Depending on what your business or client needs and is trying to achieve, there are a number of feature-rich WordPress membership site plugins you can use … completely for free!

Are you trying to set up a WordPress membership site on a budget for your business or a client’s website? Should you use free WordPress membership plugins to set up a membership site or members’ area? Which plugins should you use? What features can you expect from ‘free’ membership plugins? Are there any downsides to using free membership plugins?

In this article, we explore ways to add a members area to your WordPress website using the best and most popular free membership plugins, useful free membership plugin features to look for, and what you need to know before using free membership plugins on your WordPress site or blog!

Before we start talking about ways to grow a membership site using free plugins, make sure you have completed all the planning steps in our membership site checklist, where you can also find how to set up a simple membership site without needing a single plugin.

If you are looking for ways to protect your content and provide different levels of access to registered users, there are many great plugins you can install and configure to create a fully functional and professional membership site or members-only area using WordPress. Some plugins are free, some are not and some offer partially free features with upgrades to more advanced options if required.

While the obvious plus side of using free membership plugins is the cost (or lack thereof), there are potential downsides to be aware of.

Can Your Membership Site Handle Growth?

If you are building a membership site to generate revenue, for example, what happens if membership numbers start to increase? Will the plugin be able to help you handle the growth, or will you just be burdened with more manual administration?

And what if members demand new features to improve their user experience and ensure they remain loyally subscribed? Will the free plugin you depend on to run and grow your membership site be able to accommodate members requests for new features? If not, will you be able to migrate easily from your existing plugin to a more robust membership platform with minimal to no disruption?

Being able to grow your membership site sustainably and handle sudden increases in membership numbers without a hitch is essential when choosing a WordPress membership plugin, especially if you plan to start with a free plugin.

Can Your Membership Site Be Customized?

In addition to providing valuable content, your membership site should be editable, configurable, or customizable enough to accommodate and suit your needs. While most settings and options can be configured using themes, plugins, and widgets, there are some aspects of setting up a membership site that will depend on the plugin being used.

For example, if you want new or existing members to experience or complete certain processes during registration or when accessing their content and other membership information, then you must make sure that the plugin you choose is flexible, configurable, or customizable enough to support the processes and the experience you would like to create for users.

What About Technical Support?

What happens if members experience issues inside their members area? Or new versions of WordPress reveal incompatibilities, security vulnerabilities, or expose bugs in the plugin powering your membership site? Will you have access to responsive technical support from the plugin developers, or will you be left stranded to deal with the problems and unhappy members on your own?

Something else to keep in mind when research free plugins for your membership site are the developers behind the plugin. Have they been around for a while? Do they have a good reputation?  Are they known in the WordPress user community? Is the plugin regularly updated? Are there any user reviews of the plugin? Are these reviews favorable? Are other users happy with the level of support they have received from the developer?

As with all free plugins, having access to technical support when you need it the most is crucial, especially if you plan to grow your membership site and actively promote it online. Paid plugins incentivize developers to support and maintain their plugins and add new features, whereas free plugins do not.

What Features Does The Free Plugin Offer?

If you have done your planning correctly and are currently researching features that will make running and growing your membership site easier, then free membership plugins can be an option, depending on what you want to do and offer to members.

For example, when thinking about features for your membership site:

  • Do you want to build a fully automated membership site?
  • Does your site need to provide several or unlimited membership levels?
  • Are you planning to set up multiple membership sites on different domains?
  • Will new members need to be redirected to different sections of your website according to their membership level?
  • Does the site need to restrict access to content on common membership pages to different member levels?
  • Do you need to start with advanced options like custom registration fields, download folder protection, secure RSS feeds, etc. and if not, will these options be required later?
  • If you plan to run a paid membership site, do you need to offer different payment options, trials, subscriptions, etc. to get new members signing up?
  • And what about integrating your membership site with third-party services, add-ons, payment processors, eCommerce, social media, or email services like autoresponders, newsletters, etc.?

When thinking about WordPress membership plugins and the features you’d like to use in your membership site, keep in mind that many advanced features are found only in Freemium, Paid, or Pro versions, and that different free WordPress membership plugins offer different features.

We’ll refer to the above points when comparing various free WordPress membership plugins (see further below).

Why Set Up A Membership Site In WordPress Using Free Plugins?

Before we present various free membership plugins you can use in WordPress, let’s briefly explore some of the reasons for using free plugins to build a membership site:

Budget Constraints

If you have a great idea for a membership site but have little to no money to get started, choosing a free WordPress membership plugin makes sense … kind of (see the section above on things to watch out for when choosing to use free plugins!).

Since most WordPress paid, pro, or premium plugins tend to be reasonably low priced, if you are starting a membership site on a low budget, we recommend choosing free (or freemium) membership plugins offering paid upgrades for additional options, advanced features, and access to support.

Simple Membership Required Only

As discussed in this post, one of the strongest reasons for choosing a free WordPress membership plugin is that you or your client only needs a simple or basic membership setup. If this is the case, then one of the free WordPress membership plugins listed in the ‘Free WordPress Membership Site Plugins’ section below should do the trick.

This all relates to better membership site planning and doing sufficient research before investing your money into building your site. The better you understand your business model and how to achieve your goals, the easier it will be to recognize the plugins, software, or solutions that will help you get there faster, more easily, and more cost-effectively.

If all you need is a way to protect some of your content, then make sure to see the mini-tutorial in this post: How To Set Up A Members-Only Area In WordPress On A Budget.

Build A List

If you want to use a membership site as a way to build a list, then any free WordPress membership site plugin will work just fine, even if it has no email subscriber option. All you have to do is make sure that new members sign up to your list before they can register as a member, as shown in the diagram below …

How to build a list using a free membership plugin.
How to build a list using a free membership plugin.

Here is how the simple process shown above can be used to build a list using a free (or any) membership site plugin:

  • Subscribe to an email marketing service (e.g. MailChimp, Aweber, etc.)
  • Set up a membership site or a member-only area on your site using a plugin.
  • Add your content (e.g. a downloadable report or video) to a post or page and protect it using your membership software or plugin’s protection settings.
  • Set up a landing page with an embedded email capture form (use Forminator Pro to help you with this step).
  • Send all prospective members to the landing page with the email capture form.
  • Direct your newly registered email subscribers to the member registration page.
  • Redirect newly registered members to the download page where they can access or download the content.

Users get access to exclusive or protected content and you’re building a list. Simple and effective!

Test Your Membership Model

Another reason to build a membership site using a free WordPress membership plugin is to test whether the plugin is the dolution you need or even if the business model can be profitable.

One of the benefits of building a membership site using WordPress is that you can easily export member data to other applications, so if you start with a free or even a freemium membership plugin and decide that you need to upgrade to a more robust and fully-featured plugin or a different solution altogether, you should be able to transfer your member community easily across to the new membership setup by exporting and importing data.

Free WordPress Membership Site Plugins

Below we have compiled a current list of over a dozen of the most popular free WordPress membership plugins you can use to build a membership site, with a brief description of main plugin features, number of active installations, ratings by the WordPress user community, and whether the plugin is compatible with the latest WordPress version (at the time of writing), with links for more information and downloading.

Ultimate Member – User Profile & Membership Plugin

Ultimate Member – User Profile & Membership Plugin
Ultimate Member – User Profile & Membership Plugin

Ultimate Member is a fairly comprehensive yet lightweight user profile & membership plugin for WordPress. The plugin is designed to help you create advanced online communities and membership sites with a focus on easy member signups, beautiful user profiles to your site and a number of customizable features allowing you to create almost any type of site where users can join with ease.

Ultimate Member is free to install, well documented and supported and offers a number of paid extensions that allow you to enhance your membership site, including a purpose-built theme for websites with logged in and logged out users.

Paid Memberships Pro

Paid Memberships Pro is a complete members management and membership subscriptions plugin for WordPress, designed for premium content sites, clubs/associations, subscription products, newsletters and more! If you are looking for a way to add a new revenue source to your site, then this plugin is flexible enough to fit the needs of almost all types of businesses.

This plugin can be used for membership sites that need unlimited levels with flexible membership pricing (including accepting recurring payments), a choice of payment gateways (PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.net, Braintree and 2Checkout are built-in) and the ability to offer product subscriptions or members-only product discounts. It also offers extensive options for content restriction, customizable reports and member dashboards, over a dozen Gutenberg blocks, and more!

The full version of Paid Memberships Pro is offered with no restrictions or additional licenses required and over 60 premium add-ons to extend and customize your membership site.

  • Active installations: 80,000+
  • Tested to latest version (at time of writing): Yes
  • Rating & Reviews: 4 stars (330 users)
  • More information: Paid Memberships Pro

Simple Membership

Simple Membership is a flexible, well-supported, and easy-to-use WordPress membership plugin that lets you easily protect your posts and pages so only your members can view the protected content, and can be used to offer free and premium content from your WordPress site.

This plugin lets you set up unlimited membership access levels, the ability to protect posts or pages while creating or editing these, one time and recurring/subscription payments, and more!

Additional features includes membership payments log, prompting non-members to login or register for accessing protected content, enabling email activation or email confirmation for free memberships, sidebar login widgets, language translations and a host of other features.

Setup documentation and plugin support is also provided.

  • Active installations: 40,000+
  • Tested to latest version (at time of writing): Yes
  • Rating & Reviews: 4.5 stars (215 users)
  • More information: Simple Membership

Membership & Content Restriction – Paid Member Subscriptions

Membership & Content Restriction – Paid Member Subscriptions WordPress Plugin
Membership & Content Restriction

Paid Member Subscriptions offers a complete membership solution, allowing you to accept member payments, manage members, create subscription plans and restrict access to premium content.

The plugin integrates with WooCommerce, allowing you to restrict product viewing and purchasing to members-only as well as offer special discounted product price based on subscription plans.

It also includes features like shortcodes for member registration, login, content restriction and managing membership plans, and various membership modules (content restriction, membership payments, subscription plans, members management, member emails and messaging, free trials and sign-up fees, reports and exports, WooCommerce integration, and many other powerful add-ons).

WP-Members Membership Plugin

WP-Members Membership Plugin
WP-Members Membership Plugin

The WP-Members membership plugin turns your WordPress site into a membership site by restricting selected WordPress content to registered site members only. You can restrict premium content, create custom registration fields, and more!

WP-Members puts the registration process on the site’s front end so it is part of your content instead of the native WP login page. The plugin requires no modifications to your theme, yet it’s also customizable and scalable so you can change the look and feel and restrict only some of your content.

The plugin includes a number of features, such as the ability to restrict or hide posts, pages, and custom post types, integrate user login, registration, and profile into your theme, login widget, custom registration and profile fields, admin notifications and manual approval, automatic post excerpt teaser content creation, and more.

A full Users Guide is available outlining the installation process, and how to use all the plugin settings. An upgrade paid option provides access to premium support and all of the plugin’s premium extensions.

  • Active installations: 80,000+
  • Tested to latest version (at time of writing): Yes
  • Rating & Reviews: 4.5 stars (197 users)
  • More information: WP-Members Membership Plugin

WP User Frontend – Membership, Profile, Registration & Post Submission Plugin for WordPress

WP User Frontend is one of the best frontend builder plugin for WordPress. It includes frontend dashboard, frontend editor & publishing, and frontend uploader for WordPress user profile, post submissions, and memberships.

s2Member Framework (Member Roles, Capabilities, Membership, PayPal Members)

The s2Member® Framework (free) integrates with PayPal Website Payments Standard (also free). Sell “Buy Now” or Membership access to your site. Restrict access to Roles, Capabilities, Posts, Pages, or anything else in WordPress.

Protect your WordPress Posts, Pages, Tags, Categories, URIs, BuddyPress/bbPress, and even portions of content within Posts, Pages, themes, plugins. Easily configurable & highly extensible. You can even protect downloadable files and streaming audio/video. Store files locally, or use s2Member’s integration with Amazon® S3/CloudFront.

s2Member is powered almost entirely by WordPress shortcodes, making complex integrations quick & easy. Sell recurring (or non-recurring) subscriptions with lots of flexibility. Or sell “Buy Now” access in various ways. You can also sell specific Posts/Pages, sell access to file downloads, or sell Custom Capabilities that provide highly configurable access to specific portions of your content.

WCFM Membership – WooCommerce Memberships for Multivendor Marketplace

WCFM Membership – WooCommerce Memberships for Multivendor Marketplace
WCFM Membership – WooCommerce Memberships for Multivendor Marketplace

A simple woocommerce memberships plugin for offering FREE AND PREMIUM SUBSCRIPTION for your multi-vendor marketplace (WC Marketplace, WC Vendors, WC Product Vendors & Dokan).

You may set up unlimited membership levels (example: free, silver, gold etc) with different pricing plan, capabilities and commission.

Restrict User Access – Membership Plugin with Force

Restrict User Access – Membership Plugin with Force
Restrict User Access – Membership Plugin with Force

Restrict content and contexts to control what your users get exclusive access to, or drip content over time. Create an unlimited number of Access Levels and override user and role capabilities.

Use this plugin to quickly set up a membership site where your users can get different levels such as Gold, Silver and Bronze. Then, restrict access to e.g. posts tagged “Premium”, articles written by specific authors, or all your free products.

No coding required.

WP User Manager – User Profile Builder & Membership

WP User Manager lets you create highly customizable user profiles together with custom user registration, login, password recovery and account customization forms to your WordPress website.

WP User Manager is the best solution to manage your community. Powerful and flexible, yet easy to setup and use. With WP User Manager you can create almost any type of website where your visitors can join and become members.

MembershipWorks – Membership, Events & Directory

MembershipWorks – Membership, Events & Directory
MembershipWorks – Membership, Events & Directory

MembershipWorks is an advanced all-in-one membership, directory, events, and donation platform for chambers, associations, professional, networking and other membership groups. This plugin integrates your MembershipWorks account to your WordPress site. MembershipWorks is free for small groups and also free to try with the 50 member/account plan.

Free Membership WordPress Plugin by Supsystic

Free Membership WordPress plugin by Supsystic
Free Membership by Supsystic

Create online communities with Free Membership WordPress plugin by Supsystic. Front-end registration & login, messages, custom roles and more options.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a flexible, open-source eCommerce solution built on WordPress. Whether you’re launching a business, taking an existing brick and mortar store online, or designing sites for clients you can get started quickly and build exactly the store you want.

  • Active installations: 5+ Million
  • Tested to latest version (at time of writing): Yes
  • Rating & Reviews: 4.5 stars (3,365 users)
  • More information: WooCommerce

WooCommerce

In addition to the free WordPress membership plugins described above, there are also free add-ons you can install for certain plugins that allow you to extend the features of your membership site.

For example, check out the add-ons below:

Simple Membership After Login Redirection

Simple Membership After Login Redirection
Simple Membership After Login Redirection

If you install the Simple Membership plugin, this add-on allows you to configure an after login page for each membership access level you create. It will automatically redirect members to the appropriate page after they log into your site.

After installing this add-on, edit your membership levels and specify the redirect pages and the add-on will take care of the rest.

GoUrl Bitcoin Payment Gateway & Paid Downloads & Membership

GoUrl Bitcoin Payment Gateway - WP Membership Plugin
GoUrl Bitcoin Payment Gateway

Do you want to set up a membership site and sell products on your website and get paid with cryptocurrency? This plugin allows you to do this. It integrates with a number of popular platforms and eCommerce and payment solutions, such as WooCommerce, WP e-Commerce, BBPress, PaidMemberships Pro, Give Donations, AppThemes, Jigoshop, and more!

  • Active installations: 6,000+
  • Tested to latest version (at time of writing): Yes
  • Rating & Reviews: 4.5 stars (52 users)
  • More information: GoUrl Bitcoin Payment Gateway

As you can see, there are plenty of free WordPress membership plugins to choose from. To view more free membership plugins, just log into your WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add New’, and type in ‘membership’ or ‘membership site’ into the Keyword search field.

Experiment with some of the membership plugins and add-ons described above and let us know how you go in the comments section below.

Good luck with your new membership site!

 

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