I've spent the last few weeks talking to you guys about how to get clients. We've talked about marketing myths that freelancers believe, I co-hosted a webinar on getting clients from Facebook and Instagram and I pre-launched a book on marketing for freelancers.
Now it's time to take a break from the topic of marketing to discuss something I've wanted to write about for a loooong time:
I started a monthly subscription almost one year ago called The Shelancers Club.
Before I launched TSC, I had never launched anything. I had spent two years building a profitable and sustainable design business and I'd invested all my energy into one thing: client work.
There were just a few issues I had with client work:
1. There's an income ceiling. You can only take on so much one-on-one work per month. When you've reached your limit, you can't make more money per month unless you raise your prices.
2. You can't reach many people. With one-on-one work, you can only work with a handful of people at one time which means you can only make a difference in a small number of lives.
3. When the work stops, the money stops coming in. Unlike products, which can make money without you being there.
Instead of creating a book or course, I wanted my first form of passive income to be a monthly subscription so that I could create a purposeful community and earn a regular monthly income from it.
Guys, it was one of the best decisions of my business life so far. That and the decision to start hosting regular webinars, but more on that soon.
What is a monthly subscription?
A monthly subscription is a recurring payment. Your customers pay once a month for their subscription until they decide to cancel.
I believe subscriptions are one of the BEST forms of passive income. Maybe even THE best, and here are my reasons why:
1. You have NO income ceiling. You'll most likely put in the same hours of work on your subscription every month, but there's no limit on what you can earn from your subscription. You can put in the same hours of work each month for £500 or £5000. If you put a killer marketing plan in place to grow the number of subscribers you have, you could make your subscription your main source of income.
2. Your subscribers are committed. The people who choose to pay monthly for something you offer aren't just one-time, willy-nilly customers. They're committed to your brand enough to want to give you money every month. Not only that, but because they are paying you every month, they'll make the most of whatever you're giving them.
3. Your subscribers aren't just paying once. They're paying every month. With a course of product, your customers only pay once. With a subscription, they pay you on the same day every month so you get a regular monthly income you can always rely on, unlike freelance work or normal products like courses and books.
4. Your subscribers will become your closest internet family. Some monthly subscriptions (like mine) come with a private community that ONLY subscription members get access to. Members of The Shelancers Club get a Facebook group where they can mix with other shelancers, seek advice, provide encouragement and make friends.
I've made some of my best internet friends in there.
And even better than that- they've made friends with each other. Collaborations have come out of it and paid work has come from it! I know one shelancer who hired another to take her business photos, another who hired a fellow shelancer as her VA, and so on.
When your members are paying for access to the community, they really make the most of it. They don't just join and linger in the background.
How passive is it?
Monthly subscriptions aren't the most passive of income streams, so beware- especially if you have services that require your time every month.
Before creating a monthly subscription you need to calculate how many hours work it will take per month to create whatever you're giving customers.
In The Shelancers Club, I provide my subscribers with:
- A private Facebook community
- 2 30 minute audio lessons a month
- One worksheet or guidebook a month
- One behind-the-scenes look at my business every month.
I spend about 10-30 minutes in the Facebook group every day and it takes me one full day to create the content and upload it to the secret Shelancer area of my website.
I'd spend half an hour in Facebook groups every day even if I wasn't paid for it (Facebook is where I meet the most amaaazing business folks), so I don't really care if I'm compensated for that.
What I prefer to track is how much time it takes me to create the monthly content: one full day.
I earn about £600 ($860) per month from TSC at the moment, which I think is well worth a day's work.
I also have to factor in how much time I spend on marketing and promotion, which isn't a fat lot at the moment. When I start promoting it more (which will start happening very soon!) I should see my subscriber rate increasing, which will cover the time I spend on marketing.
See how amazing subscriptions are? There is no limit to how many people can subscribe, but the time spent on the subscription every month will stay virtually the same.
What could you sell with your monthly subscription?
I don't want you to look at my subscription model and copy it because  that would be a little uncool and  you're not going to stand out if you do that.
Instead, I want you to get creative and think of something you enjoy doing- something you'd like to do every month that you believe people would pay you for.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are some ideas:
1. A super secret newsletter subscription. The first subscription I ever purchased was for a secret newsletter. A craft blogger I followed had started a newsletter that would only go out to her premium subscribers who paid $5 a month. The newsletter contained laptop wallpapers, video tutorials, written tutorials and more. Well worth $5 a month to everyone who already loved her standard newsletter and wanted more.
2. A library subscription. You could create a library of digital goods that only subscribers can access. Your library could include desktop wallpapers, posters, prints, ebooks, worksheets...
3. Monthly group coaching subscription. This is an idea I've been playing around with myself. Every month you could offer group coaching to everyone who subscribes. It's the perfect way to get closer to your community and provide more value while also earning some extra income.
4. Membership site subscription. If your audience is large enough then why not start a membership website? With Wishlist Membership Site (for Wordpress), you can create a website that includes a variety of membership levels, a shopping cart, a forum... the whole shebang.
5. Ebook subscription. Do you like writing? If so, why not write one book a month and only allow your subscription members to access and download them? Your books don't have to be ludicrously long; they could be 20 pages of high value or step-by-step tutorials.
6. Design files subscription. Do you make and sell PSD's, vectors and other design goods? You could put them in a library that subscribers get access to, and you could update the library every month with new files. This idea works best for designers and developers. A developer's library could include plugins, tutorials, code snippets and themes that are updated every month.
7. Tutorial subscription. I know someone who sells a tutorial subscription teaching his subscribers how to use Mailchimp every month. I also know a guy whose subscribers pay $7 a month for Mac tutorials and tips. Your subscription doesn't have to be for products you made with your own hands- it can be monthly tutorials on how to use other people's popular products. It could even be monthly reviews of courses and products your audience is into.
8. Community subscription. Ever thought of adding a community to your subscription? This only works if you have enough people sign up for your subscription of course, but it can add a lot more value to your offering, and it can provide your subscribers with something worth way more than what they're paying.
The Shelancers Club includes a private Facebook community, and my community members are always saying the Facebook group alone is worth the $9.99 per month.
"I left The Shelancers Club for a little while due to time and money issues. It wasn't worth it. I ran into an issue this week and got some advice from another group. It was fine, but it just wasn't the same. This group is pretty special."
- Christina Orleans
9. Gift box subscription. If you prefer physical products over digital products, you could send out a box of goodies (like stationery or books) to your subscribers every month, like The Firework Box. Obviously this would take more work than a digital subscription, but you could charge more for physical goods.
10. Private Periscope subscription. OK, this last idea is my favourite. If you enjoy 'scoping, you could offer private 60-minute Periscope Q&A's or coaching each month. All you'd have to do is email your subscribers the date and time of the private scope, prepare for it and then give it. It wouldn't take much time but it would provide your audience with heaps of value.
VALIDATE YOUR IDEA BEFORE LAUNCHING IT
Don't just launch. Do some research before your put your subscription into the world.
Check if anyone in your niche is already doing something similar. You probably shouldn't release your subscription if they are, or you should make yours different at the very least.
No one will buy your subscription if it looks like a copy of someone else's.
Ask your audience. Send out a newsletter or write a blog post asking your audience if they would be interested in your subscription. You could even create a new newsletter list and ask interested people to sign up to express their interest and be the first to hear more.
I did that and ended up with 700 women signing up to learn more about The Shelancers Club, which validated my idea and told me it was definitely something I needed to create.
If you don't get a good response to your subscription- don't worry. Chill. You could switch up your subscription idea and present it differently, or you could try creating an ebook or course instead.
Just please, please, please don't go ahead with an idea that hasn't had a good response.
Just because you like the idea doesn't mean your audience will.
Tools you'll need
So you had an amazing idea for a subscription, you asked your audience if they were interested and they said YES.
Time to create your monthly subscription! Here are some of the tools you may need.
1. Tinypass. If you're a Squarespace user and you want to create a library subscription on your website, you can with Tinypass (now known as Piano). All you have to do is embed a code into the page of goodies. When people try to visit that page, a paywall will pop up that looks like mine below. If someone is already paying monthly, they just click 'sign in'.
2. Wishlist Membership Site. Wordpress users can use something like Wishlist* to create a membership site and protect their content from people who aren't subscribed.
3. Paypal. If you try to create a monthly subscription without using something like Paypal, you're going to find it difficult. Cut your losses and just use Paypal.
4. Stripe. Stripe is like Paypal but easier to use, and they charge a smaller transaction fee.
5. A newsletter provider, like Convertkit* or Mailchimp*. You'll need to email your subscribers every month to let them know new content/products are now available. I use Convertkit because it makes it really easy for me to tag members of The Shelancers Club and segment them.
Depending on what your monthly subscription includes, you may need more tools than this. But this is a good starting point.
How should you price your subscription?
I can't tell you exactly what you should charge because I don't have the right. Here's what I will say though: if your subscription includes a community, you should charge $10+ because of the added value. If your subscription is just for digital goods or a secret newsletter, try charging under $10 (like $5 or $7).
*Any links with an asterisk next to them are affiliate links.
This month in The Shelancers Club, the topic is Creating Passive Income. This collection includes:
- Audio lesson: How To Diversify Your Business With Passive Income
- Audio lesson: How To Transition From Freelancer To Infopreneur
- Guidebook: 25 Tools For Creating Books, Courses and Workshops.
- Behind the scenes: A sneak peek at my stats, growth and goals last month.
You'll also get access to all past collections, which cover topics like creating a welcome packet, streamlining your process, managing clients and more.
To join (and also get access to my super private Facebook community) head this way.