Whether you decide to publish information in a paid newsletter, a “members only” web site, or an email or notification service, the questions you’ll have to answer are basically the same.
Why do you want to do this?
Is the decision based on your love of the niche and desire to share what you know about it?
Is it because you already have the advantage of possessing the knowledge and experience that will be needed?
Are you trying to gain a dedicated group of subscribers so you can offer them niche products for sale? Or is the decision simply one that allows you to start a business and earn a living in a niche of your own choosing?
Are you choosing this model because you like the thought of recurring subscription fees on a regular basis?
Whatever the reason, there are business principles that you ought to think about prior to committing much time and money to your new venture.
1. Can you create a site that is clearly unique?
In every niche there are already paid subscription businesses of one type or another. Just adding to that mix because you can is probably not a valid reason to get into this business model.
If you offer the same types of features and services that others do, you will struggle to take market share away from them. Your competitors have the early adopter advantage.
Why will their customers want to switch to your site?
Can you assume they’ll be willing to pay for duplicated services?
I would suggest finding some uncharted water instead.
Figure out a unique service or a sub-niche that you won’t have competition in. Provide unique and one-of-a-kind information that can only be had at your site!
Strike out on your own path and offer things that dedicated customers in your niche won’t find elsewhere.
2. Do you have a source of information, products, and services that you can give to your paying customers?
As the site host, you’ll be looked to as the expert in the field and you will be expected to provide new and relevant information on a regular basis into the future. People are paying you to provide valuable and timely content so they don’t have to go looking for it on the Internet.
Are you able to generate and publish that type of ongoing information?
Are you willing to spend time doing research and publishing what your know or find?
3. Do you have the knowledge and skill to make this a bona fide business?
As soon as you take money from your customers, you will be in business. You are committing to a long-term stream of valuable niche content, downloads, products, advice, or whatever else you offer to your private members.
Make sure you have the time and can commit what is necessary to going into legitimate business.
Executing a business is not for everyone. It requires a lot of discipline, attention to detail, consistent quality over time and persistence to push through boredom, technical issues, daily execution tasks, and fatigue for the subject.
If you have a tendency to jump from one thing to the next, a short attention span, you’re sloppy or inconsistent, or you get easily bored or distracted, this may not be the best choice of business models for your personally. Only you can decide this.
4. Do you have the skill or knowledge to create and administer a subscription web site?
If you don’t, are you prepared to pay someone (an employee, a partner, a business application provider, or a freelancer) to take care of this time-consuming task?
There is a learning curve to all the membership site platform choices; from those being fairly easy and intuitive to manage . . . all the way to some solutions that are quite complex and will require a major commitment of time and energy to master.
5. Do you like to write, create, or publish information?
Just as above, if you don’t enjoy these tasks or don’t feel that you’re good at them, you’ll need to get some help from somewhere.
Subscription sites work because they provide paying customers with ongoing and valuable niche information.
These members of yours will expect fresh, unique content each month (or week, or day depending upon your model).
Are you going to be able to give them enough value that they will remain your customers? Do you have sufficient experience and knowledge in the niche to answer detailed questions over a long period of time.
6. Do you have a plan for finding and keeping customers?
Just because you put up a site and offer a subscription service, there is no guarantee that anyone will find you or trust you enough to join your site. One of the biggest time and money commitments you’ll have to make is to your own business marketing.
Running the actual site is just one on-going task. A more difficult task, according to most membership site operators, is marketing to new potential members and replacing members that choose not to continue with you. It seems that an average length of most site memberships is 3-4 months. If that is true, you will need to constantly replenish your site with new members.
Figuring out how to attract new customers and get them to commit to recurring payments is quite often difficult. Some site operators prefer to limit membership terms to one year or even six months with the thought that they will have a better chance of retaining paying subscribers when they see a fixed conclusion to their recurring payments.
You could easily spend the bulk of your time in this business on your marketing tasks.
7. Do you enjoy interaction with people?
One of the reasons many folks will join an online community is for the social interaction it provides.
As the owner of a paid membership site, you will need to expose your personality and be willing to become an active member of the dialogue that ensues. Some people will join the membership just because they want to be a part of a like-minded group.
You will become the shepherd that is leading your flock wherever you decide it needs to go. Of course the smart operator will ask his members for feedback on things they would like to learn or have access to within the niche.
If you don’t like participating in human interaction online, chances are you will not be a great site leader.
If you want to start a subscription site, you need to go into the business fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into because you’re going to be committing to a long-term business model.
To your online success!