Marketing and Launching

Courses vs Memberships: Which Should You Create?

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I turn your knowledge into a well-structured online course that students will engage with and finish. 


A course or a membership? I can tell you now, each model has its own unique advantages, challenges, and best-use scenarios. This guide on courses vs memberships will help you make an informed decision by walking you through the differences, the benefits of each, and practical steps to determine which is right for your business.

Understanding the Basics

Courses vs Memberships: What is a Course?

A course is a structured program designed to teach specific skills or knowledge over a set period. By the time a student is done taking the course, a transformation should have taken place. Courses can be delivered in various formats, including video lessons, written content, quizzes, and interactive exercises. They are typically sold as one-time purchases, giving students access to the entire content or giving access on a drip schedule, once they enroll.

Key Characteristics of Courses:

  • One-time purchase
  • Structured content delivery
  • Focused on a specific topic or skill
  • Often self-paced but can include live sessions

Courses vs Memberships: What is a Membership?

A membership is a subscription-based model where members pay regularly (monthly, quarterly, or annually) to access ongoing content, resources, and community support. Memberships often provide continuous value through regular updates, new content, live Q&A sessions, and an engaged community.

Key Characteristics of Memberships:

  • Recurring payments
  • Continuous content delivery
  • Community-driven
  • Flexible and adaptable content

Advantages and Disadvantages

Understanding the pros and cons of courses vs memberships can help you decide which model aligns best with your business goals and audience needs.

Advantages of Courses

  1. Immediate Revenue: Courses can generate significant revenue quickly as they are often sold at a higher price point.
  2. Scalability: Once created, a course can be sold to an unlimited number of students without additional content creation.
  3. Structured Learning: Courses provide a clear, linear path for students, making it easier to track progress and outcomes.
  4. Expert Positioning: Creating a comprehensive course positions you as an expert in your field.

Disadvantages of Courses

  1. High Upfront Effort: Creating a high-quality course requires a significant initial investment of time and resources.
  2. Limited Interaction: If not created properly, courses may lack ongoing interaction with students, leading to lower engagement over time.
  3. One-Time Sale: After the initial purchase, there are limited opportunities for additional revenue from the same customer.

Advantages of Memberships

  1. Recurring Revenue: Memberships provide a steady stream of recurring revenue, which can be more predictable and stable over time.
  2. Ongoing Engagement: Regularly updated content and community interactions keep members engaged and retained longer.
  3. Flexibility: Membership content can evolve based on member feedback and needs, allowing for continuous improvement.
  4. Community Building: Memberships foster a sense of community, providing members with networking and support opportunities.

Disadvantages of Memberships

  1. Continuous Effort: Running a successful membership requires ongoing content creation and community management.
  2. Churn Risk: Memberships are subject to churn, with members potentially canceling their subscriptions if they don’t see continuous value.
  3. Lower Initial Revenue: Memberships often start with a lower price point, requiring more time to build significant revenue.

Steps to Decide Between Courses and Memberships

Follow these steps to evaluate which model—courses or memberships—will best meet your audience’s needs and your business goals.

1. Understand Your Audience

Your audience’s needs, preferences, and behaviors will significantly influence which model will work best. Conduct surveys, analyze your website and social media analytics, and engage with your audience to gather insights.

Questions to Ask:

  • What type of content does your audience prefer?
  • Do they need ongoing support or a one-time solution?
  • Are they willing to pay a recurring fee, or do they prefer one-time payments?

2. Define Your Goals

Clearly define what you want to achieve with your digital product. Your goals will guide your decision and ensure alignment with your overall business strategy.


  • Are you looking to generate quick revenue or build long-term, stable income?
  • Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in a specific area?
  • Are you aiming to build a community around your brand?

3. Assess Your Content

Evaluate the type and amount of content you have or plan to create. Courses often require a significant upfront effort to produce comprehensive content, while memberships need a continuous stream of new material.

Content Considerations:

  • Do you have enough content for a comprehensive course?
  • Can you commit to regularly updating content for a membership?
  • What format best suits your content (videos, PDFs, live sessions)?

4. Evaluate Your Resources

Consider the resources you have available, including time, budget, and technical skills. Both models have different demands that can impact your capacity to deliver quality content consistently.

Resource Questions:

  • How much time can you dedicate to creating and maintaining content?
  • What is your budget for content creation, marketing, and platform costs?
  • Do you have the technical skills to manage a course or membership platform?

5. Consider Pricing Strategies

This is important – your pricing strategy should align with your audience’s willingness to pay and your revenue goals. Courses typically have a one-time fee or offer a payment plan, while memberships involve recurring payments.

Pricing Strategy Tips:

  • Research competitor pricing to understand market standards.
  • Consider offering tiered pricing or bundles for additional value. (i.e. additional coaching offers)
  • Test different price points to find the optimal balance between affordability and profitability.

6. Make Your Decision

Weigh the pros and cons of each option based on all the information you’ve gathered. Choose the model that best aligns with your audience, goals, content, resources, and pricing strategy.

Decision-Making Tips:

  • If still uncertain, consider piloting a small version of both models to see which resonates more with your audience.
  • Be open to pivoting your strategy based on feedback and performance metrics.
  • Remember, you can always expand your offerings to include both a course and a membership in the future.

Common Roadblocks to Choosing Between Courses and Memberships (and How to Beat Them)

Even with careful planning, you may encounter obstacles when deciding between courses vs memberships. Here are common challenges and how to overcome them.

Roadblock 1: Fear of Making the Wrong Choice

It’s normal to fear making the wrong choice, but remember that you can always pivot. Determine the one that resonates with you the best.

Roadblock 2: Overwhelmed by Content Creation

Content creation can be overwhelming. Break it down into manageable chunks and create a content calendar to stay organized.

Roadblock 3: Uncertainty About Pricing

Pricing can be tricky. Research your market, test different pricing strategies, and gather feedback from your audience.


Choosing between creating a course or a membership offer is a significant decision that may take some time. But by understanding your audience, defining your goals, assessing your content, evaluating your resources, and considering pricing strategies, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business objectives.

Whether you decide to create a course, a membership, or both, the key is to provide value and a transformation to your audience and continually adapt to their needs. By doing so, you’ll build a loyal customer base and achieve long-term success.

If you have any questions or need further assistance with creating your course, check out our video editing packages to make your content professional and engaging.