"I'm so uncomfortable asking for money."
“Is my work really something people would pay money for?”
"What if my community says ‘no’?"
At Steady, we meet many media makers with concerns like these – even some who have already decided to start offering memberships.
What we’ve learned is that doubts like these are almost always unfounded. Audiences love supporting projects they believe in! If you’re still a little unsure, this article is for you.
I’m in a hurry
No time to muck around? Then get on with it! Here's a manual to help you with the first steps.
Short of time, and still in doubt? There is one solid way to find out if your community is willing to support you: Ask them. For example, with a simple poll on your social media channels.
It’s not all about money
For a product like bread you pay a fixed price for the product. The same applies to subscriptions: here, you pay for print or digital access to a newspaper.
But memberships are different. Yes, there are fixed prices, but it's not only about buying a product. Said in another way: If someone wants bread or subscriptions, they have to pay. But if they become a member, they want to pay. Paying members are driven to support a project, the publisher and their work.
The motivation is fundamentally different – and that's why memberships aren't really about money, at least not in the first place. For your audience, the membership fee is a way to show their appreciation for the work you do. But that's not the only reason why it's worth signing up.
Your members support you…
... because they like you and your work and they trust you. They want your publication to continue.
... to say thank you.
... because they believe in the goal you are pursuing with your project.
... because they want to belong to your community of members and become part of your project.
... because they get access to exclusive content, like they would with a subscription.
... but not always (you might be surprised to hear) because of the benefits you offer in your plans.
... to engage more with you and other members.
Two things we are sure about
What’s special about memberships is the close relationships that develop between publishers and their audiences. This is what members value and what they pay for. It’s not a question of whether your work is worth paying for – it’s that closer connection that your members are interested in.
There are really only two things you have to do: Deliver content regularly – in whatever form – and maintain a direct relationship with your members. A membership program makes both of these things easier. Once you interact more with your members, it’s much easier to find out what content they’re interested in. One publication that’s doing a great job of this is the online magazine Krautreporter.
By the way, not everyone in your audience will become a paying member. But don’t worry about that: you don’t need them all to sign up in order to make a good amount of money on Steady.