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How to Set Up a Membership Site – Step by Step Guide


You are on your way to building and launching your membership site.

In this guide you will get all the information you need in order to get started right away.

In the quick navigation below you will find links to all the content in this post.

Most Common Membership Sites Models

There are many types of membership sites models. The below are the most common ones:

Publisher Model

The Publisher model you provide ongoing content on a regular basis. Its structure is like a blog, and your members will have access to your new content as well as to your previous content. You can publish both protected (free or paid) and unprotected content.

An example of a Publisher model based membership site is the Wishlist Member online community – Wishlist Insider.

Download Area Model

The Download Area model is used to create a download area for members only, where your members will be able to log-in to the site and download the products they paid for. Each member will be able to download only the products he bought.

An example of a Download Area model based membership site is Wishlist Registration Widget, which is a plugin my team and I had developed for Wishlist Member.

Course Model

There are 2 ways you can use the Course model:

  1. You can create an online course broken into lessons that are revealed to the members on a periodic basis, for example: every week, month etc.
  2. You can also create a modular course so your members will be automatically moved from one module to another after a specific period of time.

Wishlist Member users:

If you are using Wishlist Member, you will be need to use the Sequential Upgrade feature in order to use the course model. You can read more about this feature in the Wishlist Member Settings part here.

Pay Per Post Model

This type of model allows you to sell your posts individually and it’s a great model for selling guides, private lessons etc.

An example for a Pay Per Post based membership site is this website – Wishlist Member Experts

Free Membership vs. Paid Membership

The best way to build a membership site is to create a combination of both Free and Paid memberships.

This combination will most likely get much more visitors to register to your membership site and will increase your revenues.

Free Membership

Creating a free membership and allowing your visitors to get part of your information for free will also have a positive effect on the registration rates to your paid membership.

These are only some of the reasons why you should have a free membership:

1. Become an authority in your niche

You don’t have to be an expert in your niche for others to see you as an authority, you only need to know more than your targeted audience to be able to provide them with valuable content and make them see you as an authority, and when your members will see you as an authority, they will be much more willing to register to your paid membership and buy your products and services.


2. Build your members’ trust

Trust is something that you should earn, and by giving content away for free you have the opportunity to show your members that they can trust you,  so always deliver valuable content.


3. Grow your Email list

It’s always easier to register people to a free membership rather than a paid membership, and by creating a free membership you will grow your email list much faster.

Paid membership allows you to give your members access to more detailed and valuable information or services, such as: forum, course, tutorials, interviews, bonuses, one-on-one consulting etc.

There are many services you can offer inside your paid membership, the possibilities are endless and you will generate much more sales by giving your members free access to some of your information.

Free Content vs. Paid Content

Now the million dollar question is…

Which content should you publish for free and which content should you sell for money?

There are 3 simple tactics that you can use in order to separate your free content and your paid content:

1. “What to Do” vs. “How to Do”

Separate the “What to Do” from the “How to Do”, for example: If you have a membership site about diet, the “what to do” can be tips on the types of exercises to lose weight and the “how to do” can be a training course on how to lose weight in 30 days.

2. Product overview vs. full version

Give an overview version of your product for free members and a full version of it for paying members.


3. Limited access

Grant paying members access to limited areas inside your membership site that offer more value, for example: forum, closed community etc.

Building Your Membership Site

Follow the below steps and have a membership site up and ready to go in no time:

Content and Structure

Choose Your Niche
Choose Your Membership Site's Model
Publisher/ Course/ Download Area/ Pay per Post
Prepare Your Content
Free and Paid content
Choose a Membership Site's Platform
Wishlist Member, aMember Pro, EasyMemberPro etc.
Choose a Theme
I recommend Canvas, OptimizePress or Headlines according to your needs.

Membership Settings

Create Your Membership Levels
Create the Error Pages
There are usually three types of error pages: 1 for non-members, 1 for wrong membership level and 1 for members who cancelled their subscription.
Create a Thank You Page
The Thank You page should appear after the registration for each of the levels.
Create the Dashboard Area
The Dashboard should appear after every log-in to the site and give the member navigation links to all the important areas in the site.
Protection Settings
According to the type of membership site you build.
Autoresponder Integration
So your members will be automatically registered to your mailing list.
Shopping Cart Integration
For your Paid membership.

After going through these basics you can add your content, design your theme and content’s look and add more features and plugins that will upgrade your membership site. The sky is really the limit!


Choose your niche
Choose your membership site's model
Prepare your content
Choose a membership site's platform
Choose a theme
Create your membership levels
Create the error pages
Create a thank you page
Create the dashboard area
Set the protection settings
Set the autoresponder integration
Set the shopping cart integration
Add your content
Design your theme
Upgrade your membership site with extra features and plugins

Wishlist Member Settings

In this part I will guide you through all the basic steps to creating your membership site’s basics.

The Setup Wizard

The Setup Wizard is a great feature that allows you to create your membership site’s basics in a few seconds.

In this feature you can define your membership levels, assign your error pages, define your protection settings and create your redirection pages.

To get to the Setup Wizard feature go to WL Plugins > Settings > Setup Wizard and follow the 4 steps as shown in the below screenshots gallery:

After you will complete the 4 steps, Wishlist Member will automatically create the following pages for you:

  • Dashboard
  • Membership Cancelled
  • Oops! This Content is Members Only
  • Oops! Wrong Membership Level
  • Thanks for Joining
  • Wishlist Member


The Dashboard is the first page your members see every time they log-in to the site.

This page should contain quick navigation links to all the important areas inside your membership.

The easier it will be for your members to find the content they need, the higher the chances they will not cancel their subscription.

Error Pages

The Setup Wizard will create 3 types of error pages:

  1. Membership Cancelled
  2. Oops! This Content is Members Only
  3. Oops! Wrong Membership Level

Your error pages should include:

A Login Form – For members who were redirected to the error page because they weren’t logged-in to the site.

A Sales Letter – For non-members who were interested in your content. This is a great opportunity to sell them your paid membership.

The error pages are very important and can tremendously increase the registrations to your paid membership, so take these pages seriously and design them right.


You can use a simple plugin called Post Content Shortcodes that allows you to display another post’s content inside another post/ page by inserting the shortcode   [post-content id=X ] X=Post ID

You can set it to display your membership site’s sales letter instead of doing it manually, and every change you make inside your original sales letter will automatically appear in the error pages.

Thank You Page

The Setup Wizard will create a thank you page – Thanks for Joining!

The Thank You page will be displayed to members after the registration process.

You can include a welcoming greeting, a link to the members’ area (dashboard) etc.

Wishlist Member

This page is called a “Magic Page” and it must exist in order to process member registrations. You don’t need to do anything inside the page, just leave it as is and not delete it.

Wishlist Member Settings Box

You will find the settings box inside every post or page, there you can define the content protection as seen in the screenshot below (click on the screenshot to enlarge):

Wishlist Member Settings Box

Content Protection

If you want the post/ page to be visible to non-members and search engines then leave it as No, if you want to make it a members-only post then set it to Yes.

Membership Levels

If you chose to protect your content, you must set the membership levels that will have access to the content.

Per User Access

This feature is for the Pay Per Post feature, so if you want it to be available only to members who bought the post, choose Yes.

The Sequential Upgrade Feature

If you are building a course membership site then you need to set the Sequential Upgrade settings as shown in the screenshot below (click on the screenshot to enlarge):

Sequential Upgrade

Upgrade To

The membership level that will be upgraded to.


There are 2 options: Move/ Add. If you want to move your members to a new module then choose the Move option and if you want to give your members access to previous lessons or modules even after they will be upgraded to the new one then choose Add.


The number of days between the upgrade.

Wishlist Member Plugin

If you still don’t own Wishlist Member plugin and you are interested in buying it then these are the prices:

Single Site License Price – $97

Multi-Site License Price – $297

You can get all the information regarding Wishlist Member here.

Complementary Resources

General Resources

SEO Strategies for Membership Sites – Complete Guide

The main problem with closed membership sites for members only is that search engines cannot access your content, and you miss out on free organic traffic.

The truth is, you don’t have to miss out on organic traffic… SEO Strategies for Membership Sites – Complete Guide contains all the information on how to do SEO for membership sites. Get more information here

Wishlist Member Dedicated

Wishlist Insider

Wishlist Insider is a premium training, resources, forum and support for membership sites owners. It includes: Live training, webinars, videos, audio lessons, tips and marketing materials from the Wishlist Insider team. Get more information here

Wishlist Registration Widget

Wishlist Registration Widget plugin is a simple registration form you can place in your membership site’s sidebar to increase the registration to your Free membership. Get more information here

Wishlist Error Page Booster

Wishlist Error Page Booster allows you to create dynamic and targeted error pages according to your visitors’ requested content (the protected content they don’t have permission to access). All you need to do is insert the plugin’s shortcodes into the error page and that’s it. Get more information here

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This site and the products and services offered on this site are not associated, affiliated, endorsed,
or sponsored by WishList or WordPress, nor have they been reviewed tested or certified by WishList or WordPress.

Wishlist Member Experts website was created to give you all the tools for building successful membership sites. The Technics and marketing tactics described in our guides are based on its' writers' experience only and do not ensure the same results for you.

Wishlist Member Experts website was created by Wishlist Member Extenstions
Wishlist Member Certified Developers 2012.

Wishlist Member Extensions

This Website is Using Wishlist Pay Per Posts Shortcodes to Manage Per Per Posts Resources.