One of the preferred goals of anyone who wants to make money on the Internet is to earn recurring income, and for that, there is nothing better than subscription products.
Unlike one-time products and services, the subscription product is the lifeline and growth table of the self-employed or SME, which guarantees recurring income from regular services.
This offers an economic stability that does not guarantee the provision or sale of one-time services or products.
In addition, all marketing actions are profitable beyond the first hiring, because it invests in long-term income, so that investment in advertising, SEO or promotional campaigns is much more profitable.
What is a subscription product
Unlike regular one-time payment products, a subscription product is a good or service for which you pay a periodic, recurring fee, whether it is daily, monthly or annual.
When contracting a subscription product, the client is automatically subscribed to periodic fees, which will be charged to his/her account as long as the subscription remains active.
When a product or service is contracted or acquired on a specific date, the relationship between the client and the vendor normally ends, beyond the guarantee. However, the subscription product commits the vendor to continue providing a service, offering updates, support, etc.
Examples of subscription products
Some of the most typical examples of subscription are, for example…
- Web hosting.
- Web maintenance.
- Updates and support of plugins and themes.
- Club subscription.
- Netflix, HBO, etc.
As you can see, there are many types of products and services that can accept recurring payments through subscription products.
What do I need to sell subscription products?
Fortunately, since the existence of WordPress, to create an online store you don’t need to ask for credit or wait months for a programmer to develop an Ecommerce.
In order to start earning recurring income with subscription products you need very little, mostly free or very cheap.
Ecommerce Ready Hosting
There is no need for high performance initially, but it is better if you at least comply with the following
- One-click installation of WordPress and WooCommerce
- Active security.
- RGPD compliant.
- PCI compliant.
- 24/7 support, because your Ecommerce never closes.
If you want a recommendation, you should know that SiteGround has a hosting plan specialized in WooCommerce, and in any case all their plans meet the basics, at really low prices, affordable for any freelancer or SME.
The basis of your website should be WordPress, because this way you will have access to thousands of free plugins and themes, together with the most user-friendly interface for creating and managing all the web creation software available today.
Furthermore, WordPress is totally free, with the GPL license, which guarantees the future and scalability of your Ecommerce.
Installing WordPress is very easy, as well as installing plugins or installing themes to change its look, so there is no doubt.
Once you have installed WordPress, you only have to go to your website’s administration and install WooCommerce, a free and open source plugin that installs everything you need to manage your online store.
WooCommerce incorporates all the basic needs of any online store:
- Store pages, shopping cart, checkout and customer account.
- Creation of simple, variable, downloadable, external and grouped products.
- Payment management with the main gateways, including PayPal, cash on delivery and bank transfer.
- Order management (refunds, returns, modification, automatic or manual creation)
- Creation and management of discount coupons.
- Customer management.
- Statistics and reports on sales, taxes, customers, products, etc.
In addition, you have thousands of additional plugins, the vast majority of which are free, to complement WooCommerce with additional tools that, depending on the type of online store, you may need, such as
- Invoices and delivery notes in PDF.
- Additional payment gateways, such as Stripe or RedSys
- Wish lists.
- Customization of the sales process.
- A very long etcetera.
One of the features that WooCommerce does not incorporate as standard is the subscription product type, as it is a specialized product type that not all online stores need, so the last thing that is missing is to install a plugin that adds this type of product.
There are many available, but if you want to start earning recurring income with the right foot, and not have to change within a few months for having fallen short, the best thing is to decide well what plugin to use.
Keep in mind that choosing a plugin for this type of functionality is not like choosing a social icon plugin, which you can change at any time, but rather that the usual thing is that in a way you marry the first choice, because once the subscriptions are up and running it would be a huge problem to change applications to manage them, as each one uses different data.
So deciding well on which subscription plugin to use is vital.
I myself have tried practically all of them, based on some selection criteria that, in my opinion, are fundamental:
- Support, for whatever you may need.
- Developed by a company, not an independent programmer, to guarantee the future of the plugin.
- Easy to configure interface, fully integrated into WooCommerce.
- Frequent updates.
- RGPD compliance.
- That allows the possibility of registration fees and trial periods in the subscriptions.
- Compatible with all major gateways that support recurring payments.
- That it works without failures!
And after a lot of testing, I decided on WooCommerce Subscriptions by Yith.
They also have a free version, which is only for simple products, and without many of the basics that I consider essential for a professional Ecommerce, but at least you can take a look at it to see that it complies with something as fundamental as a simple interface and full integration with WooCommerce.
How do I create a subscription product?
Once you install and activate the subscription plugin it is created like any other simple and variable product.
The only thing that changes is that you must activate the checkmark, called “Subscription”, if it is simple next to the product type, and if it is variable for each variation that is by subscription.
As always, as with any product, you will have to put the price, describe the product or service, add images, as with any other simple or variable product.
What changes are the subscription settings, and I will focus on those of a variable product as they are the most extensive, namely:
- The price is per: Duration of the subscription in days, weeks, months or years.
- Maximum length: If you want to put a cap on the subscription. Empty for unlimited, the usual.
- Trial period: If you offer a free trial period (days, weeks, months or years), after which the fee established in the subscription will be charged.
- Registration fee: It is very common for courses and services such as gyms, memberships and club subscriptions to pay an additional initial fee. If this is your case, please indicate here the (additional) price of this initial registration fee. Leave it empty if you do not use it.
- A maximum number of breaks: You can allow the customer to pause the subscription from his account, after which the subscription will be reactivated. Leave it empty if you do not support this feature.
- The maximum duration of pauses: Indicates in days how many days the client can pause a subscription. Blank if you are not going to use it or if they can be unlimited.
- Allow change for this variation: You can allow change from one variation to another, usually from a lower plan to a higher one, but also the opposite.
- Priority: In this field, you must enter a number to indicate which variation is the upper or lower, if you allow changes in the previous field.
- Change duration: If you want to change the duration of this subscription you must check this box.
- Allow Update Payments on Upgrade: If you have activated allow change of subscription variation you can activate this box so that the client can take advantage of previous payments (recommended if you allow changes). The higher the number, the higher the priority and it is considered an upgrade/improvement, e.g. to change from monthly to annual payment the monthly would be priority 1 and the annual priority 2.
It may seem like a lot of possible configurations but in reality they are very few, more taking into account that most of the time you will not need all of them, but only a few, or even only one (“The price is for”).
Actually you don’t need to configure anything after installing the plugin, because everything important is done in the product, but it never hurts to go through the settings of the plugin, where you will find some configurations that you can consider changing.
In the general settings, you can change how many subscription products can they “add to cart” and if you’re going to have a stock that can be emptied, for example, if you want to put a cap to how many people you want or can serve a subscription service. This will depend on the kind of service that you provide.
You can also activate some delay settings, to allow delays in payments, something I do not recommend, unless by commercial policy you decide so.
It is more interesting to activate the interruption in case of failure of periodic payments, which sometimes happens in some payment gateways, thus allowing easy recovery of the subscription when it is solved.
Depending on the loyalty of your customers you can allow an interruption of more or less days.
If you want, you can allow customers to unsubscribe themselves from their account page. Otherwise they must request it from the administrator.
Then you have the customization settings.
- Where you can change the “Add to Cart” text to whatever you prefer.
- Allow free trials and fee info.
- Show the next billing date and different types of buttons for canceling or renewing subscriptions.
And for all of the above and a little more you can change most labels, texts and colors for the messages or buttons that will display of the options you set above, which is an insane amount of customization available.
Does it work?
Of course it works. If your online store is well configured and the subscription-compatible payment gateways are active, your customers will be able to purchase your subscription products and services just like any other product.
Once the payment is made you receive the first deposit and the collection of the following periodic payment periods is automated.
In the WooCommerce settings you will find new email alerts that will inform you and your customers of payments and subscriptions made.
And, as with any WooCommerce email, you can customize them to your liking.
List of subscriptions
In addition to the list of WooCommerce orders, you have a specific list of subscriptions in the menu Yith > Subscription, where you will see the status of each one, when they started, if it expires and when, the renewals it has, the payment method, if there were failed attempts, and of course the customer and even the order number, with a direct link in case you need to edit the order or any of its data.
Of course, you can also edit the subscriptions, in case you need to review or modify something.
As you may have seen, creating a subscription product to get recurring income from periodical products or services is very easy, the investment is minimal, almost ridiculous, and setting up everything from nothing.
Now all that is missing is the one thing I can’t offer you: Your product or service.
If you offer a product or service that is susceptible to recurring payments, you already know how to sell it online easily. I hope to see your success soon.
Read this post in Spanish: Consigue ingresos recurrentes con productos de suscripción de WooCommerce