You’ve built your membership site, and now it’s time to start selling courses. Here’s how to start.

Membership sites are some of the most popular use cases for LearnDash. They’re a great business model for anyone who wants to sell access to a series of courses, build a long-term community, or take advantage of a subscription pricing model.

However, setting up payments for subscriptions requires that businesses are able to connect a few different systems, and if the settings are off, it can affect the experience your learners have with your course.

It’s a little technical, so let’s jump in. Here are the main elements you need to have in place to sell memberships on LearnDash.

1. Choose the access settings on your course.

First things first: You do not need a membership plugin to control access to your course. LearnDash has built-in content protection that means you can control your courses, and they can’t be shared with others or found on Google unless you make the permission settings open.

The main course access settings are as follows:

  • Open. An open course does not hide content beyond a login gate. Use this setting if you want everyone to be able to access your course, without needing to create a user account.
  • Free. A free course keeps your content protected and gated, but does not require users to pay to access it. It’s a great ways to gather emails and to encourage learners to create a user account.
  • Closed. Closed courses require both login and purchase. This is the setting you will most likely use if you are selling memberships.

There are two other course access settings that are designed to integrate more closely with payment processors, like Stripe, PayPal, and 2Checkout. You should use these access settings if you are not planning to use a more robust membership plugin or an ecommerce solution with a shopping cart.

  • Buy now. Buy now enables one-tie course purchasing. Members must already be registered and logged in, and it will not work with free courses.
  • Recurring. This option is if you want to set up a subscription-like payment plan without using any other plugins. You can choose the billing cycle, but you cannot offer coupons.

2. Determine what membership plugin you’re using.

If you’re going to sell access to a membership site, you’ll need a membership plugin to help you manage things. LearnDash has membership capabilities that can handle the needs of many users. You can use the Groups function to sell different membership programs, create multitier membership levels, and even assign leadership roles if you work with a team of instructors.

However, you may have special use cases, such as advanced membership controls or content organization options, that make using a membership plugin more necessary. The membership plugin you choose may also affect your options for payment processing, so the choice you make will directly affect how you sell your course. If you are using a membership plugin, here are a few that integrate with LearnDash:

  • MemberPress. For advanced forums, stylish pricing pages, integrated payment gateways, and custom coupons.
  • Restrict Content Pro (paid). Offers prorated subscription levels, advanced membership tools, discount codes, and reporting.
  • Paid Memberships Pro. Advanced content restrictions by page or content type, member email lists, and custom renewal dates.

3. Set up your payment gateway and payment processing.

Finally, with the content created and the access settings in place, it’s time to setup he checkout options. These can range from the very simple to the more complex. If you’re using one of the membership plugins offered above, they will provide integrations with payment gateways such as Stripe or PayPal, but may also integrate with the more advanced shopping cart options.

If you want to use LearnDash for your groups plugin, you can use a simple checkout process for very basic membership sites, or the ThriveCart or WooCommerce integrations if you want to offer a custom checkout experience.

LearnDash integrates with any of the following:

Simple checkout:

  • PayPal. Requires a verified PayPal account.
  • Stripe. If you want learners to be able to pay by credit card.
  • 2Checkout. A slick payment gateway option if you prefer their interface.

Shopping cart options:

  • ThriveCart. Beautiful checkout templates and advanced shopping cart options.
  • WooCommerce. The most robust ecommerce solution available. Offers control over new enrollee emails, coupons and discounts, course bundles and more.

All these options should automatically enroll your learners into a course after they purchase, but depending on the option you choose, you can customize the post-purchase redirects and any related email marketing. You can also set up these automations using our Zapier integration.

Start today, and you can be selling memberships with LearnDash in no time.

Setting up payments is one of the most intimidating steps for many first time online business owners, but actually connecting the dots is not as complicated as it looks. In many cases, it all boils down to a few key decisions, such as whether you’re using a membership plugin, or how advanced you want the checkout process to be. Once you have clarity on those points, getting started is just a matter of choosing the right payment option and linking everything together.

If you’re having trouble getting any of these options to work, we recommend reading through the docs linked to in this article, which include troubleshooting sections at the end. Our LearnDash Tips & Tricks forum is also a place that can offer support, or, if you are still having difficulties, feel free to send in a ticket to your support team.

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About Laura Lynch

Laura is a marketing specialist with experience presenting at WordPress events in Ann Arbor and Vienna. She speaks Russian and German and holds a double MA (Hons) in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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