Learn 6 ways to make money online as a dietitian!
This episode (part 2) covers 3 more strategies in depth:
- Digital Goods
- Online Courses
- Membership Sites
Learn what these income streams are, who they’re best for, and how much you can realistically earn.
Episode 002 Show Notes
- Check out my FREE Facebook group – The Unconventional RD Community
- My 3 online courses – The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp
Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the following products. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
- RD2RD.com (affiliate link)
- RD2RD Canva Tutorial
- RD2RD Canva Video Tutorial
- Google Docs
- Google Slides
- Creative Market (affiliate link)
- SendOwl (affiliate link)
- Tasty Food Photography (affiliate link)
- Audio Technica ATR2100 Microphone (affiliate link)
- Teachable (affiliate link)
- Thinkific (affiliate link)
- LearnDash (affiliate link)
- MemberPress (affiliate link)
- Vimeo (affiliate link)
- The Leveraged Practice (Stephanie Clairmont)
- The Functional Nutrition Library
Read the transcript:
Welcome to The Unconventional RD podcast, where we inspire dietitians to think outside of the traditional employment box and create their own unconventional income streams. We’ll talk all things online business to help you start, grow, and scale your own digital empire.
About this episode
Hey, hey, it’s Erica here. Welcome to episode two of The Unconventional RD podcast. Lovingly known as the TURD podcast.
Yes, the acronym for The Unconventional RD is TURD, and you probably will hear me say that because “The Unconventional RD” is a long word.
So, yeah, we are TURDs up in here. I’m a proud TURD, and I hope you’re a TURD too.
This episode is part two of the six ways to make money online as a dietitian series.
In the last episode, we talked about how to make money through affiliate income, ad revenue, and sponsored content.
In today’s episode, we’re going over the final three ways, which are digital goods, online courses, and membership sites.
The last three ways that we talked about were really genuinely pretty passive….
Like, affiliate income. You’re just recommending another person’s product and you’re earning a commission.
With ad revenue, you’re creating content regardless, but then you’re making money by putting ads on it.
With sponsored content, you’re making content regardless, but you’re getting compensated by including other people’s products.
These next three methods are a lot more involved. These are taking matters into your own hands. Instead of relying on the advertisement of other people’s products, you’re now creating your own products.
Digital goods like e-books, online courses where you teach people something and get them a transformation or an outcome, and membership sites, where you’re creating an exclusive community and content that’s only available for paying members.
So let’s go through these more in-depth.
Monetization method number four is digital goods.
Digital goods are anything electronic on the Internet, that you are selling. That could include handouts, e-books, done for you presentations, templates, forms, meal plans, guides, protocols, even educational lesson plans.
You can create and sell these to your clients and your audience or even your peers.
The pros of selling digital goods….
Well, it can be less effort to create than something like a course or a membership site. It’s usually a smaller project like creating a handout, for example, that you want to sell. It’s not as much work as creating a six-week course, so it could be a good introduction to selling online.
They’re relatively simple to set up on your site and get going, and it’s an asset that you’re creating that you can have working for you indefinitely. It’s a great way to dip your toe into the selling online world and also a great way to introduce your audience to working with you.
If you’re a little intimidated by selling online or nervous about how it might go over with your audience, doing something small and bite-sized to start out and get used to it is totally valid. It’s a great way.
I know many RDs who start out and their first product is maybe something like an Ebook and then they grow from there and expand into something more in-depth, like a course.
And that way, you have different levels of offers for people to work with you, too, so that you have something a little smaller and less in-depth and lower priced for people on a budget. And then you also have a higher level premium product, like an online course or a membership site, for people with a larger budget and who want to work more closely with you.
Some cons of selling digital goods….
Yes, they are typically lower priced, so you probably aren’t gonna be making a full time living off of selling a $10 e-book, for example. It requires a very high volume of sales to be lucrative.
And there are still some costs involved. It takes time to create, so think about that, in terms of where you want to put your energy. It still takes a decent amount of work, and the return is smaller than on something more involved, like an online course or a membership site.
So, how do you get started selling digital goods?
Well, most of you would probably create your digital goods using a tool called Canva.com. You could check that out. I’ll link to it in the show notes.
It’s free for the introductory version, but if you pay, I think like 10 dollars a month or so, you can get the pro version where you can do things like import custom fonts or resize your projects and have team members work together and things like that.
I’m on the pro plan because I use the resizing tool a lot to create different versions of my graphic designs for different social media platforms, etc.
But Canva is basically just a website that you can go to and create your own handouts or whatever.
It’s very easy to design and there are some good resources on learning how to use Canva offered by Megan Boitano. She runs the website RD2RD.com (affiliate link) that I’m gonna talk about in a minute, but that’s basically a place that you can go to sell your online goods.
She has some resources available on her blog that teach people how to use Canva. So I will link to those as well, because they’re very well done and very helpful.
There’s also a program called Designrr, which is designed to help you take content that you’ve already written, like blog posts and stuff like that, and kind of take it and put it into an e-book in a really easy to fomat way. So that’s an option to look into.
You can get free photos to use from websites like unsplash.com.
If you need to create scientific graphics to use, you could check out a tool called BioRender. I’ll include my affiliate link to that in the show notes.
I’m not an active subscriber right now because it’s pricey. I think it’s about $100 a month. I was a member for awhile, but I wasn’t using it at a high enough volume to justify the expense. But if you are running a very sciency website or company where you need to make your own biology graphics, it’s super super cool. It’s what people use to make the graphics for journal articles or textbooks and things like that.
You could also check out the website creativemarket.com. Creative Market (affiliate link) is a website where you can go to download anything related to creative works.
You can download powerpoint presentations, social media templates, handout templates, anything you could think of. Resume templates, any sort of graphic design related thing, it’s gonna be on there. So I use that.
I used that to download PowerPoint slide templates for making the slides from my courses and my webinars. Um, what else? I’ve bought custom fonts on there that I use across all my branding. So that’s one of my favorite places to go to help my digital goods look very polished and professional.
Selling Digital Goods
And then once you’ve made your digital good, whatever it might be, maybe an e-book or handout or something like that, where do you go to sell it?
Well, the easiest way is to not even sell it on your own website, but to use a website called rd2rd.com. I’ll link to it in the show notes.
Honestly, this started around the same time that I started my membership site, and it’s such a good idea.
I don’t even know if I would have launched my membership site if this had been around at the time that I was trying to sell all my notes, because it’s just a logical extension.
Like, I could just throw up all of my notes onto RD2RD.com’s giant selling platform. Any dietitian can upload handouts or e-books or presentations. Anything digital that they have to offer for other dietitians to use.
They can create a store on RD2RD.com. You can browse by topic or type of product, and then you can purchase. RD2RD.com will take a cut of your sale and you, as the product creator, will get the rest.
But you don’t have to do anything. So, yes, you’re giving away a percentage of the sale to the website who’s hosting your digital goods, but that’s valuable.
I mean, it’s not super hard to set this stuff up on your own website, but with this, you don’t have to do anything. You’re just literally creating a store, then uploading all of your products and putting in your payment information. And then it’s all live on RD2RD.
They process all of the payments and then they just give you a payout every month for all of the sales that you’ve made. And that’s so easy.
And then the number two benefit is that you’re automatically getting free promotion from them as well.
RD2RD has its own newsletter and its own audience, and they will periodically promote products on their website to their email list or do special flash sales.
And if you get promoted in one of those emails, your sales could go through the roof, and you didn’t do anything except for have your product on the website.
So for beginners, I think that’s a fabulous, fabulous option. It’s really simple.
They also give you a link to your own store that you can use on your own website to send people to your RD2RD store to check out and buy your stuff.
So you can still promote on your own website, but you’re getting the dual benefit of being able to promote it on your own website/on your own platform, as well as the free promotion on RD2RD.
All three of those, you sign up and you pay a fee and you upload your product to their website.
Then they’ll give you an embeddable link or an embeddable piece of code to put on your website to either link people to a store for your products or to create a Buy Now button that people can click on your website and check out right there on your website. Just on a pop-up that that opens up when people click the button.
They’re very similar. Slight differences. All three of them work and are highly reputable, so you could check them out, see which one resonates with you the most.
It’s really easy, like a description with a buy now button, you click it and the papal or credit card payment information section just pops up right there.
You pay on the website and they deliver the e-book to you via email immediately.
So that’s a great option and very low tech. So you’re not having to install a bunch of complicated plugins or worry about that stuff. The company does it for you.
And how much can you earn selling digital goods?
Well, it depends on your audience size and the price point of what you’re offering and your marketing skills.
Digital goods are typically on the lower price range, so they go anywhere from maybe under $10 to maybe $200. It’s likely to be extra side money, but not your full-time income, most likely.
For example, myself, I have maybe two or three handouts up on RD2RD.
I’ve never promoted them, really, ever. They’re just sort of sitting there. But I still made $65 in completely passive income last year from those products just sitting on RD2RD.
That’s great. I mean, that’s like a dinner out. For doing what? Just uploading something that would have been sitting on my laptop. That’s amazing,
As another example, I can use Pinch of Yum again. They created a food photography ebook (affiliate link) in April of 2012, when their website was getting about 200,000 unique monthly visitors, and they made one $1,324 that month. So that could give you a good estimate of about how much money you could expect to bring in from something like a low cost e-book.
In November of 2016, four years later, they’re still bringing in about $2000 every month in passive income from that same e book.
So once you make it, it’s there. It’s sitting there, ready to be promoted by you and for sales to be made.
Since they are typically lower priced products, you’re probably only going to make maybe a couple thousand dollars a month from any given ebook or digital good.
But hey, that’s awesome. That’s like legit, passive, recurring income from something that you created once and are reaping the benefits from for potentially years to come, so definitely worth looking into.
Who are digital goods best for?
I think this is best for bloggers who have a clear niche, because if you’re going to create a paid product for your audience, it’s important to understand who your audience is and what they’re looking for and how you can help them.
It’s important that you have a solid understanding of your ideal client’s pain points and at least a small dedicated following.
Creating a digital good is NOT how you grow your audience. It’s how you serve the audience that you already have.
If you want to get more into digital goods, we do talk a lot more in-depth about the tech and the marketing of this in my make money blogging course.
Income stream number five is online courses.
And what are online courses? Well, it’s where you teach something online that offers a solution to a specific problem.
It often includes videos or slideshows that you’ve narrated and talked over, um, handouts, homework assignments, etc.
They’re usually organized into modules or lessons that can be either released all at once or dripped out week after week for maybe 4 to 8 weeks.
Courses work best when you have a clear transformation you can provide.
They can be B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer).
So you, as a business, can create online courses targeted to other business owners. Like, if you’ve accomplished something in your business and you want to share how to do that with other business owners, kind of like what I’m doing with The Unconventional RD Business Bootcamp courses, that’s totally a viable option.
Or, you can create online courses that are consumer-focused (B2C). That would be like, if you are a certain type of dietitian, whatever your niche is, maybe you do baby-led weaning or something, you could create a baby-led weaning online course for that target market. So not targeted to other business owners, but just regular people out there in your target market.
The pros of selling online courses….
It’s a great way to systematize your services. It helps you transition from being stuck on that hamster wheel of working 1:1 and start working in a 1:many model.
You’re showing up and providing your services to the world, whether one person is watching your online course content or 100,000 people.
It’s the same amount of your own personal time, so you can help more people and earn more money in potentially less time than you would trying to work with all of these people 1:1.
And because of this, online courses are often game-changers for people’s businesses and an excellent way to establish expertise in your niche.
Saying that you have an online course on XYZ topic is often seen as very authoritative and makes people have a lot of trust in you.
The cons of selling online courses….
I’m not going to pretend that it’s not a ton of work, because it is.
Like, to the point where some people, when they’re creating their online course content, they will stop doing their other stuff. lt’s almost as if you’re writing a book or something.
Sometimes people will be like “Okay, I’m stopping seeing clients for a month or two to focus on this.” and then when it’s done, pick it back up again. It’s that much work.
So be aware, that in order to do this at a really high level, it’s important to take it seriously. It’s not just like a side thing that you can throw together in a weekend.
It can be a flop if you don’t validate.
Have you listened to the introductory episode of this podcast? If so, you heard many stories of my own where I did not validate my ideas.
I came up with them, I was like, “This is a genius idea” and I spent all this time creating the product. Then when I offered it for sale, very few people bought, and I did not end up making a profit on those experiences.
So it’s important to validate your idea. There’s many ways to do that.
My favorite way is with a pre-sale, where you present the idea for your online course and give an outline of what it will include, when it will launch, and the outcomes and transformations that you’re gonna offer people, and then have people sign up as early access members at a discounted rate.
If you meet your goal with how many sign-ups you’re hoping to get, then you move forward. You validated the idea and you create the product.
But if you don’t get the response or the interest or the number of purchases you’re expecting, you simply refund anyone who purchased and just move along and continue maybe growing your audience, refining your ideas, understanding your ideal client and their pain points maybe a little bit more before you try again.
Another con is that the technology can be difficult. I’ll talk about this in a second, about the different ways that you can set it up.
But, some people feel that that is a barrier for them to get started.
Although, if you do feel like that’s a barrier, I definitely recommend checking out my Make Money Blogging course at theunconventionalrdbb.com, because I walk you through all of the tech so you don’t have to feel like it is something that’s holding you back anymore.
And again, there’s a private Facebook community just for my students, where I’m literally in there answering questions every single day.
I’m not gonna let you feel overwhelmed or unsupported. If you have a question, I will be there to answer it, no matter what it is.
You also need to consider the customer service aspect of offering something more in-depth online.
This applies to online courses and membership sites.
If you are going to be selling something that’s a little higher ticket, or where people are going to be logging in to access it, you are going to get questions about things like “How do I change my credit card information?” or “How do I cancel my membership?” or “How do I get a refund?” or “Can I download this?” Stuff like that.
People will send you questions. A lot.
So just be aware as you start to see what questions get asked again and again, you could start creating something like a frequently asked questions page on your website to help reduce the customer service load, but that is an aspect that you should consider before you start offering online courses or membership sites.
Also consider whether this is a medium that you enjoy. Not everyone enjoys teaching.
For me, it’s like my all-time favorite thing, so I love online courses. I honestly can say I’ve never done anything that lit me up as much and connected as well with my people.
And I think that’s because that’s my thing. Like, I’m meant to be a teacher.
So, think about that for you. Is teaching something that resonates with you? Is it something you’re good at? Is it something you enjoy?
And if it’s not, then don’t feel pressured to try this income stream. If it doesn’t resonate with you, there are so many other ways you can serve your people.
But if it DOES resonate with you, then online courses can be super awesome.
At full price, they’re $390 each. Although, I think I’m going to raise the prices after each live launch in 2020. I think I might raise them to like $590 each after the live lunch.
Right now, you can get the bundle of all three courses for $995. And, yes, payment plans are available for all of them on my website.
I am applying for continuing education units for all of them right now. The Make Money Blogging course already has 20-something CEUs, which I think is fabulous.
My Email Marketing Magic course is currently being reviewed by peer reviewers and my SEO Made Simple course is already pre-approved for the next live round in January 2020.
For that, oh, shoot, I don’t have it in front of me right now, but it’s 20-something CEUs as well.
So yes, I’m so excited. And then after that, I’ll have it reviewed for self-study CEUs as well.
If you do the whole bundle, you’re gonna get, like, 60-something CEUs for currently, right now, $995.
Tools for creating online courses:
People’s next question is like, “Okay, maybe I’m interested in creating a course…. What kind of tools do I need to make this happen?”
First of all, you’re probably gonna need to create some sort of slide show that you’re gonna narrate or talk over, maybe with your face next to it (or maybe not).
Maybe you’re doing a type of course where you just need to have yourself recorded face to face. You don’t need to demonstrate stuff on your computer or show pictures on a powerpoint. It totally depends on what your audience needs and how they’ll learn best from you on whatever topic that you’re teaching about.
But you might need to make some slides or powerpoints, and then you’re gonna have to record them either with your face next to the slide show or just a screengrab of the slides with your voice over it.
I just do the slides with my voice, and I use a program called QuickTime to do that.
I show you exactly how to do this in my Make Money Blogging course with a step by step tutorial.
QuickTime comes free with MacBooks, so that’s why I use it.
I basically just draw a square around the slide on my screen and start recording so that I can record my voice and the slides at the same time.
You can also use Zoom if you would like to have your picture next to your slides or next to your screen. It’s a free platform that you can use, or you can pay for more capabilities.
And again, I’ll include links to all these things in the show notes.
You probably will want a microphone. I use the Audio Technica ATR2100, which is maybe like $100 something dollars.
It’s just a USB microphone that plugs right into my laptop. You can get a little pop filter that goes in front of it to dampen the “P” noises that you make with your talking. The little pops. Or you can get a foam ball that goes over it. They do the same thing. Then you can get a little stand and you can just have it there for when you’re recording.
Sound quality is really important. Especially for premium paid things like courses, or even podcast episodes. People will not listen if the sound quality is grating, so it’s worth investing in a microphone if you want to create recorded content.
Hosting and Selling Your Online Courses
Then once you have the recordings, you need to host them somewhere for people to consume, right?
There’s a couple ways you can do this.
Online Course Platforms
There are fees associated with these. I’m actually planning on coming out with a blog post to compare and contrast these two programs, because I did that already in the Make Money Blogging course.
They’re more similar than they are different, but there are some minor differences. I recommend and endorse either one, depending on your needs.
But basically, those are platforms where you sign up, create an account, and they manage everything for you.
All you have to do is design your course outline and then upload the course content, like your handouts and your videos.
You don’t have to do any of the tech stuff. It’s all handled by Teachable and Thinkific.
You don’t have to handle any of the payment processing. It’s all handled by Teachable and Thinkific.
Yes, you have to pay, because they’re doing a service for you, but it takes a lot of the headache away from you.
So if you are not incredibly tech-minded and you just want the easiest way to get started ASAP, then check out those two platforms for sure.
Self Hosting Your Courses
If you ARE tech-minded and you want 100% control over what you’re putting out, and you also want the lowest possible cost in the long run, then you can check out a paid plugin for your website called LearnDash (affiliate link).
I use LearnDash for all of my courses. It basically allows you to create a course framework on your own website.
I put it on a separate domain from my blog’s. I used theunconventionalrdbb.com to host all my courses so that it doesn’t slow down my regular website. It’s technically separate, but they link together in the navigation between my two websites.
I use LearnDash to create the course structure on my website, so it looks just like it would if you were going through a course on Teachable or Thinkific, except it’s all on my own website, so I don’t have to pay as many fees.
Yes, LearnDash is a paid plugin, but it’s only a couple hundred dollars a year, which ends up being less than half of the cost of what Teachable or Thinkific is when you’re getting the same features on those platforms.
LearnDash can save you money, but it’s going to cost you in time. There is a significant learning curve to getting it all set up properly on your website.
In addition, they don’t have a very good checkout system…. so it’s probably a good idea to use a different checkout platform to have people purchase the course.
I use a plugin called MemberPress (affiliate link) to manage this, which is another paid plugin.
That’s an easy, okay, not easy, but a sophisticated and secure way to take payment on your website and give people access to the courses that you’ve created using LearnDash.
So again, I talk about how to set all of this up in my Make Money Blogging course. If you want to learn that, check it out. I give as much support as needed in the private students-only Facebook group.
Also, you don’t upload the actual video files of the course to your website because that would use up so much bandwidth and your site would probably crash from people trying to watch the videos uploaded on your site.
Instead, you want to use a service called Vimeo (affiliate link). It’s kind of like YouTube, but you have the option to make your videos completely private and hidden.
Once they’re uploaded to Vimeo, just format it however you want it to look and then you’ll get a unique link or piece of code that you can use to embed that video directly into the course platform on your website.
So the website will show the videos, and it will look like it’s playing directly on your website, but it’s actually hosted on Vimeo, so you’re not slowing down your own website when people are watching videos in your online courses.
That’s how that all works.
How much can you earn from online courses?
Well, again, it depends on your audience size, your price point, and your marketing skills.
I would say online courses can range anywhere from like $100 to $2,000 and up. According to Thinkific, the average course on their platform sells for $272.
So this could be anywhere from extra side money to a significant portion of your income, depending on what you put into it.
I’ll just use myself as an example.
In 2019, again, I went all-in on creating these Unconventional RD courses.
Their full price is $390, but I launched them all with discounts, so I think the lowest price they were ever offered for was like $260 per course.
I made $70,000 in 2019 from selling these three courses, which is the equivalent of basically my entire income from 2018, before I had any courses.
So it was definitely exciting and fun and worth it. And that was only from doing three live launches.
I never did any fancy sales funnels for those, although that is something that I’m going to be doing in 2020.
That was just from being like, “Hey, guys, I have this thing that’s launching… Want to sign up?” And then they could join during the enrollment period.
I closed the cart during the live launch of the course, and then it was open again after, for the rest of the year, for people to just sign up passively.
BUT, I wasn’t really doing a great job actively promoting any of this stuff because I was so caught up building it.
So I’m excited to see how my income, hopefully, continues to grow in 2020 as I get better at the promoting side of all of this stuff.
But I mean, $70,000 for my first year???
I’m blown away by that.
I will say, I think that part of the reason why it was so successful is because I showed up and served my people for almost two years in The Unconventional RD Facebook community before I ever created anything for sale.
Like, I didn’t mean to create this as a business. It just sort of fell into my lap as it seems most of my successful businesses do.
Any time I do the opposite, where I think I know what’s best and try to create something and attract people to it, that seems to NOT work.
When I’m just trying to help people organically and naturally, THEN I come up with business ideas that actually work. So I hope that helps you guys, too.
When you’re thinking about how to go about this, think about helping first. Who do you want to help and how?
Get to know those people and what they really need. Help them for free through your social media profiles, private Facebook communities, through your blog, a podcast, YouTube videos, whatever channel feels good for you.
Really get to know your people and also get to know what YOU’RE about and what you’re good at teaching. Then the combination of those two things will sort of come together. You’ll probably have a moment of clarity where you find that genuine, organic overlap where you can help people in a way that feels good to you.
That’s when your business is going to start taking off.
That’s a really great example of what you can expect if you launch an online course to an audience that’s genuinely appreciative of your help and trusts you.
Of course, if you listened to the first episode of this podcast, you also saw how poorly it can go if you try to create a course when you don’t have an audience and you don’t have any know-like-trust factor with your people.
I had mentioned that I tried to create an online course in, I think 2015…. I sold ONE, to my aunt, and I made like $200 something dollars for three months of work… so it doesn’t always go well the first time you try.
But every time you try something, you’re going to learn something, and you can take that and move forward and get better.
There’s really no such thing as failing. You’re always learning. You can take that and do better as you go.
Who are online courses best for?
I think online courses are best for people who have a solid following and know-like-trust factor with their audience.
Who have a clear understanding of their ideal client’s pain points and know how they can help people – what actionable transformation that they can get for people.
It works best if you have some sort of framework that you can teach to help people get from A to B.
Courses are not the best format if you’re just trying to throw information at people. It should be actionable, so that people can show up to your course and be follow the steps to get the outcome.
That’s what you’re trying to achieve with an online course.
It works really well for private practice dietitians because oftentimes they already have systems built for working with people 1:1.
It’s really logical, and oftentimes, very easy, to take those same systems that you use when working with people 1:1 and convert them to a 1:many model online.
I recommend checking out Stephanie Clairmont’s work on this.
She has a program called The Leveraged Practice and also podcasts, which is awesome. I will link to that in the show notes.
She does group coaching with people to help them launch their online programs to the world. To create and launch. I’ve heard great things about that program. So if you want more hand-holding help with this, I definitely recommend checking out her stuff.
Alright, the final way you can make money online as a dietitian is through membership sites.
Membership sites have private content protected behind a paywall.
This could include exclusive blog content, recipes, videos, slide shows, tutorials, handouts, maybe a private forum that’s only accessible for paying members.
It often covers broader topics than a course.
So maybe a course would be like, if you wanted to teach something like baby led weaning. If you wanted to teach new parents how to implement baby led weaning, you could easily do that in maybe like a six week online course.
But then, maybe you’ve noticed that the community of parents, as they get through the baby-led weaning and maybe into further stages of feeding with their children, maybe they’re looking for community and online support.
That would be the perfect opportunity to create some sort of membership site where you can create a private, paywalled community for parents to connect and connect with you.
You could create maybe weekly or monthly tutorials or tips. Or maybe you do ask me anything sessions where people can hop on… Maybe you’re available from 12 to 1 on Fridays for people to just hop onto your zoom call and ask you questions if they’re stuck on something.
These are all types of value that you could add through a membership site.
Membership sites typically offer broader content than a course, and they work best when you add content on a regular basis.
And just like courses, these can be B2B, where you’re selling or creating content for other businesses, or B2C (business to consumer).
The pros of membership sites….
It’s a great source of consistent recurring revenue.
In order to access this private content that you’re creating on a regular basis, people need to pay you on a regular basis – typically either monthly fees to stay in the membership site or sometimes a lower annual fee.
A lot of people will do $10 a month or maybe like $100 for the whole year. So they’re saving, like, two months off if they commit to the whole year.
And the good thing about this, just like with online courses, are, all of these things are the same amount of work, whether you have one member in your community or 1,000 members.
It’s really great for people who love content creation because you are gonna be regularly creating content.
And if you love creating, fostering, and moderating community.
They often start small but can grow into huge assets.
Some of the cons….
It is a lot of work to set up.
It requires consistent content creation. So really think about whether that’s something you would enjoy and whether it would be the best way to serve your audience.
How are they going to be best served and supported for whatever outcome you’re trying to offer them?
So think about that before you decide whether you want to make an online course or a membership site. Which format works best for what you’re trying to achieve?
Be aware, that if you do have any sort of private community, there’s community management involved in that.
Moderating the discussions, making sure people are following the guidelines, going in and responding to people’s questions (if that’s something that you offer). Or you could hire someone to help you with that stuff.
Also, something to think about with membership sites…. Unlike courses, where people buy once and they have the course forever, with membership sites, they only get access to the content when they’re active paying members.
There is something called “member churn” that you have to be aware of. Member churn is just a fancy way to describe how many people drop out of your membership site every single month.
That can creep up on you over time if you’re not careful. If your member churn starts to get too big and a lot of people are not renewing their membership every month or every year, then that’s an indicator that maybe you need to reconnect with your audience and make sure you’re really meeting their needs.
Like, are you asking them what they need or what they’re looking for? How you can support them?
Make sure that what you’re putting out there is in alignment with what they want and need.
And just be aware that with a membership site, because not everyone’s gonna stay a member forever, you do need to be continually marketing and attracting new members to grow your income and your business.
And what tools are needed to set up a membership site?
Well again, you can do it on other platforms or on your own website.
Technically, you could make a membership site through a course platform like Teachable or Thinkific (affiliate links), because they do allow you to take recurring payments (monthly or annual payments). Then you could simply upload new content to that platform on a regular basis, if that was the type of membership site you were trying to create.
You could also set it up on your own website using that plugin called MemberPress (affiliate link) that I mentioned earlier.
I am an affiliate for MemberPress and LearnDash, so I will include my affiliate links for those, within the show notes. I’m also an affiliate for Teachable and Thinkific, so I will include those links as well, because I do think they’re a good fit for people who don’t want to get into all of the crazy tech.
I will admit it’s not super simple to set up MemberPress. The actual part where you’re protecting the content on your website is simple, but I found that setting up the payment portal was a little tricky at first.
You can take payment from Stripe, which is a credit card processing company. It’s free to have a Stripe account, but they do, like all credit card processors, take a small fee for every transaction.
You can also take payment through PayPal. You could do both or just one or the other, but there’s a little bit of trickiness involved in syncing up your payment portal with the membership site plugin, so that when people pay, it automatically gives them access to the right type of content on your website.
The plugin is very sophisticated, so you can have different levels of memberships like, the highest priced one gets access to more stuff and the lowest priced one only gets access to a smaller amount of content, that type of thing.
You could set it up in an infinite number of ways, but wrapping your head around what that looks like on the backend, with the tech, can be a little tricky at first.
If you want to offer courses as a part of your membership, you can stack the MemberPress plugin, which is what you use to protect the content and take payment, with the LearnDash plugin that we talked about earlier. You could technically embed many courses within your membership sites. You can protect the course content using MemberPress, so that only people who are signed up and paid and logged in can access it.
That’s the function of MemberPress. It basically says, “Hey, no one can access XYZ pages on my website unless they’re paying active members.”
And yes, once it’s set up, it is synced up to know when people cancel their payments. It will automatically revoke access to the content when someone cancels their membership.
But again, this does require a certain aspect of customer service. People will have questions or be confused about how to do something through the platform. Of course, you can make tutorials and things like that, but people will ask you questions.
My example for membership sites is my own membership site, The Functional Nutrition Library, which you can find at functionalnutritionlibrary.com. It’s currently $14.99 a month to join, and it’s basically a place where people can go, as I mentioned in the first episode, it’s a place where I house all of my functional nutrition-related notes.
So everything that I used when I was seeing clients 1:1 is all in there. Like, notes on what to do when people come to you with a certain health condition. How can you help them as a dietitian? I sort of outlined my own processes and recommendations in there.
For the first year, every week I went in and updated the content. Now, as we’ve been doing more intensive and in depth updates, it’s bi-weekly. So twice a month either a new piece of in-depth content comes out or we update an older piece of content on the website.
It has information on different health conditions, different supplements, how to interpret different labs as a dietitian, things like that.
My goal was to make it a go-to resource. Obviously, it’s still growing and I could probably continue to add to it for, like, 10 years before I feel like it’s as robust as I’d like.
But for $14.99 a month, I mean, can’t really beat that. It’s less money than you’d spend to buy a handout on each of these topics.
There’s over 300 different notes within the membership site. So that has been growing. I think right now we have about 230-something members. At my peak this year, I think we hit like 250.
But as I mentioned, I sort of dropped the ball in 2019 in terms of focusing on this. I was so heavily involved in creating The Unconventional RD courses that I did absolutely zero marketing. So this is all organic growth.
I literally haven’t promoted it like at all. The blog brings in new subscribers and word of mouth from peers. That’s pretty much it, which is, in my mind, incredible.
It’s still bringing in about $30,000 a year, posting two updates a month and one blog post. To me, that’s a great return on my investment.
However, I am feeling very, very spread thin with this, so I’m not sure how I’m gonna handle it moving forward, exactly. Whether I’m gonna hire people to help me, take on a partner, or change the business structure a little bit. I’m still brainstorming that.
But yeah, it’s been a great experience. I’ve loved doing it. I’m a huge fan of both the membership model and online courses.
So yeah, as I mentioned, currently making $30,000 a year from that, which, to be honest, is far less work than the courses, which made me $70,000.
So if you look at the actual direct return on my time, I probably made more per hour working on the membership site than I did from the courses, even though the courses brought in more dollars.
So that’s something to think about, depending on how much time you have on your hands and the type of work you like to do.
Like, would you rather create a course and then just tweak it and update it going forward? Or would you rather create something that’s less effort up front, that grows on itself slowly as you add new content, week after week or month after month?
I think membership sites are best for people, again, who have some sort of following at least, so that you have someone to offer it to.
It helps if you have that know-like-trust factor and, again, a clear understanding of what your people are looking for, so you know that you’re making something they actually want.
It’s best for people who have a love for content creation and leadership, like community fostering.
SO, those are the six ways that you can make money online as a dietitian.
To recap, in the last episode, we talked about affiliate income (recommending other people’s products and earning a commission), ad revenue (putting ads on your online content and earning money when people see them) and sponsored content (working with brands and creating paid content to feature their products).
We talked about digital goods in this episode. At the top of the episode, we talked about how to create things like ebooks and sell those either on your website or through websites like RD2RD.
And then we went into online courses, where you’re promising an outcome and you’re giving people actionable steps over a 4 to 8 week period.
And then membership sites, where people pay monthly or annually to get access to exclusive content and support around a certain topic.
So those are the six ways that I’m really passionate about and will continue to expand upon throughout these podcast episodes.
And if you want to learn more, again, check out my course on this – Make Money Blogging at theunconventionalrdbb.com.
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So thanks so much, and I look forward to the next episode.
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Erica Julson is a registered dietitian turned digital marketing pro. She has over 12 years of experience blogging and building online businesses and has taught over 900 wellness professionals inside her signature program, SEO Made Simple.