Building a membership site is a terrific way to scale your business and earn passive revenue without extra stress. However, with so many options available, knowing what tools you should use to manage your membership site can feel overwhelming.
With over five years of experience building custom membership and eLearning sites for clients, I’ve created a list of the “best” membership platforms based on pricing, customization, functionality, and how easy they are to use. I’ll answer what I think is the best membership platform at the end.
Instead of ranking the membership platforms, I’ve created seven “best of” categories where each platform falls under, depending on its specific features or uniqueness.
- Best course builder: Thinkific
- Best high-end membership functionality: Kajabi
- Best WordPress-based plugin: Memberpress
- Most popular online learning platform: Teachable
- Best integration-friendly: Memberful
- Simplest membership platform: Podia
- Best community engagement platform: Mighty Networks
Best Course Builder: Thinkific
If you are looking to launch a membership site solely focused on providing online courses for members, Thinkific is your best option. With the ability to build sales funnels, create coupons, drip course content, and send marketing emails, Thinkific has all the tools you need to create a successful online learning community.
If designing websites isn’t your strong suit, Thinkific has a drag and drop feature to make building a home for your course (or courses) really easy. Thinkific also integrates with hundreds of other tools to seamlessly streamline your business.
Thinkific offers four levels to their pricing:
- Free – Limited courses for unlimited students
- Basic ($49/month or $468/year) – Drip content feature available
- Pro ($99/month or $948/year) – Live lessons and advanced course building features
- Premier ($499/mo or $4,788/year) – Unlimited communities and white labeling
If you are wondering how a course builder site like Thinkific can be tailored to your membership program, Thinkific offers the ability to create monthly or annual subscription packages and various tiered “levels”.
Best High-End Membership Functionality: Kajabi
Maybe you are the type of person who needs the best of the best. When it comes to membership platforms, there’s only one who offers everything you need: Kajabi. Kajabi is built to host, manage, and sell high-quality membership programs. With website templates, a landing page builder, and member management tools at your disposal, Kajabi is perfect for anyone who doesn’t have the technical or coding skills necessary to create custom-made membership programs.
Kajabi even comes with email marketing and automation tools so that you send messages to members based on their behavior and user engagement right inside their platform.
Because Kajabi is an all-in-one membership platform, it does come at a steep price.
Kajabi comes in three tiers (there is no free plan available; however, each tier comes with a 14-day free trial):
- Basic ($149/month or $1,428/year) – Up to 3 products and 1,000 members
- Growth ($199/month or $1,908/year) – Up to 15 products and 10,000 members
- Pro ($399/month or $3,828/year) – Up to 100 products and 20,000 members
Each tier comes with 0% transaction fees (a cut some membership platforms take for hosting your membership program) and one customer success activation call to help you get started.
As you can imagine, Kajabi is best for folks who already have an established following and need robust tools all in one place to manage their memberships. If you are just starting out, I recommend starting simple.
Best WordPress-Based Plugin: MemberPress
If it so happens that you own a WordPress-based website and you’re somewhat savvy on the technical side of things, allow me to introduce you to a single plugin that’ll completely transform your basic website into a fully functional membership platform: MemberPress.
With just a few clicks, you can install MemberPress onto your website and have all the necessary features to create, manage, and sell online membership programs. Because MemberPress is a WordPress plugin, you have the ability to customize it to your exact needs. Looking to put content behind a paywall? MemberPress can do that. Need to sell subscription programs? MemberPress has you covered.
MemberPress also integrates nicely with email marketing tools such as Mailchimp and ConvertKit to help convert website visitors to paying customers. It also comes with drip content functionality, course-building tools, custom packages, and coupons for loyal members.
MemberPress offers three tiers and a 14-day money-back guarantee:
- Basic ($179/year) – 1 site use
- Plus ($299/year) – 2 site use and forums and community add-ons
- Pro ($399/year) – 5 site use and the ability to sell corporate accounts
The Basic and Plus plans are most likely all you will need if you have one or two membership sites to manage. If you’re a web developer or have a large portfolio of membership sites, Pro is best suited for your needs.
Personally, MemberPress is my go-to membership platform and is a fraction of the cost of the other platforms in this article. However, not everyone has WordPress experience to tailor MemberPress to their needs.
Most Popular Online Learning Platform: Teachable
When you think of membership sites, Teachable doesn’t often come to mind. However, this LMS (learning management system) platform is chock-full of membership functionality on top of its simple course creation and management tools.
If you are looking to create membership levels based on bundled courses (or individual courses), Teachable makes it easy to customize your membership structures. Similar to other membership platforms, Teachable also offers you the ability to grant customers partial, full, or even drip-fed content.
However, unlike Kajabi, Teachable doesn’t offer a suite of marketing tools to help sell your products, but it does integrate with popular email marketing programs such as ConvertKit and Mailchimp.
Teachable comes with a 14-day free trial for their three paid tiered plans, as well as a free plan if you are just getting started:
- Free ($0) – All the basics if you are just starting out
- Basic ($39/mo or $348/year) – Advanced features and functionality such as drip course content
- Pro ($119/mo or $1,188/year) – Course completion certificates, graded quizzes, and integrated affiliate marketing
- Business ($299/mo or $2,988) – Advanced theme customizations and group coaching calls are available
The most noticeable difference between all four plans is the transaction fees for each. The Free plan comes with a $1 + 10% cut per transaction (AKA, every time a customer joins your membership). The Basic plan is a flat 5% cut per transaction, while the Pro and Business plans have no transaction fees.
Best Integration-Friendly: Memberful
I’ve already covered my personal recommendation for the best WordPress-based membership plugin. However, there is another plugin that is a close second: Memberful.
Although not as simple to set up as MemberPress, Memberful is a robust and powerful membership management software that integrates with WordPress, Discord, LearnDash, and more. Memberful is rich with features such as the ability to create paid podcasts and custom landing pages.
Similar to MemberPress, Memberful requires that the user is familiar with the backend of WordPress and adding bits of custom code (such as making changes to your PHP file). But Memberful does offer simple templates for novice WordPress users.
In 2018, Memberful was bought by Patreon, a patron-based membership platform. A good sign for the longevity of this plugin.
Memberful allows users to sign up for free while they build and test their memberships. Upgrading to a premium plan is needed once payments need to be accepted.
- Started ($0/mo) – Website integration only
- Pro ($25/mo) – All integrations available, members-only newsletter, and complete metrics dashboard
- Premium ($100/mo) – Group subscriptions and everything you need to white-label your membership
Memberful charges a flat fee of 10% per transaction on the Starter plan and 4.9% on both the Pro and Premium plans. Because Memberful requires a Stripe account to process your payments, you are also subjected to Stripe fees too (they vary by country but are typically around the 2.9% mark).
Simplest Membership Platform: Podia
So far, I’ve covered membership platforms that are somewhat technical and require a bit of attention to get up and running. But what if all you need is something quick and simple to get your membership up and running? For that, I recommend Podia.
Podia is an eLearning-based platform with the ability to sell memberships, online courses, and digital downloads. They pride themselves on offering “creator-friendly” tools and never restricting creators on content or member limits.
Podia also has helpful how-to guides, such as this complete guide to creating an amazing membership website, to make setting up your membership site stress-free.
Podia does have a 14-day free trial and a “cancel at any time” policy. If you forget to cancel before your next invoice, they will refund you the latest payment if you contact them within 72 hours.
- Mover ($39/mo or $390/yr) – Sell everything except coaching sessions and paid memberships
- Shaker ($79/mo or $790/yr) – Sell everything, plus additional marketing tools
- Earthquaker ($179/mo or $1,790/yr) – Access to all tools and features, plus access to monthly mastermind call with other creators
The best part of Podia’s pricing plans? Zero transaction fees. No matter what plan you choose, all you pay is the monthly or annual payment plus your standard Stripe or PayPal fees per transaction, Podia doesn’t take an additional cut.
Best Community Engagement Platform: Mighty Networks
I’m wrapping up my list of recommended membership platforms with the underdog of the bunch: Mighty Networks.
With some creators, Facebook Groups and social media platforms just aren’t enough to build and scale a business (plus there’s always the risk Facebook can shut down a group without warning). That’s where Mighty Networks comes into play. Mighty Networks markets themselves as a more sophisticated version of Facebook Groups.
Because Facebook and other social media platforms are ad driven, members of those communities only see a fraction of the content in your groups. Not with Mighty Networks where creators have more control over what their members see and how they interact with content.
Because other membership platforms tend to be online course-centric, Mighty Platforms has positioned themselves as “content centric” where content and community engagement are the main priorities.
However, Mighty Networks offers an array of tools such as custom websites, online courses, and events integrations.
Mighty Networks Pricing
Mighty Networks does have a 14-day free trial and guides on how to migrate your existing community to their platform.
- Community Plan ($28/mo or $276/yr) – All the basics to build a website and membership for your community
- Business Plan ($98/mo or $972/yr) – Online course functionality and live cohort course creation
- Mighty Pro (request a demo for pricing) – Custom app with listings on the Apple app store and Google Play store
If courses aren’t needed for your business, the Community Plan has everything you need to create and sell memberships. If you are looking to sell courses, events or content, upgrading to the Business Plan is your best option.
And the Best Membership Platform is…
By now, you’re probably wondering what my preferred membership platform is and here is my answer: that’s up to you and your membership needs.
If you want to self-host your membership and have full autonomy, MemberPress and Memberful plugins easily integrate with your WordPress website. If you’d rather spend less time on the technical set up, Podia makes it quick and easy to get started. If you want all the bells and whistles to create, market, and sell a robust membership product, Kajabi has it all. If your membership is more course- versus community-centric, Teachable and Thinkific have the best course creation tools. And if you want to build a strong and tight-knit community, Mighty Networks is all you need.
The best membership platform is the one that fits all your needs and is able to grow with you and your business.
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Declan Wilson is a writer and self-proclaimed “internet handyman” who can do a little bit of everything when it comes to online content. When he’s not writing about self-employment or personal finance, Declan spends the rest of his time homeschooling his two boys, playing soccer, watching British television shows with his wife, or taking his pup, Phoebe, for a walk. To learn more about Declan or to get in touch, visit declanwilson.co.