In today’s episode, I’m going to be talking about whether you’re better off creating a course or a membership.

This is one of the most consistent questions that I get about creating and launching leverage in your business. I wanted to do an episode where we talk about some of the mistakes and the reasoning behind your decisions.

I’ve also got an epic and gorgeous little quiz with this episode that will help you to get a little clearer on some of those factors.

Here for the links referenced in the show notes? 

Course or Membership free quiz:

Let’s dive in!

When it comes to deciding on a short course or a membership in your business (especially when it’s going to be your first or second leverage product), there are a lot of factors that we need to take into consideration.

Many people get lured in by marketers or people who sell courses in one or the other, and their case that they present as to why a course is better or why a membership might be better.

But you need to remember that if that person is teaching you in their membership how to create your own membership, they are going to be presenting information that makes a membership look better, because that’s what they want to sell to you on the end of that content.

If they are selling you a course or program that’s going to help you create a course, then they are going to point towards courses being the best choice for you moving forward.

We want to make sure that we’re taking all those different factors into consideration, and looking at this from multiple angles, not just through the very limited viewpoint that’s being presented to you by someone who has a vested interest in you selecting one or the other.

Here are the core types of factors that we need to take into consideration:

1. What are your strengths?

What works for you? And what is the style or model of business and client support that you’re wanting to give in your business?

There are some people who are really amazing at:

  • Holding space for an extended period of time
  • Creating and curating an ongoing relationship with large groups of people
  • Creating content – they’re content creation machines who can readily create amazing content month after month after month

They would be more likely to really be strong at creating a membership space.

There are other people who are really good at taking you from point A to point D, getting you there really fast in a high connection and highly supported way, and then letting you get on with the business of getting on with whatever you’re getting on with.

They have strengths in making complex concepts feel very simple and easy to follow – simplifying the process right down and getting you through it quickly without overthinking and over-engineering.

Those people can be very suited to courses.

Even with those particular strength sets or a different combination of strengths, different models can be made to work for you and your natural way of showing up and the types of activities and styles of delivery that match your strengths and what strengthens you.

That is something we definitely want to take into consideration.

Have a think about what:

  • Your strengths are
  • Feels like it would come more naturally
  • You are naturally drawn into with your audience members

Even look at some of your friendships. Are you the kind of person who has quite a few friends for a season? Or are you the kind of person who has had the same friends since you were nine, and you will continue to be best friends forever?

Of course, that can be a factor in the way that you grow up and whether you moved around a lot as a child. I’m not saying that’s a decision-maker, but there are lots and lots of clues.

What we want to do in this decision-making process is:

a. Collect all of those clues
b. Make a decision based on the balance of those clues

The first category of factors is what works for you and your particular strengths.

2. Look at your niche and ideal clients for this particular product or service

This one is important. It can be very much underestimated when we’re thinking about what we’re creating, because we get so wrapped up in what we want, how much money we want to make and the type of income that we want.

Some people really love and get excited by the concept of monthly income that just comes in without having to do any further marketing (that’s not really a thing when you have a membership, by the way – you still need to do marketing but that’s our next conversation).

Some people love that idea of getting a huge influx of income, and really having a life-changing amount of money coming in all at once. You can still achieve that with a membership, but it’s more likely with the course.

There are a lot of different factors that go into it.

But when it comes to your niche, we need to also be thinking about: What’s going to work for those people?

Does your audience naturally lean towards course models or styles of learning, and course models or styles of investing? Or do they naturally lean towards memberships?

Again, it’s not a straight line answer. It’s a matter of collecting the different clues.

Have a think about your niche. Would something that’s smaller payments monthly but in an ongoing way be a better fit for them? Would they happily invest a chunk of money upfront for a short term opportunity to work with you in a group setting?

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do a course. You can have memberships where people pay for a year upfront, and they get a lovely discount for doing so. You can also have courses with extended payment plans.

My audience naturally leans towards smaller amounts over an extended period of time – especially my startup audience for the Take Off program. But that doesn’t mean I then shift the Take Off program to be a membership of ongoing payments, I simply offer extended payment plans when I’m launching.

We just want to collect all those clues and be cognisant of them when we’re making the decision as to whether you’re going to create a course or a membership, and how you choose to structure that course or membership.

What is your niche looking for from you?

3. What type of change are you facilitating?

Are you facilitating a change that is easy to learn but hard to implement consistently? Or is it complex to understand and requires quite a lot of unpacking, simplifying down and short term decision making?

The former would be more along the lines of a membership, and the latter would be more along the lines of a course.

Again, we can facilitate things in different ways to meet those needs, but you need to be cognisant of all those different clues.

course or membership quiz courses and launching

Make sure to address all of the information that shows up in the Course or Membership quiz.

The quiz at the end of this episode will allow you to answer just a few questions and see what it’s leaning towards more of being.

One thing that I do want to say is if you have 70% of the questions point towards a membership, and 30% point towards a course, you want to take into consideration those 30% of factors that point towards the course.

When you design your membership (if that’s the road that you decide to go down), make sure that you’re addressing those particular challenges that you might face for your niche or yourself or the change that you’re facilitating, and making sure that you have a way to address that in the model that you decide to go ahead with.

Before we finish up, I do want to just share three things that are my don’ts when it comes to selecting between a course or a membership.

1. Don’t assume

Don’t assume people will pay for ongoing support after a course or prioritise that before scaling your course

One of the main reasons people come to me for help with creating a membership is because they have a course that they’ve run, and after the first round, a bunch of people in that course have said that they want to stay connected and keep getting help on an ongoing basis.

Instead of saying to their clients that they can work one-to-one so that they can relaunch their course a few times and get it scaled, they instead drop everything and create a membership because they’re afraid they’ll miss out on that money if they say no.

That fear of missing out on a little bit of extra money from those few people who bought your course the first time around will be at the expense of you actually nailing and scaling the launch of your course.

It’s one of the most common mistakes that I see people make when they go into leveraging their time and creating courses or memberships.

They often have an audience of as few as eight people who were the first cohort for their course.

Instead of focusing on bringing twenty people into the next launch of their course, they get completely derailed for nine months by creating and trying to launch a membership for those eight people. Facilitating that membership and creating all of the structure around it.

Creating a membership is not something to be sneezed at – it is something that takes some time and energy to do right.

In the meantime, you haven’t maintained the momentum of that course.

The first launch was quite successful with eight people coming in.

The second problem with that is also that for a lot of people, they create the membership with those eight people in mind, and so the membership doesn’t work for cold audiences.

Now the only audience that this membership could be for is the eight people who’ve done their course before. Then they convert two or three of those people into that membership.

They end up putting ten times the work in for two or three people paying them $40 a month.

That process is derailing you from being able to nail and scale the course, which was the thing that you created in the first place.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a follow-up membership. But if you haven’t yet nailed and scaled the launch of your course, do not distract yourself by creating a follow-up membership until you’ve nailed and scaled the launch of your course.

Get that course with a good snowballing momentum of audience members coming through so that you’ve actually got a viable market for the membership as a follow up afterwards.

The other thing I will also say is that I have seen courses advertised before, where it’s a course and then an option to stay in on a membership.

That was all part of the initial finding out about the course, and what that did for me was made me feel like I wasn’t going to get the outcome from the course alone. They’d give me some information in the course, and then I’d have to join the membership to get the outcomes I really wanted.

I don’t necessarily want to commit to jumping into a group membership when I’m buying what I thought was a course.

That confusion can actually cost you sales as well.

If you do have a course with a follow on membership or an opportunity for people to pay to hang around, just take a couple of steps back and look at the motivation for doing that. Was it built on FOMO? Was it built on a sense of obligation?

There are so many obligers in the online service business industry. Is it really the best decision for you right now in your business?

2. Don’t use the wrong model to fix a seemingly related but usually unrelated problem

This is one of the ones that I find really fascinating.

I’ve got someone who has an amazing course that’s ready to go and looks stunning. I’m so excited to help them launch that course… Yet they’re second-guessing and rethinking it because they are freaked out about the idea of having to sell it over and over again.

They just wish that they could have a business where they get recurring income every month over and over without having to do any marketing, without having to do any launching, and without having to work so hard, so they’re thinking about changing it up to be a membership.

They’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole to fix a problem that they have.

Their problem is actually their propensity to avoid marketing, or potentially their belief system about what it takes to create a scalable membership. They believe that that will be easier somehow than creating a scalable course or a course that you could sell on autopilot.

They’re actually trying to fix a problem that they have, with the wrong solution of changing the model of delivery of their leveraged product or service.

I’ve seen people jump from model to model over and over again because they get so caught up in that process and that worry about the things that are missing in their business.

All they’re doing is confusing their audience.

I’ve seen someone go from their signature program being a membership, to then becoming a course, then back and forth five or six times over the course of a few years.

Every time they made that change back, it was because they thought the grass was greener on the other side.

They just need to have a little pattern interrupt. They’re trying to use model to fix a marketing problem, or model to fix a cash flow problem.

That’s actually not how this works.

The model needs to fit first and foremost:

  • What works for you and your strengths,
  • Your niche
  • The change that you’re facilitating

If you’ve got cash flow issues or marketing issues, let’s solve those with cash flow solutions or marketing solutions instead of model solutions.

That’s don’t number two – using the wrong model to fix a seemingly related but usually unrelated problem.

3. Don’t be blinded by your preferences

Particularly your preferences when it comes to money and marketing.

They are the two biggest mistakes where I see people drawn off by a shiny object and a shiny belief about a particular model because it’s going to be easier to market or it’s going to make them a different model of money.

Some people get drawn into membership because they want the recurring income.

Every time I do a launch of the Take Off program, I end up with recurring monthly income from the payment plans that I sell for that course.

You can have a recurrent monthly income model by selling a course with an extended payment plan if that’s your biggest concern.

Even if I only launched the Take Off program once a year (I usually do two to three launches per year), I would still be able to have eight to ten months of the year with that recurring revenue from the Take Off program, simply by offering the extended payment plan.

I can solve a money problem or a marketing problem with many, many other options beyond simply the model of delivery.

Don’t be blinded by your preferences around money and marketing and think that they are going to be easier for you.

It’s the delivery that we want to focus on first and foremost.

When I talk about what works for you and your strengths, or what works best for the change you’re facilitating, I’m talking about delivery.

Regardless of whether you choose a course or membership, you need it to deliver results to create that snowball of growth.

We want to make sure that we’re not being blinded by money distractions/beliefs/assumptions or marketing distractions/beliefs/assumptions causing us to choose a model that actually doesn’t work.

They are my three don’ts:

1. Don’t assume people will pay for ongoing support. And don’t use that to distract you if you haven’t scaled your course

2. Don’t use the wrong model to fix a seemingly related but usually unrelated problem

3. Don’t be blinded by your preferences when it comes to money and marketing in choosing a model. They’re separate – we can solve the money and marketing things separately

That brings us to the end of today’s podcast episode.

As I’ve said several times, I do have a short quiz called Course or Membership? which will help you to dig a little deeper into those three factors.

Make sure you go and check out this quick quiz here: CLICK ME

See what the clues are that you can collect in relation to your decision-making process. Make sure you pay attention to all of your results!

As always, I would love for us to continue the conversation about this one.

Head on over to the Heart-Centred, Soul-Driven Entrepreneurs Facebook group, use #podcastaha, let me know you’ve been reading episode number 277 and let’s continue the conversation.

If you’ve had any lightbulb moments or questions for me to follow up on about the quiz or anything, head on over to the group.

Let’s continue the conversation! Feel free to use the hashtag #ButTash if you don’t agree with your results or if you’ve received different advice in the past so that I can tailor my advice to your specific circumstances and your specific needs.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the podcast!

Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.

Tash Corbin Business Mentor and Strategist