My total cost was about $300 and the thing works better than I could have ever dreamed.
First, the site is The CBI Clubhouse - a Community for Children's Book Writers if you want to have a look.
1. I decided to build a wordpress-based site. It was a great decision, because WP is so easy to use and there are plug-ins to handle every functionality. So my first step was downloading Wordpress.
2. Using the advice on this board, I got space with hostgator.com They kick ass -- no problems whatsoever and set up was a breeze. I registered my domain with namecheap.com. Total cost so far: about $20.
3. I found a great magazine style theme called Branford at this site: BranfordMagazine by DER PRiNZ A premium magazine style WordPress theme It was free, really nicely designed and very flexible. I think it really looks great -- not like a blog at all. It was a little tricky to determine how to tweak it, but then I found an ebook called "Sites that Soar" at WordPress themes made easy - Sites that Soar! in which the author tells you exactly how to make the Branford design your own. $17 for that ebook that saved me countless hours. Cool! total cost so far: $37
4. After much searching and consideration, I decided to go with WP Wishlist (wpwishlist.com Home) as my membership site plugin. It was $97 and it's an utter steal at that price. What fantastic software! It's so well-designed and intelligently planned, and it seems to know, as if by magic, exactly what I need to do and it makes it plain how to do it. My #1 nightmare going in was how to import 3000 current subscribers -- with a wide range of subscription expiration dates -- into my site. I was literally planning on taking two weeks to enter each one at a time. With Wishlist, the entire process took about 20 minutes. Unreal. I could go on and on about this software, but I'll just tell you that, if you're planning a WP based membership site, I can't imagine doing any better than Wishlist. Total cost so far: $134
4. For my logo, I again found the right place to go in the Warrior Forum: Crowdspring.com. Awesome -- so much better than hiring a designer sight unseen. I got a killer logo done for $175, and the designer knows just what I'm looking for and is now doing other graphic work for me. Total cost $309.
And that's it. I added a nice forum plugin called SimplePress, signed up at Viddler to host my videos and I am good to go.
This was an exciting and fun process, and it couldn't have happened without you guys. I hope my tips help some of you along your own membership site journey.