5 Signs You Should NOT Start a Membership Site

5 Signs You Should NOT Start a Membership Site

Peep this…one of my favourite things to do with the Screw is to be real AF, pull back the curtain and show you inside our business.

From the strategies we live and die by, to the ups and downs we endure to what’s working in our business today, we tend to bare it all.

It’s kinda our thing.

So when I asked in our FB group if there were any members wanting to (or trying to) start a membership and got back 117 comments, I knew we had to hit this topic in a big way.

And since there ain’t no way I can sum up EVERYTHING we learned after running a membership community for over 3.5 years, I figured I would kick it off by giving it to you straight and telling you that a membership site may not work for you.



How To Know if You Should Start a Membership Site

Look, I get it. Membership sites are all the rage.

(Thinking about starting one? Here’s the best free training we know of!)

And while I totally get the lure of them (hell, we looooved our membership Screw U, the members who were in it, the people we got to work with and the money it made us month after month!), that doesn’t mean you should have one.

Harsh, but true.

So I thought I would break down the 5 (glaring) signs that you are not ready to start a membership site.

And yeah, I’m gonna be blunt.

Sign #1: You Don’t Have an Audience

To me, this is number one.

Obviously. *wink*


Because if you don’t have an audience, who the hell is going to join your membership?

It flabbergasts me (yeah, I said it) when people who have put zero time and effort into building an audience (following, email list, whatever you want to call it) try and build a paid community, with no free community or audience to build trust with and market it to.

If this is you, I want you to do this…

Take a step back, pour yourself a glass of something stiff and map out a 3 month visibility plan that you can use to get you and your business out there.

And I don’t mean just set up a FB page or an Instagram account and assume that’s enough.

Because it’s not.

These days? You need to be consistent, you need to attract the right people, you need to give more than you take, and you need to care about your audience before you ever expect them to care about you and what you’re trying to sell to them.

How did we do this?

Through a potent combo of:

  • Guest posts
  • Podcast interviews
  • Video interviews
  • Summits
  • Facebook groups
  • Going to live events

I know.

It’s not “sexy” to actually have to work for your visibility and exposure, but you know what it is?

Worth it.

So which visibility benchmarks should you be working towards before you launch your membership?

Here are some loose metrics, each subject to change based on your niche:

  • Your email list has over 500 people on it
  • Your social following is around the 1,000 mark combined
  • Your website traffic is at least 1,000/month

If you’re already rocking these metrics, awesome! You can go straight to the next step and dive into this seriously rad free training from our membership site mentor, Stu McLaren!

And if you aren’t quite there yet then take a sec, map out your plan to build some attention around your brand and get to werk!

Sign #2: You Don’t Have the Time

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but if you don’t have at least 5 spare hours every week to work on your membership, don’t try and launch a membership.


Because creating and managing a monthly membership takes time and effort.

After all, you don’t want to do all the leg work to launch only to find you don’t have the time each day to maintain the daily operations, let alone give your members the attention they deserve….and are paying for.

Now I will say this, after running a membership for over 3.5 years, we put a lot of effort into structuring it in a way that allowed us to not have to work all the time.

However, reclaiming our time took time.

So what can you do to find some time, especially if you’re feeling pulled from all different angles?

Conduct a ruthless 80/20 assessment and list out every single thing that goes down in your business AND life.

From there, go over your list and identify which tasks take up 80% of your time and provides 20% of the results, whatever those “results” might be for you.

Once you’ve identified the 20%’ers, it’s time to either cut ‘em or automate ‘em.

Then once you have some time and bandwidth back, you can start devoting it to planning, launching and growing your membership.

But more on that later.

Sign #3: You Don’t Have the Desire

This one is big, because here’s the thing…

Memberships thrive and grow with consistent attention, interaction, presence and a community to propel it.

That means as the owner, you need to give your members your time, help them move closer and closer to achieving their desired results and continuously work to improve your membership.

Now, I know a lot of people think that running a monthly membership site is the holy grail of online business, because the consistent recurring revenue (and guaranteed customers) is so damn exciting and promising.

However, here’s one thing people aren’t talking about when it comes to maintaining that revenue…

In order for someone to keep paying for your membership, they have to be getting something out of it month after month.

If not, they will cancel.

Plain and simple.

Which means your monthly revenue will take a hit AND you’re going to have to attract new members to replace the ones who have left.

To avoid that happening, you need to know how to create a strong structure and “success path” (as Stu McLaren calls it in this free training) for your members, show up consistently inside your membership, participate in the community and pay attention to what people are struggling with.

What’s more is, you need to have the desire to pay attention to what they want (so you can incorporate elements of that into your membership) and continuously improve your membership so that it evolves and matures into a place they wouldn’t think about cancelling.

How do you do that?

Survey them. Poll them. Ask them.

Oh, and the biggest strategy of them all? Listen to your members.

Because here’s the thing…

Your members want to know they are being heard and acknowledged.

That means if you’re going to ask them what they want you to tweak, refine, add in or take away, you better be open to listening and executing on the suggestions that work for both them AND you.

If not, you may have a sky-high churn rate (ie. the amount of members who cancel each month vs those who stay), and really, no one wants that.

Sign # 4: You’re Not in Any of These Industries

When we first started our membership site, we figured that ANYONE in ANY INDUSTRY could start a profitable membership site.

And while there might be some exceptions to the rule, these 10 over-arching niches seem to the be the most effective and most profitable when it comes to starting a membership site:

  • Business and Marketing
  • Finance
  • Health (Nutrition, Exercise, Hormones, Digestion, Skincare etc)
  • Hobbies (Sports, Travel, Pet training, Music, Photography etc)
  • Home, Family and Pets
  • Careers
  • Education
  • Personal Development
  • Love and Relationships
  • Fashion and Beauty

Remember, these are the main industries listed above.

If you don’t see yours listed, it’s likely because it’s a sub-niche that lives inside one of these over-arching industries.

Of course, if you’re one of those unicorn niches on the web that is quite unique, take a sec and do some research (or watch this free training from Stu McLaren and learn about some crazy weird niche memberships he’s helped create)!

Don’t just assume that a membership site will work for you, because it might not.

Sign #5: You Don’t Have the Revenue

“Huh? I thought I was starting a membership to MAKE REVENUE!”…is what I imagine you just said in your head.

However, this is one aspect of membership sites that not a lot of people talk about.

You see, when you first launch your membership site, your revenue likely isn’t going to be THAT high straight off the jump.

Hell, when we first launched Screw U as a membership site back in 2015, our revenue took a dive because we transitioned from selling digital products (ranging from $199 to $1999) each week to selling a $49/month membership.

Plus, and this is a biggie, in order to start a membership you have to invest up-front in the tools and resources.

From the hosting to the actual site itself, there are a few things you’re gonna need if you want to create an engaging and easy-to-use membership site.

So to help you identify what might be the best tools for you, I’ve broken them down into budget-friendly AND premium tools.

Budget-Friendly Membership Tools


Firstly when it comes to website hosting and if you’re on a budget, we recommend SiteGround!

What’s more is you can get started for less than $4 a month.


Also, we’ve never had an issue with them.

*knocks on wood*

Membership Software

When we first restructured Screw U into a monthly membership site and forum, we started using the free WordPress plugin, bbPress.

And while it was okay, we only stuck with it for two months when we realized the functionality was lacking and members weren’t getting as much out of it as they wanted to.

Word to the wise: If you’re going to create a monthly membership and you want people to actually use it, don’t skimp on the software.

After all, your members’ experience is pivotal to the longevity of your membership.

To host everything in our members only area, we use Thinkific.

Email Provider

So here’s the thing, when we started Screw U, we were already using InfusionSoft as our email provider.

However, if we had to do it all over again (and if we were just starting out), we’d pick Active Campaign.


Because the functionality is great, the price is incredibly affordable and who doesn’t love dipping their toes into the world of marketing automation for as low as $15/month!

Audio and Visual

No matter which type of membership site you choose to go with (content-based, discussion-based, a blend of both a la Screw U), there are going to be a few a/v tasks you’re going to have to hammer out.

Things like:

  • Video lessons
  • Workbooks
  • Audio downloadables (optional)
  • Landing page graphics
  • Sales page images

Not to mention anything else that might pop up during your creation and build-out process are all investments you’re going to have to make a some point.

And while it is absolutely possible to do it yourself and save the cash, your time investment is still going to add up.

Membership Site Tools For The Pro’s

As I mentioned a few hundred words above, when we first opened the doors to our monthly membership, we used as many free or budget-friendly tools as we could.

Annnnnd then we quickly learned that if you want to go pro and give your members the best you can, you’re going to have to invest in your membership.

That means either throwing down some cash or devoting some serious time to doing it yourself.

I prefer the former.

So, to give this some context, here is a glimpse at the tools we invested in to make Screw U what it is today…


I said it before, but I’mma say it again, we love all things SiteGround.

Their prices are affordable, their service is steady and their customer support has been invaluable at times.

Membership Software

Even though we started out with bbPress, we quickly transitioned to using IPS Community Suite for our forum, before eventually landing with Thinkific, which we instantly fell in love with!

Email Provider

For all things email, we roll with InfusionSoft, however I wouldn’t recommend it to most people as it’s extremely expensive for what you get. Instead if we had a chance for a do-over, we would have chosen to use Active Campaign instead.

Marketing Software

I swear, if ClickFunnels was a person? I would kiss his/her ring because it has been the best damn piece of software we’ve invested in.

Here’s what we used it for each month when we were running Screw U:

  • Our read magnet pages (the first step in our funnels for the U)
  • Our lead magnet pages
  • Our thank you pages
  • Our intro offer sales pages
  • Our entire sales page for our membership
  • Our member onboarding pages
  • Our webinar registration page
  • Our live webinar page
  • Our webinar replay page
  • Our members-only live event sales pages

And that is just for Screw U.

Interested in giving this beyatch a whirl?

You can grab a free 14-day trial here.

Now do you NEED allllllll of these tools to get started launching and growing your membership?

Hellllll NO!

I just wanted to give you an honest glimpse into the realities of running a membership site so YOU can know whether or not it jives with your business and life goals!

But the fact that you’re still here with me all the way down this page makes me think you’re a smidge interested and if that’s the case then there is someone I think you absolutely need to meet!

His name is Stu McLaren and he was our membership site mentor when we had our membership site!

He’s also one of the nicest dudes you’ll ever meet and he’s got a baller FREE workshop and PDF breakdown that will walk you through the foundations of creating a membership site and getting that sweet, sweet recurring revenue rolling in your business!

Sound like something you could get down with?

Hit this like you mean it and snatch up his FREE workshop before it comes down in a few days!

Thanks for reading.

If you're a coach or course creator and you're struggling to find a predictable solution for getting more clients, we recommend starting with our proven crash course called, The Paid Launch Formula™.

Click the button below to get started.

17 thoughts on “5 Signs You Should NOT Start a Membership Site”

  1. Wow Jill thanks for such an awesome blog post. You are so right that so many gurus push membership sites as a way to monetize their online business, but most don’t really give any criteria. I love how you laid every out clearly and gave pointers as to where we should be at in our business before considering a membership site. I’ve got some work to do ?!

  2. Amazing Jill!!! You’ve answered so many of my questions. Now to keep list building and growing my tribe ???✨❤️

  3. Jill, thank you for sharing all of this with us. It’s not just helpful, it is a bomb! Really …
    I’m learning a ton from it. I was thinking to have membership site in the future, but I assess the stand point I am today realistically. It will take time, resources and hard work . I can do anything as long as it is something I love.

    • Hey Katherine,

      It is so great to read that this post inspired you. Love that attitude of yours here. We believe in you too.

      Good Luck,

  4. You use both Infusionsoft and Click Funnels? What are you using each one for, I thought ClickFunnels did everything (and more!) than Infusionsoft? Just wondering why the need for both as I am researching tools, thank you!

    • We started using InfusionSoft before Clickfunnels came out and so we have procedures in place with their platform. Therefore our staff are used to using InfusionSoft and we use Clickfunnels to handle our marketing pages and to house our course content for introductory offers.

      Making the switch over to clickfunnels is possible and something we’ll look at doing in 2017.

  5. Thank you for being real and honest. I like knowing what I’m getting myself into BEFORE I dive in. I often find that “3 simple steps” or something similar is often filled with a bunch of sub-steps that leave me feeling behind the learning curve. Too many marketers, both online and off, don’t give the full story. I appreciate that you do.

  6. Love this post, and I can see you are using some incredible tools! I would like to launch and bring in some cash before paying so much for things like Click Funnels and Infusion Soft … but I’m wondering if IPS Community Suite needs some other Community tools to create a membership site? It’s just your forum right? So what do you use to make a lovely membership site with information and videos, etc.? Then you have to integrate with a shopping cart and your list in Infusion soft right? This is the piece I am working on now … what membership platform and cart to use that I can integrate with ConvertKit!

    Thanks for your insight!

  7. This is the best content I’ve ever read about membership sites. You literally answered every question I had about it. Thanks for giving so much valuable content. I’m a Screw U member and you are the gold standard for memebership sites. Thank you.


Leave a Comment

Answer the questions below to see if you qualify:

Answer the questions below so we can hit the ground running on the call