Building a membership site? Here's exactly how I built mine.

by jonb
104 replies
A few months back, it became clear to me that the time was now to build a membership site for my business (we publish a newsletter that teaches people how to become children's book writers). Every step of the way, the single biggest source of information for me has been this forum. So, now that my site is up, running and absolutely knocking the socks off my customers, I wanted to pay it back by telling you exactly how I built my site. I'm considering putting this all into an ebook format with camtasia videos, but I wanted to share it here first for free.

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.

Jon
#building #built #membership #mine #site
  • Profile picture of the author jonb
    two other quick things to mention: Wishlist integrates seamlessly with 1shoppingcart, making it exceptionally easy to sign up new members and have them instantly integrated into the site, with full recurring billing. It's really hands-off.

    Also, you can set specific member levels to see any page you choose. So, my customers whose subscriptions expire this month will see a "renew now!" page first until they renew, at which time they'll automatically be upgraded to the next level without me having to do anything.

    Also, Wishlist has sequential upgrades, so you can, say, set 12 membership levels that a customer passes through -- one each month. This way, you can dole out information every month rather than making it all accessible at once. Very handy if you're selling tutorials and don't want people to join for one month, download everything and then cancel. All of this stuff is "off the shelf" with Wishlist -- no extra programming needed

    BTW, I'm not a Wishlist affiliate. This 100% pure appreciation from a very satisfied customer.
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    • Profile picture of the author KenJ
      Jon

      This is great info for me. I am preparing to do something similar so this gives me an easy starting point. The only difference with my website will be that all the content will be from the members and I just supply the shell fir their content.

      One Question

      Do You think that the number of members will matter to the system you have set up. If you had 2 million members - would it crash the software?
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      • Profile picture of the author jonb
        @buylowsellhigh I had a look at amember, but it was over my head. It was just too daunting to learn and I didn't have the time to do it. I'm sure it's fantastic, but I needed something plug and play. And wishlist is certainly that. I didn't look at the other software you mention.

        Originally Posted by kenj View Post


        Do You think that the number of members will matter to the system you have set up. If you had 2 million members - would it crash the software?
        You might ask the wishlist folks if they have any limit. So far, I've imported about 1500 of my subscribers into the site without a hitch.
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      • Profile picture of the author JamesFraze
        Originally Posted by kenj View Post

        Jon
        Do You think that the number of members will matter to the system you have set up. If you had 2 million members - would it crash the software?
        It will depend on the backend database that stores and handles things. Likely it is mysql, which is designed for speed, not stability (don't get me wrong, I love MySQL, but it has it's place).

        If you have millions of members, you will probably want a different backend database (like PostgreSQL, which is designed to take a hammering, but is a bit slower than MySQL).

        The software designers will (should) know the limits of their software, but as a rule of thumb that should help you determine on your own.
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      • Profile picture of the author dmarze
        Originally Posted by kenj View Post

        Jon

        This is great info for me. I am preparing to do something similar so this gives me an easy starting point. The only difference with my website will be that all the content will be from the members and I just supply the shell fir their content.

        One Question

        Do You think that the number of members will matter to the system you have set up. If you had 2 million members - would it crash the software?
        It will take some time to get 2 million members and you will have time to upgrade your software with new better verrsion.
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        • Profile picture of the author gorri
          Thank you so much for this awesome and helpful post!
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        • Profile picture of the author SexySarah19
          thanks for this post, i was wondring how membership istes were built

          these sites are all all the well known marketers are into these days, gary conn, josh spaulding and quite a few others

          makes sense when you think about it

          sarah xxx
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    • Profile picture of the author optimuswarrior
      Great post. So many things I want to comment on!!!

      Originally Posted by jonb View Post

      two other quick things to mention: Wishlist integrates seamlessly with 1shoppingcart, making it exceptionally easy to sign up new members and have them instantly integrated into the site, with full recurring billing. It's really hands-off.
      I've been emailing Wishlist's customer support over the weekend/before I saw this thread. First, they have been VERY helpful and responsive.

      Regarding 1shoppingcart, they said: "It is true that 1ShoppingCart is not fully integrated (meaning you have to manually cancel the subscription in WishList Member if payment is stopped). We are trying to work with 1SC to obtain full integration but we can not give you a timeframe of if/when this will happen."

      I wonder how is it NOT fully integrated? In the payment? Affiliate? Can anyone shed some light?

      I currently use paypal and found an affiliate add on to paypal PHPAFFILIATE I don't know if it will do the trick, but it looks promising.

      However, if 1shoppingcart has lower fees than clickbank and can do everything clickbank can do AND do easy affiliates... I may just start an account with them.

      Ryan
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  • Profile picture of the author Benjamin959
    better than amember and memberfire ?
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  • Profile picture of the author samstephens
    Hi Jon,

    Congrats on the new membership site!

    There's another interesting lesson for new players in your post: you went out and found the right solution for your project, and you bought it.

    A lot of people cringe at spending money on their business. I know some people are having financial issues, but $300 is VERY cheap to start a new business.

    I often see people struggling to get things off the ground for months and months (and in some cases, even years later) because of selecting solutions based soley on price (usually free).

    Sure, there is good free software out there (such as Wordpress), but as Jon found, selecting the right tools for the job leads to a very smooth launch.

    Well done on the new site, Jon!

    cheers
    Sam
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      thanks Sam.

      And may I point out that the only other option I seriously considered was DLGuard -- but it turned out not to be quite right for my precise setup (I'm linking the membership site to my older site which had some software incompatibilities).

      DLGuard is a great option, and Sam was fantastic about answering my questions. I'm sure I'll be incorporating it into something I do in the near future.
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      • Profile picture of the author stevenh512
        Originally Posted by jonb View Post

        DLGuard is a great option, and Sam was fantastic about answering my questions. I'm sure I'll be incorporating it into something I do in the near future.
        Have to agree with you there. I can't recommend DLGuard enough for anyone who needs secure download delivery or simple membership management. Sometimes there's a delay in Sam answering my questions because of the time difference (I'm in California, he's in Australia) but he's always really helpful.
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      • Profile picture of the author optimuswarrior
        Originally Posted by jonb View Post

        thanks Sam.

        And may I point out that the only other option I seriously considered was DLGuard -- but it turned out not to be quite right for my precise setup (I'm linking the membership site to my older site which had some software incompatibilities).

        DLGuard is a great option, and Sam was fantastic about answering my questions. I'm sure I'll be incorporating it into something I do in the near future.

        I was thinking of somehow integrating DLguard with Wishlist on Wordpress because it will protect links to my content (preventing piracy/content sharing).

        DLguard actually has a membership feature as well. Probably not as comprehensive as Wishlist.

        Does anyone here use both yet?
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        Ryan
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    • Profile picture of the author JamesFraze
      Originally Posted by samstephens View Post

      Hi Jon,
      A lot of people cringe at spending money on their business. I know some people are having financial issues, but $300 is VERY cheap to start a new business.

      I often see people struggling to get things off the ground for months and months (and in some cases, even years later) because of selecting solutions based soley on price (usually free).
      Sam,

      it's not that spending money is an issue - it's that there are so many products that don't deliver, or will only deliver for someone that has experience. If I knew I could invest a few months and $30000 - only to have it payed back shortly thereafter I'd be tickled to beg and borrow to get that $30k. it's not about the price, it's about delivering on the promise.

      Most people have already spent more than $300 on products that simply do not perform like they promised they could.

      If a membership site costs me money, then it has to make me more money or provide immediate value somehow - else it's worthless to me, no matter the cost. This is of course assuming that I am working the plan that I just bought.... hehe

      I of course am not singling out any product (like DLguard), I'm talking generalities
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    • Profile picture of the author Ron Killian
      Originally Posted by samstephens View Post

      Hi Jon,

      There's another interesting lesson for new players in your post: you went out and found the right solution for your project, and you bought it.

      A lot of people cringe at spending money on their business. I know some people are having financial issues, but $300 is VERY cheap to start a new business.

      I often see people struggling to get things off the ground for months and months (and in some cases, even years later) because of selecting solutions based soley on price (usually free).

      Sure, there is good free software out there (such as Wordpress), but as Jon found, selecting the right tools for the job leads to a very smooth launch.

      Sam
      Oh so true! If people took that advice and actually applied it, sure be more successes. I know I was one of those people for years. What my business could be now if I'd thought that way earlier.

      Jon, amazing looking site, I've always been a fan of magazine style theme's and your site is a great example of how well they can be used. Looks like your well on your way. Great post too, sure it will be helpful to many. I've been using Wordpress for my membership sites as well, but like John, using different "parts" to put it together.
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  • Profile picture of the author united99
    An offline client of mine was asking my advice on setting up a membership tutorial site. I think I just found the answer!!)
    Thanks Jon. Good luck with the site.
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  • Profile picture of the author raynman
    Thanks for breaking this down for us like this. Showing us the the cost of every step the way you did really helped put things in perspective. I get overwhelmed by numbers (bad for someone with an MBA) and especially those with a $$ in front of it when it comes to figuring out how much to invest in these things. It all sound so affordable and so easy. I could see how it would get addicting.

    I don't know about putting up a forum but there are a couple ideas I have that it could be useful.
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    • Profile picture of the author manjit129
      I have been procrastinating for a long time now. I like what you have done and I am going to follow in your footsteps.

      Thanks dude for the post.
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      • Profile picture of the author jonb
        My pleasure. Like I said, I couldn't have done it without this forum, so it's the least I could do.

        @raynman - I looked at a couple of forum plugins. BBPress was good, but SimplePress was really just that: simple. Plus it has lots of powerful features.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Taylor
    Nice post Jon.

    I've been through a similar process with my new
    membership blog, although I used a different set
    of components.

    Good luck with your new site.

    John
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  • Profile picture of the author Nathan Denton
    Hi Jon,

    Great post and thanks for the info. You have outlined a really simple process to create a WP Membership site. In terms of your site, what sort of content do you provide on a monthly basis to keep your members coming back?
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    • Profile picture of the author eddiebarkie
      Hi Jon - hello from Arkansas this evening. Thank you much for the great information ! I also followed the links you gave and found more good (basic) information that I didn't know. I apprecite your Warrior attitude toward sharing....ed...
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  • Profile picture of the author jhollar
    Hi Jon,

    great post....could you also talk about how you get your content created for your site? Is it 100% outsourced or do you develop your own content each month?

    Ron
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      Re: content

      First off, we've published a newsletter for 19 years, so we have lots of content around to repurpose.

      Here are the other types of content we'll be delivering:

      (by the way, stop by the site -- The CBI Clubhouse - a Community for Children's Book Writers -- and have a look. You'll get a good sense for the content we launched with)

      1. audio interviews (in our case, with children's authors) done over Skype. recorded with CallGraph (a free utility)

      2. Camtasia tutorials. We do a few things: website walkthroughs (where we take you through publisher's websites and comment on how to "read the tea leaves" about what they're looking for; software/online tools tutorials (I have one up about setting up Google reader so you can become an expert about inything in a matter of hours); video manuscript critiques, etc.

      3. webcam videos. We have a Q&A features where members can e-mail questions and we answer them on video; we do a regular commentary about top publishing subjects of the day and so on.

      4. Podcasts. Using existing articles as a base, these are brief recorded tutorials in MP3 format.


      And we'll be adding webinars, teleseminar recordings, member uploads and more. Content is king -- we really wanted to blow folks away from day one with the quantity and quality of our content. And it's working -- we were up for no more than an hour when a customer said "Simply Outstanding. This is the most complete site I have ever seen on the topic of writing for children. This is truly a blessing. Thank you."

      That. Felt. Great.
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  • Profile picture of the author lstoops
    Jon,

    This is really great info! Your site looks great. Quick question...why did you choose Viddler instead of YouTube? Thanks!
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      Hi Lisa -- thanks for the compliment!

      I went with Viddler because the quality is higher and I can make the videos completely private. It defeats the purpose of a paid membership site if the videos can be viewed for free by going directly to the hosting site.

      Best,

      Jon
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  • Profile picture of the author samstephens
    it's not that spending money is an issue - it's that there are so many products that don't deliver, or will only deliver for someone that has experience. If I knew I could invest a few months and $30000 - only to have it payed back shortly thereafter I'd be tickled to beg and borrow to get that $30k. it's not about the price, it's about delivering on the promise.
    Hi James,

    You're absolutely right!

    There ARE a lot of products out there that don't deliver, and price isn't always an indicator.

    The ones I was talking about in particular were the ones often seen that say "I was a product that does this, this, this, and this, and it has to be free or really cheap."

    But as your brought up, even when you buy commerical software, it isn't always the solution you wanted, whether it be poor quality, not matching your requirements, or simply too hard to use.


    The issue I was speaking about, though, was the idea of looking for the cheapest tool, not the best tool for the job.

    This often leads to extended periods of indecision, and indecision is always more of a business-killer than selecting the wrong tool, then needing to try again.

    Does this make more sense?

    cheers
    Sam
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    Full integration with JVZoo, DigiResults, and WSO Pro for secure WSO's and WSO memberships.

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    • Profile picture of the author Scott Burton
      Originally Posted by samstephens View Post

      You're absolutely right!

      There ARE a lot of products out there that don't deliver, and price isn't always an indicator.
      <snip>
      But as your brought up, even when you buy commerical software, it isn't always the solution you wanted, whether it be poor quality, not matching your requirements, or simply too hard to use.

      The issue I was speaking about, though, was the idea of looking for the cheapest tool, not the best tool for the job.

      This often leads to extended periods of indecision, and indecision is always more of a business-killer than selecting the wrong tool, then needing to try again.

      Does this make more sense?
      It's true indeed that price does not = quality, and the best product for Business A is not always the best for Business B, even when there are huge similarities in the business.

      I don't want to name any names on this, but I guarantee if I named the company behind a particular application just about everyone would have heard of them. Huge name in the computer industry (Probably not the company you think I'm talking about either).

      They released a comprehensive business application which has all kinds of features. It costs a freaking fortune, and the company is involved in every level of the implementation for their clients, and are available to customize components for their clients (at least within reason)

      Yet in the environment I've seen it most, to collect some of the data that should be retrievable from this expensive application, it is necessary to track some of the data by hand in another application, it reduces the productivity of the worker, requiring more time to document than to complete much of the work being documented.

      Once a company has bought this product, they have to MAKE it work for them, or they've wasted huge amounts of money that they won't be getting back.

      The result is lower productivity, unhappy workers, difficulty tracking some of the data the system is supposed to provide, over complicated reporting, and the need to go back to the manufacturer of the software to have half the reports one needs written, because the reporting script interface essentially requires customer programming to execute a new report.

      Searching for the best results for the cost is useful, but price and quality do not always go hand in hand.
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  • Profile picture of the author BizBooks
    so is your site a paid membership? could you share how you got your first members, etc.??
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      Originally Posted by BizBooks View Post

      so is your site a paid membership? could you share how you got your first members, etc.??
      We've been a monthly subscription newsletter (in print and electronic versions) for about 19 years, so we have base of customers already. They're all being migrated into the membership site (which includes a link to download the current issue of the newsletter, so it's all being positioned to them as an extra benefit rather than a new product they need to purchase). Needless to say they're thrilled about this, and I believe the enormous extra value of the membership site will really help with customer retention.

      We'll get new members two ways:

      1. The page on our existing website that used to sell the newsletter subscription now promotes the newsletter + membership site combo

      2. Anyone who gets directed to the membership site by other members, search engine listings or our own promotions will only be able to view the main page and some freebies. when they try to click on anything, they'll be brought to a sales page where they'll need to subscribe to access the site. Wishlist makes doing this really easy, and it's very powerful.

      To see this in action, go to The CBI Clubhouse - a Community for Children's Book Writers and try clicking on some content.

      Best,

      Jon
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  • Profile picture of the author jonb
    One more cool tool that anyone with a Wordpress based members site (or just a wordpess blog) should consider. It's a plugin called Seesmic that allows members to post video comments to any piece of content. It's very easy to install and use. this is one of the reasons I love wordpress -- so many cool and free goodies out there to add on.

    The URL is http://www.seesmic.com/
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  • Profile picture of the author Lance
    This is the same membership script I have decided to use on my upcoming projects. I looked at several and chose this one. Many people don't know it, but it is produced by Tracy Childers and Stu McLaren, both well respected internet marketers.

    By the way, there will be a major feature upgrade to it around January 15th. After that, they intend to start promoting it more. I don't know if the price will go up or not, but I'm buying the unlimited site license for $297 now. Plus with that license, they throw in some videos about other plugins that are useful for membership sites and how to use them. Around 90% of them are free.

    Lance
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    • Profile picture of the author elsiedixon
      My sister is a member of your site and says your website walk throughs rock! Thank You for sharing your info.
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  • Profile picture of the author Brandon Johnson
    Thanks Jon... that is a great solution for the eternal question of what membership site scripts to use.

    For mine, I did use DLGuard (Good work Sam!). In my implementation, I installed Wordpress for my front end site.... For my protected membership site, I power it with Joomla. DLGuard was really easy to install in the footer of the Joomla site, thus protecting the whole installation.

    Thanks for sharing!
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  • Profile picture of the author Kurt Chrisler
    Awesome information!
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  • Profile picture of the author dail
    This a a great site and an inspiration to others.

    Thanks for your post.
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      My pleasure, everyone.

      Can't wait 'til the 15th to see what other goodies Wishlist has to offer!

      BTW -- regarding my website walkthrough: it's a Camtasia video that non-members can view. if you want to check it out, go Tour the Clubhouse - The CBI Clubhouse - a Community for Children's Book Writers

      Youc an also see the sales letter I use to convert visitors into members here: Join the Fightin’ Bookworms! - The CBI Clubhouse - a Community for Children's Book Writers
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      • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
        Hey Jon, thanks for all the great info! Your site looks awesome. I'm setting up a membership site for one of my niches so the info you've shared has been fantastic and it's much appreciated!

        I was wondering on the viddler videos you mark them private but then inside your membership area do the members need to enter a special password to view the videos? I was going to go the self-hosted route but using viddler would be a great bandwidth saver but I thought if the videos were marked private the members would then need to plugin another password once insde to view each video hosted with a third pary service provider like viddler.

        Thanks!

        Alan
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      • Profile picture of the author peter gibson
        That is a brilliant sales letter/pitch. I don't think I've read anything better or more convincing. I don't write children's books and I almost signed up lol!!! I love your site and I'm glad you shared this.
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        • Profile picture of the author Joanne Greco
          As soon as someone sits down to write -- they're an author!
          Yes, I believe that also....what I should have said was "published" authors.

          Thanks....I'll pass the information over to them and see what they think.
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        • Profile picture of the author jonb
          Originally Posted by peter gibson View Post

          That is a brilliant sales letter/pitch. I don't think I've read anything better or more convincing. I don't write children's books and I almost signed up lol!!! I love your site and I'm glad you shared this.
          Thanks, Peter. I spent 20 years writing sales copy for others, but it's always harder to write it for myself! I agonized over that copy for days, but I'm pretty pleased with it.
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          • Profile picture of the author countonuspr
            Thank you for sharing this valuable information. That is a very interesting niche and a great example of how you can start a membership website and make money online in other niches away from Internet marketing. Good job, and this is helpful.
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          • Profile picture of the author dremy154
            Originally Posted by jonb View Post

            Thanks, Peter. I spent 20 years writing sales copy for others, but it's always harder to write it for myself! I agonized over that copy for days, but I'm pretty pleased with it.
            Wow! Thanks for the simple, detailed breakdown of how you were able to do all this at such a bargain.

            Also, thanks to all the other members that contributed to Jon's end results; without you, he couldn't have even made this post, which is VERY useful to anyone considering starting a membership site; especially if on a tight budget!

            I have one question: If my host supports multiple domain hosting, and I want to create more than one membership site, does the license allow for multiple uses?
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  • Profile picture of the author write-stuff
    This is a great little case study and example of how some imagination and a little perserverance can really pay off. Nice one, Jon. Thanks for posting your story.

    - Russ
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    • Profile picture of the author Amanda_Davis
      another vote for WP Wishlist Member - good software that's super easy to use

      P.S. Love the site jonb - seems under-priced to me!
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      • Profile picture of the author jonb
        Originally Posted by Amanda_Davis View Post

        another vote for WP Wishlist Member - good software that's super easy to use

        P.S. Love the site jonb - seems under-priced to me!

        Thanks, amanda. The writing market is a great niche -- except for pricing. Writers are frugal by nature At any rate, that is a charter member price -- it will go up at some point in the near future.


        Regarding making Viddler videos private -- it can be done but it's not obvious. I had to search for the solution. Here's it is (at the end of the thread) Viddler.com - Forums - Support - Sharing Private Videos
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        • Profile picture of the author Joanne Greco
          Thanks for sharing your story Jon!

          Is your site for people who are already authors or it is open to people who want to get information on how to get started? I ask because my daughters (10 & 13) want to write and illustrate a children's adoption book.
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          • Profile picture of the author jonb
            Originally Posted by Joanne Greco View Post

            Thanks for sharing your story Jon!

            Is your site for people who are already authors or it is open to people who want to get information on how to get started? I ask because my daughters (10 & 13) want to write and illustrate a children's adoption book.
            As soon as someone sits down to write -- they're an author! In other words, lots of unpublished folks are members. We do our best to get the "un" out of that description, though

            If you want to give it a shot, sign up using your name -- the COPPA rules limit the information we can accept from kids 13 and under. But they'd certainly be welcome to enjoy everything on the site!

            best,

            Jon
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        • Profile picture of the author Alan Petersen
          I went through that for my download protection. Bought cheap product, than another one then finally said enough and got DLGuard. I should have saved my time and money trying to find a cheaper solution. So even if software seems more expensive we need to put it in perspective. Is $100-150 worth it for your business. So spend that well instead of trying to come up with a cheaper alternative just for the sake of trying to save $50.

          Originally Posted by samstephens View Post

          Hi James,

          You're absolutely right!

          There ARE a lot of products out there that don't deliver, and price isn't always an indicator.

          The ones I was talking about in particular were the ones often seen that say "I was a product that does this, this, this, and this, and it has to be free or really cheap."

          But as your brought up, even when you buy commerical software, it isn't always the solution you wanted, whether it be poor quality, not matching your requirements, or simply too hard to use.


          The issue I was speaking about, though, was the idea of looking for the cheapest tool, not the best tool for the job.

          This often leads to extended periods of indecision, and indecision is always more of a business-killer than selecting the wrong tool, then needing to try again.

          Does this make more sense?

          cheers
          Sam
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  • Profile picture of the author Charann Miller
    Wow thanks for sharing, I'm planning on launching my own membership site this month and this information will come in very handy. Your niche sounds like fun too.
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  • Profile picture of the author rsteadm2
    Hi Jon,

    I have to say this is an awesome thread that you have started. You have really given some quality information here. I say thank you sir!

    Ray S.
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    When You're Ready to Put In the WORK and Do! Click This Link! - ...Free Webinar Guides you Down the Road And Gives YOU A Real Blueprint for Affiliate Marketing Success Showing You How To Start, "doing"!
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  • Profile picture of the author Johnnyboy83
    I love this post, short to the point and I learn a few tips that some expensive course did not teach me at all and best of all it was free.
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  • Profile picture of the author Nathan Hangen
    I took a look at your site. It is very professional looking and very classy. Well done. How is your membership rate looking at the moment?
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Million
    This is great Jon, I almost bought another WP membership pluggin, but this is over the top, especially for the price.

    Quick Q's:

    1) Is it easy to integrate with an affiliate program?

    2) Can you collect customer leads into Get Response or Aweber?

    I sent these questions to the admin of the member site, but if you have a moment I'd love to hear your experience.

    Bravo on the site and post. Just goes to show that you can really turn your passion into a full blown business with membership sites.

    Children's books authors? I bet you 100s of people you met said it would never work...or maybe you have a more positive circle of buddies than I do :rolleyes:. Either way, nicely done. A great testament to all.

    Originally Posted by jonb View Post

    A few months back, it became clear to me that the time was now to build a membership site for my business (we publish a newsletter that teaches people how to become children's book writers). Every step of the way, the single biggest source of information for me has been this forum. So, now that my site is up, running and absolutely knocking the socks off my customers, I wanted to pay it back by telling you exactly how I built my site. I'm considering putting this all into an ebook format with camtasia videos, but I wanted to share it here first for free.

    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.

    Jon
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    • Profile picture of the author Mark Dulisse
      Yes...great information.

      I too would like to know about integration with GetResponse and does it support recurring billing with Clickbank?
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  • Profile picture of the author ss61288
    wow! you have saved me a whole lot of time cheers jon
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  • Profile picture of the author FeliciaSlattery
    Jon!
    I just breathed a sigh of relief. I was looking for an independent endorsement of WP Wishlist Member and then I stumbled upon your FABULOUS post. Thanks for the step-by-step directions and links so my team and I can just move fast and get this done.

    Like you, I'm a content creator and have loads to add upon launch and will be adding loads more each month. I'll be calling my site a group coaching membership site -- there is added value in the perception (and reality) that I'll be an active part of the forum discussions as well as offering a regular Q/A session for members.

    I love the design, look, and feel of your site. It's fabulous!

    Kudos & continued success. And THANK YOU for your generous sharing.

    Warmly,
    Felicia
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    Felicia J. Slattery, MA
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  • Profile picture of the author Markus Nimocks
    Jon, thanks for sharing this info!
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  • Profile picture of the author davenavarro
    So Jon -

    With the Wishlist plugin, when someone buys a membership on your site, do they automatically have a SimplePress account created?
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  • Profile picture of the author IMChick
    Thank you so much for sharing this. Looking for some way to set up a membership site is very frustrating with no tech skills and no knowledge of what you actually want to end up with. It was great to see the finished (and working product)--Your site looks superb.

    My membership software journey started several months ago when I bought a popular launch product. Surprise, they were heavily marketing their own membership site software to the tune of US $4,000.00. Gee whiz. So I kept looking and found 6 or 7 other programs, some in the $1 to 2K range, some with renewal licensing, some with restrictions, and of course, Amember. It seemed affordable but didn't speak to my non-techie side, so I did nothing. Now, it looks like you've given me a solution that I don't have to outsource while I'm learning exactly how to do it all.

    THANK YOU JON.
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  • Profile picture of the author IMChick
    Arrgh-- "Sites that soar" recommended by Jon as the ebook that helped him set up the WP has suspended sales as of a few days ago due to the WP upgrades and the upgrades to Branford that all just happened. The book screen shots aren't the same, and the Branford template is substantially different. The author is evaluating whether to do a rewrite and re-release the book right now. I guess we'll have to wait a few weeks to find out if it is re-released at the end of the month. (sad smiley face with tears).
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    • Profile picture of the author AffiliateMax
      Originally Posted by IMChick View Post

      Arrgh-- "Sites that soar" recommended by Jon as the ebook that helped him set up the WP has suspended sales as of a few days ago due to the WP upgrades and the upgrades to Branford that all just happened. The book screen shots aren't the same, and the Branford template is substantially different. The author is evaluating whether to do a rewrite and re-release the book right now. I guess we'll have to wait a few weeks to find out if it is re-released at the end of the month. (sad smiley face with tears).
      Dry your eyes IMChick, the new version of the book is out now.
      Just about to order a copy myself - at $17.00; I think it's a no brainer.
      It's at: WordPress themes made easy - Sites that Soar!.
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  • Profile picture of the author jonb
    Hey all, glad you enjoyed the post.

    davenavarro - Yes, Simplepress is fully integrated, so new members are automatically signed into simplepress. Very easy.

    IMChick - the key thing you need to understand with a theme site is how to set up categories to go with different parts of the page. It's not that complex, but having someone tell you just how to do it makes life a bit easier.
    I'm sure there are other ebooks and sites that tell you that. If you do use the older branford theme and run into trouble, drop me a line and I'll help as best I can.

    When I'm done launching my site, I do intend to create an ebook/Camtasia video product that explains exactly how I did it, and I'll first post it as a WSO. I'll definitely include a section on configuring the theme.

    Jon
    cbiclubhouse.com - Where Children's Writers Meet
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    • Profile picture of the author SMS
      Funny... I was looking at some mag themes last night & narrowed my options down to Branford, Wynton & Revolution Lifestyle. Initially, it was a close fight b/w the two brothers, but now I am swaying more towards Revolution - primarily becayse of the video widget, and also it looks like it will be easier to customise.

      Your site looks great & I'm sure it will be very successful.

      Well done for taking action and getting stuck in. I need to follow in thy footsteps .
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      • Profile picture of the author Lance
        Originally Posted by IMChick View Post

        Arrgh-- "Sites that soar" recommended by Jon as the ebook that helped him set up the WP has suspended sales as of a few days ago due to the WP upgrades and the upgrades to Branford that all just happened. The book screen shots aren't the same, and the Branford template is substantially different. The author is evaluating whether to do a rewrite and re-release the book right now. I guess we'll have to wait a few weeks to find out if it is re-released at the end of the month. (sad smiley face with tears).
        I have emailed Aisling and she is working on her update now. She will be making her own version of the Branford theme and will use the latest version of Wordpress as well. In addition there will be videos also! It's *possible* that this new version will be ready by the end of the month!


        Originally Posted by jonb View Post

        Hey all, glad you enjoyed the post.
        When I'm done launching my site, I do intend to create an ebook/Camtasia video product that explains exactly how I did it, and I'll first post it as a WSO. I'll definitely include a section on configuring the theme.

        Jon
        cbiclubhouse.com - Where Children's Writers Meet
        Jon, you could also use your video of how to use Google Reader to become an expert as a bonus to your wso.

        Lance
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        • Profile picture of the author drivedoctor
          Just a quick FYI... Aisling D'art's book "Sites That Soar" is available. It's only $9.95 USD and there are some added bonuses to include a training video... of course... LOL!!!
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    • Profile picture of the author optimuswarrior
      Originally Posted by jonb View Post

      Hey all, glad you enjoyed the post.

      davenavarro - Yes, Simplepress is fully integrated, so new members are automatically signed into simplepress. Very easy.

      IMChick - the key thing you need to understand with a theme site is how to set up categories to go with different parts of the page. It's not that complex, but having someone tell you just how to do it makes life a bit easier.
      Two things.

      I want to use a forum with my membership site. I would prefer phpbb or vbulletin as most people are familiar with these layouts. Simple registration and login and you're off to the races!

      This will be free and open to everyone. I may have a section just for paid members, not sure yet. Can this even be done like this?

      But with the worpress forums.... first they look too unpro, too much going on because of the blog. Second, people will have to sign up with a blog account first to get on it. Sounds and LOOKS complex for the common internet user. Especially those who don't know nor want to blog.


      ALSO, can you explain the importance of using categories within your membership site with Wishlist? does it somehow make it easier or something?

      Ryan
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      "I am here to serve you, you are here to serve me, together we win:

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      • Profile picture of the author jonb
        Originally Posted by optimuswarrior View Post

        But with the worpress forums.... first they look too unpro, too much going on because of the blog. Second, people will have to sign up with a blog account first to get on it. Sounds and LOOKS complex for the common internet user. Especially those who don't know nor want to blog.


        ALSO, can you explain the importance of using categories within your membership site with Wishlist? does it somehow make it easier or something?

        Ryan
        First off - the forums. I think Simplepress actually looks clean and professional all the way. here's a screenshot of my forum:



        As for categories, that's not necessarily related to wishlist as much as it's about giving your members an easy way to find things. Also, if you're using a magazine style theme like I am, you need the categories to tell wordpress where to put certain types of content.

        The only wishlist aspect of this would be that you could protect certain categories from non-users or members from other levels.

        Jon
        The CBI Clubhouse - a Community for Children's Book Writers Writing Picture Books, Easy Readers, Young Adult Books and More!
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  • Thanks a lot for this great post John. It is always great when someone shares with us details on how they achieved their online success. Good luck and Best Wishes!

    Mark
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  • Profile picture of the author mywebwork
    Aloha Jon

    This is an excellent post and your site looks fantastic - thank you so much for sharing.

    One question that I didn't see answered was the one poised about Clickbank and affiliates. I am also in the process of developing a membership site and while I already have the technical details pretty well ironed out the subject of affiliates is what baffles me.

    In your business model it seems that you had an existing list of subscribers to promote your membership site to. I will be starting from scratch, and I expect the majority of my memberships to be obtained through affiliates whom will earn a recurring commission on every sale.

    I have found software that can manage the affiliates but no good information on integrating it with Clickbank (or Pay Dot Com).

    Does the software you used have any capabilities to integrate affiliates or common affiliate processors into the mix?

    Once again thanks so much for the great post.

    Bill
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      Hi Bill,

      Since I have 1shoppingcart, I really didn't think much beyond that. I suggest you contact Stu Mclaren, the man behind Wishlist, and ask him. wpwishlist.com - Helpdesk
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  • Profile picture of the author Calvin
    Over the holidays I did a series of free videos, which show how to set up a membership site for free using Wordpress, and incorporate an affiliate program basically by using PayDotCom as the payment processor.

    But that was before I found this thread.

    If only you could have started this thread a little sooner, it would have saved me having to go back and redo some of the videos.

    Dang it!

    For what it's worth, the free videos are below, but I will most likely be updating them soon.

    pushbuttonsuccessformula.com

    Keep up the great work.

    Calvin
    Signature
    Coming Aug. 1, 2015 - I will pay you for talking to me on the phone.

    Stay Tuned.
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  • Profile picture of the author benzbaby
    Thanks for sharing...spent quite a few pennies on a membership script a few years ago and it was so complicated I gave up...this is much easier and appreciate all the steps you showed. Are you able to add video, audio or forums with this method?
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      Originally Posted by benzbaby View Post

      Thanks for sharing...spent quite a few pennies on a membership script a few years ago and it was so complicated I gave up...this is much easier and appreciate all the steps you showed. Are you able to add video, audio or forums with this method?
      Yep, I use Viddler to host my videos and I embed them into the site. A bit further up this thread I link to instructions on how to make them private.

      As for audio, I use this Wordpress plugin to make my mp3s playable within posts: 1 Pixel Out Audio Player Wordpress plugin
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  • Profile picture of the author k0zm0zs0ul
    Thanks for this post Jon! You motivated me to get my own membership site up and running, and now it's well on it's way to being ready to launch!

    I used Your Members wp plug in and Simplepress Forum on the recommends of a friend though, wpWishlist was a bit out of my range at the moment. Anyway thanks for the great post and motivation to get in gear.
    Regards,
    Cori
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  • Profile picture of the author TheMGMProject
    Great looking site, thanks for the insight.

    Mick
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    Create Passive Income With NO List, NO Product & NO Website Simple Passive Income Formula

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    • Profile picture of the author SlowhandJohn
      Thanks a lot for information!

      I'm also putting new membership site together and I'm really interested:

      -Can I integrate WishList Member or this method to any affiliate program?

      Plan A) is to use:

      1. WorldPress Magazine theme for content production,
      2. PayPall as payment proserssor
      3. Secure it with aMember
      4. Create affiliate program with JROX JAM
      5. Use aWeber with mailing list

      Does anybody know better solution? Any tips?

      - John
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  • Profile picture of the author Markus Nimocks
    Thanks Jon! Great post, much appreciated. The Viddler embed trick is kick-butt...I'm launching my membership site in a couple weeks and that is really, really an awesome trick.

    btw, how can Warriors get a view of this Google Reader video mentioned above? Someone mentioned it as a bonus for a WSO - heck that sounds like a WSO in and of itself!
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  • Profile picture of the author ProEFI
    Wow, great thread.

    How easy was it to integrate a forum?

    Thanks
    Andrew
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  • Profile picture of the author kolaios
    jonb, WOW!!! thanks a lot!!!

    Questions:
    - Can you manage have different levels of membership access to the forums?
    - Can you modify the text on the Whitelist plugin to other languages?

    ONE OF THE BEST POST ON THIS FORUM!!!

    THANKS A LOT!!

    Sebastian
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    www.SebastianSaldarriaga.com
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve888
    Thanks for sharing! Great information. I am planning on setting up a member site soon but was planning on using amember. Now I have another way to do it thanks to you. I will try and compare and evaluate the differences, advantages/disadvantages
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanthetrafficguy
    Thanks for the post- i think I might try membership sites soon. Sounds like you're doing well.
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  • Profile picture of the author wmakara
    Great post and great looking site.

    It's amazing what WP can do nowadays. I didn't even know you could find a magazine template let alone how to incorporate a membership site on WP.

    Great work will keep this in mind if I ever chose to go down the membership site avenue.

    Cheers
    Wendy
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  • Profile picture of the author Patrick25
    Hi Jon,
    thanks for your great post. I have never seen something so detailed. Its not easy for me but even I as a blind person could get $300 together to get started.
    You have had a big atwantage because you have allready a newsletter and a lot of members on it.
    So great decision.
    But I think with the right WSO here even someone with no list like me;-) could start well.

    I was thinking about wishlist member. Now I defenitly buy it to give it a try.
    The only thing I would like to know is if there is an password generated for each member or do they all share the same passwort?
    Some wp-membership scripts dont have that. They have 1 Passwort for all members witch I think is very bad.

    So, Again thank you Jon for posting your setup. I am 27 so may be to old to write a childrens book:-)
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  • Profile picture of the author Simplweb
    Originally Posted by jonb View Post

    My total cost was about $300 and the thing works better than I could have ever dreamed.

    Jon
    Hi Jon,

    Serious question here....

    How long did all this take... and how much do you value your time at?
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  • Profile picture of the author davidorich
    thanks man, you've saved me a lot of time. i love your site.
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  • Profile picture of the author Samuel Lee
    Thanks for your post John, sounds like a really good membership site! I liked your technique, you sought out and found the a perfect solution for your project, and you purchased it directly. You can use free software sometimes to get things up and running but when you choose the right tools to begin with it can always enable you to get the job done quickly and efficiently leading to a smooth launch. Nice post and good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Sol
    Jon!
    You just solved so many problems for me! Thanks so much with such detailed post!
    Can I send you money for this

    Thank You,

    Alex
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    The Extra Paycheck Blog | Extra Paycheck Podcast
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  • Profile picture of the author alexei_aus
    very good post
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  • Profile picture of the author iplusgold
    Exceptionally good post! I've been walking through the membership site setup process for a while now and there are defiitely some gems of wisdom is this small thread.

    Thanks Jon!
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  • Profile picture of the author phish3rz
    Just a quick question, on average how do you advertise this site? and what sort of revenue are you making per month?
    Many thanks,
    Congratulations to your success.
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  • Profile picture of the author Carol Owens
    Thank you for this great post. I took a peek at your website and think it is excellent! I too am considering a membership site and you've given some great information to check out!
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  • Profile picture of the author SteelDanno
    Your sign up page with the "See this? *latte photo*" had me chuckling.

    A quick congratulations on your success and willingness to share.

    *salute*

    Peace.
    Signature
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    • Profile picture of the author jonb
      Originally Posted by SteelDanno View Post

      Your sign up page with the "See this? *latte photo*" had me chuckling.

      A quick congratulations on your success and willingness to share.

      *salute*

      Peace.
      Thanks.

      The latte works, 'cause it symbolizes how easy it is to spend money on nothing in the course of a day. Instead, spend it with me and get a whole month's worth of great stuff. The visuals bring it home, I think.

      Jon
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      • Profile picture of the author peter gibson
        I think I commented on that squeeze page way back in this thread. If not I should have. I have yet to see a more compelling call to action. It's just brilliant in showing anyone with even the slightest interest in Jon's site topic that getting a membership is flat out worth it.

        I could have landed there with absolutely no intention of anything but clicking through, seen that pitch and signed up. It just makes sense - in a no nonsense kinda way

        If there was some kind of award available for best copywriting, that page would get my vote for sure.
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        • Profile picture of the author jonb
          Originally Posted by peter gibson View Post

          If there was some kind of award available for best copywriting, that page would get my vote for sure.
          Thanks, that's very kind.

          Is there a cash prize?
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  • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
    Jon

    Thanks for the thread. Inspiring

    One question: does the plugin protect your ebooks? Or other stuff you have there for your members?
    Signature
    People make good money selling to the rich. But the rich got rich selling to the masses.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joseph Park
    Jon,

    That was a real content with value. Two thumbs up!
    My membership site was on aMember and that was superbe, too.
    I was thinking of how to go about doing it with my wordpress
    blog and you just provided THAT solution right in front of my eyes.

    THANK YOU!!!
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    • Profile picture of the author jeffread
      This is either the best post I've seen here on the WF, or one of the best! Thanks for sharing such great information Jon!

      I'd like to leave a quick message for those who are starting off with less than $300.00, MemberFire (single use) is free. I'm not sure how good it is, I haven't tried it yet, but it seems easy to install.

      If anyone has used MF please feel free to leave feedback about the product.

      Jeff
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      • Profile picture of the author drivedoctor
        Hey Jeff,

        I did a quick search on Google Groups and found a couple of responses regarding MemberFire (1 here on WF) and they were not positive. It appears that MemberFire is probably not quite ready for Prime Time.

        I'm looking at a couple of software options to include Membership Manager Supreme (MMS) (Note: You might contact Dirk Wagner here on WF and see if he can get you a discount on MMS.)

        If you're just starting out from scratch and building your membership content along the way, I think MemberWing looks very interesting and they offer a "free" basic version.

        You could potentially build your membership program up to pay for an expanded version of MemberWing. That would keep your up front out of pocket expense to a minimum.


        Good luck,

        Mark in Nashville
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  • Profile picture of the author tyson4
    Thanks for sharing this info with us
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  • Profile picture of the author doctfeelgood
    Congratulations,
    I have just looked at your site and it looks fantastic and i can not believe how much it cost. Wow.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and i will pass you web address onto a few of my friends as i think your site is just what they are looking for.
    I wish you all the success in the world, you have done a marvellous job.
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