Pour yourself a cup of your favorite think-juice and get ready to find your next million-dollar membership site idea.
In this article, we’re going to continue building on the foundation set in a previous text on how to start a membership site. If you haven’t read that yet, we recommend you start there.
But, if you’re ready to jump right in, you’ll find a selection of the finest examples of membership sites from across the web broken down by category.
What ISN’T a Membership Site
Before starting the examples, it’s worth making a minor detour to talk about what a membership is NOT. In other words, these are a few pitfalls people tend to get wrong about membership sites.
One recurring issue is site owners who try to put deliver too much upfront.
Remember that membership is about consistent and recurring value. You don’t need to be predatory about drip-feeding value, but it’s a bad idea to pack in too much value right out of the gate to entice new member sign-ups.
🔑 Key Takeaway: Memberships are about building a relationship with your members. And you do that by being consistent — not flashy.
Another mistake we see often is poor pricing decisions. In fact, it’s so endemic we wrote an entire guide on how to price an online course correctly where you can find all the basic tenets for pricing membership sites.
And, last but not least is going into it without a long-term strategy. If you’re serious about creating successful membership sites, you will have to create a distribute valuable content.
There’s no way around that.
A solid content strategy is the foundation of that, and if you don’t have one, you’ll be playing catch-up constantly. You don’t need to have a full year-long plan, but a core content strategy for at least a month in advance is a good rule of thumb.
Those three aren’t the only things that can go wrong, but they’re among the most common. So if you’re clear on those, you’re already ahead of the game.
With that in mind, let’s look at some membership website examples that are nailing the recurring revenue model.
We separated these into categories to make the list more manageable, but there’s no reason you can’t mix and match their models in creative ways.
Continual Membership Model
The quintessential membership model.
In this type of membership program, members pay for access to content that grows, and you continually update. It’s fair to say that most “membership sites” aim for this type of monetization.
Here are some top-tier membership site ideas in this category:
Podcaster’s Paradise is a membership site with a simple premise: a low monthly price will give you all the know-how you need to start and monetize a podcast.
That doesn’t seem like it’s a groundbreaking concept, but Podcaster’s Paradise crams a lot of value into its membership. For example, members have access to a large community of like-minded entrepreneurs, monthly Q&A sessions, and tons of regularly updated resources.
But this membership really shines in that members receive a physical podcast workbook that promises to guide aspiring podcasters from idea to launch in 50 days. That unique value-add sets it apart from thousands of similar membership in the podcast space.
Duncan Rhodes Painting Academy is another membership site that leverages the continuous content model to significant effect.
As a site that caters to the miniature painters market, its members expect the content to reflect the evolving techniques and tools of the hobby. Duncan Rhodes recognizes that and delivers weekly content for members that justifies its value.
Home Free is another membership site example that proves the membership model can be applied across all industries and pursuits.
Home Free is a country a capella group. And what they offer to members is pretty much more of what they’re doing: high-quality country a capella songs.
And, yet, they’re singing to the tune of over 4,500 members and earning upwards of $46,000 a month from their Patreon members.
The takeaway here is that you don’t need a fantastic membership site that’s constantly trying to reinvent itself. Instead, if you find your audience and double down on what you do well, that audience will likely be all you need to sustain your enterprise.
Online Community Membership Website
The next category we’ll talk about is community membership. Essentially, this model involves paid access to a community that provides value through networking and support.
It has been a popular model for long before there were online tools to support it, and the advent of the internet has only served to expand on this type of membership program.
Founder Summit is one of our favorite online communities that employs the membership site model. It provides access to a large community of founders and bootstrappers for a monthly fee.
The community offers crucialmastermind groups, virtual one-on-one meetups between members, expert roundtable discussions, and many other valuable perks for people trying to get a project off the ground.
But its most important value proposition is that it provides accountability for aspiring founders.
The Growth Hackers community is near and dear to our hearts and has proven to be massively valuable to thousands of members.
A key part of Growth Hackers’ success is that most of what it offers is free to members. You can get tremendous value without investing a single dollar.
If you choose, you can pay for access to more focused “rooms” which are memberships around a specific aspect of growth hacking, such as CRO.
Everything Marketplaces is another community for founders similar to Founder Summit. However, this one is more focused on helping people trying to build an online marketplace.
Creating an online marketplace presents a particular set of challenges and opportunities. The folks behind Everything Marketplaces recognized that and rightly leveraged those unique challenges to build this community.
This online membership site owes a big part of its success to an excellent growth strategy that has allowed it to attract the right kind of people.
So, a big takeaway is to start thinking about not only who you want joining your community from the start but also to think about who would be detrimental to it.
Freemium Membership Model
Next, let’s look at some membership website ideas that leverage the freemium model.
And, here, it’s worth noting that some degree of this model is what we’d recommend for most membership sites. In other words, get used to providing value upfront if you want to build a membership site from scratch.
🔎 An integral part of freemium membership sites is finding the sweet spot between giving away just enough to encourage conversions without giving away enough to make them unnecessary.
True Crime Obsessed is a podcast series. And as is the case for most podcasts, it’s free to download and listen to.
Additionally, listeners can choose to become Patreon supporters for bonus episodes and other perks such as ad-free listening.
True Crime Obsessed nails the value proposition so well that it has an exceptionally high proportion of free to paid listeners and earns over $130,000 per month just from Patreon.
If you’re going to take the podcast route, there’s a lot you could learn from this crime-obsessed couple.
Dating membership sites are among the best examples of how the freemium model can work with an engaged audience.
OkCupid offers a free account with just about everything the site offers. A premium subscription only adds the ability to do more of what users can already do with a free account.
Additionally, a paid subscription removes outside ads for users. Even something as simple as paying not to see ads can be enough of a selling point if you’re offering enough value for free.
16 Personalities offers a lot of immediate value for free. It doesn’t even make much mention of being a paid membership site until after you’ve already got something for free.
The basic premise it offers is a personality test based on some well-established psychological concepts. The test is fun and entertaining, and by the time you get the pitch to upgrade to a premium membership, you already have what you’ve come for.
So, this membership site puts a lot of work into its premium offering.
Premium members get access to thousands of pages of expert-written content and toolkits that help them based on their test results.
🔑 the key takeaway of this site is that if you’re going to give away a lot of your best content, you ought to be ready to provide even more valuable content for paid members.
Online Courses Membership Sites
Online learning has, by and large, already transitioned into the membership model. After all, it makes the most sense.
However, some learning platforms are making use of their membership websites a little better than others.
General Assembly is among the most respected providers of online courses in the coding, design, data, and marketing fields.
And it didn’t get there by accident.
The company has created a network of highly respected experts in their field and created some of the most rigorous course syllabi in the industry.
And, the most defining feature of General Assembly is that it offers both remote and on-campus courses as well as a substantial amount of high-quality free content.
LinkedIn Learning is a case study of how a successful membership platform can find a place within a larger organization.
When LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com, online learning was already a massive industry. Rather than start its own membership site for online courses, LinkedIn saw an opportunity to acquire both Lynda.com and its growing base of loyal members.
Today, it’s one of the premier learning platforms in the professional space.
Codecademy serves as an interesting counterpoint to General Assembly.
Instead of focusing on top-tier instruction and career paths, Codecademy provides a self-directed learning approach.
The thing that stands out is that Codecademy is no less successful than General Assembly. It simply caters to a different audience.
That’s a valuable lesson for when you’re creating your own membership website. Don’t let the presence of near competitors deter you.
There’s always room for a membership site that caters more readily to a subset of the same niche.
All-in-one Membership Site Ideas
All-in-one membership sites stretch the definition of a membership a little in that they don’t provide consistent content updates.
Instead, becoming a member entitles you to everything the online business has to offer. While there are typically pricing tiers involved, the basic premise remains the same:
You pay a membership fee for access that gets revoked when you end your membership.
It’s an excellent model for attracting paying members if your offering is best applied as a whole productized value proposition.
Here are some of the best membership sites using this model.
Healthy Grocery Girl is part of the cooking membership sites meta trend, and it does a great job of packaging a lot of value into a single membership.
For a single payment, members have access to all the recipes, guides, shopping lists, meal plans, and community the site has to offer.
This type of lifetime access membership combined with the all-in-one model is like a magic bullet for conversion. It’s like a product-shaped membership that screams value.
GuitarZero2Hero is a bit of a hybrid in that it’s an online course membership website,, but it leverages the all-in-one model to great effect.
That is, membership provides access to all the courses on the site and all the supporting content as well.
The site’s extensive library of free content along with top-notch courses and materials add up to an exceptionally successful membership site.
The International Gem Society is an industry staple in the precious stones space, and it’s also an example of a traditional membership site that mimics the role of trade organizations.
For a fee, members get access to a wealth of training materials, guides, articles, and forums. However, the major value proposition that IGS offers is a business listing.
Being listed among IGS’s partners is a guaranteed way for businesses in the gem industry to get in front of the thousands of gem enthusiasts that trust the site.
Product Bundle Membership Site Ideas
If you’ve listened to a podcast in the last five years, you’ve probably been bombarded with ads for product bundle memberships.
These can be either physical or digital product bundles, and while physical products are more involved, they can also be much more profitable.
By some accounts, Birchbox is the original membership site to offer the subscription box model.
It managed to entice people with a mix of exclusive content and limited-time product drops. Since it started in 2010, it has grown to be a multi-million dollar company and continues to be a market leader in the monthly subscription box arena.
Playstation Plus is a great example of how the product bundle model can work to sell digital products.
For a monthly subscription fee, Playstation Plus members get access to a rotating selection of games that they can keep forever.
As long as the digital products always end up providing greater than or equal value as the membership fee, members will feel justified in continuing to pay it. And, that’s true even if it’s digital products they otherwise wouldn’t be interested in.
Design Bundles is another example of how you could leverage digital products into a membership site.
Design trends are constantly evolving and it only makes sense that designers would want access to the newest assets and resources.
So, the folks at Design Bundles provide a library of graphics, templates, and so on for a monthly membership fee.
Hybrid Membership Site Ideas
For the last category, we’ll look at sites that do a little bit of everything.
These are often online businesses that evolved from their original proposition in ways that make sense for their prospective members.
And, as your membership site grows, you may find yourself in a similar position. If you have the resources, it’s almost always a good idea to scale when the situation arises and these examples may help you identify some ways to do that.
AppSumo Plus is a membership plan from AppSumo, the SaaS discovery platform.
The subscription entitles members to a host of valuable perks that are all enticing to AppSumo’s primary audience.
For starters, members get 10% off all their AppSumo purchases. There’s also a members-only community where entrepreneurs can discuss software solutions to business problems. Lastly, members get free software a rotating schedule.
In this way, AppSumo Plus combines the community, product bundle, and discount membership models.
AdLeaks is, first and foremost, a community of marketing professionals.
However, a membership offers so much more than that.
Members get unlimited access to dozens of digital marketing courses (online course membership), ebooks (product bundle), and deals on industry-leading tools (discounts).
And, by keeping the content fresh and consistently adding new guides, members always have a way to justify the price of the membership.
Internet Marketing Gold is primarily a membership site offering courses related to SEO. However, paying members also receive access to an active community of SEO professionals and a library of SEO tests from leading industry experts.
This blend of membership perks makes it appealing to beginners, experts, and even people who just need specific SEO knowledge nuggets from reputable sources.
Bonus: How Tim's Love for Dungeons and Dragons and Music became his Career
Tim Roven is a sound engineer and music producer that is passionate about playing Dungeons and Dragons with his kids. He created awesome soundtracks and effects to play in the background while they enjoyed D&D.
Tim created his website Tabletop Audio and now offers his ambient music, effects, and soundtracks for free. This helped him to develop a community of fans online on platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook.
It made complete sense for Tim to create a membership site for his brand so fans can make monthly donations as a kind gesture for his amazing work.
Tim also offers paying fans individual stems and sounds of his famous music and soundtracks. This allows fans to further customize Tim's music for a much more unique experience.
Find out more about Tim Roven's membership site success story in the full interview below:
Important Takeaways About Successful Membership Sites
Now that you’ve got a lot of inspiration to choose from, here are a few things that stand out about all these successful sites.
1. Keep your membership website clean, serene, and evergreen
What you’ll notice from all the membership sites listed here is that they employ a simple and straightforward design.
The membership site model works best if you can communicate the value you provide within seconds.
So, keep the value proposition clean when creating your membership site. Don’t get into too much detail right out of the gates. The site’s design should be serene and encourage potential members to stick around and find out what the benefits are — avoid gaudy and flashy messaging.
And, as much as possible, make sure that the membership offers evergreen value. Update courses regularly, rotate product bundles, etc.
2. Free content is a key part of how membership sites work
No matter how great of a deal you offer with memberships, you’ll need something to pave the way for people to commit.
As a rule of thumb, the less brand equity you have, the more you’ll have to invest in free access content to raise awareness.
3. Choose the right platform for your membership
There are many great options out there, but each adapts better to slightly different needs.
A WordPress membership site, for instance, is highly flexible. However, it also requires a lot of work to set up. The same is true for a custom membership website.
If you choose a platform like Hyax that already has the tools in place to create and support membership sites, you’ll sacrifice a bit of versatility but end up needing much less effort to set up.