The other day I wrote about using WordPress As A Website Platform and I received a question, in the comments, about how to use it as a Membership Site and where they could get more information.

I have spent literally the last 12 months trying several different options – working out the best way to create a WordPress Membership site – and I’m still not sure I have succeeded in finding the one best way.  I’ve found several excellent variations – and each one has different strengths and weaknesses – so it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

I’m going to provide one piece of advice and ask several questions, before I talk about the different solutions I found and have implemented, used personally and managed for others as well.

My first piece of advice is to Define, very clearly what you want to achieve from your membership site:

  • How do you want to deliver content to your visitors – through posts, or pages?
  • Do you want to be able to provide a ‘sneak peek’ of the content to all site visitors – so they can get a feel of what they are missing as not being members?
  • Do you want to ‘drip feed’ information to your members, rather than giving them access to all the content at once?
  • How many membership levels do you want?
  • Does each membership level build on the previous one? e.g If you have Free, Silver and Gold… does the Silver membership have access to the Free resources and does Gold membership have access to the Silver and free resources… not all sites do.
  • What is the renewal periods for the memberships?
  • Do you want registration and payment automated?
  • Do you want renewal payments automated?

By clearly defining the intent of your membership site and answering the questions above (there are more…) you will be able to choose the best solution for your site.

Some WordPress Membership Solutions

A private blog

This is the least expensive in terms of $’s outlayed, but possibly the most time consuming option.  Depending on how big your membership base is and how big you want it to be, this option could truly suit you.

It’s not elegant though…

Here’s what I would do:

1.Through WP-Admin , go to Settings -> Privacy and select “I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors”

Please note: This works BEST with a new blog installation. If you have already installed your blog and added content before changing this setting, you’re blog will most likely already be found in the search engines

2. Through WP-Admin, go to Settings -> General and check the box next to membership – so that ‘Anyone Can Register’.  For New User Default Role, select Subscriber

3. When writing a post, you can now mark your membership content as private by locating the publish box and clicking on Edit next to Visibility, Select Private and click OK and only logged in users will see it

There are several drawbacks with this method. Firstly, there is no tie in between payment and registration.

Secondly, visitors can register whenever they like, so if someone ‘finds’ your blog or is given the address, they can register and immediately have access to your members only content.  You can alleviate that by removing the ‘anyone can register’ function and manually registering users yourself.

Really, this method is only good for sites with a small user base.


aMember is a flexible membership and subscription management PHP script that supports multiple payment systems including PayPal.

This script allows you to setup paid-membership areas on your site and integrate them with WordPress.

aMember will literally place your membership blog in a protected directory on your webserver and manage the user names and passwords.

Until very recently, this was my preferred method of creating a membership wite with WordPress – even though it was fiddly to install and integrate.

Using Membership Plugins

One of the main benefits of WordPress is that it is open source – which means that literally ANYONE with coding experience can write ‘add on’ code to extend the base functionality of the WordPress system.  These add ons are known as plugins.

I am aware of two plug-ins that provide excellent membership functionality for WordPress.  Neither are free – but considering that a Membership site is typically a source of income for you, then having a paid plug-in, with real life tech support is a very welcome thing.

The two wordpress membership plug-ins that I have used – successfully, are:


WP-Membership is a plug-in that will protect Pages on a WordPress blog.  This means that you can blog normally using Posts – and gain all the lovely SEO benefits and then deliver your membership content through Pages.

WP-Membership provides:

  • controlled access to the membership site either in its entirety, forcing everyone who wants to access site content to enroll as a member, or on a page-by-page basis
  • The ability to process recurring subscription payments through multiple merchant/payment gateways
  • The ability to set-up multiple subscription levels with various length of subscription & pricing options
  • The ability to offer free and paid trial options as well as full recurring membership registration that can be re-billed in a variety of time periods
  • Optional merchant/payment gateways as add-ons for® & YourPay?
  • The ability to develop “teaser” content to attract visitors, while still being able to monetize the site by requiring membership to access the protected areas

This plug-in is simple to use and the tech support is excellent.  I have had several discussions with the developer regarding features, and ‘nice to haves’ and problems that I was experiencing at the time.

At the time of writing, this plug-in was available for under $30 with lifetime updates.

Wishlist Member

WishList Member is extremely powerful and appears to do everything.

As with WP-Membership, Wishlist Member provides multiple membership levels.

What WishList Member does do, that WP-Membership doesn’t, is:

  • Sequential Content Delivery

If you want to time the release of content to your members, so they only access certain bits of content after they’ve been a member for a period of time, this functionality is great.  For example, members start at “Month 1? and after 30 days they are automatically upgraded to “Month 2? etc.

This functionality is excellent for extending the longevity of your membership.

  • Control Viewed Content

Sometimes, you will have content that you don’t want your members to see and with Wishlist Member, all you have to do is click the “Hide” button.

  • Total Content Protection

With Wishlist Member you can grant access to specific posts, pages, categories and comments for each membership level. This is incredibly powerful and gives a lot of freedom in evolving your membership site.

  • Secure RSS Feeds

Many people prefer to use RSS feeds and their fave RSS reader to access their memberships.   With Wishlist Members secure RSS feeds – your members can do this AND non-members can’t access the feed.  If a person stops paying, their feed automatically stops working.

Support for Wishlist Member is excellent as well.  Fully supported via a Helpdesk system, the developers of Wishlist Member have also created a series of Video tutorials to show you EXACTLY how to install and setup the plug-in and to create your membership site.

At the time of writing, WishList Member was $97 for a single site use – more than WP-Membership – but with different functionality.

I have reviewed four ways to make your WordPress blog into a membership site.  There are any number of other ways as well.  I have tried most of them and found them to be tedious in managing them, or lacking in functionality.  These methods are effective, not overly expensive and they work.

Do you have a WordPress Membership site using any of these methods – or a different one?  Share your story.

About the Author Charly Dwyer

Charly has more than 30 years experience in the IT industry ranging from hands-on technical, to high-level business management, Charly has installed and configured computing equipment and has managed business contracts in excess of $25 million dollars.

As a result, Charly identifies the best way to integrate solutions and technologies for the most cost effective way to achieve a businesses outcome.

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  1. Nice article covering the options.

    I just finished a site using Wishlist Member and found it to be by far the best solution I have seen yet for using WordPress for membership sites.

    I also use iGroops, which has a ton of features built-in for member management, shopping cart, affiliate program, content management and more.

    You can find out more at

  2. THANKS SO MUCH ! I have spent a few months looking at many options for my new e-learning site. And this article has been VERY helpful. Thanks so much. I have been “stuck” for a long time, and I had never considered WordPress because it was not able to handle what I needed, now it looks like it can do all that I need, and MORE. You have made my year !

  3. Thanks so much Charly! I have spent a few months and WAY too much money on a pretty lame paid membership software system. All of it’s “benefits” of built in blog, shopping cart, CMS, and autoresponder are so poor that I am incredibly hampered by the limitations.

    I have no access to the graphics library meaning I can’t tell what’s in the library and can’t link to or reuse without reposting. It doesn’t do video and doesn’t allow me to name the links meaning I can’t really send anyone to a specific page or create the right benfits out of the landing page addresses through Google.

    I really wished I’d looked around further before putting all of the effort into my membership site that I had. I believe one of your last two ideas presented here are worth my effort for my next attempts at getting the result that I want for my readers and my clients.

    YOU GO GIRL!!!

  4. Hi Ed,

    Absolutely. I have tried to use ‘free’ resources and stitch them together and have spent so much time just making the solution work and stay working.

    The WP-Membership and the Wishlist Member plugins just work and there are people there to support them….

    Well worth the investment – in time savings and sanity.


  5. Charity,

    Thanks for the round and opinions.

    I am currently in the market for a membership plugin for a new “freemium” site and had found the following on my own:
    WishList Member
    +Your Members

    So, I am curious to know your thoughts on the other two; MemberWing & Your Members.

    My two partners and I are also debating what the market will bare for a magazine site, with known, published, writers. (how’s your crystal ball?)

    thanks in advance,

  6. Great Post. I’ve been using a plugin solution called Digital Access Pass ( to build a new website and have been extremely surprised at how well it works.

    DAP comes with a drip content feature that makes content available to customers over time, so that they don’t join, grab all the content, and unsubscribe. You can add content on posts (vs. pages) and keep it completely invisible to members until they have been subscribed for long enough to see it. Alternatively , you can make the content visible but locked until the prescribed time, which allows your site to bet better organic search rankings and gives members a taste of what to expect.

    It also has a built in autoresponder that allows you to let members know about new content as it becomes available – which keeps them engaged and less likely – hopefully – from canceling.

    Where DAP really stands out:

    1. The ability to create free memberships…

    2. Every member can be automatically added as an affiliate, and offered a per-lead and/or per-sale commission. The reporting system instantly makes clicks, leads, and sales visible to the affiliate. In a well-defined niche, this not only keeps members happy but also creates a cheap and highly targeted marketing strategy. If you’re offering a free membership on the front end and offering a per-sale or even a per-lead commission to those free members, you can build a huge, responsive list very quickly

    #. You can allow members to retain members access to the content they’ve purchased after unsubscribing – allowing you to continue to market to them.

    All in all, I think DAP is a life saver. It solves several problems I was struggling with in looking for the right software

  7. I do like DAP’s “Post Cancellation Access” feature, but I understood it to behave more like a shell running ‘over’ rather than ‘in’ WordPress.

  8. From the perspective of user management – yes, you’re right, DAP does behave like a shell – users do not use the wordprss backend at all.

    Personally I dont find this to be a problem – though users would have to join twice (once to DAP, and once to wordpress) if you really wanted them in wordpress as users – a scenario that could happen if you ran, say, an integrated forum.

    In that it affords the tremendous flexibility of WordPress, the inherent potential for growth that only products like Butterfly Marketing have, and it allows me to run a membership site with drip content – DAP meets my particular needs far better than any other product that is on the market, to my knowledge.

  9. Hi Josh and Bill,

    Thanks for the great conversation. Bill, I’m looking at the other two plugins you mentioned and will do a review on them shortly – thanks for the heads up.

    I can’t say I’m a fan of ‘shell’ membership programs, although you make some valid points Josh…. The main reason I’m not a fan is that my clients want to Keep It Simple – not have to remember to “log in here to do that” and then “login there to this…”…

    With Wishlist Member you can now integrate fully with Clickbank, Paypal and Aweber – YAY!!! and If you set your Aweber lists up correctly, if a member leaves the program, you can still send them a newsletter and updates etc.

    It’s always good to see the alternatives though because you never know when you need them.

    Thanks for the great discussion.

  10. This was great information! Thanx for taking the time to write this, Charly. I purchased WishList Member yesterday, and have been working through setting it up. I haven’t figured out how to tell it the frequency of recurring payments yet. Do you know how to do that? I haven’t hooked it up to a payment method yet, so maybe that will be obvious when I do that, but if I’m not looking in the right place, I hope you’ll tell me. 🙂

    Thanx again for all the great info, Charly.

  11. This is more than informative. I appreciate the time you spent and your sharing. I have two questions.
    1. Which one of the membership sites are easier to learn?
    2. Which one integrates with 1shoppingcart?
    Thanks again for all your hard work. A true expert and your site is a wealth of information.

  12. Hi Rosie,

    Thank you for your comments and questions.

    I prefer either Wishlist Member or WP Membership, with a preference for Wishlist Member at the moment.

    Wishlist Member certainly integrates with 1SC, as well as AWeber and Paypal and a number of other autoresponders.

    In terms of ease of use Wishlist Member is quite simple, once it’s installed. Installation is not difficult but does require some thinking through when setting it up.

    If you see my article Creating a Membership Site, I discuss a number of things that you need to consider before embarking on setting up a site – just some things to think about.


  13. Have only just discovered the possibilities of using a membership plugin with wordpress, such as Wishlist member, and your post here makes me think that i really need to get on the ball and get a site up and runnning very soon, if not straight away.

    So i guess i will need to buy it first ?

    I was contemplating using Amember, but you have convinced me that this plugin is not only easier to use, but will do just about everything i would ask of a membership script

  14. Hi, loved your post. I am exploring membership site options at the moment and wanting something that I can use with wordpress. I’m favouring Wishlist at the moment, but as will be using it on several sites / blogs the cost is around $297. How successful have you been in getting a good return on your investment given all the other costs incurred in running sites and providing regular updated content? thanks, Aly

    1. Hi Aly,

      That is an excellent question and it really comes down to the business model you employ. Don’t let anyone fool you – running a membership site takes time and dedication, as you so rightly point out with the costs of running the sites and provided regular updated content.

      Some of the sites I’ve implemented have been great! (Remember I also do this for others as well). The Business model has stacked up. One site was a ‘one off’ payment to receive ‘one product’ which has heaps of content. Now, that business owner is able to sell that product time and time again, manage access and not have to worry about new content – because that’s not what their customers bought. In fact, they ran a teleseminar for the first course and created the content as they went.

      I’ve also seen others struggle with creating a recurring membership and provide content regularly. Mainly because they weren’t focused on that business. Once they had created their site, they were off looking at the next shiny object …..

      The site maintenance is minimal generally. I provide monthly maintenance services at a great price to ensure that the required updates are done etc.

      So – I can’t give you a straight forward answer, but I will ask you some more questions in return:
      1. Who is your target audience?
      2. What need does your membership feel? i.e What problem does it solve?
      3. What is your target audience prepared to pay for the service
      4. How can you deliver that content to your customers? Is a Membership site really the right way, or is an email delivery course better?
      5. Can you outsource some of the content generation and still maintain the value and quality?
      6. What are your overheads?

      and once you’ve answered these, you can decide whether your idea will be profitable or not.

      I’m all about business planning – getting the information together before you act.

      I notice you’re looking at the multiple site licence – and whilst I would love for you to purchase that, I have to ask if you will have more than one site. Weigh off the potential cost now, versus long term benefits. If you can see that you will have multiple sites, then buying the mulitple site licence makes sense. If you don’t know, and haven’t even setup your first site – seriously consider buying a single licence and upgrading later on (there is an upgrade path from single to multiple licences).

      Hope this helps somewhat….


  15. Charly,

    Great information / conversation here. Per your suggestion, I purchased Wishlist Member. I’ve been working on installing it for days now. I’m stuck at getting the registration form in place for non-members. I’ve gone through all of Wishlist’s documentation but I cannot figure this out. Can you offer up any tips?



    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the comment and the questions. I’m not sure where you’re having trouble, so I’m giving you a couple of places to look.

      1. Generally, the registration form is a separate page that you send people to when they want to register. When you create your membership level, you’re provided with the registration url for each level. the process for each payment processor is slightly different – please see the list of videos below that will help you with this. If it’s for a Free level, I simply link my register button to the link for the Free page, or use the method below.

      2. You can add a registration form in each page or post on your site (for each membership level) by entering the shortcode:
      [register_level]. Replace the word level with your Membership level name. So, if I wanted to add a registration form for a Free membership, that I had called Free, I would use the shortcode [register_Free].

      3. You can customize the form for each level, adding information above and below the form (great for Clickbank and such) by going to the Settings -> Registration and select the membership level you want and customize the form.

      There is some great training being offered for Wishlist starting December 2nd (so you’ll need to book soon). I’ve decided to go through the certification training myself!

      For more information about using Registration Forms with each payment type, these training videos may help you:

      Integrating Wishlist with Paypal

      Integrating Wishlist with 1SC

      Integrating Wishlish with Clickbank

      I hope this has helped.


  16. Hi, I found your site and so far it is incredibly helpful! If I do purchase Wishlist – which sounds likely at the moment I will definitely go through your affiliate link.

    I do have one question I am concerned with. I noticed that Wishlist’s feature comparison says that recurring payments are not an option. This is a feature I desperately want in a membership site, for instance a $5 monthly fee to access content on hidden pages – where the customer continues to get billed until they cancel the service, and when they do, this is automatically updated in my membership platform so they do not receive further access.

    It seems like for such a pricey plugin, this service should be available…which is making me question whether or not I am understanding what they mean by “recurring payments” correctly.

    Can you please verify if Wishlist is in fact able to handle this?

    1. Hi Becka,

      Wishlist most certainly does handle recurring payments – the only thing it didn’t do was a Free trial with Paypal – but they had this noted and said they were working on it – I haven’t checked recently, because I got around a ‘free’ trial, by offering a $1 trial.

      I’ve set up sites that do a recurring payments, low price trial, one off payment, incremental feed (drip feed)…. and it works wonderfully.

      The price for the plugin does not have any recurring payments – meaning that you pay once only for the plugin.

      A couple of good resources provided by Wishlist are:
      Top 10 Membership Models – Video

      Micro Continuity Mini Course – Video

      Hope this helps Becka,


  17. Hi,

    This blog has been very interesting.
    I’m thinking about setting up a membership site to sequentially drip feed information based on hot to videos modules. Can this be accomodated using WordPress membership like Wishlist Member ?

  18. Hi Charly,
    this is a very interesting thread. I’ve been undecided on a membership software or plugin for a few years. I’ve looked at Joomla and found the admin interface too complicated. I heard that WordPress were getting more membership plugins and then I found your discussion. I’m working on a site where people of a certain group can ask and offer help on all subjects. I therefore need a database capability that can be customised to log and show members’ qualifications, hobbies and interests, skill levels per subject, location and availability. Would either of the two plugins be able to offer such a range of fields in the admin?
    And while I’m at it, are there any WordPress membership templates out there? I haven’t found any worth considering.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hi Perry,

      WordPress is indeed evolving and its functionality is amazing.

      In regards to your specific question about database capabilities – I too had a similar need (and continue to require the functionality in many sites). Wishlist Member, which is what I use exclusively now if asked, interfaces very nicely into the WordPress backend and utilises the existing User Profile area. Unfortunately, that profile area is somewhat limited – BUT!!! the funcationality of WordPress is such that you can add what you to the area. For the relaunch of Wonderful Web Women I created code that allowed us to incorporate additional fields into the Members profiles that can be displayed on the site (visit the Gold Member and Faculty Member Profile areas for a sample).

      There is also the Simple Press Forum plugin that has an excellent profile manager that can be customized as well. Failing those two options, a wordpress developer could design a plug-in to meet your needs. After all, the backend of WordPress is simply a SQL database backend.

      In regards to themes – that’s a tough one because every one of my clients has a different vision of what a Membership template should look like. The one in use at Wonderful Web Women was designed and created by me to their specs – and then I added extra functionality as we developed the site and decided on all the ‘funky’ bits we wanted to do.

      Personally, I work with a client to determine their overall requirements for look and feel and then modify an existing template, or create one from scratch for them. I’ve really like the Woo Themes, as they have some excellent backend administration functions that make managing the site that much easier.

      I really hope this helps Perry.


      1. Thanks Charly,
        You’re making the grey zone much clearer. I have been afraid of setting up with one system and then discovering that the site I want, or the one it is evolving into, would outgrow that system and demand a rebuild with something else. I’ve looked at Woo and really like the level of design (as a graphic designer of the old school, I can appreciate the quality and work done).
        With the wishlist member and the press forum, I think I can create a great basis. My IT partner is open for whichever route I decide, though has a leaning towards Joomla for depth of plugins etc, but I feel more comfortable with the WordPress environment, so will press ahead with it.
        Thanks for your input. Your site is now bookmarked for regular revisits.

        1. Hi Michael,

          I didn’t do it through the registration form. I haven’t found a way to do that.

          Instead I added code that added extra fields to the user profile in wp-admin and then directed users on the after registration page to update their profiles with the information we need. It works fairly well, and when backed up with reminder emails, most members will update their profile.


          1. Hi Charly.

            Thanks for the very quick answer!
            That is more or less what I figured out, too.
            As far as I have seen you can only redirect to wordpress frontend pages with wishlist member, have you figured out a way to redirect to the user profile page or did you manage to create a frontend form in which users could update only the needed fields of their profile?

            .-= Michael´s last blog ..What is more important? Relevance or page load speed? =-.

          2. Hi Michael,

            Not entirely certain what you are asking here – I would think you could use the external url redirect for the After Registration redirect or a link directly on the Members Home (or in the sidebar) enocuraging them to update their profile.


  19. Charly,
    Appreciate this thread. I am developing a membership site. In order to get the site up and running, I want to give the first 100 or so the first year for free. Can members register with either WP-Member or Wishlist without incurring a fee or doing a $1 charge? Or, can I just turn off the charge feature until I have critical mass?

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hi Chandra,

      To the best of my knowledge – no you can’t create a custom registration field. However, you can certainly send the new member to their profile page after registration to gain their details.


  20. What is the best way to control access to your on-line e-learning content?
    I am developing Flash-based software training modules. I want to control access to these and the period or access to these training modules. I also want to protect these modules from being copied while they being viewed. There are some very expensive schemes out there; being a start-up this is too cost prohibitive. I am considering using a CMS system to accomplish this. Does anyone have better suggestions and experiences with this challenge?
    Can wordpress and plug-ins that are described here help?

  21. Hi Charly,
    I am currently developing a niche music promotion website and I’m looking to do something that I haven’t really seen before in my niche. I’d like to make all the content free, but add a membership option which would allow paid members to create their own posts.

    This would be a huge selling point, since (approved) member posts would automatically be included in our feeds/newsletters–essentially giving artists, indie labels and promoters the ability to market their music and events directly to the website’s mailing list. They’d also get the benefit of linking back to the sites/pages of their choosing.

    I guess the best analogy would be selling editorial space instead of advertising space.

    Do you think either of these plugins would fit my purposes?

    1. Hi Barry,

      I’m just about exclusively using Wishlist Member now – it is very flexible and with the API just being published it’s even more so.
      By setting up Wishlist Member to assigning members to a specific WP-Role you can give them access to the WP publishing windows so they can post content.


  22. Hi Charly,

    Iam working with wishlist now. The login box of wishlist has a Register link which goes no where but the homepage. And I don’t see any registration form.

    The main purpose of the wishlist I’m using is users can subscribe for the newsletters and some protected content on the site.

    I have integrated Paypal subscription option in admin.. and don’t know how to use that and where I see that on the site.

    Do you have any ideas..


    1. Hi Neethi,

      High recommend you refer to the Video tutorials to help you set up your site, these have proven invaluable to many people.
      The register link on the widget can’t go to a registration page – because site owners have multiple levels and one registration link doesn’t work!

      To use paypal you need to create a payment button using the information shown in the integration section of the window.

      We are able to assist you setup your site if you are still having issues.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}