Your own version of WordPress downloaded from WordPress.org and installed on your hosting account, and then using a membership plugin like DigitalAccessPass.com, now THIS… is a self-hosted WordPress membership site.
So be sure to check out episode 3 at subscribeme.fm/3/
2) A fully-hosted membership platform: The difference between self-hosted and fully hosted, means that on a fully-hosted platform, everything is stored on their servers. You can use your own domain, but the hosting, the content, the videos, the forums – all of these are hosted by someone else. Just like gmail hosts all of your own email. So these third-party platforms manage your site, the content, the security, the server updates, making backups of your content. They basically take care of all the “tech”, and you just log in and create content and set up your funnels. Easier said than done. Sounds very simple, but in reality, it’s not.
Anyway, there are 3 commonly known, fully-hosted membership solutions: They are Kajabi.com, Nanacast.com and Rainmaker Platform.
Kajabi is considered more newbie-friendly and easy to use when it comes to usability and look & feel of the web site. It is a proprietary platform where everything is hosted on their servers. Proprietary platform means, it’s not running on WordPress. Which means you cannot easily extend the functionality of whatever they are offering simply by uploading a new plugin or a theme. That can be good or bad, depending on what you’re looking to do with your web site.
Nanacast is also a proprietary but more full-featured platform that comes with a lot of features, but it is generally considered complex to set up. Nanacast does offer a WordPress plugin to let you integrate your existing WordPress site with the main account on their server, but you will probably need to hire a Nanacast consultant to help you set it all up.
Finally, Rainmaker Platform is from the team behind Copyblogger and Studiopress themes. It is all built on WordPress, but it is hosted on their servers.
If you use Infusionsoft.com as your CRM, then you can use either Memberium.com or Infusionsoft-owned CustomerHub to integrate your membership site with Infusionsoft. DAP integrates with Infusionsoft too.
So Kajabi, Nanacast and Rainmaker are all fully-hosted solutions, and these are a completely different animal compared to self-hosted solutions (like your own hosting account with WordPress & DAP). And usually, such fully-hosted solutions start at about 100 dollars a month, and go up from there, depending on the number of users, and add-ons you purchase. So it could become pretty expensive over time – like 300 to 500 dollars a month. And even when you pay all that, you won’t really have the full flexibility you can have with your own WordPress site.
Here’s a couple of key disadvantages of a fully-hosted membership solution:
• All of the content is hosted on their servers, in a non-standard content management system. So you have to work within the confines of their system.
• All of your customer data is on their servers.
• If you stop paying for the service, your web site will stop working. That means you now have to find a place for your content to live.
• If you want to move to your own domain, and if all of the payments are being processed by them, that means when you leave, you lose your entire income because you will not be able to take your members’ credit card information with you. So your entire membership site income can disappear overnight.
• Your members will no longer have access to their accounts, which is not good if they’re paying you every month. They won’t even have a web site to go to (as your entire site will be down), and they won’t know how to contact you or download their content.
When it’s a self-hosted solution, the advantages are:
• All of your content is hosted on your own server, in a standard format – within WordPress. It’s not a proprietary system, which means things are stored in a more open and easily transferrable format.
• If you decided to switch up membership plugins, then your content still remains where it is. Nothing changes as far as where your content lives or what it looks like. It’s like changing the lock on your front door. All the stuff inside remains the same. You just need to make new keys for everyone in the house, until then, they can’t get it – which is ok, because they’re only locked out temporarily.
* Third party systems usually charge you by the number of users. This is a big problem, because even free users are considered against your limits. So if you create a newsletter with 1000 email id’s, now you get bumped to the next tier of 1000 to 2000 users. And that can cost you an extra 20-30 dollars a month, and you don’t even have a single paying subscriber yet – they’re all free members. But with a self-hosted membership plugin like DAP, there are no limits. You can have unlimited members, unlimited products, send unlimited emails – everything is unlimited, because it is all stored in a database on YOUR site. So disk space is really all that is required. And all web hosts like liquidweb come with enough space by default, to run a membership site with a million members. And if you grow bigger than that, you can easily get a better server and more space, and it is not going to cost you an arm and a leg.
Of course, a self-hosted site has its disadvantages too – like, you have to keep your WordPress installation secure and up-to-date, you have to fix any potential plugin conflicts, keep the various plugins up-to-date, etc. But it’s a small price to pay to have full and permanent access to your content, your payments and your member data. And you can enjoy the freedom that comes with the ability to switch membership plugins and still having all the data and content intact.
Plus there are a number of tools – plus low-cost help – to take care of those issues. So you can still have the best of both worlds, when you have a self-hosted membership site.
There’s a lot more to comparing fully-hosted and self-hosted membership solutions, because they’re really apples and oranges.
So if you really must, then try out one of each, consider the features, availability of support, how well maintained the software is, how open and extensible it is, the price, and finally the cost and effort involved in moving the your content, payments and your member data – if you can even do it to begin with – before making a decision.
Finally, the third type of membership site:
#3. Third-party Marketplaces
There are third-party course-creation platforms like Udemy.com and SkillShare.com. These aren’t even like fully-hosted web sites, in that, you don’t really have your own web site. You just own a product on the web site. Just like if you sold a TV on Amazon. You get a page, and you get some seller features. But the most important thing – just like Amazon – is that on Udemy and Skillshare, you get a built-in audience, who are already there, who are already buying stuff and consuming content. And you’re just plugging your course into their eco-system. And that has both advantages and disadvantages.
And I’m going to address them – including what is Digital Sharecropping, and how it affects your business – all of that in a lot more detail in the next episode.
Creating a membership site is hard work – no question about that. If you have been listening to my podcast, you already know the number of different components involved. Your own WordPress site, hosting account, membership plugin, other plugins, your theme, payment processor, email system, upsells & downsells, creation of your funnel, your squeeze page and sales page.
And you know what can help you with all of that? Having someone like me – or my wife, Veena Prashanth – who is the other co-founder & co-developer of DAP – having us in your corner. Working on a call with you 1-on-1. Answering your questions and concerns. Getting help from us with setting up your web site. Getting questions answered via our ticketing system, having a ecosystem where you get software, and setup and support – to build a successful web site that will help you quit your job, work for yourself, have an amazing lifestyle business, be home when the kids come home, go for movies in the middle of the day, do whatever you want, whenever you want. If you want me and Veena in your corner, then check out our Concierge service at DigitalAccessPass.com. I promise you, you will be amazed.
Thank you for spending your precious time listening to this show. I know you have a lot of choices when it comes to podcast. And thank you so much for spending time with me today.
If you want to offer me any kind of feedback, or tell me you love my show, or how you hate it, or how I can make it better, to listen to all of the episodes online, or to appear as a guest on this show, or to invite me to be a guest on your show, or for pretty much anything to do with this show, please visit Subscribeme.fm. Take care and see you on the next episode.
Listen to the show via the player above.
Or if you want all of the episodes to be automatically downloaded to your device as soon as they’re available, then subscribe to the show on iTunes at SubscribeMe.fm/itunes/ , or on Stitcher at SubscribeMe.fm/stitcher/ .
– Ravi Jayagopal