Subscription Communities: How to Start a Membership Site

Table of Contents

Do you want to create a community with members willing to pay to be a part of it? You’ve come to the right place. Here we’ll explore how to start a membership site, sharing a step-by-step process and the top platforms where you can create an engaged community.

In this post:

  1. What is a subscription community?
  2. How to create a subscription-based community in 10 steps
  3. Best platforms for community engagement

What Is a Subscription Community?

Nowadays, creators, businesses, associations, and community builders have something in common. Little by little, they’re all seeking to make a recurring income online, turning their strategy to subscription-based models. This way, not only do they get more income, but also build a stronger and more loyal community around their products, services, and causes.

According to Digitalist, 53% of all software revenue will be generated from subscription models by this year. In addition, 82% of businesses are adopting subscription models as it enables them to become leading disruptors, according to Citibank.

In the case of community builders, membership sites are a great way of charging a fee for the content they provide to their community members.

Also, as we mentioned earlier, this leads creators to build a stronger bond with their members, as they are not only consuming their content and/or product but also deciding to pay for it. Moreover, by bringing these engaged people together, members will end up building bonds with each other over time, increasing the community value.

How to Create a Subscription-Based Community in 10 Steps

1. Build an Audience

👩‍💻 The first thing you’ll need to build a subscription-based community, especially if it’s a paid one, is an engaged audience. The first step to building an audience is to define who are the users you’ll address.

That is to say, defining your target audience. And later on, humanizing your audience. This includes doing your research. Such as analyzing which platforms they’re present on, what are their interests and pain points, and how they communicate.

2. Define Your Audience’s Pain Points

Once you have your target audience defined, you’ll need to understand what are the needs you’re trying to solve. By understanding how you can solve their pains, you’ll be able to define what content to generate!

A good way to find out which are your potential community members‘ pain points is to search their social media accounts. Also, connect and engage in conversations with them. And ask them what they would like to find in your community and content.

3. Build a Product to Address Them

The product you’ll offer your audience will be defined according to the type of community you want to create. However, whether it’s a paid newsletter, a writers community, or a group for digital marketers focused on SEO, the content created around your main product will be key to keeping them engaged and building a loyal and successful subscription-based group.

4. Define Your Community’s Core Values

💪 It’s also essential to define your community’s core values. That is, what your group’s culture will be like and which will be the values that will guide your group and its members.

These are five questions you can ask yourself when defining your community’s values and culture 👇

#1 What’s the purpose behind the subscription community?

#2 What are you offering your community members?

#3 How will you keep your members engaged?

#4 What need is your community satisfying?

#5 How are you measuring the success of your community?

5. Check Out Your Competition

Once you have your product and community’s values, you’ll have to make some research on what your competition is doing in order to offer your potential members a competitive advantage and added value.

Another thing you might do is look at model subscription communities you look up to. That way you’ll get inspired by what they’re doing!

6. Offer Quality Content

Quality content is key to creating a successful membership community, as it will probably be that added value you’ll be offering your prospective members.

So, to offer this type of content, you’ll have to ask yourself 👇

What topics should I address in my community?

What type of content will I share regularly?

After deciding what kinds of content you’ll be sharing, it’s important to focus on the frequency with which you’ll share it. In order to keep your members engaged, it’s important to be consistent and respect the established publishing days.

To help you with consistency, planning will be essential, as it will help you save time, organize yourself and your content, and have foresight.

Finally, you’ll have to decide on access levels to the content you’ll create. Meaning that while some content might be available for free members, some will be exclusively for subscribers and paid ones.

7. Promote Your Community

What’s the best way of promoting your community? Through your community members! ✨ In order to achieve this, it’s fundamental to turn your subscribers into advocates. As community lovers, users love to engage in conversations and share their views on particular topics with like-minded people. And online groups are the perfect platform to provide that kind of bond.

As a community builder, you can also promote your community’s free content on your social media platforms, inviting Internet users to check it out and engage with it. This way, you’ll encourage them to subscribe in order to have access to all the exclusive content for paid subscribers.

💡 Another great idea is to send your actual and potential members a weekly newsletter with that week’s events. That will keep them updated on what’s going on in the group, and remember them to check in!

8. Increase Attractiveness With Exclusive Benefits

Benefits include exclusive content, learning resources, and even mentorships and workshops. In short, the more subscribers move up the hierarchy of the subscription model, the more access they’ll have to the community’s benefits.

Related 👉 How to Make Online Communities More Accessible

9. Define Success Metrics

A big part of building a successful subscription community is using analytics to track success and prove the value of your work. In this case, to analyze your strategy you can use your members’ feedback, gathering information through community chatssurveys, or interviews.

Also, some great metrics exist in order to understand how the membership community’s performing. These include measuring unique visitors (acquisition), new members (conversion), and the number of posts, votes, and solutions (engagement).

10. Cultivate Community Habits

Last but not least, building a great community requires cultivating habits that encourage members’ participation. And hosting regular activities is crucial to create a feeling of periodicity that pushes your members to come back for more.

However, it’s important not to overcharge your community’s agenda! The key is to host regular meetings and events that naturally fit your online group’s interests. A great option is to offer hybrid events so everyone can participate.

Best Platforms for Community Engagement


Circle is an all-in-one community platform for both creators and brands. Therefore, it has multiple features to help builders in the process of creating a membership community. It allows members to engage in discussions, participate in live streams and events, and chat with each other.

Among the advantages of this platform, Circle allows each community to have its own profiles, links, and an unlimited amount of content. Also, it obviously allows builders like you to monetize their online groups with flexible payments, making it great for memberships, coaching, or courses.

It also offers creators the possibility to offer members monthly, quarterly, annual, weekly subscriptions, and one-time fees. In addition, you can provide potential members with free trials, special offers, and promotions with coupons.

How much does cost? 💸 The base price is $39 per month for communities with up to 100 members and 10 spaces. The middle subscription price is $79 per month, and it allows up to 10,000 members and 100 spaces. But if you just want to try Circle, you can get the free 14-day trial.

However, one of the main disadvantages of this platform is that, while you can customize your community as you like, customization is a little bit complex and difficult to master. Also, Circle only offers an iOS app option, no Android application 🙁


If you’re thriving to build a paid newsletter community, Substack is one of the most popular platforms to produce and monetize email lists. For instance, this paid newsletter platform provides you the possibility to customize, engage in discussions with the audience through threads, and grow a community that can be easily monetized.

However, according to Bailey Richardson, Head of Community at Substack, and Katie O’Connell, Community Manager at the platform, prior to monetizing the newsletter, you’ll have to measure your relationship with your readers. This can be measured by the reach (the size of the audience) and engagement (how much they interact with the content).


If you’re looking for a platform that allows you to easily create your own forum, we encourage you to check out Tribe. The platform was created for entrepreneurs and it has been used by many successful businesses such as Pinshape, Startup Digest, and others. It’s also free to use and has several plugins you can add to personalize the user experience.

YouTube video

Building a successful subscription community or membership site is easier if you can identify your target audience’s needs! If your community is already live and receiving new members, keep reading about the community onboarding best practices to make them feel welcome.

Victoria Mortimer

Victoria Mortimer

I'm a journalist with a Social Communication degree, community manager, and content creator with over five years of experience. Now, I'm working as an independent writer passionate about community building, entrepreneurship, and social media.