(Note: this is an honest, unbiased review and contains no affiliate links.) There’s a notion that people who ‘earn an income online’ are people who work from home every day in their pyjamas – people who have blissfully spurned the outside world of work.
In truth, though, most people earn additional income through freelancing or operating a small business online, but still work a normal full-time job. For some, the goal is to eventually leave full-time work. For others, online income is fun and useful to have, but will never replace the satisfaction they get from their main job.
Image courtesy of Will Scullin under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
If you’re one of those people looking to shed your day-job, or boost your salary with some additional income streams, you’ve probably heard of Yaro Starak – a blogger who teaches people various ways to make an income online. His blog has an RSS reader count creeping towards 100k, and deservedly so – Yaro’s clear, accessible and methodical way of dispensing advice is refreshing in a topic often dominated by hype and spin. For several years Yaro has been running an online course called ‘Blog Mastermind‘, teaching its students how to make money from blogs.
More recently, Yaro launched ‘Membership Site Mastermind‘ – a spin-off course that promises to walk you through all the steps necessary to create a paid membership site, which in Yaro’s words is the single best way to earn extra income online, and also (somewhat ironically) how most of his own income is created. In most cases, this means creating content that people will pay to access, such as a course.
When the free Membership Site Masterplan was released, I read it eagerly. It’s an eBook starter-guide to getting into the membership site business. Rather than being a marketing pamphlet for his course, Yaro covers all the core components required to get started with a membership site. Rather than withholding key aspects of the strategy, everything is there – it’s the detail that is left for paying members only.
Who Could Benefit?
The course’s sales letter suggests that running a membership site is extremely good value for money – that you can earn a fantastic income while only working a couple of hours a day. It sounds as if this method for earning income online would be perfect for someone already working full-time, but keep in mind that the two hours a day is purely ‘maintenance’ work – customer support, updating content, and marketing. When setting up a membership site, there is a big initial workload in creating the content for the membership and generating launch materials. Ultimately, the model promises is a lot of upfront work followed by minimal maintenance work. If you can pull through the initial challenges of setting up your site, finding a customer base and launching your product, things get a whole lot easier. If your launch is successful, life really is pretty good.
If you can get even 10 people to pay $50 a month for access to a course, you could earn an extra $500 a month. You really don’t need to have a huge pre-existing audience in order for your membership site to make a worthwhile income. Unless you make some kind of mistake with your membership site topic, content, or launch, earning three or four figures a month is very achievable with this model – if you can get the product and launch right. And that, of course, is the hard part!
What You Get
The course is delivered through six modules of ‘talking head’ video, where Yaro speaks to you directly on camera and explains the process of creating and launching a membership site. Text and audio transcripts of each chapter are also available. The setting for the videos is quite informal – they were obviously recorded in a quiet room of Yaro’s home. This helps to make the videos more personable, but might be a negative for those expecting more professional production values for the price. Still, the video and audio quality is good and makes the content easy to follow. The modules are:
- Topic Selection and Preeminence In this module you’ll learn how to choose a topic for your membership site. You’ll also learn about the importance of preeminence – in other words, being seen as an expert on the topic your membership site is about. If you don’t believe that you have an expertise (though I’d say you probably do!), this module may be a stumbling block. But if you look hard enough, you’ll probably find you have something you can teach – whether it’s skills in your day job, your favorite hobby, or even tips and strategies for your favorite video game. In fact, some of the most obscure expertises can be the most marketable. If your expertise is making money online, you’re going to have lots of competition. If your expertise is illustrating comic books, you may be the only person providing a membership site on that topic. But while most of us have an expertise, becoming renowned for that expertise is the hard part. Yaro’s strategy for building preeminence has been to provide free information through his blog, but if you don’t yet have a platform, building and promoting one will add lots of additional work to the setup of your membership site.
- Traffic Generation Traffic is the lifeblood of any online business. This module explains how to get traffic flowing into your site and through your sales process.
- Human Resources and Technology This module covers the technology required to set up a membership site, and how to hire people to help you set it up. Because this section was relatively short in the ‘Masterplan’ document, I expected this module would cover the technology and setup in much more detail. But even in the module, the information is slightly vague. This probably won’t be a problem for those who are happy to get technical help in setting up their membership site, but for those who want to tackle setup on your own, you may be frustrated by the lack of step by step instructions in this module.
- Content and Pricing This module covers different types of content you can offer, a possible workflow for creating it, and particularly usefully, talks about different pricing models you can use for your product.
- The Launch Process This module is arguably the strongest. The quality of your launch is just as important as the quality of your membership site content. Few of us have experience with product launches, so there is a steep learning curve here. Luckily this is Yaro’s particular expertise, and you’ll learn some solid, practical tips and strategies for carrying out a launch, as well as what is required for success (hint: it has something to do with email and newsletters!)
- Post Launch This module deals with the ongoing maintenance of your membership site: how to generate new sign-ups long term, how to manage customer support, and how to maintain a low attrition rate. You’ll also learn how to one day sell your membership site if you choose to do so.
The course’s greatest strength is that it breaks down the complicated process of creating and launching a membership site into simple, achievable blocks. Yaro’s teaching style is remarkable for his ability to clearly and concisely explain concepts in a way that anyone can understand and follow along. There course is extremely comprehensive and covers every step of the process.
Yaro is also, undisputedly, the right person to teach this kind of material. He runs a number of very successful and profitable membership sites, so you are learning from someone who has been there and done it all before. Those looking for more concrete information on the technical system for serving up a membership site may be a little disappointed. The assumption is made that you will hire a developer who knows how to use all the tools mentioned (WordPress, aMember and Aweber) and will be able to integrate them to create a membership site. Those on a tight budget hoping to set up a membership site without hired help will find the instructions are probably not as thorough as you’d like.
Lastly, the Membership Site Mastermind course is not cheap. The cheapest ‘up-front’ payment method for the course is $747 USD. Another option is to pay $297 per month for three months. Because of this, I would recommend the course only to people who are 100% committed and driven to launch a successful membership site. If you’re not certain a membership site is the right business for you and would like to test it out, the free ‘Masterplan’ will likely be enough to get you started. But for those few who are willing to work really hard to create a great membership site and to hold a successful launch, this product is very likely to pay for itself. Relevant links:
- Membership Site Masterplan – free report available on newsletter sign-up.
- Membership Site Mastermind sign-up page – if you have more questions about the course, this page is likely to have the answer!
- Entrepreneurs-Journey.com – Yaro Starak’s blog
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