Many website are transitioning to membership-only websites. In other words, these sites have a login process that allows users and customers to engage with the site from within.

Some sites are more strict than others. Social media sites, for example, do not allow users to “play” on the site without submitting a name and e-mail address for a profile. Other sites may have looser boundaries, in which there is some “freemium” material publicly available, but the richest information of the site (or products) are password-protected.

Membership-driven sites are ideal in that they cultivate high engagement with their followers, and e-mail addresses are easy to acquire when subscription is the only way to interact.

However, there are also disadvantages to members-only sites. If you’re considering transitioning part of your site – or your whole site – to a membership-driven model, you should ask yourself the following questions to ascertain if it’s right for you:

What kind of paying customers, and how many, do you want?

Think about how scalable your goal is with your current site. Is your mission to have thousands (or millions) of customers that pay a nominal fee to participate, or do you want to have between 5 and 20 high-paying, premium clients?

Your language could help to determine your direction. If the people who pay for your services are “customers” or “participants,” you may be a good candidate for a members-only site. But if you call them “clients,” you may be just fine with your current model, provided that it is scalable.

How much effort and energy do you want to spend on developing your site?

Customers and clients require a certain amount of interaction and energy, no matter what. However, having a membership-driven site means that much of your content will be automated, eliminating the need for consistent personalized communication with individual clients.

While this may seem like a dream come true for some freelancers, the reality is that setting up these automated systems requires a great deal of work and expertise. Are you comfortable setting up those systems in your website, or would you prefer to just interact with your customers or clients? This leads to the next question:

How personally engaged do you want to be with your customers and clients?

Automated isn’t necessarily better. Certain types of businesses operate more smoothly with a high-end, concierge approach to client interaction. If you are in favor of communicating frequently with your clients and tailoring content to their specific needs (and if this is scalable), then you should charge commensurately and stick with your current approach.

However, if you feel burned out on client relations and the market would not bear an increase of price for your services in your field, you should probably consider switching at least part of your site to members-only.

How much money are you willing to invest in the setup of your site?

Finally, finding and implementing the correct plug-ins that will support automated communication and membership services will probably require you to hire web developers and designers. Unless you are in the tech field yourself, this is a highly specialized field and you should be comfortable delegating the technical work to an expert.

In order to implement a complicated system that streamlines your client relations permanently, you will need to have the investment money ready to pay a professional web designer to transform your site with clean consistency and usability.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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