Membership Sites That Scale: From Side Hustle, to Full Time Business

membership sites that scale
Starting a new business takes dedication and an incredible amount of time and resources.

And let’s be honest, when you’re doing it as a side hustle while still working your day job it can be downright exhausting.

But when you focus on the right activities in the limited amount of time you have each day, you can produce 80% of your results with just 20% of your time.

With this in mind: does your side hustle have the potential to replace your full-time income?

In this case study, we’ll take a look a closer look at how you can make it possible.

Meet Shannon Mattern, Your WordPress BFF

Shannon Mattern, the founder of WP-BFF.com, first started her freelance web design business as a side hustle.

The hours she spent at her full time job meant that she struggled to find enough hours in the day to scale her freelance business.

Shannon found her niche when she realized that most of the WordPress site building resources available were very specialized, and didn’t provide basic users with the essential “how to build a WordPress website from start to finish” information.

This realization sparked the creation of her free 5 Day Website Challenge.

membership sites that scale

But to be successful, Shannon knew she needed to grow her email list.

Enter the 30 Day List Building Challenge.

The 30 Day List Building Challenge was just the catalyst Shannon needed to take WP-BFF from a side hustle to a full-time income.

Thanks to the exponential growth and success of the free challenge Shannon created and her online courses, she was able to walk away from her 9-5 in January of 2018 to focus on her business full time.

Here’s how she did it…

Advice From Shannon: Do It Right The First Time

1. Do your research.

“When I was getting started with my business, I had not heard of AccessAlly and I was so focused on doing everything as cheap as possible because if it didn’t work out, I wasn’t out any money.”

It can be hard to justify spending money when you’re not making money.

This mindset lead Shannon to OptimizePress. While it could ultimately do what she needed it to do in terms of features, Shannon found the plugin extremely cumbersome and she spent a lot of time getting it set up.

Once set up, the tech setup continued to require substantial time troubleshooting tech issues for members who were having issues logging in and using her membership area.

“It was costing me so much time to try to make it work I was finally like this is just not sustainable,” Shannon notes.

The search ultimately led her to AccessAlly, the plugin that would finally give her the power and flexibility she needed to grow.

2. Take your business seriously.

The shift from side hustle to full time business doesn't happen overnight… but it starts with a mindset shift.

“During a coaching session with my business coach,” Shannon shares, “she told me that if I was going to grow this thing, I needed to act like a real business owner.”

It was an eye-opening moment. Shannon had to take a look at her systems and tools to evaluate what was working, what wasn’t, and where she needed to level up.

3. Invest in the systems that will make you money.

The first upgrade Shannon made was trading in her Mailchimp account for Infusionsoft, so she could take advantage of the marketing automation. With this setup, she discovered that AccessAlly might be the key to unlock growth potential for her membership plugin.

“If you set up your ecosystem and tech stack so that it will serve you at all stages of your business, you’ll be so much more efficient in spending your time on the things that grow your business.”

The alternative? “You’ll constantly be investing your time in upgrading each time your business hits a new milestone and outgrows your tech tools that just met your needs at the time.

4. You don’t need a ginormous email list to make money.

Shannon has had over 7000 students go through her free course, and in 2018 with less than 2000 people on her mailing list she was able to generate $36,500 from her online courses within her membership site.

“I know this area of my business is scalable, and it doesn’t require a lot of time from me outside of marketing it to get people in the door through my free course. “

There is some effort and time required to nurture the relationships and people in the free course, but the majority of her time is now spent on 1:1 client work.

AccessAlly is a Game-Changer

membership sites that scale

After upleveling her WordPress membership site by investing in AccessAlly, Shannon was finally freed up to focus on marketing her business, which ultimately lead to quitting her day job.

Her inbox wasn’t filled with emails from members about issues with her membership site anymore, but rather emails from them raving about it, and also wanting to do something similar.

“The AccessAlly team makes it so easy to get started on your membership site. The setup videos are the best setup videos I’ve seen for any plugin.”

Not only does AccessAlly focus on supporting you in building a great course and membership site, but it helps you market a great course and great membership site. Everything is baked-in.

PRO TIP:

Use all of the strategies at your disposal within the AccessAlly knowledge base to build out your course.

These methods are tried and true and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to setting up your course and automations.

Shannon shares that “When I first started, I was pulling strategies from different places, but would have saved myself so much time if I would have followed the tutorials instead of making it harder than it needed to be.”

Shannon’s Favorite AccessAlly Features

In the interview, Shannon shares a close up view of what her membership site and course area, built with AccessAlly, looks like. Some of the key features she’s used to increase engagement and profitability are:

Total Design Flexibility

membership sites that scale
Your course and membership design is not limited by the membership plugin, like it is with some hosted solutions such as Thinkific and Kajabi.

Rather, it's completely flexible so you have creative freedom to use whatever WordPress theme you want when it comes to how you want your membership site to look.

Shannon raves about how this is one of AccessAlly’s major strengths, because as a designer she wants to be able to control the way her membership site looks.

AccessAlly is just a plugin, built to control your membership site’s functionality when leveraged with your marketing automation system, and the overall design is controlled by your theme.

Makes it Easy For Students To Pick Up Where They Left Off

The progress tracking features in AccessAlly Pro help members keep track of their course progress, and make it easy for them to pick up where they left off.

Increase Your Revenue With Upsell and Cross-Sell Options

The course dashboard makes it easy to cross-sell additional courses and membership levels you offer, and AccessAlly makes it easy to offer upgrade options for your free members so you can turn them into paying customers.
membership sites that scale
How successful is this feature? Shannon revealed that she's earned $36,500 from the online courses inside her membership site–and that's just from users that came in for her free course and wanted more.

Integrate With The Email Marketing Automation System That Best Fits Your Business

Last, but not least… the integration with lower cost marketing automation systems such as ConvertKit makes it possible to create a premium membership site at a lower cost.

When she first got started, Shannon chose to work with Infusionosft as the CRM that powered her AccessAlly site. (This was back in the day when Infusionsoft and Ontraport were the only integrations available.)

However, once ConvertKit became an integration option, Shannon decided to move CRMs, noting that Infusionsoft was really overkill for where her business was at the time. It made sense for her to downsize and work with a tool that was designed for businesses her size (and saving hundreds of dollars a year in the process).

Now that AccessAlly integrates with ActiveCampaign, ConvertKit, Drip, and Keap it’s more affordable for smaller businesses to choose AccessAlly for their WordPress membership plugin.

Turn Your Side Hustle Into A Full Time, Profitable Career

A solid tech foundation has the potential to change the trajectory of your best membership site ideas. Not only does it bring you peace of mind, but it allows you to focus on growing your business, instead of just fixing it all the time.

Take some time out to evaluate your current systems. If something isn’t working, improve it. In the end, you’ll save yourself so much time and money.

If you’re ready to follow Shannon’s lead and transform your membership site so you can finally turn your side hustle into a full-time career, let’s chat.

Book a demo with a member of our team to see if AccessAlly can help you get there.

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