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Creating a membership site is a smart way to drive recurring revenue and build your online community. But it takes work to pull off. Many creators are unsure of the type of content their target audience is genuinely interested in or how to design a site that converts. 

To succeed with membership sites, you need to know how to curate an irresistible offering that people are willing to pay for long-term. And the best way to learn is to look at successful examples of membership sites within and outside your niche to see how they’ve pulled this off! 

In this article, we will share 13 membership site examples to inspire you, including: 

  1. Zealous Art
  2. Peak Freelance
  3. Train 2.0 membership
  4. Natural Cosmetics Formulation Club
  5. The Key to Pictures Academy 
  6. Rachel’s English Academy 
  7. Kidexplorer
  8. Personal Development School
  9. Sew It! Academy
  10. Olive Knots
  11. Society of Visual Storytelling
  12. Dunbar Academy 

What is a membership site?

A membership site is a hub where members can access training content and an exclusive community for a recurring fee. A login protects this area so only paying members can access your content.

Once students subscribe to your services, they can learn at their own pace as they receive new content from you every month. Your goal is to draw new members into your community while retaining the ones you have to maximize their lifetime value for your business.

With that in mind, let’s get into the membership site examples and look at what makes them work!

Related article: If you want to learn the keys to running a successful membership site, check out our guide on How to launch a membership site.

What makes the membership sites on our list unique?

There is no shortage of membership sites, but the best ones are those that: 

  • Own a niche: The creators of these membership sites really carved out an interesting niche for themselves. These creators aren’t trying to be everything to everyone; they’re honing in on a niche.
  • Are original: These sites scored points because of their new ideas, whether it’s the topic they chose, who they’re targeting, or the overall membership structure.
  • Positively impact members: At Thinkific, we have a special place in our hearts for sites that highly impact their members. These membership sites help their members improve their lives — whether it is starting a new business or learning a new skill.
  • Generate high member ROI: The examples we’ll share will cover a range of price levels. Since pricing is tied to your member’s perception of ROI, there’s no right or wrong way to price a membership site.
  • Focus on Passion to Profits: A membership site born from a passion for a particular hobby or activity. These examples remind us that anyone with expertise and a passion for sharing it with the world can start a business that they simply can’t wait to wake up to work on.
  • Are a teacher’s best friend: These membership sites help teachers by creating content that can be used in the classroom to facilitate blended learning or asynchronous learning.
  • Nail site design: These sites have invested a lot in their look and feel, resulting in an excellent experience for their users. They follow web design best practices to capture and engage their audience effectively.
  • Nail the cool factor: This is like our wildcard for sites that are just too cool not to share.

Related: How to design your online course visually and  structurally

With that out of the way, here are 13 membership sites that should definitely be on your radar! 

  1. Zealous Art 

For Freda Lombard, teaching art in person has always been a fun way to explore creativity and impact others positively. However, when the pandemic made in-person meet-ups impossible, Freda decided to move her classes online — and Zealous Art was born. 

“Paint Night at Home ”, Zealous Art’s membership program, has more than 120 bite-sized painting videos suitable for everyone — from beginners to experienced artists. The videos are organized by theme — from winter and Christmas paintings to Halloween and beach paintings — so you can easily find what makes your creativity tick. And new videos are added every month too. 

Zealous Art supports self-paced learning, which means you can paint whenever you like and for as long as you want — whether you have a few minutes between classes or you’re looking to relax after a long day’s work. You’ll also join a fun community where you can connect with other art lovers, plan co-painting classes and ask Freda questions! 

Why we love it

  1. Passion to profit: Freda has built a successful business by combining her two passions – art and teaching. She keeps doing what she loves while impacting others positively. 
  1. A teacher’s best friend: The videos are broken into bite-sized pieces with clear instructions that anyone can follow. Art teachers can use Freda’s videos to complement complex learning modules in the classroom. 

Related: How Zealous Art Pivoted to an Online School 

  1. Peak Freelance

Freelancing can be a hard and lonely job — that’s something that veteran freelance writers, Elise Dopson and Michael Keenan, know too well. So they created Peak Freelance — a safe space where freelancers connect with one another, find answers to tough questions, and vent about the ebbs and flows of freelance life. 

For £39 a month, Peak Freelance members get access to expert interviews, a private podcast, a Slack community, business templates, and much more! For freelance writers who aren’t ready for a membership, Peak Freelance offers a ton of free resources that you can binge on to improve your business. 

Whether you have been freelancing for a long time or just learning the ropes, it pays to have a community you can lean on for support. 

Why we love it 

  1. Site design: Peak Freelance does a great job of showing the value of its membership site right away. As soon as you land on the homepage, it’s clear what you’re getting out of joining the community — the copy is clear and precise, and there is a ton of social proof to bolster the visitor’s interest and drive subscriptions. 
  2. Originality: Peak Freelance has curated a library of expert content you cannot find anywhere else. This is what makes the community truly valuable to its members. 
  1.  Train 2.0+ Membership 

Having created successful online courses like Downhill Skating System, and built a thriving YouTube community, hockey coach Jason Lee decided to take things a notch further by launching a subscription-based site. 

For 47 USD a month, community members get forever access to all of Jason’s courses, including the Downhill Skating System and Slingshotting system. The membership site also offers group question-and-answer sessions plus one-on-one coaching with hockey experts. 

Jason’s community is a great example of how creators can increase the ROI of their membership sites and earn recurring revenue. Instead of purchasing the courses one by one, people can subscribe to the exclusive community to access all the courses in one place and save money. 

Why we love it

  1. Own a niche: Jason’s community focuses on helping hockey players at all levels to develop expert skills and unlock their potential using trusted training methods. 
  2. Positively impact members: It is clear from the tons of social proof on the website that Jason’s community helps hockey players and enthusiasts reach their goals 

Related: How this hockey coach monetizes his YouTube channel through online courses

  1. Natural Cosmetics Formulation Club

At first, Gail was only interested in making and selling organic skincare products. But she soon realized that the more people saw these products, the more they were interested in learning how to make the products themselves. So she set up The School of Natural Skincare to address this need. 

Natural Cosmetics Formulation Club is the membership site for The School of Natural Skincare. It has tons of exclusive learning resources — including templates and guides — that will help you create natural skincare products and launch your own business! 

New content is added to the club’s library every week. What’s more? You can suggest new topics to be added to the content library based on your research and learning needs. And you’ll also connect with other natural skincare aficionados who can support your journey from skincare novice to expert! 

Why we love it

  1. Own a niche: The School of Natural Skincare is a perfect example of how niching can unlock tremendous benefits for your business. By focusing on a highly-specific niche, Gail attracted a high intent audience that drove organic signups to both her courses and membership site. 
  2. Originality: The members are not getting generic information that they can find somewhere else. They are getting first hand expert knowledge that translates to real results for their personal lives and  businesses. 
  1. The Key to Pictures Academy 

Founded by veteran photographer, Katie Evans, The Key to Pictures Academy is an advanced photography training program for people who have mastered the basic photography skills and are looking to upgrade to the next level! Members pay a one-time fee ( $495) and get immediate access to over 80 step-by-step video tutorials, one-on-one mentorship sessions, peer reviews, and live feedback sessions with Katie. 

For people who aren’t quite ready for the subscription-based community, Katie offers standalone online courses that set a solid foundation for understanding photography — after which you can sign up for The Academy! 

Why we love it

  • Membership ROI: Not everyone can afford a $495 one-time payment. To limit the number of people who might miss out on the membership due to pricing, The Academy allows students to pay in installments. It also offers scholarships to eligible applicants. 
  • Own a niche: Katie’s school is very clear on its value proposition, which positively impacts its messaging and overall positioning. It’s not a place for beginners; rather it provides the key knowledge needed to go from basic to advanced photography. This clarity helps the school attract the right audience, making conversions a breeze. 
  1. Rachel’s English Academy 

For foreign students looking to attain spoken English fluency, Rachel’s English Academy provides everything you need to succeed. It’s packed with practical training resources — from recorded lessons to sound boards and quizzes — to help you speak English confidently. 

For $37 a month, members get access to daily lessons from Rachel to help them improve their spoken English systematically, in addition to the extensive course library. You’ll also participate in live feedback classes and coaching sessions so you can attain near-native fluency in no time! 

If you’re not ready for a membership, you can sign up for any of the academy’s courses and earn a certification upon completion. You can download these certificates and add them to your LinkedIn profile or professional website. 

Why we love it 

  1. Own a niche: From the minute you land on the website, it is clear who it is made for — the copy is simple to grasp, and it speaks to the pain points of non-English speaking students. The academy isn’t concerned with the technicalities of the English language. Instead, it focuses on teaching non-English speakers to pronounce English words correctly. 
  2. Site Design: The membership site is packed with tons of social proof from former and current students. It has an FAQ section that addresses common objections students might have, which increases the chances of these students signing up for the academy. 
  1. Kidexplorer

Every so often, we come across newer membership site owners who are wise beyond their years–and this is quite literally true of Kidexplorer for a number of reasons.

We first took notice of Kidexplorer after seeing a sudden influx of search engine traffic hitting their site. After meeting with them, we learned that they were launching their Thinkific site as a way to expand from their success on youtube to a platform that they own and control.

They’re a family-run operation taking new steps to monetize their successful youtube channel with educational content for kids. If you’re looking to dive into a particular topic, you can take individual classes such as Economics or Fitness for kids, but for $10 a month, you get all-access membership to their content.

They gave away a free course on the U.S. Presidential Election that spread like wildfire through the public school system. Teachers from across the world were using Kid Explorer’s content in their classes to help children understand what all the election fuss was about.

This is a membership site launch strategy that we see work time and time again — offer something for free to a large audience to plant the seed. We suspect they nailed their launch because of their large audience and publishing effective educational content for children. 

It’s difficult for adults to know whether or not they’re teaching in a way that resonates with children. But Kidexplorer has the unique advantage of having their children as the instructors, which gives them valuable input on how their content can be designed and delivered in a way that children understand.

Why we love it

  1. Teacher’s best friend: Kidexplorer has found a niche creating content for children, by children–something clearly valued by teachers for use in the classroom. They indicate a trend we’d love to see more of our course creators capitalize on — the resourcefulness and agility of for-profit educational businesses that support the public school system with blended learning content.
  2. Cool factor: Because of their unique approach leveraging the lens their children view the world through to develop more effective content, their impeccably timed launch during the election, and the fact that they’re a family-run operation, Kidexplorer is a pretty cool membership site.
  1. Personal Development School

Thais Gibson offers “courses for real life.” Overcoming mental obstacles, dealing with anxiety and depression, and forging deeper connections with the people who matter in your life are powerful skills that almost anyone can benefit from.

Membership in the Personal Development School gives students access to all intro modules, workbooks, and the school’s online community. You’ll also get two weekly group coaching events and exclusive access to live events.

Thais updates her blog regularly with concise, helpful content to keep students informed on her expertise and available support — potentially life-changing advice you can use now for free.

Why we love it

  • Impact on members: Another example of an impactful membership site that can improve the lives of its members. They have carved out a unique proposition of “courses for real life” in the fairly crowded wellness space.
  • Site design: Their website has a slider that rotates through positive comments left by their members–a great example of using member testimonials to do the selling for you. 

We loved the order in which things were placed on the website: The testimonials are above Thais’ bio, and it’s important to understand why. Your membership site isn’t about you; it’s about your members and the value they’ll receive from membership. Potential members are far more interested in the outcomes your site can provide than your qualifications.

  1. Sew It! Academy

Whether you have dreams of becoming a haute couture designer, or you’d just like to start altering your own clothes, Sew It! Academy is here to get you started. Their lessons let students learn, step-by-step and at your own pace, how to create clothes that you’ll actually want to wear.

Sew It! doesn’t focus on just one demographic. They offer membership covering womenswear, menswear, or a combination of both—as well as a single-course membership designed just for kids aged 8–14. Would-be tailors can dip their toes by signing up for a free seven-day trial.

Why we love it

  1. Passion to profits:  It’s easy to think, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could get paid for my hobby?”; it’s another thing actually to execute on it. Sew it! Academy is another example of a creator who has made their passion a business. Mimi started a blog as a hobby. She needed an outlet, and always loved to sew. Starting a blog allowed her to share her passion for sewing and design with others, which has now evolved into a vibrant community built around an educational business.
  2. Site design: Sew it! Academy has a beautifully designed site. The value proposition is front and center when you reach their site, “Want to learn to sew and design your own clothes?” As you scroll down the page they do an excellent job of demonstrating value before they ask you to sign up. They acclimate new visitors with a welcome video, highlight who can benefit from their academy, tangible learning outcomes, and what differentiates them.

Related: How Mimi Goodwin Grew Sew it! Academy with a Membership Course

  1. Olive Knits

At age 11, Marie Greene learned to knit at her grandma’s side. Today, she’s passing on that knowledge and passion to knitters worldwide. Her Knit Camp sets members up with twelve new patterns per year—including complete tutorials, live webinars, tips and tricks, and access to the Knit Camp online community.

For knitters who aren’t ready to commit, Olive Knits offers original patterns at an affordable price. And Marie keeps her blog regularly updated, with topics ranging from design inspiration to perfect shoulder stitches.

Why we love it

  1. Passion to profits: Unless your intent is to sell your knitting creations, knitting is thought of as more of a hobby than a business. But Olive Knits has taken their passion for knitting, and created a business from it by sharing it with the world. You can replace knitting with virtually any hobby that you’re passionate about.
  2. Price range: Olive Knits is able to accommodate a variety of commitment levels. You can either sign up for their Knit Camp, purchase their patterns at an affordable price, or learn from their blog for free.
  1. Society of Visual Storytelling

It’s one thing to learn how to draw. It’s something else entirely to become a great illustrator. The Society of Visual Storytelling offers an array of courses covering the technical aspects of putting your ideas on paper. Plus, they offer online critique workshops and lessons specific to the illustrating profession — like how to perfect your portfolio and promote yourself online.

If students want a lesson on a specific technique — like cross-hatching or watercolors — they can buy it individually. But membership gives you access to every course so that you can get a comprehensive education at your own pace. As their student gallery and busy forum attests, the Society of Visual Storytelling has played a major role in kick-starting members’ careers.

Why we love it 

  1. Site design: We expected a membership site focused on visual storytelling to have a beautiful site, and were not disappointed. You probably wouldn’t know they’re using two different platforms for their front and back ends because they’ve done an excellent job integrating their brand look and feel across their entire site.
  2. Member ROI and passion to profits: Their value proposition is the very first thing you’ll see when you visit the website. Society of Visual Storytelling bridges the gap between being good at drawing and making a career of it.
  1. Dunbar Academy

Sometimes, Fido does as Fido wants. That’s where dog trainers come in. Taking a training class with your pooch can save your shoes from a future chew session or avoid embarrassing encounters at the dog park. And having structure and a clear line of command makes dogs happier — they’re pack animals, after all.

Dunbar Academy takes members through the basic principles of training — like taking control and showing Fido who’s boss to high level instruction like dealing with doggy aggression. For the especially inspired, you can also learn how to start, promote, and run your own training business. If you aren’t sure online dog training is right for you and your pooch, Dr. Dunbar offers a collection of free beginner lessons to get you started. So students can start their training journeys in a wag of the tail, with no commitment.

Why we love it

  1. Site design: If there are two common threads shared by successful membership site creators, it’s (1) nailing their value proposition, and (2) providing value upfront. The value proposition here is evident: “Easy, Effective & Enjoyable Dog Training Techniques.” We also liked that they’re giving away 8 free courses that you can take, which give them a chance to demonstrate value before someone commits to a $20/month membership.
  2. Cool factor: It would be an understatement to say that Thinkific is fond of dogs. Bonus points for creating impactful content that leads to a better world for dogs and their owners.

Natalie Eckdahl is a seasoned business strategist and high-performance coach helping entrepreneurial women build, grow, and scale their businesses. Membership gives you access to weekly and bi-weekly group coaching, pre-recorded content, connections to a community of women entrepreneurs, and more.

Natalie has designed her program to appeal to entrepreneurs at all levels, with three packages focused on different groups and their needs — from women just getting their businesses off the ground to seven-figure CEOs.

Why we love it

  1. Member ROI and price range: It’s hard to miss the impact BizChix can have on its members — high-achieving, entrepreneurial women who want to take their businesses to new heights. BizChix has a variety of packages ranging from 1-on-1 to group coaching sessions that lead to high member ROI, with package options that accommodate different commitment levels from $10,000+ to $600/month.
  2. Impact on members: Due to the nature of their content, and the fact that it’s tailored towards one niche audience, we believe that the value of the education they target towards a specific group has a high potential for impact on the lives of their members.

Related: How to price your online course

Build engaged membership sites with Thinkific 

Choosing a membership site provider is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. You need a provider that supports a user-friendly interface and guarantees security for your content and customers’ data. 

Thinkific is the perfect solution for creating thriving and engaging membership sites. It’s easy to use, allows you to set up a variety of content, and supports multiple pricing and membership plans. Check out this article to learn how to create a membership community on your course site and its advantages over external groups like Facebook.

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This blog was originally published in December 2020, it has been updated to include new information in January 2022.