People love the Internet because of the abundance of free information found on thousands of websites. However, if a person is searching for a large amount of free, timely, high quality information on one topic — especially a niche, or non-mainstream topic — finding the desired information can be time-consuming and sometimes downright impossible.

That explains the rise in popularity of membership-only websites. People are willing to pay a monthly, quarterly, or yearly fee to gain access to a single, centralized storehouse of quality content that matches their specific needs. You can capitalize on this trend - if you can think of a topic and create useful content related to that topic.

A membership website, or members-only website, is a site that "hides" some or all of its content and makes that content accessible only to members — people who have signed up, and paid, for access. Exactly what the content is depends entirely on the topic of the site. A professional trainer might display training videos and offer instructional manuals for download, while a sewing enthusiast might offer daily or weekly sewing tips and sewing patterns for download.

Just about everyone has a lot of knowledge about at least one topic. Don't let that knowledge go to waste! Instead, consider investing a little time and effort in setting up a membership website to pass on that information and to earn some extra income.

A membership website is a great business because it has a very low start-up cost. You don't need to purchase any inventory — you just need to be able to convert your knowledge into a format you can share with others. Creating documents, e-books, videos or a blog may cost you some of your time, but it won't cost you any money. Because your cost is so low, your profit margin is high. And once you've set up your site and populated it with content, you've developed a steady revenue stream.

Your product isn't a tangible, solid item that you need to replenish for each new customer. Instead, once your content is up, any number of people can buy it, and over any length of time. One customer will find your product useful today and buy it, and six months later that same product has appeal to another person.

One mistake many people make when creating a members-only website is that they become focused on setting up a website that is only a membership site. Some e-commerce websites sell shippable products. Others sell digital downloads. And still others sell memberships to members-only content. Keep in mind that your site doesn't have to be a "one or the other" proposition.

From your one website you can sell shippable products, downloadable products (digital files for download), and have a membership area. You can also have any combination of those three sales techniques on a single website. For instance, a website devoted to training materials could sell bound, printed versions of their documents to ship to customers, downloadable digital versions of those same documents, and include a members-only area that offers both the downloadable documents and additional, often-updated content such as web pages of tips and techniques, a blog, and other "bonus" material not offered for sale elsewhere on the site.

When creating a members-only website you don't have to narrow your focus — and narrow your income potential — by dedicating the entire site to paid members. If your business model makes it realistic to sell shippable products and/or downloadable files, you might consider generating revenue in those ways, and then also including a password-protected member area with material exclusive to those who pay for it.


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