Online Course or Membership Site? 7 Key Questions to Discover Which is Better For Your Coaching Business 

7 key questions to ask yourself when thinking about creating an online course or membership site to scale your coaching business as an introvert.

Should you create an online course or membership for your clients? Which is the better business model for your introverted nature? 

Lots of my introverted clients ponder this question, as they both come with advantages and disadvantages. To reduce the confusion and endless research, answer these 7 key questions to help you decide which is best for your business.

1. What type of support are your clients asking for? 

The best place to start if you don’t already know the answer to this question, is to ask your audience what they would like.

  • How do they like to learn? 
  • What goals do they want to achieve? 
  • Will an online course or membership better serve them?

Only once you know the end goal, can you make a decision between online courses and memberships... that comes up in a later question.

2. Is your topic evergreen or does it need updating regularly?

Is your area of expertise on a topic that is evergreen - meaning it does not date easily, or is it based around the latest best practices. 

A good example here is comparing a business coach to a social media coach working online. 

  • A business coach will be imparting wisdom that has been gathered over the years and does not change too often. Yes there will be new technologies to help new processes, but the underlying foundations remain solid. Online courses are great for business coaches.
  • A social media coach is at the mercy of the latest trends and changes on the social media platforms they are training their clients on. As such, memberships are great for social media coaches.  Memberships can support clients better when material can date rapidly. This is not to say that you can’t create online courses as a social media coach (there are plenty of successful coaches doing this out there), but know that your course material will have a shelf life and is likely to need updating on a regular basis.

3. Do you enjoy connecting with people on a regular basis?

To run a membership site, you need to be happy connecting with your members on a regular basis, and creating new content regularly as well that supports the members goals. Often accountability and confidence building are key components to the role of a membership host. 

If you are unsure, I would suggest starting out with running an open community and serving value inside of this space to  get a feel of whether this model is right for you. Set it up and run it as if it was paid. Make the group have a set goal as to why people will join, and be clear on what you will deliver. Then keep your promises.

4. Do you want to educate how to achieve a certain end result that can be accomplished through one process?

Online courses are best suited when there is a set finish line that your student wants to achieve. Courses are not good for ever-ending missions. The best online courses will take the student through the task, one step at a time and get them to the promised goal. 

A huge mistake made by many course creators is trying to bring too much into their online courses, especially if they are self led programs. 

5. How many hours do you have in a week to put behind this new project?

For either memberships or online courses there is work involved, and you need to have space in your calendar that can be blocked out to put the energy you need into not only the creation of the content, but more importantly on the promotion and marketing of the project. 

Both online courses and memberships should be pre-sold before you create and record the content that you will deliver to students / members. You need to validate that what you wish to deliver is actually wanted by real people!

Don’t just ask friends, as they will always say yes. Test your idea first with a single paid masterclass or workshop, you must know that people are willing to pay for you to run the course or membership. 

With courses, the work is more upfront in creation, with just the marketing component that will need to be ongoing in your schedule. 

Memberships require more energy year round, in both delivering and promotion. The industry standard turnover rate in membership ( pay per month) programs is 3 months… heed this as a warning that you can’t take members for granted but need to work at retaining them. 

Many business owners instead offer 12 months membership, to avoid the constant hunt to replace disappearing members. Though many people can become inactive in the membership despite paying their fees if they feel they are not getting value, they will shift their focus elsewhere.

6. How big is your existing audience?

Generally to make a membership successful, you need to have a large network, or audience already set up. As memberships rely on community interaction, and the energy the participants bring into it. 

Starting top end with VIP memberships, where small numbers are part of the selling point as members get access to the host exclusively is the best place to start when you have a smaller network. 

For online courses, your existing audience does not matter, as each person who discovers you can join and sign up as they wish, so your numbers will grow over time. In fact an online course will grow your audience, as you serve and share value.

7. Do you have a fear of showing up on camera?

These days, everyone expects that online courses will have video content to aid their learning, so you must be comfortable training in this medium. 

BUT you don’t need to always show your face and be talking to the camera! In fact that can be detrimental to the learning experience for some. I encourage my clients to show their face in a welcome video, giving an overview, but when it comes to course content, it is completely acceptable to display presentation slides, and narrate over the top in the video.

Choose to Create Online Courses or a membership? Words on pink boards held up by Susanna Reay, Digital Course Expert

Having gone through the 7 questions above, you should now have a stronger idea whether online courses or memberships are better for your business.

There is no correct answer, but in my years working online, I do see introverted business owners having more success and are happier serving content through online courses than in running a membership. 

The main reason being the constant ongoing pressure of maintaining the energy inside of a membership. Extroverts are naturally suited to running memberships for this reason. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t run a membership successfully as an introvert. You just need  to set it up with strong boundaries in place. Be strict with yourself about how and when you are showing up for the community. 

When you launch the membership initially, have a fixed term for the membership. Six months is a good starting length as a test. This enables you to have a “get out” point if after running it for a while you feel it isn’t for you. Only by taking action and trying it out will you know what is best for you and your business.

Remember that this is your business and you are allowed to change your mind! 

My free membership community is based on Facebook and is called the Introvert Entrepreneurs Powerhouse. A unique offering in this community is our Powerhouse Masterclass Series; where guest speakers join us live every fortnight to share their expertise, all focused on building your business as an introvert entrepreneur.

You are very welcome to come along and join us here

September 21, 2021

Susanna Reay is a multi award-winning coach, writer, and speaker who’s been bringing clarity, focus and structure into small businesses and entrepreneurial start-ups for over 20 years. Susanna brings a unique perspective informed by her training in design and business strategy, her life-long interest in psychology and strengths as an introverted online business builder. Her book, courses and mentoring have been the catalyst for growth for clients who’ve integrated Sparkle Frameworks® into their business. She helps the unseen be seen, heard and respected. Susanna is based in Europe, serving a global audience from her English home.

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