Have you ever considered starting a paid online community as a therapist?

A paid online community is an opportunity to connect with more people, spread your message further, and earn more money – without burning out and working too many hours.

In this blog post, we’ll consider the pros, cons, and hows of starting and running a paid online community!

Why Consider a Paid Online Community?

We all crave being part of a community where we can connect with people who are on a similar path and share the same interests and values.

Especially as location-independent therapists who travel around a lot, it can be challenging to develop lasting friendships. 

With more and more people working online, more online communities and membership sites have developed. They have become an excellent way for digital nomads to connect with each other and for brands and business owners to connect with their customers and clients on a different level.

And an increasing number of therapists are creating paid online communities as a way to work with clients outside the traditional 1:1 format of therapy sessions.

lit community support for location independent therapists
Photo from a LIT Community event with some of our lovely members!

We invited Jenny Lachs into the LIT Community to discuss everything to keep in mind when creating and running a paid online community or membership site. 

Jenny is the founder of Digital Nomad Girls where she runs a free Facebook Group as well as a premium coworking membership, The Lab, both thriving online communities that have supported many female digital nomads on their journeys.

Not only is she an expert on this topic, but she’s actually the expert we hired when we needed guidance on creating our own paid online community. Without Jenny’s expert guidance, the LIT Community wouldn’t be what it is today!

What Exactly is a Paid Online Community?

A paid online community or membership is a network of people with similar interests or a shared purpose. It is a digital product with a community aspect characterized by a recurring format.

A community is not a one-time offer but will ideally support your clients in their journey for many years to come.

Good Reasons to Start a Paid Online Community

Here are some reasons to consider starting your own paid online community:

✓ You enjoy working with people in groups

✓ You love fostering community

✓ You enjoy consistency 

✓ You love trying out new things

✓ You want to provide ongoing support for clients & ongoing accountability

✓ You would like to have recurring income 

However, it is essential to note here that you should NOT start a paid online community if you’re looking to make passive income.

Yes, running a membership site is recurring and scalable, but it’s never passive. If you are looking to create something that is all about “set it and forget it,” creating an online course or e-book is what you are looking for. 

Also, make sure you don’t view your membership site as a “consolation prize” for clients who can’t afford you. The community is not “lower value” than your 1:1 therapy or coaching sessions. Being in a community should give your clients different benefits than what they get in your 1:1 sessions. 

If you’re also considering branching out to offering coaching as well as therapy, take a look at our article on adding coaching to your therapy practice here.

running a paid online community as a therapist
Photo by AndreyPopov on Getty Images

Is a Paid Online Community the Right Fit For You?

When contemplating if running a paid online community is suitable for you, it is not just about you and your preferences but also about your business’ and your clients’ needs.

So before starting a paid online community, ask yourself:

“Would it suit my personality?”

Do you enjoy creating content and hosting workshops or events? Do you like to do these things consistently?

“Would it suit my clients?”

Would your clients benefit from ongoing support that you can provide through the community? Would they benefit from going through the process with other people? Would the community aspect bring them extra value? 

“Does it work with my business?”

If you’re unsure about whether you should start a paid online community, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have the time and capacity to run a community?
  • Will it be your core business or a side business?
  • Will the extra money you make from it be worth the effort and energy you put into it, or are there other, easier ways to make extra money in your business?
  • Will you do it alone, or do you need a team to help you?

How to Get Started With a Paid Online Community

So, you’ve come to the conclusion that a paid online community is the right fit for you and your business? Great! Here is a step-by-step breakdown of how you can get started building your own membership site.

1. Figure out your WHAT and WHO:

Find out what you want your community to be about and who your ideal member is. It could be the same as your ideal client for your 1:1, but it could also be for someone completely different.

2. Research your competition as inspiration.

Maybe join a few communities yourself (for example, the LIT Community!) to get an idea of how they work. How can you be different?

If something similar to your idea already exists, don’t feel discouraged. That is actually a good sign. That means it’s working, and there is demand for it.

3. What’s the MVP – the Minimum Viable Product?

What key features does your membership absolutely need, i.e., the ability to comment or share videos? Then after you have figured out the absolute necessities, you can think about what would be nice bonuses to add.

It’s important to start simple and basic. Otherwise, you will overwhelm yourself and your clients.

4. Figure out your pricing.

This is easiest done by researching what people are paying for other communities. Ideally, your membership price should start low initially and then increase with time. That way, the oldest members – the “founding members” – pay the lowest rate. When coming up with pricing, choosing a reasonably expensive rate is essential. Otherwise, potential clients might not take it seriously and don’t see the value in your product.

5. Build an audience first.

Before starting your community, make sure you have built an audience elsewhere. This can be Instagram, Facebook, podcasts, a blog, etc. We have a whole blog article about content writing for mental health professionals and the different types of media that there are.

Figure out the minimum number of members you would need to be able to call it a community and whether it’s realistic that you will find them in your current audience.

You might have to work on your online presence before jumping into creating your community.

6. Research the technology you will need.

Completing steps 1 to 6 first is essential because it will tell you what tech you need.

7. Get help!

Consider hiring someone who has been there before to help coach you through the process and design a community that makes sense. Jenny offers 1:1 coaching to help mentor online community founders to create (or improve) their online community. 

A few last things to consider about starting a paid online community!

Less is more. – You don’t have to overdeliver or constantly shower people with content. It’s going to overwhelm you and your members. Less is more, and quality over quantity.

Themes are your friends. – Whether that’s different topics (book clubs, money talks etc.) or calendar themes like weekly or monthly recurring events.

Live content for the win. – Not everything has to be prerecorded. Examples of live content are Q&As, book chats, coworking sessions etc. 

Make your content evergreen. –  Create content that will never go out of style and lasts. After a few years, you can revisit and update it. That way, you don’t have to create fresh content all the time.

Do you need more help? Here are some more resources.

The Membership Geeks Podcast

The Membership Academy by the Membership Geeks.

– Join other communities like the LIT Community or The Lab

1:1 consulting with Jenny

Setting up a paid online community is an immense energy and time investment. It requires commitment, consistency, and much patience. However, running a paid online community or membership site can also be very rewarding and beneficial in many ways, not just for you but also for your members.

Have you considered running a paid online community? Or are you already on the path of creating one? Let us know where you’re at with things in the comment section!

Is the LIT Community the right place for you?

If you’re looking for more support as an online therapist, consider joining the LIT Community! It’s our dedicated space (off of social media) for location independent therapists around the world, where we support you as a business owner and mental health professional!

Running your own business and/or being location independent can get lonely at times. You might not have anyone to share your struggles, celebrate your wins, or talk about what you’re working on right now.

And that’s why we created the LIT Community, a thriving global network of mental health professionals. It’s also the perfect space to delve into more topics like creating an online community or working on an additional income stream!

When you join, you get access to:

  • Virtual coworking sessions
  • Business meetups
  • Live guest expert talks
  • Peer supervision groups
  • Hot seat coaching
  • A 24/7 discussion board
  • A book club and a movie club
  • Coworking sessions for support & accountability
  • Our entire event replay library available to you
  • A resource library of contracts, worksheets, etc
  • A growing referral network and public LIT Directory

Our doors are currently closed, but we’ll open them again soon. Find out more about the LIT Community here, and make sure to sign up for our waitlist to be the first to hear when we’ll next open the doors!

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