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 System 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 Patreon 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 that 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 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 predictable and sustainable revenue and do not need to contend with hidden costs or changes 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 sign up for 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, and 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 more convenient than setting up 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 yearly basis. You can also make a one-time payment or custom-schedule recurring payments for when you sell memberships.
You also have the 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 gift cards 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 online courses, digital downloads, digital and physical products, or other work, and 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 marketing 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 digital products and other 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 do 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 fees.