Online Course vs Membership Site: Best Model For Your Tutoring Business

Do you have the skill of teaching or helping others learn? 

If yes, unlock the benefits of independence and recurring revenue with online courses and memberships. Both are popular online tutoring business models you can choose when you sell exclusive content.

Online courses vs. membership sites is a significant debate!

If you are new to this, you might be wondering are the same or different. Both are in one way that it involves your audience paying for access to exclusive content, say educational content, if it is a tutoring business or eLearning business. 

At the same time, they are different.

In the blog, you will learn what is best: online course platform or membership websites, and how to choose the best business model among these two.

Online Course vs. Membership Website

Online courses are powerful tools to share your knowledge, offer value to your course buyers, and grow your business. You have to create your content once, and customers can buy the course through a single payment. d

Meanwhile, with a membership platform, you create content, and your members will pay a recurring fee to access the content. When you consider online courses vs. membership websites, the content requirement of the latter is much more than that of online courses.

Through membership websites, you can offer your students online courses, live classes, 1-to-1 coaching, group coaching, live webinars, etc., or basically create content in different forms and cater to different needs of customers.

Pros and Cons of Membership Websites

Compared to online courses, membership websites are great but involve a lot of work and time than creating and selling online courses

Let’s look at the pros and cons of running a membership website:

Pros of membership websites

Membership websites are excellent for building and nurturing a community, which can’t be done with an online course. Let’s explore the other pros of membership websites:

Run your own business from home

Setting up a membership website allows you to do everything from the comfort of your own home. And you are your boss; you make decisions for almost all important decisions- the content of your membership platform, pricing of your membership packages, marketing strategies, customer engagement, and more. 

Unlimited income potential

Running a membership platform doesn’t put any cap on how much money you can make. The stronger your business skills and the more time and effort you put into your career, the more money you will make.

Your membership business income streams become more predictable based on the number of people you have signed up. This makes financial expectations seamless.

Higher chances of getting referrals

Membership businesses can make more money from referrals, which can be an impactful way to attract and retain customers. Have a great referrals program in place that incentivizes your program members to spread the word.

Simple yet effective business model

A membership platform has the advantage of a simple business model, which makes building and launching the membership website more seamless. Plus, there are various ways to make money. 

Cons of Membership Websites

Let’s explore the cons of membership websites

Crowded market

Competition is high for membership websites, so spending a reasonable amount of time understanding the market to gauge where the demand lies is significant.

Complex development and maintenance

Developing a membership website can be quite complex, which might cause delays and challenges when launching your platform. 

But you can overcome these hassles by using software like Pinlearn, which is a white-label solution to build your eLearning marketplace to host online courses and live online classes, live webinars, 1-to-1 classes, and group coaching, and everything you need to run a membership website.

Pros and Cons of Online Courses

Online courses have their pros and cons, like in-person courses and coaching. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros of online courses

When it comes to creating an online courses, there is more to it. Let’s take a look at the pros:

Easy to create

One important benefit of online courses is that, it is easier to create and sell. Because you just need to focus on a single course topic and get great results. Whereas a membership website can cover a broader range of topics, online courses are just a part.

Well-defined and result-oriented

Online courses are well-defined and result-oriented in how students achieve their goals after completing the course. 

If students can see clear and measurable results from your online course, they will purchase more from you and even recommend your online course to others.

This is what makes online courses easier to market and sell than membership sites, as there are no recurring charges.

High price potential

Course creators can charge a premium price for it upfront according to the value of your online course. For example, you can have a couple of people pay you $ 200 or even $500 for a premium, high-valued online course, which can be a lot of money paid immediately rather than being paid a small fee every month.

No ongoing work

This is one of the important pros of online courses- It involves no ongoing work when compared to launching membership websites.

Course creators might need to update their knowledge and expertise over time, but it is less labor-intensive when it comes to content creation than a membership website.

Cons of online courses

Let’s explore the cons of online courses:

Higher dropout rates

Online courses have higher dropout rates than membership websites due to the motivation required to complete them. 

Less social interaction

Online courses lack the social interaction factor. The social interaction between peers and the instructor remains an important part of the learning experience for many. 

But course creators have plenty of ways to help students overcome this challenge. You can compensate for the lack of social interaction by combining courses with live classes- either 1:1 coaching or group classes.

Online courses and Memberships- Which is the Best?

Here’s our advice. You must choose between online courses vs membership websites based on your needs.

Consider the following things when making the final choice:

Will your business benefit from online courses or membership websites in terms of revenue?

Can you commit to a regular content creation process?

Do you want to run an online community or not?

Consider taking an online course if you want a convenient way to reach your target audience.

  • Can repurpose existing content to create online courses. 
  • Online courses don’t require creators to commit to providing ongoing content and eLearning services to the target audience.
  • Beginners can sell online courses and later move on to building a membership website when they are ready to offer ongoing content that provides more value propositions. 

On the other hand, a membership website is the best choice if:

  • You want to establish a business that brings a regular revenue stream.
  • You can make a long-term commitment to offer value to your members. 
  • Your broad niche allows you to offer ongoing content and learning materials.
  • You can put in time and effort to create solid membership content and services.

Creating a Membership Website with Pinlearn

A membership website allows you to unlock exclusive content behind a payment wall only members can access. It’s up to you whether you charge for memberships on your platform or offer it as an incentive for your customers to engage with your platform. 

But how do you start a membership platform, exactly?

We will walk you through the process with helpful tips and expert advice. Let’s get started.

Decide on the membership model

After deciding between memberships and online courses, you have to decide the sort of membership platform you want to build. Start by planning what type of content you want your membership website to host, how much you will charge, how you are going to engage your audience, and so on.

Ask yourself the following questions to identify your target audience.

  • Who are going to use your membership website?
  • What are the interests of your audience?
  • What kind of eLearning services are they looking for? 
  • What results do they expect from enrolling to your services? 

Choose the content strategy and structure

Now you have chosen between an Online course and a membership website, choose what type of content and how you will deliver it to your audience. 

This is when defining the target audience and creating user personas come in handy. Choose your value proposition, meaning what value you will offer your members with your content.

 Here are the types of content membership websites around eLearning niche hosts:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Online courses
  • Live classes 1:1 and group classes
  • Webinars
  • Products 
  • eBooks
  • Events
  • Points and rewards

You can also decide whether your membership websites will have tiers ranging from free to premium memberships. For example, basic members can access the most basic information, whereas premium members can get full access to exclusive and premium content.

Build your membership website

When it comes to choosing a platform to host your membership services, you have a couple of options.

For instance, you could build it from scratch, which most entrepreneurs won’t choose as it involves a lot of money, effort, and time. Another alternative is to purchase a readymade solution or a white-label solution like Pinlearn, which is a great way to launch your membership platform. 

This is what you get when you choose Pinlearn:

Course-selling and live tutoring features

Host both one-to-one and group live classes and self-paced online courses. Comes with LessonSpace and Zoom integration for live video conferring and online whiteboard functionality. 

Multiple monetization channels

Admins can et commissions on courses and services sold by the tutors, set different commission rates on tutors and course categories and get paid from tutors by adding ‘featured listings’ on the website.

Robust dashboard and analytics for all users

A dedicated dashboard with critical analytics for registered tutors, students, and admin. 

Self-hosted and white-labeled solution 

Brand your website the way you want with open source-code access and 100% freedom to choose your hosting partner.

Choose your domain name and the right hosting provider, decide on the features, and start building your membership website.

Create members-only content

After you have decided on online courses vs memberships, focus on offering value to your target customers. The value proposition of your platform lies in the uniqueness and quality of your content and services. 

Begin by offering some members-only content for a convenient experience.


Both online courses and membership platforms are great ways for aspiring entrepreneurs and course creators to make money online. 

You just have to select a suitable business model, put in your work, and make it work for you and your target audience. 

This doesn’t rule out the possibility of selling online courses and other eLearning products. For example, you can provide a premium online course as a primary offer and then a membership website to their course students as an additional offer. Efficiently combining both memberships and online courses will help you build a sustainable business and make money.

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