Can I create a membership website for free? One of the question I get at list once per week and the short answer is, almost.
You need at list a domain name and a server/hosting to put your membership website on it, which will cost you, if you follow the recommendation of this tutorial, $12/m for your hosting and $12/y for your domain name.
Now outside of that expenses that obviously you can’t skip, yes, you can run a WordPress membership website for free and I’m gonna to explain you how to do it.
Prefer to watch a video?
Your domain name
The first thing you need obviously is a domain name. A myawesomewebsite.com where your future members can find you on the internet.
There is a lot of places where you can buy a domain name, I personally use Google domains because I found it super simple and it provide me with everything I need, but for keeping the cost low, in this tutorial we are going to use BlueHost because they have a WordPress hosting plan that come with a free domain name.
How to choose a good name?
The simplest the better! You’re consideration for a domain name should be, short, with your main keyword (if possible), easy to remember and to pronounce, try to avoid urbestnotebook4life.com for example and prefer to it yourbestnotebook.com and with a .com, .net or .org (if possible).
If your future audience is going to be limited to a country you can use your country extension like .fr for France, .com.uk for England etc…
Keep in mind that having all those considerations ticked is great but not necessary to rank in term of SEO (will talk about that later). You should have a domain name you like and that is understandable in priority.
You can use the help of a domain name generator to help you figure out something, here a selection of services that can help you choose:
Buy your domain name with Google Domain
As I say, I like Google domain, their .com .net and .org are at $12 per year, which is a normal price and you get to integrate with Google Business tools (Gmail, Docs etc…) super easily if you want it later on.
Note that Google Domain is not available in all country so if can’t use the service just scroll down to NameCheap.
Buying your domain name with Google domain is super simple!
Enter the domain you want to buy and hit enter
Google domain now show you the availability of your domain name with different extensions:
Pick your domain and click the add to cart button. It will automatically add the domain to your cart but will not redirect you to it, you will need to click the cart icon on the top right to get to the checkout:
Press checkout then enter your informations:
When you finished entering your informations you are good to pay, click save and continue:
Yay, well done you just bought your domain name with Google Domain. Now let’s head toward your dashboard, you should see your freshly acquired domain:
Now that you have a nice domain name it’s time to taking care of your hosting situation, the place where we’re going to install your website.
Like for a domain name, there is lot of places where you can host your website. Some like BlueHost will tell you that you can get your hosting for $3.95/m. Well, the problem is that they forget to tell you that you will also need to pay for the two year to get that price so $94.80 plus taxes, so $113.76 at the end:
Personally I consider that kind of practice miss-leading and in general I do not recommend BlueHost as a company. Now with CloudWays that I use personally and recommend to all my client, you pay for what you use, meaning $12 monthly not $100 right up and you can scale up anytime you need it when your membership website growth.
If you’re looking on Google for the best hosting solution for a WordPress based website you will soon enough find out that the best cloud hosting company are:
- Digital Ocean
- Google Cloud
Those are the top of the line in terms of hosting and guess what, CloudWays simply allow you to setup a server with WordPress in 5min on any of those cloud company’s and will provide you with ton of perks compared to other hosting company:
Sorry for the rambling on hosting, it’s just that I had to move so many clients from crappy hosting company to CloudWays that I want you to start with the best straight up. Ok, I’m done let’s get you set up with CloudWays shall we?
Let’s head to CloudWays and signup for a free trial
Click the big green button and create your account:
Once it’s done you will be able to login to your dashboard then click “Add a server”:
- Select WordPress latest version (the first one) it was Version 5.3 at the time of this tutorial
- Name your application with your future domain name (you can change that later on)
- Name your server (can be anything and you can also change it later on)
- Pick Digital Ocean as provider and move the server size to 1GB
- Select you server location (the closest to your future visitor)
- Then hit the “Launch Now” green button
It’s going to take few minutes to create your server and give you access to it.