January 30, 2020

How to create a membership website using WordPress (In 9 Steps)

With the increasing popularity of memberships as a source of recurring revenue, are you thinking of converting your WordPress website into a membership site?

If yes, then YOU are in the right place!

Popular platforms like Netflix or Smart Blogger use the membership model beautifully to manage users, create memberships, restrict content and accept payments.

Fortunately, you can build your own WordPress membership website in a snap using some of the great membership plugins out there.

In this journey, we will walk you through each step involved in setting up a WordPress membership website.

Building a WordPress Membership website: 9-Step Guide

1. Set up WordPress Basics – Hosting, Domain name

While this may seem like the most obvious and a very cliched step, but to secure the future of your business, this is one of the most vital steps. 

Hence, to create your own membership site with WordPress, you will first need to ensure that you’ve got some of the basics in place. 

Take a look:

  • Domain name: You need to purchase a domain name (address of your website on the internet). E.g: www.epitrove.com
  • Web Hosting: This is essentially where all your website files are stored. Even though there are many web hosting providers available, however, since we are using WordPress, you can check out BlueHost or SiteGround as they come with incredible WordPress support.

Once you’ve acquired a domain name and web hosting, you can now use a website builder to create your own website.

While there are plenty of platforms out there, we’d recommend using WordPress to build your website.

The reason being – It’s the only CMS that allows you to be in full control of your website at all times and gives you the flexibility to enhance your website functionalities using their huge repository of plugins and themes.

Also, WordPress is pretty simple to install and use.

Great, now that your website is up and running, the next step is to…

2. Select a WordPress Membership Plugin

We’re about to dive in! It’s going to be a great journey, I assure you!

Remember – this is an important step as it involves choosing a membership plugin to sell content through subscriptions.

Note: Before making the selection, ensure that you’re clear on the kind of membership website you want to build and the features you’d need for the same.

Again, there are dozens of free and paid WordPress membership plugins for you to choose from. We have created a list of best membership plugins driven by the knowledgeable WordPress community. But, for this journey, we have used a premium plugin – MemberPress (the most widely used plugin) for setting up a membership website. 

The reason we recommend MemberPress is because we’ve used the plugin and it’s one of the best out there.

  • Its robust set of features allows you to create membership levels, restrict content as per membership levels, accept payments and works with any WordPress theme.
  • Their support team is incredibly helpful and moreover, the plugin, in itself, offers pretty much everything you’d need to sell subscriptions and paid content.
  • Plus, if you’re looking to sell courses, this plugin integrates beautifully with LearnDash enabling you to sell courses on a membership subscription basis. (Yay!)

You can log on to the MemberPress website to purchase the plugin.

Well, if you’ve decided to move ahead with MemberPress, then the next step would be to…

3. Install MemberPress & Configure its settings

Imagine making all the complicated changes like page settings, pricing page, payments, creating different membership plans, making access rules and what not!

All of this may sound intimidating but, here’s a dose of relief – This plugin is pretty simple and straightforward 🙂

Follow the below steps to activate the plugin.

  • Login to WP Admin area.
  • Plugins > Add New> Upload file (the .zip file you downloaded after purchasing the plugin)
  • Install and Activate.
WordPress Dashboard Backend

After activating the plugin, you can check out the MemberPress settings and may change any default settings as per your needs before moving forward.

To do that follow:

  • MemberPress > Options
Memberpress Dashboard Options/Settings

In the above tabs, the default settings like Pages, Accounts, Fields, Payments, etc. can be changed as per your requirements.
For e.g: Under the ‘Pages’ tab, you can configure your basic MemberPress pages, this is where you instruct MemberPress regarding the pages (Thank you, login, account page) to be used on your website.

Configure Groups and Membership pages slugs and redirect unauthorized visitors to a specific URL.

Similarly, you can check out other tabs and make the changes if you feel it’s needed. However, we’d like to bring your attention to one of the above tabs i.e…

4. Configure Payment methods

Before anything else, we recommend that you first decide and configure the payment gateways.

After all, this is going to determine the way your customers will purchase the content subscriptions on your membership website. Cha-ching!

To do this, follow:

  • MemberPress > Options > Payments
Memberpress Payment Options

Image courtesy: sceptermarketing

Fortunately, MemberPress supports payment methods like PayPal (Standard, Express, Pro), Stripe and Authorize.net that are popular and widely used making it easier for you to cater to the payment needs of your customers. 

All you need to do is, provide the required account credentials and start accepting payments 🙂

That being said, you can also add other payment options if you wish to by clicking on the ‘Add another payment icon’.

Having done all of this, don’t forget to save and update your hard work 🙂

5. Create Membership Levels

This is the most exciting part because you’re about to find out about the beauty of this plugin.

Curious? 😛

So, the beauty of this plugin lies in its ability that allows you to create different membership levels with ease.

Besides, you can also offer different perks, content access, and price for each of the membership levels you create. 

This not only works as a great revenue model but, it also helps you:

  • Create and identify a customer segment.
  • Communicate and learn about their needs to develop content accordingly in the future.
  • And ultimately, foster a relationship to build a community enabling value creation.

For. e.g: Amazon started a membership program called Amazon Prime. In the initial years, they charged a sum of money (monthly/yearly) and offered free shipping.

Later, they expanded into providing video streaming services. Now, being a member of Amazon Prime means – getting access to free shipping, quick delivery and unlimited video content (movies, series). This enabled them to charge more, generate loyalty and create extreme value for their customers.

Moving ahead, in order to create a membership level, follow:

  • MemberPress > Membership > Add New
Memberpress - Memberships Option

This will land you on a membership page. Here, you will be able to create a membership title that enables you to name your membership option (e.g: gold plan) and give a description regarding its benefits in the body of the membership.communicate

You could create different membership plans like – Basic, Premium and Enterprise.

Memberpress -Add New Membership option

5.1 Membership Terms

If you hover to the right tab in the above image (Membership Terms), the options in there will allow you to set a price for the membership, choose a billing type (Recurring, One-time), select an interval period (monthly, 6 months, yearly), and also allow for a trial duration if you wish to. You can choose to set a trial amount and set the trial period in days.

When you scroll down a bit, you will find Membership options below the post editor.

Memberpress- Membership Options and Registrations Terms Settings

5.2 Membership Options

Under this option, you will find customization options for each membership you create.

Through this place, you will be able to customize membership registrations and permissions for your created membership.

The registration settings allow you to customize and set payment methods, thank you pages and send a welcome email once your user purchases the membership plan.

It creates a sense of personalization and provides a feel-good factor to your users upon purchasing a membership plan.

Memberpress - Membership Permissions

Similarly, if you check out the permission tab in the above image, you’ll find options like:

  • Allow users to create multiple subscriptions in one membership plan.
  • Who can purchase this membership? (Anyone, guests, members, nobody)

The options also allow you to configure the price related settings through the Price box and customize the pricing terms and conditions through the Advanced tab.

Once you’re satisfied with the changes, you can go ahead to add a featured image that depicts what your membership plan will mean. 

Finally, you can hit ‘publish’ to make the membership plan available for your customers. To create more memberships, repeat the process.

6. Add rules to restrict access for membership plans

Now, this and the next few steps may seem like a never-ending process but, hang on and walk with us.

Are you ready?

In this step, it’s all about defining the content you want to offer to your customers under different membership plans.

Since you’re charging a different price for each membership plan, you’d definitely need to limit access of the members to the content prescribed under their respective membership plans.

In order to do this, MemberPress allows you to create ‘rules’ to restrict access to different members. 

For e.g: To enjoy the early delivery of products and premium video content on Amazon, you will have to be a member of Amazon Prime.

Now, to add a new rule, go to:

  • MemberPress > Rules > Add New
Memberpress Rules

After clicking on the Add New icon, you will land on the rules page. Here, you will be able to create rules to control the content and its access.

Memberpress Protect Content

6.1 Protect Content

The rules page comes loaded with several different conditions (to protect your content) for you to select from and integrate it into a membership plan.

The conditions you select will protect your content from the non-logged in visitors or logged in users who don’t meet the specific access conditions you’ve chosen.

For e.g: You can select all content by a particular group or category tagged as premium and grant its access only to members with Gold plan/membership. Later, you can use these rules to create members-only content.

You can add as many rules as you like. Alternatively, you can also add more specific rules like granting access to a single post/page. 

Having said that, if you scroll further down, you will discover options like Drip/Expiration content.

Memberpress Drip-feed content feature

6.2 Drip-feed content

MemebrPress comes with this great feature of drip content that allows you to release content in intervals (days, weeks, months) against the condition you set.

For e.g: You can choose to release further lessons of a particular course only if the user purchases gold membership. 

Moreover, you can also set an expiration date for the content you choose to drip-feed which means a particular lesson or content will have to be completed within a given time frame to avoid missing out on that particular content.

However, you can leave the boxes unchecked in case you don’t wish to enable drip-feed.

After you’ve done this, hit ‘Save Rule’ to save your rule settings.

7. Add Members-only Content

Almost there!

The next logical step now is to create/add members-only content which the MemberPress plugin allows you to do with ease.

Remember we created a rule in the above step, where we restricted all content categories tagged as premium to be restricted?

This is the time to apply that rule (check the below image) to all the content you create in that particular category by tagging it as Premium. 

Memberpress - Add Members-only Content

Unauthorized Access

After applying the rule, scroll down and you’ll find an option called ‘Unauthorized Access’. MemberPress gives you a way to provide personalized experience to the unauthorized users trying to access the members-only content.

It allows you to add your own customized notice or message or image and redirect them to a login page or a page containing the message or the image.

Memberpress - Unauthorized Access

Once you’ve made all the changes you require, go ahead and hit the ‘Publish’ button. A content protection message will pop up to assure you that your content is now protected 🙂

8. Create a Pricing page

When your users wish to purchase a membership plan or try to access the unauthorized content, they will be redirected to this pricing page.

Here, they will be able to view different membership plans you’re offering and select accordingly after which they will be taken to the payments page.

To configure pricing page, head to :

  • MemberPress > Groups > Add New
Memberpress Groups

Once you’re on the group page, you need to add a ‘Title’ to your group plans page and this will be the title your visitors will see when they look for a membership plans page.

8.1 Group options

After entering the title, go down to the ‘Group options’. Here, you can add all the membership plans you want your users to find on the page.

Memberpress Groups Options

In the above image, we’ve only added one plan, you can add more membership plans as per your objectives. 

If you’re offering multiple memberships, you have the option to ‘Upgrade Path’ which means you can choose to allow users to subscribe to only one membership at a time. You can check the box to enable the option.

Similarly, you also have the option to ‘Downgrade Path’ which means you can choose to select which membership in the group to fall back to when the paid subscription expires or is canceled. 

However, if you’re unsure, you can leave the box unchecked.

After you’re satisfied with your membership pricing page, go ahead and click ‘Publish’ to make your page visible to the world.

Once you’ve published it, you can check out your pricing page by clicking on the ‘View group’ link.

8.2 Redirect users to the pricing page

Awesome! Since your pricing page is now up and live, it’s extremely important that you redirect the unauthorized users to this page. Doing this can help in converting potential unauthorized users into a member.

To do this, go to:

  • Memberships > Groups
Memberpress - Groups Settings

Now, copy the URL for the pricing group you created above. Then, head over to:

  • Memberships > Options
  • Scroll down to the ‘Unauthorized Access’ section.
  • Check the Redirect unauthorized visitors to a specific URL’
  • Paste the copied URL (check the image below)
Memberpress - Unauthorized Access - Redirect unauthorized visitors to a specific URL

Finally, the unauthorized users will be redirected to your pricing page. Don’t forget to click on the Update button to save your settings.

9. Add Sign up and User login page – This is how it ends

One last step….

You’ve set it up, all that’s left now is to enable the users to easily find everything on your website.

Begin by adding a Login page to help your members sign in and access their accounts.

To do this, follow:

  • Appearance > Menu > Add MemberPress login

Add pricing page to the menu

Now, wouldn’t you want new users to access your pricing page, check out your membership plans and register?

In order to this, go to:

  • Appearance > Menu 
  • Click on the Groups section
  • Check the Pricing plans option and add to the menu
Menu Options

You can also rearrange the ‘pricing plan’ page on your menu as per your convenience by simply dragging and dropping.

Once you’re done, click ‘save’ and visit your website to see if everything is working as per your requirements.

If yes, congratulations on completing this journey of successfully creating your membership website 🙂


Thank you for taking this journey with us, we hope we’ve provided you with enough information to set up your own membership website with WordPress using the MemberPress plugin.

Let us know if you have any questions, in the comments below, will try our best to answer them 🙂

Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post might be affiliate links. When you purchase through a link on our website, we receive a small commission, at no added cost to you, which helps us run Epitrove and keep producing great content. This does not influence our recommendations; we only recommend products we work with or love. Thank you for your support!

Love Shah
Love Shah

I can't function without tea, books, and movies. When not working, you'll find me weaving stories.


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