Looking to Build a Membership Site with WooCommerce?
If so, you are in the right place.
I’ve been building membership sites for years now. I started out like many people do, building membership sites with one of the many popular membership plugins out there, Wishlist Member.
I started off collecting payments, like many people do, with PayPal standard. PayPal standard (as opposed to PayPal’s premium services) is free and easy to set up.
First, you set up a free PayPal account. Then, you set up what’s called a “payment button”. With a “payment button”, PayPal gives you a unique URL to link to where your customers can pay.
The Problem with Using PayPal Standard for Membership Sites
The problem with using PayPal standard for membership sites is that you are sending customers away from your membership site to make their payment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to send my customers away from my site right when they are ready to buy. I don’t have control over PayPal’s site, so when I send them there, I lose control.
This loss of control can result in customers getting lost or confused as to where they are or what step in the process they are at. This could cause them to not follow through in making the purchase.
Sending customers to PayPal’s site to purchase can cause two frustrating things to happen:
- It can require an extra step of registration – Because of the lack of seamless integration, after a customer purchased (and therefore entered all of their personal info), they still needed to enter that info again in Wishlist Member’s registration page to register for the course or membership site
- It may not automatically revoke access after a refund or cancellation – Most membership site owners want the site to automatically remove a user’s access to the content if they cancel, stop paying or request a refund. This isn’t seemless with plugins like Wishlist Member because you are relying on something called an API to send data back and forth. If you get this setup wrong, your site and PayPal won’t communicate and this part won’t work.
Why WooCommerce Memberships Is Such a Great Way to Build Your Membership Site
I had been using WooCommerce for a while on my clients sites to take payments when I found out they had a membership site plugin. The plugin is an official WooCommerce extension, called “WooCommerce Memberships“. It sells for $149, a fee which is technically an annual fee (although they won’t call it that).
Here are the two biggest benefits (in my opinion) of using WooCommerce Memberships for your membership site:
- It integrates seamlessly with any of the WooCommerce supported payment gateways – By far the biggest benefit of using WooCommerce Memberships is the fact that it integrates so deeply with the WooCommerce payment system. When a customer purchases a product, you can set it up so that WooCommerce automatically gives that customer access to your membership site. It’s as easy as that. No double registration. No API’s. Just seamless integration.
- It comes with the credibility and trust of WooCommerce – WooCommerce is no little plugin that nobody’s heard of. It powers over 25% of all e-commerce sites on the internet.
Here’s How to Build a Membership Site with WooCommerce
Now that we understand the benefits of building a membership site with WooCommerce, let’s dig right in on how to do it. Here are the four steps involved:
- Get a domain and hosting account and install WordPress
- Find and install a great looking WordPress theme
- Download WooCommerce and add any extensions you’ll be using
- Set up and configure your membership site
Let’s take a look at each one of these steps in more detail:
1. Get a domain and hosting account and install WordPress
In my former job where I worked for an internet marketing agency, I learned how expensive websites can be. We built and managed websites for large retail companies and we charged them thousands of dollars per month. You may be thinking, “Ouch”, and I agree with you. Obviously, small businesses can’t afford to hire most of the agencies out there to build and manage custom websites for them. Luckily, there’s WordPress, which means you don’t have to spend gobs of money to have a great website.
WordPress is an open source software platform, which is built and maintained by hundreds of developers. There are hundreds, or perhaps thousands more who have built plugins and additional functionality for WordPress (and often charge for it). All this means you can access a REALLY good website platform for your membership site for next to nothing AND it’s easy to use.
In the above video, I walk you through how to create a simple website with WordPress.org, which is the open-source, self-hosted WordPress software. I use WordPress.org for all of my websites. Since WordPress.org is self-hosted, you’ll need to install it on your own server.
If you’re like me, you aren’t a server guru, and therefore have no idea how to host your own website. You’re in luck, because there are a variety of web hosting services out there that are very reasonably priced, which will enable you to host a WordPress site (or several of them). I host all my sites with hosting service called Bluehost. It’s what I recommend using and it is only $100ish per year. Click here to use my affiliate link to get your own Bluehost account.
How to Purchase a Bluehost Web Hosting Account
Getting a web hosting account through Bluehost that you can use to host your WordPress business website is easy. Here are the steps:
- Head over to MathiasMedia.com/Bluehost.
- Select “Get Started Now”.
- Under “I Need a Domain Name”, type in the domain name you want to purchase.
- Go through the steps to purchase your Bluehost account
How to Install a WordPress Site on Your Bluehost Hosting Account
Once you have your Bluehost hosting account, it’s super easy to install the WordPress.org software on your domain. To do so, just follow these steps:
- Head over to Bluehost.com.
- Click “Login”, in the upper right-hand corner.
- Under “Website Builders”, select “WordPress”.
- Go through the steps to install your WordPress site on your domain.
This whole process will only take a few minutes and when it’s complete, you’ll have a website live on your domain. You can access your site by going directly to YourDomain (ex: yourwebsite.com) and you can access your WordPress admin panel by going to your YourDomain/wp-admin (ex: yourwebsite.com/wp-admin).
2. Find and Install a Great Looking WordPress Theme
For years, I stumbled from WordPress theme to WordPress theme, trying out different ones to see what worked the best for me. I first tried a premium theme from ThemeForest. Next, I went with a simpler, cleaner look and purchased a Solostream theme called WP-Clear, which I still use today on my personal blog.
But then, I needed to get serious when I started building sites for money. I needed a solid set of themes that were both modern and attractive. A good friend of mine told me that she used nothing other than StudioPress Themes with the Genesis Framework. I had no idea what a framework even was or what a child theme was, but she said Genesis had search engine optimization and responsive design built in and there were many extremely well designed themes to go along with it available from StudioPress.
I took a look and decided to give Genesis and StudioPress themes a try and the rest is history.
Today, I Use Genesis/StudioPress Themes Exclusively
I truly believe that installing a nice, modern, clean and responsive WordPress theme from Studiopress will help your membership site succeed without breaking the bank as these themes run less than $100, including the Genesis Framework.
Right out of the box, your membership site will look great as each theme comes with directions on how to customize it to look like the theme demo does.
3. Download WooCommerce and Add Any Extensions You’ll Be Using
Once you get your membership site live and a good looking theme installed, you’re ready to download and install WooCommerce. To do so, visit this link and download the .zip file for WooCommerce.
Next, install any WooCommerce extensions you want to use to add functionality to the core WooCommerce software. WooCommerce extensions can be both free or paid (and I recommend both). Here are the top two extensions I use and recommend for WooCommerce membership sites:
4. Set Up and Configure Your Membership Site
Finally, you’ll need to set up and configure your WooCommerce membership site. How this is done will depend on what theme you’re using as well as what WordPress plugins and WooCommerce extensions you’re using. This includes setting up your WooCommerce store, in which the steps are outlined here in the WooCommerce documentation.
You can use the StudioPress installation setup guides to help you set up your theme and you can use the WooCommerce extension documentations to help you set up your extensions.
Best of luck to you with your membership site and make sure to contact me (via the contact page or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions or to set up a free 30 minute call to discuss your membership site.