Free content is terrific — it's part of the great appeal of the Internet. But people are also willing to pay for quality, useful content — provided it's tailored specifically to their needs. That's the reason for the recent popularity of membership websites — sites that charge a reasonable fee for access to viewable and/or downloadable content. You can become a part of this trend — and make money from this trend — by sharing your knowledge of a topic you're dedicated to.

One likely area for generating ideas for the basis of a members-only website is your job. Of course every job doesn’t lend itself to becoming a source of information others are willing to pay for, but many do. In particular, if you're involved in sales, marketing, public relations, training or technology, there's a good chance there are many people in a similar line of business who are constantly looking for information that will help them keep their jobs or advance their careers.

If your work has led you to create just a single item you could sell, such as a training manual, then you won't want to start a members-only website. Instead, you'd be better off trying to simply sell an electronic version (a digital file) of that item on a "regular" website. If, however, your job has led you to create a variety of documents that may be of use to others in your profession, a membership website may be right for you. Do some brainstorming to come with ideas for additional content you could include on your site.

If you've written one large document, consider dividing it into several shorter documents, then posting one of these sub-documents each month so members are always getting access to new information. PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, tables, graphs and charts — any or all such documents may be of use to others. Perhaps you could create short video or audio lessons or tutorials. Additionally, you might be able to devote a page of your membership site to a blog that includes timely information about recent tasks you've performed and insider-information from seminars or conferences you've attended.

After your job, the next likely area for coming up with ideas for a members-only website is your hobbies. If you have more than one hobby, focus on the one that is your true passion — the one you've spent the most time with, and that you are the most knowledgeable about. If your interest is in a somewhat obscure area, don't dismiss it! You aren't the only one interested in 19th century watercolor paintings, leopard geckos, or Byzantine coins! You may not know many people locally with your interest, but your target audience isn't local — it's millions of Internet-connected people.

There are bound to be many, many people sharing your same interest. If you can become the "one-stop shop" for this group, your site will gather many registered, paying members. Many of the above suggestions for a membership website devoted to a professional interest also apply to a membership website devoted to a hobby. Your site can include tutorials ready for free download, a frequently asked question page and lists of resources available to those who share your interest.

Content is what your membership website is all about. Provide plenty of content, and a good variety of content. A few possibilities include:

  • Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat documents such as training material, "How To" guides, and tip sheets - all available for download.
  • Video or audio files such as interviews with experts, training sessions, and tutorials - all ready to be viewed and listened to online.
  • Weekly or daily tips or techniques.
  • A frequently updated blog.
  • A page of frequently asked questions (FAQ).
  • "Top Ten" lists.
  • A "Contact Us" form that allows for the submission of questions that you answer (post the questions and answers on your site as new content).

Whether your membership-only website is devoted to a profession or to a hobby, the key to its success is to create a good amount of varied content that you can upload to your site so new members immediately have worthwhile information to view or download, and to then be able to add additional content on a weekly or monthly basis to keep current members satisfied. Your MadBeeTech hosted website includes a free membership area. If a members-only area works for your business, be sure to turn this feature on!


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