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Membership vs Online Course

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There’s never been a better time to consider diversifying your business to set up multiple potential income streams. The last 12 months have been incredibly challenging for so many people, and a number of the business owners that I have spoken to in recent months have wanted to know how they could future-proof their business by adding a secondary income stream to their traditional business, whether that’s from affiliate marketing, membership sites or online courses.

So which is better? From my experience, it all comes down to how much time you’ve got available to dedicate to this new, additional revenue source.  Are you a little quiet now but expecting things to pick up again soon, or aren’t willing to commit additional hours (specifically evenings and weekends) to this income source? If so, an online course could be the better option for you. 

Yes, creating, testing and perfecting an online course all about one of your ‘specialist subjects’ does involve a significant investment of time at the outset, but once it’s up and running on a trusted platform, there’s relatively little that you’ll need to do to maintain it (apart from updating content as and when it becomes obsolete).  There are a number of tools out there that can help, including Kajabi https://kajabi.com/, Teachable https://teachable.com/ and Thinkific https://www.thinkific.com/, or you could consider uploading your material on to an existing platform that hosts a variety of different courses, like Udemy https://www.udemy.com/teaching/.  Before you jump into the all-consuming world of course creation though, I would strongly recommend carrying out some market research; speak to your existing clients and find out whether they’d be interested in learning about your chosen course topic? Is there a market for what you want to teach? If so, that’s great! If not, it might be time for some careful consideration before investing time and money building a course that there is a strong possibility no-one will want!

Another way of building an additional income source is via affiliate marketing.  This is where you promote products that have been created by another individual and receive a commission for every sale made.  It’s a huge industry, with over 1% of the UK’s GDP in 2020 coming from affiliate marketing[1]. With affiliate marketing, you can receive a commission of anywhere between 5% and 30% (based upon your agreement with the organisation you are promoting sales for) for each item that you sell, though that commission may not be paid for a month or two to ensure that the customer doesn’t return the item in question for a refund.  However, this remains an interesting model for an additional income stream if you have the time to invest in promoting someone else’s products as well as your own!

Membership sites also seem to be growing in popularity at the moment, with business owners choosing to create groups of like-minded individuals behind a pay-wall, and either using it as a networking community or a space where members can learn key professional and personal development skills.  These groups can be highly successful, but do need to be managed effectively in order to ensure that members stay in the group and continue paying their membership fees! Traditionally, many membership groups had closed-group areas on Facebook, though with the platform clamping down on numerous business and personal posts at the moment due to over-enthusiastic algorithm changes, it would seem that Facebook is a relatively unstable platform for hosting these kinds of groups in the long-term.  There are other options available though, including Mighty Networks https://www.mightynetworks.com/ which is a community platform as well as an online course, and has its own app so that users can access it conveniently via their phone or tablet.  If you can’t commit to managing your online community, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shelve your membership ideas – why not consider taking on a Social Media specialist VA with experience of group management, who can help keep interest and engagement levels high whilst you are away from the platform?

Whatever you decide to do, there are plenty of options out there for creating successful secondary income streams, helping you to ensure that your business remains competitive and relevant in the coming years, whatever they throw at us!


[1] https://www.awin.com/gb/affiliate-marketing/15-powerful-affiliate-marketing-statistics-worth-paying-attention-to

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