If you are looking to create your online courses, you will need to decide what kind of website you would use to host and build it.
You can create online courses on membership websites like Podia or Kajabi, build a website on your very own self-hosted Learning Management Systems like WordPress, or you could use a subscription-based model like Patreon.
With any of the above options, you will be able to build, market and sell your courses online.
Many course creators use Patreon to earn an income for their courses. The subscription-based platform offers an easy way to connect with audiences and generate a steady income.
However, the platform is not without several issues (discussed below), which have caused big losses for its creators and made many of its users reconsider their membership in favor of alternatives.
Why You Should Always Have Your Own Personal Website
In comparison to Patreon, creating a custom membership website using an LMS offers you a more flexible and independent option for course creation.
Although most people think this is not a big deal, the lack of control on sites like Patreon is something that most course creators have the most issues with. Having the source of your income tied to a single platform that you cannot fully control can be a cause for concern.
Hosted vs Self-Hosted Platform
A hosted solution like Podia or Kajabi can be a very appealing option if you do not want to invest a lot of time in setting up your course, want functions that can effectively customize, market and sell your content, or if you do not have a very high budget.
These platforms provide readymade templates and solutions for course creators and you do not need to buy or require advanced functionalities beyond what the platform already offers.
Self-hosted platforms, on the other hand, are often chosen by people for whom course creation is an integral part of their business.
Self-hosted membership websites allow you to build a permanent source of recurring income and give you more flexibility to expand the value of your course business. In this case, you can consider the startup cost of the website as an investment.
Benefits of Using Your Own Membership Website Over Patreon
Benefits associated with using your own membership website over Patreon include:
The number one benefit that your own membership site will provide you is full control over every aspect of your course creation, course marketing, and course delivery.
Your subscribers will have access to only the things you want them to have access to and there will be no issues regarding things like “arbitrary censorship” which is one of the concerns when using Patreon.
Additionally, once the subscriber has joined your site, you can redirect them to other content placed by you, even on external sites.
The biggest challenge with using a self-hosted membership site to sell your courses online is that it is a completely blank slate and it is up to you to create it into a fully-functioning site.
This means you will have to deal with a lot of set up and you must also need to undergo a learning curve if you are not tech-savvy.
On the other hand, it will also offer you a lot of flexibility and customization opportunities to make your course site as original as possible. Additionally, some of the best platforms offer multiple tools, extensions and plug-ins that can make your DIY experience much easier.
You will be able to find the right theme for your online course website, the layout you want, how many menus you will be using, and have a say in whether you want to upload just written content or host videos as well.
Although there are a lot of course website designs out there, it is important that you choose one that promotes easy learning and user experience.
This is where hosted solutions like Udemy and Podia come in handy since they have already done all the work of designing the type of pages you want. This can be a big relief or a bit frustrating depending on how picky you are about how your pages should look like.
Flexible Content Format
Membership sites provide a lot of flexibility when it comes to content formats. This includes course content, reports, videos, podcast episodes, open office hours, long-form essays, email newsletters, art, interviews, and even more.
You can combine all these content formats to create a hybrid approach which can offer more value to your subscribers. You can also try this model if you want to test out something new and want to determine what sort of course content format your subscribers prefer.
There is also a lot of flexibility when it comes to offering pricing plans and tiers as well. However, we recommend that the pricing structure and plans remain as simple as possible as too many options can also confuse people and scare them away.
Additionally, there are some other considerations when it comes to pricing. If you own your own membership website, you have the option of setting an early adopter price and slowly increasing your prices to a reasonable level as more and more users join.
This model is also good for new course creators who think people would not want to pay a higher price for their course, which leads to an unsustainable pricing model.
You can also set a one-time fee or a recurring payment plan. Typically, a majority of memberships cost anywhere between $5 and $50 on a monthly basis.
Although the startup cost of creating your own membership website may be large, this is typically a one-time cost.
Other costs like hosting or domain usually remain the same whether you have 10 followers or a 100,000. Additionally, depending on what software you use, you can lower your costs dramatically if you want.
However, when it comes to Patreon, the cost is a big concern. Although the platform offers numerous features, it costs 5% to 12% of every donation, plus the payment gateway processing fee. This means you will never see about 15% of the revenue you generate.
With your own membership website, you can get a predictable and sustainable revenue and do not need to content with hidden costs or change in policies that can hurt your revenue.
With Patreon, you will need to pay a percentage of your revenue for every transaction. Additionally, its policies can also scare off some subscribers, which means a loss of revenue and income uncertainty.
If you own a course membership site, you can be sure that the people who sing up to your classes were looking for the very thing that you offer. That is why they made the choice to subscribe to your course and are genuinely interested in learning what you are offering.
Comprehensive Checkout Forms
The top LMS websites offer e-commerce capabilities, which allow you to sell recurring payment plans, subscriptions, and/or present discounts while they sell access to your online courses.
Your checkout process can also include other features like the abandoned cart sequence which makes you aware of which customers left your website without buying access to a course and allow you to recapture potentially lost sales.
With your membership website, you can also utilize the automation option. Although most LMS include automation options like sending out emails when someone pays for access to a course, there is potential to go much deeper for your online course website.
You can place drip settings that automatically allow your students to gain access to a part of the course after a specific period of time.
You can also automate log-ins when the user visits your website after a long time, push reminders, or send abandoned cart notifications.
In this case, choosing an all-in-one solution can make it very easy to work with since you can automate everything with a single integration.
This is much easier and convenient than setting up with multiple plug ins in which you have to sync all tools with each other even though they are not designed to work that way.
What Type of Payments Can You Accept on Your Personal Membership Website?
One of the best things about having your own membership website is that you can integrate as many payment options as you possibly can.
You can accept the traditional monthly membership payments, but you can also offer plans on a quarterly, six monthly or a yearly basis. You can also make a one-time payment or custom-schedule recurring payments.
You also have an option to accept the types of debit cards, credit cards, prepaid cards, and any currency you want. Some of the main payment options include PayPal, Stripe, Merchant Solutions, Apple Pay, Clickbank, Merchant Solutions and offline methods like cash, check and bank transfer.
Another payment option is CryptoWallets which uses cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Even though this method is not your typical payment gateway, it is becoming very popular with certain markets and audiences.
On Patreon, the options are more limited. The accepted methods of payment on Patreon are via PayPal and include Visa, Master Card, Discover, JCB, 3DS, and Diners Club.
The platform also does not accept Visa, Mastercard or American Express Giftcards.
Additionally, you cannot pay through prepaid giftcards that do not accept international or subscription payments. The only currencies that are accepted on Patreon are US dollars, the Euro, and the Great Britain Pound.
Can You Use Patreon for Running the Whole Thing?
With over 200,000 creators and accumulated revenue of million in monthly payments, Patreon offers a platform for online course creators to host and sell their work and to generate a steady recurring income.
This platform acts as an intermediary between creators and subscribers who want to donate to them. It is a popular site among podcasters, YouTubers and other content creators.
Members can also access tools for acquiring, managing, and motivating their subscribers through a subscription-based payment model.
This platform offers a lot of benefits to both creators and people who subscribe to their Patreon account as they can see where their donations are going, while creators have a place of creative freedom. Supporters also get access to benefits like exclusive access and engaging experiences.
Course creators can use Patreon to set up monthly payment tiers which give access to different levels of content to their supporters.
It also allows you to create a profile fairly easily and give different options to promote your work. It also has a helpful network effect as Patreon account holders are able to search all creators and creators can target them with special offers.
Having said that, Patreon does not offer the customization and flexibility that membership course sites offer. Course creators may not be able to create a template for their courses the way they want nor display the content in all the formats they prefer.
There are also certain problems associated with Patreon that does not make it a very reliable site for a person for whom course creation is an integral part of his business.
Problems With Patreon Today
Patreon is known as one of the pioneers of the subscription-based crowdfunding model.
Using Patreon as a middleman to manage your subscribers may make it easy to get traffic, set up your payment plans, and get access to some cool features which add value; however, all of this will come to you at a cost of loss of control.
This is one of the biggest reasons many content creators lost subscribers on Patreon. In fact, Patreon suffered from a censorship scandal a few years back which causes heavy losses to its creators since they lost a huge fan base.
Depending on your plan level, you will also be required to pay between 5% and 12% per transaction to Patreon, plus payment processing fee.
All pledges over $3 will use a rate of 2.9% plus 30 cents, which is the standard rate for most payment gateways. Those paying with PayPal from outside the United States will be charged 3.9% plus 30 cents. This means creators lose about 8% to 15% of their revenue each month.
Moreover, Patreon is a closed platform which means it can change its policies and rules at any time, increase their pricing or even shut down your account whenever they want.
If you are using such platforms, know that your content and brand and never actually your own and you run a lot of risk when depending on a third-party site of this nature.
Alternatives to Patreon
If you are worried about placing all your eggs in one basket, there are other Patreon alternatives that can help creators get better success at a steady income:
Ko-Fi is a free and friendly way for creators to receive one-time monthly donations from their subscribers and making a monthly income for the price of a cup of coffee.
Unlike Patreon, Ko-Fi does not charge a fee for using its platform. Creators can get a free page, display their work, organize it, and show them to their subscribers.
It also allows you to write posts and provide news and updates to your supporters about your creative work, work-in-progress and goals and lets them unlock rewards.
With Ko-Fi, you get direct up-front immediate payments if a subscriber joins your page and can build a steady monthly income through memberships. You can also select some slots you are offering on your own terms and can refund commissions if you don’t want them.
Creators also have the option to reward their subscribers with exclusive content like sneak peeks, tutorials and behind-the-scene videos.
Ko-Fi also offers direct payment through PayPal and Stripe, a gallery to showcase all your creative content, goals, subscriptions, rewards, and paywalls, sends a message of encouragement from subscribers, and has a WordPress plugin for support.
If you want to earn thrice as much, you can select Ko-Fi Gold for just $6 per month. This plan offers exclusive rewards and posts, gallery extras, analytics, shorter Ko-Fi username, commission tools, previews for new features and no ads.
SubscribeStar is another Patreon alternative that offers paying subscribers access to media content placed by creators.
Like Patreon, it operates on a monthly-subscription model and offers comprehensive content marketplace functionalities so that Stars (creators) can get paid for original, unique, and legal content.
Like Patreon, the target market for SubscribeStar includes bloggers, vloggers, artists, entertainers, musicians, podcasters (see also ‘Can You Make Money From Podcasts?‘), commentators and other creative content makers.
It also ensures security and privacy for your data and you can also have access to detailed analytics.
SubscribeStar has easy to understand pricing structure and policies. Creators can open and run a SubscribeStar account for free and get revenue depending on how much price they have set and how many people subscribe to their page, minus the 5% service fee and the payment processing fee.
It also comes with Google Analytics, Discord, and Trust Period integration, an API for linking your own apps to the platform and anti-scraping protection.
You can also embed interactive polls and external videos from YouTube, Vimeo and other services to engage your subscribers, as well as have two-factor authentication.
Are You Allowed to Host Courses on Your Own Website If You Are Selling on a Platform?
It is always a good idea to have a website as a backup for your online course business. There are plenty of options for you to create your own website to host your online courses alongside a platform.
You can create an independent website (see also ‘How Long Does It Take To Create A Website?‘) and differentiate its content from a course platform or decide whether you want to promote it to the audience from your platform or create an entirely new target market or a brand on the side.
Your website can give you the opportunity to experiment with different types of content formats and hybrids. You can also use your website to post premium, exclusive content that is not available on other platforms.
However, you should always keep in mind how much cost, time, and effort it takes to operate and maintain two sites.
Are You Allowed to Have Patrons If You Are Selling on a Platform?
For income sustainability and long-term success of your business, it is always a good idea to diversify your business, particularly if you are creating a revenue stream that belongs entirely to you.
Hence, it is entirely possible to have a Patreon account and sell on your own custom membership platform.
It is also very possible to migrate all of your Patrons to a custom membership website or platform the sells your courses, with more flexible options and less transaction fees.
This is a good option for people who want to be 100% in charge of their brand and content and want to showcase additional content on their custom platform.
However, remember that if you have a large number of Patrons, this move can be a bit risky, especially if your subscribers are loyal to Patreon and are used to seeing your content there.
What About YouTube Ads and Superchats?
SuperChat is a new feature offered by YouTube which allows content creators and their audience to interact via live streaming sessions.
The aim is to encourage people to buy SuperChats to highlight their messages during the livestream and to draw the YouTuber’s attention to their comment.
A person can donate anywhere between $1 and $500 through SuperChat. The bigger the donation, the longer will the person’s comment will stay highlighted and the more characters they can use to write their message (the limit is between 0 to 350 characters).
However, the major drawback of SuperChats is that you cannot keep 100% of the donations to yourself. YouTube/Google retains about 30% of your revenue while you get only 70%. This can be a hefty loss of money for some creators.
There is no doubt that Patreon is a wonderful platform for creators who want to get many supporters to show their work to. However, it also has its drawbacks, which is why so many people look for alternatives to Patreon for hosting their courses.
Therefore, it is worth considering diversifying your business. Having your own membership site can offer you more control than Patreon and can offer you opportunities to customize your course offerings and grow in the long term.