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45: How to Build a Thriving Membership Site Featuring Stu McLaren

See the show notes for this Episode here.

This transcript has been automatically generated.


Bonnie Christine [00:00:00]:

I have such a treat for you today, my dear friend, but maybe most importantly, my most respected mentor, Stu McLaren is joining us for today's episode. Now, Stu is an incredible entrepreneur. He has a huge heart. He does so much good in this world, and he also is the expert when it comes to membership sites. And so Stu entered my world back in 2019 when I took his course called The Membership Experience. Now, I don't want to ruin anything, but I'll just let you know that it was the best online course that I've ever taken and quite frankly, the only one that I have fully participated in and not only finished, but have retaken it over and over again. So today, I'm so thrilled to introduce Stu to you. He's also a ball of fun. He's got so much energy, he's got so much wisdom, and he's going to start sharing with us more about membership sites and what they really make possible for your business. So let's dive on in.

I'm Bonnie Christine, and this is where all things creativity, design, business, and marketing unite. I'm a mama living in a tiny town tucked right inside the Smoky Mountains, running a multi seven figure business, doing the most creative and impactful work of my life. But when I first set out to become an entrepreneur, I was struggling to make ends meet and wrestling with how to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fabric designer. Fast forward to today. I'm not only licensing my artwork all over the world, but also teaching others how to design their creative life and experience the same success. I'm here to help you spend your life doing something that lights you up. I'll help you build a creative business that also creates an impact, changes people's lives, gives you all of the freedom you want, and is wildly profitable. Welcome to the professional creative podcast.

Bonnie Christine [00:02:24]:

Hello, Stu.

Stu McLaren [00:02:27]:

Good to see you, Bonnie.

Bonnie Christine [00:02:29]:

I am so excited to talk to you. This is Mr. Stu McLaren. Stu, you've meant so much to me over the years, and I'm thrilled to talk to you today about memberships and subscription models.

Stu McLaren [00:02:42]:

Well, this is something that you know really well because I think you have one of the longest lasting memberships that I am aware of. Like, you have been around for over a decade with your membership, which is amazing. And it's a testament to you, Bonnie, in the way in which you show up for your audience. So huge kudos to you for that.

Bonnie Christine [00:03:06]:

Well, I'd actually like to tell a little bit of a backstory before we get started because first of all, today, for those of you who don't know, stu McLaren is stu, I consider you my mentor. You have been for several years. I've learned so much from you, and I think the way that you run your business with so much integrity is one of my favorite businesses and leadership models to follow, and I'm so grateful for you. But before we ever met, I took TME. So TME is the membership experience. It's stu's course, and I took it in 2019. So my membership, I began in 2012, like you mentioned, and a couple of things about TME. Number one, I don't know if you know this Stu, but this course is the only course that I have not only fully participated in, but finished on time.

Stu McLaren [00:04:02]:

Wow. I did not know that.

Bonnie Christine [00:04:04]:

That's amazing because I've taken a lot of online courses and I have specific things that just help you get involved and get really into the content and you do an incredible job. It's my favorite online course that I've ever taken. It's a lot of information, and I always laugh because it's like, I know I gave my membership whiplash after I got out of TME because I'm like, whoa, we've been doing everything wrong for the last seven or eight years, so we're going to change some things. And so you might expect that. I was an expert at that time. I had been doing weekly content for years and could not believe how much I didn't know that I wasn't doing right. And I think one of the things that just really sums it up is that if you look at my income, my monthly income from my membership before TME, it looked like mountains.

Bonnie Christine [00:05:01]:

So. Peak Valley. Peak Valley. Peak Valley. Peak Valley. And I just never could really get very much wind. I would kind of recover when I opened, and then I would kind of dip. And after I took TME, that graph turned into a staircase and it went up, and then it kind of went down maybe a little bit, and then it went up. And so if you're listening, you can imagine the difference in those graphs. And so my membership soared, took off, and all of it comes down to what I was able to learn and implement and the membership experience. So that's why I'm excited to talk to you today about the opportunity of subscription based models where we're at in society with them, and some maybe hints from you as well on how to do it well.

Stu McLaren [00:05:47]:

Well, one of my favorite early memories of you, Bonnie, was at our live event, of which you surprised your mom to come to the event with your sister. And I remember getting a request, I think it was from you or your sister who said, hey, can you send my mom a birthday message because we're surprising her with tickets to come to the event. And it was so amazing. And then when I saw you guys live and your mom was just the sweetest little thing, and it was just a really cool experience. And we have formed an amazing friendship since. One of the things that I cherish is the way in which I've mentioned it, the way in which you show up and serve your audience and you're the same person on camera as you are off. And to me, I love and appreciate that consistency and character. And it's just you have so many amazing qualities, buddy. So it's no wonder that your membership has taken off. It's no wonder that your membership continues to thrive and your business and it's so much to a credit to who you are.

Bonnie Christine [00:06:52]:

Well, I want to get into some details, but first take us back because Stu, I know that you have a really unique perspective on membership sites based on your history with Wishlist members. So can you kind of tell that story about why you have a unique perspective, why you are the membership expert?

Stu McLaren [00:07:12]:

It wasn't by design. I didn't come out of university and say, you know what, I know the exact career path I want. I'm going to be a membership site expert. Memberships weren't even on my radar. But I started my business back in 2004. And then, long story short, it led to a point where I was working one on one with clients. Now, we had a great business. We had built a mid six figure a year business working one on one with clients. It was awesome. Except for the fact that I was working a lot and the only way to grow that business was to work more and I didn't have any more time to give. And I remember Amy, my wife and I had just gotten married in 2007. And in 2008 we were having serious conversations about starting our family. And I had this epiphany, which was like Stu, like, if you really want to be the husband and father that you have always dreamed of being, you can't work these crazy hours and burn the candle at both ends. So something had to give. And that's when I started having conversations with friends and colleagues and mentors and just asking like, I got this great business, but the business model is not working. It's not allowing me to grow, it's not allowing me to scale. And more importantly, I am just starting my family and I don't want to be just sucked into the business. Twenty four seven. And so one of my mentors, Armand, he said to me, you know, you should just start a membership and teach other people the same things that you're doing one on one with your clients. And I said, what do you mean a membership? And he said, well, think of it this way. Right now, clients come to you, you are teaching them or working with them one on one. Imagine if you took those same things that you're telling them and sharing with them, but you could share it with hundreds or thousands of people and it not require any more additional effort. Now you can scale without any limitations on your time. And I was like, wow. I'm like, okay, so this is 2008, Bonnie. Now the tech back then is not what it is today. And I started going down this path, and I got swallowed up into things like HT access files and server settings and all this tech stuff that was way above my pay grade. And I remember moaning and growing into a friend of mine, Tracy, and I just said, Dude, all I want to do is just teach. Like, all this tech stuff is, like, overwhelming me. And he said, well, he said, Why don't you create your own solution? And I remember hearing him say that, and I was like, Is he not listening to anything I'm saying? Like, I'm literally telling him I'm struggling with tech, and he's telling me to start my own tech solution. And I said, Dude. I said no. I can't do that. That's where I'm struggling. He said, well, why don't we partner up? I have a great developer that we can work with. And ultimately, we did. And we went on to create Wishlist members you mentioned, and that went on to become the world's number one membership platform for WordPress and Bonnie. That is where I learned so much about the membership sites that were succeeding year over year over year and what they were doing differently versus everybody else, because we were powering over 70,000 online communities and memberships. So I had this unique perspective of being able to interact with all these people and see what was really working. And when I started to extract the few things that those sites were doing that were selling every year, that's when I started to see patterns. And since then, I have been teaching others how to replicate those successful outcomes, and it's been absolutely amazing. And we've now served tens of thousands of people. Our new company, Searchy, has become an incredible platform, and I'm in a place now where I love what I do, I love who I get to serve. And I've never been more passionate about memberships than I am right now, because in a world that is so uncertain, they create tremendous certainty. And I believe every single entrepreneur should have some form of recurring revenue in their business. And that's what I'm set out to do, is help everybody do that.

Bonnie Christine [00:11:38]:

So my audience is full of creatives artists, designers, but also, like, handmade artists of all different kinds. And so one thing that is so prevalent in our industry and our business is, like, inconsistency in our income. So we'll have a great month, and then we'll have, like, a dry spell, and then we'll come up with an idea and maybe not have enough time to implement it before we actually have bills that we need to pay. And I just remember spending so many years on that frenzied, like, got to have a good idea, got to make time to flush it all out and then hopefully create income. And I would just have these spikes all throughout my year for income. None of it felt predictable. And that, to me, felt like stress because it very much all was dependent on how good of an idea I had and how well I could roll it out in the right timeline. Right. And so the membership for me is what finally started to ebb those spikes and almost create just almost a consistent flow throughout the year to where I pretty much know for certain my monthly income, which is almost nonexistent for the small creative entrepreneur. So talk to us about the opportunity, and then I want to get into some real examples because I think a lot of creatives are like, I don't have anything I could possibly offer in a subscription based model, but talk to me about the opportunity of this recurring revenue.

Stu McLaren [00:13:10]:

Well, as you said, it alleviates so much stress that a lot of entrepreneurs and, as you pointed out, creatives experience in that we have these months that are great and that's perhaps around a particular season or perhaps around a particular promotion. And those months are awesome. And we're living high. And then those months end, and now we're back to square one and we're having to start from scratch. And this is really the old way of doing business, which is like, you do a promotion, and then you generate sales, and then the next month, you're starting from complete zero again. Now, the new way with the membership model is that you carry the momentum from the previous month over to the next month, and you're never starting from zero. And it changes the game completely for all of us as entrepreneurs, because, as you said, now you've got consistency. Now you know what income is coming in. And with that, you can plan a whole lot differently, you can hire a whole lot differently, you can invest in your marketing a whole lot differently, and you can do all of those things with confidence because you know where the money will be coming from. And that is a totally different place when it comes to thinking about how we can grow our business. And ultimately, here's the thing for creatives, I want you to realize, ultimately, it creates more freedom for you to do the creative work that lights you up most, like, I think, of Heidi. So Heidi is an artist, and one of the things that she had built a business around was painting surfboards. But in order for her to not only maintain her income level, but to exceed it, it meant that she had to paint even more surfboards one month. Bonnie, I remember she shared with me, she painted over 100 plus surfboards in order to keep everything moving forward. And she just had this moment of just like, oh, my gosh. She started to become resentful of painting surfboards when it was the thing that she actually loved in the beginning. And the reason she became resentful of it was because she was having to do it. It was like something she had to do, not something that she got to do. And this is why I love memberships for Creatives. Because you can have that steady base which creates the freedom for you to be able to pour your creative energy into the projects and things that you love without the pressure of them having to produce any income. So when I think of the opportunity for Creatives, it's about that steady base, knowing that the consistency is there, the bills are paid, everything is moving forward. And that, more than anything, is creating the space for you to pursue the creative projects that you love, not with any pressure that they have to produce income or that you have to sell certain art pieces, or you have to land certain contracts. None of that. And that, to me, is the ultimate place for all creatives to be, because you get to have your cake and eat it too.

Bonnie Christine [00:16:23]:

Yeah, so my start was in sewing handmade aprons and tea towels. And this is how this oh, yeah, I had an Etsy shop in 2009. It's how I started. And I wasn't a fabric designer yet, so I was using other people's fabric, and I was sewing, and I loved it. And then I got really tired of it because I didn't want to sew another apron. And I remember I had gotten successful enough to where pretty much would sell any apron that I made. And so I remember calculating how much if I made as many aprons as I could in a day, five days a week, all year round, how much could I make at the end of the year? And it was like, right at $40,000, which is not bad. That's not bad at all. But, oh, my goodness, I felt so exhausted at the thought. And we're all so oftentimes stuck in this trading time for money. And it was two or three years later when I had the same Epiphany moment where someone told me, if you could just create something that someone was willing to pay for over and over again. And I'm like, I remember the day I sat down and just brainstormed all these things that I thought I was doing that someone would be willing to pay for. And so my membership in 2012 was really I wouldn't have called it this at the time, but in hindsight, it was really a paid email, and it was $5 a month, but that started generating $1,000 a month for me from the very beginning, and then it just grew from there. And it was an exchange for not time for money, but time for an infinite potential amount of money based on how many people I got in. That changed everything for me. And so I want to talk to Creatives, who very much feel like, well, what I do is my special sauce. Like, I have to do it. I have to trade time for money when really there are certain things that you're doing or insights that, you know, even if you're not coaching people or anything like that, that you could turn into a membership based offer. So talk to me about that and what other examples you have, because I can think of a whole bunch. In the creative industry, there are so.

Stu McLaren [00:18:42]:

Many examples that I can point to. If I were to divide our community into a pie chart, I would say a good 30% of our market are creatives, meaning they have some kind of membership that is in the creative space. And I think one of my first favorite memories was Tamara Bennett, who came into our world. And I remember her posting in our community that she had done her founding member launch for her membership, teaching people how to create decorative door hangers. And I was like decorative door hangers. I'm like, what the heck? What the heck are decorative door hangers? And I said to Tamara, I said, what is this? Is this like when I'm at the hotel and I put, like, the do not disturb sign on the door? And she's like, oh, Stu. She's like, no, in the south, she said, we have these beautiful decorative door hangers that go on people's front door, and each season, people, they swap them out for different things. I was like, oh, okay, I get it, I get it. And so anyway, she had done her founding member launch, and she had welcomed over 400 people who wanted to learn how to create these decorative door hangers. Now, I get for many of the creatives listening, they're going to think, well, wait a minute, she just created 400 competitors who are now going to take away from the business that she may have been generating, creating those door hangers. Here's the irony in that. It actually has the opposite effect. Because when she has the opportunity to teach people how to create their own decorative door hangers, and in doing so, it almost creates this heightened level of appreciation for Tamara's decorative door hangers, right? It's like, oh, gosh, what's the interior decorator that's in Texas? She's super famous. Joanna yes. Okay, so do we not every time we see the show, she's giving away all the ideas, showing all the things. Do we not have a heightened appreciation for her? This is why people go in droves down to Texas to go to her barn to see all the things. It actually heightens people's appreciation for your work. So the irony is, in a threatened mindset, we clamp up and we're like, no way, I can't share anything. But if we just open ourselves up, what ends up happening is we get to help a whole lot of people create beautiful work, and in the process, we actually increase the demand for the work that we are creating. It's the irony of it all. But Tamara is a great example, and I could go on and on like, I think, of Casey Hope. Casey Hope, she created both a digital and a physical product membership. So she would send out a package, or she still does sends out a package each month to her members. And it has a bunch of calligraphy templates that her members can follow to learn how to do different calligraphy. And so this membership, she's got thousands of members. It's thriving. And the fun part is, during COVID what she realized was that there were a whole bunch of parents like us, Bonnie, who got young kids, who all of a sudden were at home with their kids asking themselves, what the heck do we do all day? Now, Casey, not only did she have that physical product calligraphy membership, but she also had an art studio where she was teaching kids how to create art. And so in that moment, she realized, wait a minute, I'm teaching kids art. I could just teach this online as well. And so she created an online membership for teaching kids art. And in the midst of the pandemic, it blew up because parents are like, oh, my gosh, thank you. Because now they had an hour of sanctity while Casey was walking their kids through different art projects. And before she knew it, that membership had grown to over 1000 plus members simply teaching kids art. So it's a great example of she's just taking what she was already doing, in this case, teaching kids art in a studio, transferred it online. Now she can reach so many more people because in the studio, she's maybe working with 2025 kids online. She's working with thousands. And so it's amazing when we take a step back and look at the skill sets we've developed as creatives and how there's literally thousands and thousands of people around the world who would love to learn that skill set. And because you are two, three, four steps ahead of them, it's so easy to be able to walk people through that process and in that process, be able to serve so many people and create a heightened demand for our own work.

Bonnie Christine [00:23:35]:

Okay, picture this. Have you ever spent hours scouring through your video or maybe your podcast content trying to find that one place that you said that one thing, or if you've forgotten or never found it and you had to rerecord everything? I've been there, and it's so frustrating and honestly, a huge waste of time. But it hasn't happened to me ever since I started using Searchy. Searchy is the software that I use for all of my videos and all of my podcast content because it not only transcribes it, but it makes it searchable by keyword. And so for you to see this in action, I have an example set up for you over on bonniechristine.com/resources. Again. That's bonniecristine. Comresources. And you can actually play with Searchy and see how it looks on one of our videos, because once you understand what it does. It's a game changer. I also host all of my workshop and my class, my membership and course material through Searchy as well. So students can search for any question that they have and go to the exact time and place where I talked about that one thing. And just imagine this if I ever do a Q and A and they want to know if I answered their question, all they have to do is search for their name and see if I did or not. It's literally like having your very own personal search engine for your content. So no more wasting time scrubbing through your video or audio to find that one golden nugget. With searchee, you can easily find what you're looking for in seconds. Just type in a keyword or phrase and Searchi will pull up all the relevant content. It's a game changer for anyone who creates audio or video content. But honestly, that's not all. Searchi's new AIpowered transcription and captioning tool makes it easy to create accessible content that everyone can get access to. And with their customizable player, you can embed your videos and your podcasts on your website or social media channels in a way that looks and feels so professional. So if you are ready to take your video or your podcast content to the next level, head on over to bonniecustine. Comresources and just give Searchy a try. It's incredible. I think you're going to love it and I can't wait to see how it revolutionizes the way you create content.

Bonnie Christine [00:26:17]:

So you mentioned the irony of that. There were so many things in TME that were counterintuitive to me, so many things that I was doing in my membership that I felt like this was the right way to do it. And then that was probably my biggest learning curve in TME, where there's so many things that seem intuitive that are actually counterintuitive in what makes a successful membership. So I don't want to give away too many. I can think of so many right now, but would you tell us just one?

Stu McLaren [00:26:51]:

Well, okay, I could go on and on for days. Like I said, there's a huge chunk of our community that craves, but I think of Nicholas Wilson, our dear friend Nicholas Wilton. He is a fine art artist, has been producing his own work for years, and he had been teaching people how to create these beautiful paintings and he had been doing it in a course. But inevitably people were coming to the end of the course and they were kind of panicking like, well wait a minute, where am I going to get extra help? What if I got questions about this? Where can I get feedback? And there was all this panic. And I remember him calling me, he was in week ten of his twelve week course, and he said, Stu, I'm getting all these types of comments. I know I should be launching a membership. I don't have time, though, because we've only got two weeks left. What do I do? And I said, Dude, just do a founding member launch. Just put it out there, ask for if they have interest in being able to stay connected as a community and to continue that experience. And so many people said yes. He ended up welcoming, I think it was like around 170 members for his founding member launch, and that was the beginning for his membership. I think of MIM Jenkinson, who is over in New Zealand, and she has the most amazing Sticker Club membership. So she has thousands of members, Bonnie, in this Sticker Club. She only started it, I think, just a year and a half ago. It's called the Paper Planner Club is what she calls it. But essentially every month she's walking them through how to create these beautiful stickers and where people can use the stickers, sell the stickers, all the things. And she creates these pre made sticker templates that people can modify and use to make the process easier. But it's again, it's a great example of a creative outlet where she was doing she has her own thriving sticker business, and now she's taught others how to do it, and she's made the process easier by providing different templates. I also think of Christy Hawkins, who is another friend of ours. I remember when I met Christy, she came into our community and she was determined to launch a membership. And the reason was her girls were getting at that age where they were in high school and middle school, and they were competing on the volleyball teams. But unfortunately, Christy couldn't attend any of the volleyball games because she was always doing paint parties every night in her local community, and they were always in the evenings. And so those times clashed with when her girls were playing volleyball and she was feeling this weight like, I just want to watch my girls. But at the same time, this is her income. So when she came in, she took the same skills, the same principles of what she was teaching in those paint parties, and she transferred it online to teach other women how to paint. And as a result, she's got a membership now with thousands of members. She no longer does the paint parties in the evenings because she doesn't have to. She chooses if and when she wants to do the paint parties. But most importantly, she gets to spend her evenings watching her girls play volleyball. And so we could go on and on about all these different I think of like, Patty Palmer, who was a former art teacher, and she created a membership site that now has it's hard to wrap your head around. She's got more than 8000 plus members in her membership, and she provides lesson plans for other art teachers. So there's all kinds of creative memberships in all kinds of different markets. And. Again, the central theme is taking what we're already doing, teaching others and being able to serve thousands and thousands more people as a result.

Bonnie Christine [00:30:47]:

So there are two hesitations that I hear from my community all the time that I want to speak to. One of them is this fear around beginning a membership because nobody wants to get on what they call the content treadmill. And I feel like I can speak to this one so well, right? Because I've been on it for nearly eleven years and I'm not feeling fatigued or tired in any capacity. And there are some hacks around that like batch planning my content. That really helps. But I think one thing that really helped me was also to learn the number one reason people leave a membership is overwhelm. Overwhelm. And so at the beginning I felt like I just wanted to give everyone everything and the kitchen sink and that will make them stay. And then we realized that actually that causes overwhelm. And so that to me was a relief because it gave me permission to get really clear and concise on what it was that I offered. So can you talk to people who are afraid of signing themselves up for something they think they might not be able to handle?

Stu McLaren [00:32:01]:

Well, that fear comes from not having a proven content strategy because as you said, the natural instinct for us as creators is to think the more I create, the more value people will be able to get. But the truth is, as you mentioned, it creates overwhelm. And the number one reason across the board, no matter what type of membership site, the number one reason that people cancel is overwhelm. Meaning either they come into your membership and they see so much content that they are like a deer in headlights and have no idea how to move forward. And so then they're like I'm out or they're just not using it. And if they're not using it, then they're not getting value. If they're not getting value, then they're out. And so the key as membership site owners is to strike that balance of providing just enough that yes, people get value. But most importantly, they're using it and implementing it. Because the real reason that people will stay over a long period of time is that they continue to get results. We're in the happy business. Like as long as people continue to be happy then they'll continue to stay part of our membership. And so we've got to strike this balance. And I'll give you a real great example of how we can overthink and overanalyze all the content when the truth of the matter is our members just want a piece, I think of Paul Evans. So Paul had a membership site and he was serving youth ministers. Now when he started the membership site he was including all kinds of how to articles and videos on how to be a great youth pastor. He was including a community where people could interact and chitchat, he was doing live trainings, et cetera, et cetera. He had all this stuff. And he asked a really powerful question to his members one day. And this is a question, I have since taught this after learning it, because it is such a powerful question. But he sent out a message to his members, and he said, if we were to get rid of everything in the membership, what's the one thing you would want us to keep? So he said, if we were to get rid of everything in the membership, what's the one thing we should keep? And people responded, and it was overwhelmingly the same one thing. And essentially what that was, it was a PowerPoint presentation that the youth pastors could download, make a couple of tweaks, and use that in their sermon on Sunday morning. Because the reality was, youth pastors, the vast majority of them have a full time job during the week, and they're part time pastoring on the weekend, so they don't have time to prepare presentations. And so what Paul was providing was essentially a lifeline. It was giving them a way to save so much time with just that PowerPoint presentation. So they weren't interested in the community, they weren't interested in the tutorials, they weren't interested in the live trainings because they just didn't have time for it. And so Paul got rid of literally 75% of the quote deliverables he had been providing and did not see retention drop off. In fact, what he saw was so much more clarity for his members on how they could get value from the membership, and more people actually used the presentations and it took off. And so it's a great lesson in that more does not equal more value. Many times in a membership. It is about identifying what are our people trying to do and what's the least we could provide them to take that next step so that they don't get distracted by all the things that they don't need to hear or don't need to do and can stay focused on the few things that are actually going to help them make progress. If we do that, if we provide our members that clarity and they consume more and make more progress, they will stay. And that is the secret to a great membership.

Bonnie Christine [00:36:15]:

That's so good. Okay. The other hesitation that I hear is there are so many subscriptions coming at us, and we see big companies doing it. Disney did it recently, just so many everywhere. And there's this concept of like, well, I'm not going to do that because there's membership fatigue, there's subscription fatigue right now, nobody's signing up for a subscription. And that's not true for me. I'm signing up for subscriptions because of the convenience factor all the time, but also the accountability that it holds for me. I would almost prefer this subscription based model on the things that I really want to move the needle in for my life and my business, because to me, it clears up mental clarity. Like, I don't have to think or remember to do certain things. I've got that on subscription. So can you talk to that? Are you hearing that? And what is your lay of the land on the industry?

Stu McLaren [00:37:14]:

Well, it's interesting. When I hear people float those comments out there, I always like to ask, who is they? Who is telling you this? Who is giving you this insight? Because I literally get to work with tens of thousands of people in the membership and subscription space, and I can tell you with certainty it is not decreasing. If anything, if you look at the statistics, what you're seeing is a massive increase in subscriptions. And this actually was accelerated during COVID because so many people were forced online that hadn't been online before. And they started to realize, wait a minute, there are so many more convenient options through a subscription than versus, like, having to schlept the family down here or there or everywhere. Like, here's a bird example. Amy and I were out on a date night last night, and so we switch every other time. She picks, and then I pick, and she well, last night Amy picked, and so she had found this place in our local community, and it was a float tank. Have you ever done a float tank, Bonnie? It's like a giant bathtub that you lay in, and it's full of salt, and so you float and then you close the slit. It's like a really relaxing experience.

Bonnie Christine [00:38:37]:


Stu McLaren [00:38:38]:

Yeah. We'll have to chat about it afterwards.

Bonnie Christine [00:38:40]:


Stu McLaren [00:38:41]:

Anyways, so Amy and I went and afterwards we finished up, we come to the front desk, and the guy says, are you interested in coming back? And I asked him, I said, do you have, like, a membership model? And he said, no, we don't. We just sell a package here or this package. I was like, oh. And I had the same feeling. I'm like, oh, bummer. I want a membership because it provides that consistency. And I think of Mary Claire Fredette in our community. She's a masseuse, and she used to sell massages, like one off, and her clients would book whenever they needed one. She switched to a membership model, and I caught up with her about three or four months ago, and I said, how's it going? And she's like, well, I haven't actually launched since the first time that I did it. And I was like, oh. I was thinking like, oh, no, what's going on? And she's like, no, I haven't had to. Three years ago, I did the launch, and over 80% of my customers are still with me today. And she said they love it because it creates that consistency. It creates that accountability that you're talking about. And so huge driver why people love memberships, but the other thing that I would say about this is that people will cancel from memberships. People will cancel. They'll cancel from memberships that they are not getting value from. And it comes back to the thing that we talked about earlier. We are in the business of keeping people happy. As long as our members are happy and they're experiencing progress, they will stay. Like, I have never heard of anybody canceling from a membership because they're experiencing too much progress or too much success. Right? Like, that just doesn't happen. So as long as we focus on serving our people and helping them get the outcome they're after, they're going to stay. So, no, memberships are not on their way out. In fact, if you look at the stats, they're on their way up in a huge way. This is why big companies like the Disney's as an example, are all moving to subscriptions. It's the way of doing business for the future, and big companies are doing it as well as all kinds of other companies like ours as well, are moving to it because of the way in which it creates stability for the business owner and the way it allows us to serve our people on a more consistent, regular basis.

Bonnie Christine [00:40:57]:

I asked that because I knew you would have behind it.

Stu McLaren [00:41:00]:

So I'm so glad you know my buttons, Bonnie. You know how to get me fired up.

Bonnie Christine [00:41:04]:

I think it's one of the most exciting business models ever. And I think something really exciting happens when you think about it for the first time, not only what it makes possible, but also what you have that someone would be willing to pay for. I mean, my first version of my membership Stew, was I think it was really darling. Now, it was so sweet and innocent. It was like recipes and printable, like gift cards and clip art and stuff. And it has just grown with me over the years to where it's something vastly different today. But I know there's a lot that people want to wrap their minds around. And so you have a free workshop. Tell us about the workshop. I know it's coming up soon and I watch it every single year because it gets me so fired up. So I know what you'll be sharing. Give us the overview of everything in the free workshop.

Stu McLaren [00:42:01]:

Well, here's the seed that I hope has been planted today for everybody watching and listening, and that is the seed that I want, is people thinking, well, wait a minute, how might I incorporate recurring revenue and a membership or subscription into my business, into the work that I am producing? And right now, you may not have the answer to that. And that's the point of this workshop. The point of this workshop is to help give you the clarity about what that membership could look like for you and your business and what might you provide inside that membership. And heck, here's the fun part about this, Bonnie. We will have people during the free workshop who will actually launch their membership. And I know that that sounds absurd for somebody who's like, wait a minute, I don't even know what I could be doing a membership about. What are you talking about? I'm going to walk you through the process of literally getting that clarity and moving so quickly into action that you are launching during the workshop. And I know that there are people listening who are perfectionists, and they're thinking, there's no way I'm doing that because I need to have my audience at this size. I need to have all my content planned out. I need to get it all designed. It's got to be beautiful. It's got to be perfect. And you're already throwing up the barriers, and I just want to encourage you to pump the brakes on that. Come into the workshop with an openness for possibility, and I'm going to hold space for everybody listening in terms of what could happen for you. And my goal in the workshop is to walk you through that process, to help you get the clarity, to help you begin to take action, and hopefully help you launch during the workshop so that it can create belief inside of you. Because once that first member joins, and it doesn't matter whether five members join, 500 members join, but once that first member joins, it is like an injection of belief that, oh, my gosh, this is possible, and it's happening right now, and it creates momentum, and that's the momentum I want on everybody's side. And that's the exact momentum you'll get when you come and join us for the free workshop. And the fun part about this is we teach it live, and there's an energy. It's like the difference between watching your favorite sporting event on TV versus being in the stadium, right? Like, it's a totally different experience, and there's an energy there that moves you to take action on the idea of launching your membership. And I get really excited by this, Bonnie, because I know what's possible. We've been doing this for decades. We've been helping tens of thousands of people, and I just want to encourage everybody to come with an open mind and have some fun in the whole process.

Bonnie Christine [00:44:56]:

This workshop is so in depth. You give away so many little things that you just don't know otherwise. You give away secrets. You give a really nice overview of what the whole thing looks like. And so it's really, really good. I'll be there watching it this year. But Stu, my audience is full of some serious go getters, and I know some people are like, okay, I'm going to watch the workshop, but I really want to know what is the membership experience? So can you tell us what the membership experience is and when it is open for enrollment?

Stu McLaren [00:45:32]:

Yeah, well, the free workshop that's coming up it is definitely going to create massive momentum for you. And that's, as I said, my whole goal is to help create that momentum for you because then naturally, you're going to be like, oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I can see it. I want to make it a reality. And so if I were to talk about people in our community, like Jess as an example, she's an artist and she came to the workshop last year during the free workshop. She set aside all the limiting beliefs and she just said, you know what, I'm going to be open. I'm going to follow the process. I'm just going to see what happens. It's an experiment. And she ended up welcoming just shy of 180 founding members. And I was interviewing her earlier this week and people who were live with us, they were doing the math and somebody typed in the chat, they're like, oh, my gosh, that's $5,400 a month that she had generated in month number one from her founding member launch. And I reflected that back to Jess. I'm like, Jess, somebody's done the math on how much you made in that founding member launch and it was $5,400, which translates over $60,000 a year. And she smiled and she said, I know. She's like and I had no idea where this would go or what it would lead to, but she said now that membership has created massive momentum for her and it opened up doors that she had no idea were even available. And that's my point in this, is that come join us for the free workshop. It'll then naturally, once you've got that momentum, you'll want to come join us for the membership experience. And that's where we unpack over an eight week period of how to get into the nitty gritty of not only launching the membership, but now growing it and scaling it in a way that is sustainable and fun for you while providing high value for your people and helping them get great results. So I'm about a membership, as you said, that grows year over year over year like that staircase. And so in the membership experience, that's what we break down from your foundation strategy, your content strategy, marketing strategy, community strategy and retention strategy. These are all the building blocks of a membership that lasts the test of time. And that's exactly what we'll show people how to do.

Bonnie Christine [00:47:51]:

Stew, thank you so much. I'm so excited. I'm on fire. My membership will probably get some whiplash again this year after I come through again. So thank you. Thank you so much for being here and sharing this with us and we will see you in the workshop.

Stu McLaren [00:48:08]:

I'm so looking forward to it and I love the creative community. As I said, we have so many creatives in our community. So come, you'll be inspired because you're going to hear from so many and it will plant that seed of possibility and if anything, I want you walking away with a sense of what is possible for you watching and listening. So come join us for the free workshop. Bonnie, you're a gem, buddy. Thank you so much for having me see you there.

Bonnie Christine [00:48:32]:

Wasn't that incredible? Stu just overflows with joy and everything that he does. He's got so much insight and so much wisdom, and his heart really is in helping you find success so that together we can make a bigger impact in the world and get you up and running with a business that really feels wonderful. So I hope that you enjoyed meeting Stu. I would highly suggest running over and joining the workshop. The workshop is so fun. I take it every year. I also take the membership experience over and over and over again. I think I mentioned that already, but it's the best course I've ever taken. So if you want to dive on in, you can go sign up for that at the professionalcreative.com. We've got all the links there for you. Again, that's professionalcreative.com. And you can find the links to join the workshop and the membership experience if you choose to do so. And that would be so fun to see you there. So thanks so much for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed meeting Stu today. And because we did a deep dive into membership sites today, I thought it would be fun for me to really go over my own membership in greater depth and how you can translate that idea to your own business in the next episode. So join me for the next episode where we're really going to do a memberships for Creatives 101 style class, and you can hear more about mine and how I have it set up and also get tons of ideas for your own membership. So even if this has never been on your radar, come join me for that episode because I'm giving you 50 ideas for content deliverables for Creatives. It's going to be really fun. So I'll see you there.

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I'm Bonnie Christine.


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