Membership websites created using WordPress have the potential to provide you a steady stream of income. For example, craft compelling content and receive payment for it. In addition, use your loyal readers as test subjects for new products or services. And to top it off, do all of this while maintaining higher levels of control access.

Think about it. Books, DVDs, and even products are often passed around amongst family and friends to share after an initial purchase right? 

Yet, the idea of a membership site increases the level of exclusivity with those who have signed up. For instance, let’s say your loyal readers pay monthly to gain access to exclusive content. Because of this, the chances of them sharing their login information for others to use for free is lower.

Here at WP Mayor we like to give our loyal readers plenty of information regarding membership plugins. For instance, we provide ways for choosing the best membership plugin for your needs. Additionally, we deliver a complete list of some of the best WordPress membership plugins to make choosing one even easier.

But what about after you have chosen ‘the best’ membership plugin?

What’s next?

Well, in an effort to answer that question I will show you how to build a WordPress membership site. And hopefully I turn the sometimes complex task of building a WordPress membership website into a simpler process.

For today’s purposes I am using the Paid Memberships Pro WordPress plugin. Reason is, it is flexible enough to cater to any type of membership website and is also free. This means it is budget friendly for anyone interested in building a membership site.

Traits of a Typical Membership Site

Choosing which WordPress membership plugin to use is one of the hardest decisions you make after deciding to monetize your blog. And, while I am focusing on Paid Memberships Pro today, according to Chris Lema there are many individualized factors playing into your plugin decision.

That being said, many membership sites have similar traits when it comes to functionality. Let’s take a look:

  • Content delivery. Delivers premium educational material in the form of online video tutorials or e-books.
  • Membership hierarchy. Creates membership levels to boost revenue.
  • Front-end registration. Registers members on the front-end and collects basic information about them.
  • Profile creation. Provides access to profiles for editing.
  • Email send-outs. Delivers targeted emails to new and existing members.
  • Payment options. Offers secure payment methods.
  • Communication. Provides a way for members to interact with each another.

Of course, depending on which type of membership website you are creating, you may need additional functionality. Or a different plugin.  And that’s okay. This is simply a general overview of what constitutes a quality membership website.

What is Paid Memberships Pro?

Let’s take a quick look at what Paid Memberships Pro offers website owners interested in creating a membership website:

  • Unlimited membership levels whether Free, Paid, or Recurring Subscriptions.
  • Custom Trial Periods and Introductory Pricing.
  • Integrates with payment gateways such as Stripe,, and PayPal.
  • Updates member profile information directly on your website.
  • Integrates with third-party tools such as WooCommerce, bbPress, and several email subscriber service providers.
  • Generates reports regarding memberships and revenue.
  • Optimizes for high search rankings.
  • Provides custom advertising opportunities.
  • Customizes email notifications.
  • Is 100% GPL.
  • Works with all WordPress themes and most WordPress plugins.

As you can see, Paid Memberships Pro performs all of the basic functionality required to set up a working membership website.

Building a WordPress Membership Site

Now that you know a little about what Paid Memberships Pro can do for you, let’s see it in action.

Step 1:  Installation and Activation

Navigate to Plugins > Add New in your WordPress dashboard and search for Paid Memberships Pro.

Paid Memberships Pro WordPress Plugin - Installation and Activation

Select Install Now and click on Activate Plugin.

Notice in your WordPress dashboard the new menu item labeled Memberships. Also, find tabs connecting you to your membership functions.

Paid Memberships Pro - Dashboard Menu Item

Step 2: Add/Edit Membership Levels

Navigate to the Memberships > Membership Levels to add a new member or edit an existing membership.

Paid Memberships Pro - Add or Edit Membership Level

Here, fill in the following information to add or edit a membership level:

  • Name. The name of the membership level.
  • Description. The description of the membership level that is displayed on the default ‘Membership Checkout’ page.
  • Confirmation Message. The confirmation message that is displayed on the ‘Membership Confirmation’ page after successful registration.
  • Billing Details. The initial payment, recurring subscription information, billing amount, billing cycle limit, and custom trial period (if applicable).
  • Other Settings. Choose to disable new membership signups and set when membership access expires.
  • Content Settings. Choose from the category choices of Members Only or Uncategorized.

 Click on Save Level when you are done.

Step 3: Configure Page Settings

Here manage the WordPress pages that will be assigned to each Paid Memberships Pro page. Navigate to Memberships > Pages and configure the following pages:

  • Account Page
  • Billing Information Page
  • Cancel Page
  • Checkout Page
  • Confirmation Page
  • Invoice Page
  • Levels Page

Paid Memberships Pro - Page Settings

Choose a redirect page for each category. For example, decide where a member redirects to if they cancel their membership. If unsure about this step, click on the link to generate pages automatically. From there, make any additional changes and select Save Settings.

Step 4: Set Up Payment Gateways and Set Tax Rates

To accept payments in exchange for membership access, configure the payment gateways. Navigate to Memberships > Payment Gateway & SSL to get started.

Choose a Gateway

First choose the payment gateway you would like to have on your membership site. Paid Memberships Pro does a great job of having some of the most popular payment gateways available for use. This makes the plugin versatile for all website owners.

Paid Memberships Pro - Choose a Gateway

Afterwards, complete the fields of your preferred payment gateway. Each gateway will have its own individual setup steps.

If you need help with this step, Paid Memberships Pro provides a convenient link about Payment Gateway Settings.

Currency and Tax Settings

Next configure the currency and sales tax for your membership purchases.

Paid Memberships Pro - Currency and Tax Settings

First, choose which currency to display on your membership website. Next, pick which credit cards you will accept from your members. Lastly, determine your sales tax and tax rate.

Check with your tax accountant to see if applying tax to memberships is required in your area.

SSL Settings

Now add information regarding your SSL Certificate. This is used as a way of protecting your members’ personal information. If you are accepting payments directly on your membership website, an SSL Certificate is required.

If you are using an offsite payment gateway such as PayPal or Stripe, an SSL certificate is not required.  However, it is still recommended you include one for added security.

Paid Memberships Pro - SSL Settings

An SSL certificate is typically purchased through your WordPress web hosting company, though there are plenty of third-party options available as well.

Step 5: Configure Your Email Settings

Send out regular emails to your members to showcase great customer service and keep your members informed no matter the stage of the membership process they are in.

Paid Memberships Pro - Email Settings

Navigate to Memberships > Email and set up the following parameters:

  • From email. Go with the default system email address or make an appropriate change.
  • From name. Choose which name to display when members receive emails from you.
  • Send your site admin emails. Configure the member triggers that will send you an email. For example at checkout, when membership levels change, at cancellation, or when billing information has been updated.
  • Send members emails. Determine if you would like to send new members an email. Keep in mind that Paid Memberships Pro automatically sends all new members a confirmation email upon checkout.

Step 6: Advanced Settings

Here take advantage of the advanced setting options the Paid Memberships Pro plugin provides. For example, direct a message towards logged-in and non-members.  Or, utilize reCAPTCHA and set a Terms of Service Agreement.

A WooCommerce Alternative


If you prefer not to use Paid Memberships Pro to build your membership site, or are already using the popular WooCommerce plugin for your eCommerce shop, there is a really great WooCommerce plugin called WooCommerce Memberships that can you use instead.

Creating a close knit community of your most loyal customers, WooCommerce Memberships makes designing the membership section of your website a cinch. In fact, this plugin is so effective, it fully integrates with your existing content and products.

Here are some of the best features this plugin offers those with a WooCommerce shop already in place:

  • Create membership plans independently from products for determining access rules.
  • Choose from multiple access plans – as a stand-alone product, as part of a product purchase, as a monthly/yearly subscription, as an invite-only section.
  • Determine when members have access to content, even going so far as to drip content to them.
  • Create members-only products as a benefit for being a part of this exclusive membership.
  • Reward members with special discounts.
  • Import or export members to a CSV file for data analysis.
  • Make communicating with members easy using “Memebership Notes”.
  • Utilize WooCommerce Subscriptions for recurring payment of membership statuses.

For help getting your membership website up and running using WooCommerce Memberships, check out the detailed documentation that is available for your use.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it. You now know how to set up a working membership website using one of the most popular, and budget friendly WordPress membership plugins. And, as an added bonus, you have an alternative plugin for those who love WooCommerce products.

Building a membership site is one of the best ways to monetize your website while providing loyal followers exclusive content in exchange for an email subscription or a paid membership. Plus, they solidify you as an authority, build relationships with your followers, and don’t require you trade excess time for money.

So, if you are interested in capitalizing on the potential to boost your supplemental income providing premium content to your site visitors, consider building a WordPress membership website today.

What about you? Have you built a WordPress membership website? Which tools and/or plugins did you utilize?  I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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About Lindsay Liedke

Lindsay is a freelance writer who loves all things WordPress. When she is not writing she can be found spending family time with her son and two silly nephews.