Need free membership plugins for WordPress? Look no further than these 3.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through one of these links I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I use or want to use in future.
Creating Paid for Content
Before we get stuck into the ins and outs of WordPress membership plugins I think it’s worth talking about whether it’s the right option for you.
Membership plugins are resource intensive so before you even think about adding one to your site, you need to make sure you have a good hosting plan in place.
If you’re low on space on your current plan you’ll need to think about upgrading and if your site runs slowly (loading speeds in excess of 4 seconds) you should consider switching to a better host.
If you’re new to WordPress or not 100% confident with tech then Lyrical Host get my vote purely because their emails and messages are a bit easier to understand for newer users. If you’re happier with the tech side of things then I recommend you have a look at Siteground.
Both hosts have great loading speeds and plenty of space for your content so you’ll be in safe hands with either.
If you decide to go with Lyrical Host, don’t forget to use the code TBG10 to get 10% off your first month’s payment.
WordPress membership plugins aren’t the only option for creating a membership site. There are online course platforms that will do the job just as well.
My own paid-for content is hosted using MemberVault which is an online course platform that integrates with most email service providers.
Different platforms have different features but most of them will come with the ability to set up affiliate programs, different options for payments e.g. one-off or monthly fees, coupons and more.
No extra maintenance – your course content is all managed on the course platform’s equipment. So you don’t need to worry about how much storage space you have (unless your provider has a limit on your account) and number of visitors.
No need to change hosting provider – you won’t need to change your hosting provider if you’re short of space or loading speeds are a problem. But if loading speeds are an issue you should definitely consider switching to help your bounce rate and search engine optimisation.
Sites set up specifically to host courses – it’s in the interests of course hosting platforms for their users’ courses to sell well so they’ll optimise the layouts of course content and sales pages too.
Obviously you’ll still need to produce quality content and write good sales copy to convert visitors into customers.
So always make sure you check the terms and conditions before using a course platform not on your own site.
Ongoing fees – online course platforms charge a monthly fee, often increasing with the number of people who’ve bought your course. So you’ll need to factor that into your fees.
Ultimate Member – User Profile & Membership Plugin
This is one of the most widely used free membership plugins for WordPress. At the time of writing there are 100k active users and 4.5*.
- Registration status – allow new users to be automatically or manually approved
- Registration action – choose what happens once a user has registered
- Role assignment
- Multiple registration forms
- Optional role selection field on the registration form
- Default user roles
- Password reset link
- Customisable form
- Anti-spam features on the form
- User profiles
- Customisable apperance
- Highlight important user info
- User bios
- Customisable display name
- Profile permalinks
- User Roles
- Admin permissions
- Permissions for whether or not users should edit/delete their own profiles
- Registration/login/logout/profile deletion actions
- Member directories
- Profile photos
- Social icons
- Search filters
- Profile cards
- Display user info
- User accounts
- Account tab
- Change password tab
- Privacy tab
- Access Controls
- Global site access
- Per page/post
- Logged in users
- Logged out users
- Lock homepage
- Custom Fields
- Add tooltips to fields
- Privacy levels for field types
- Enable/disable fields to be edited by users
- Required fields
- Conditional logic
- Error messages for problems when the form is submitted
- Enforce strong passwords
- Date and time pickers
- Star ratings
- Create custom fields to be used on other forms
- Form Builder – multi column layouts, rows and re-order form elements.
- Email – send personalised emails after certain events including
- Account welcome
- Account activation
- Account pending review
- Account approved
- Account rejected
- Account deactivated
- Account deleted
- Password reset
I was pleasantly surprised at the features that come with this neat little plugin. As far as I can see the basics of a decent membership site are all covered.
It comes with 19 free and premium add-ons, including ones to hook up to WooCommerce and MailChimp. But I will warn you that some will cost you a pretty penny.
I like that you can personalise the email templates triggered by certain actions and you can also switch off sending emails for different actions too.
The member directory functionality is fab too, especially if you want to foster a community spirit within your membership.
So all in all, a great little plugin – you could do much worse for a freebie.
Paid Memberships Pro
This is another popular WordPress membership plugin with 80k active users and a 4* rating at the time of writing.
- 6 payment gateways – Paid Memeberships Pro integrates with Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, Braintree, CyberSource and 2Checkout for you to take payment on your site.
- Free Memberlite theme – designed specifically to be used on a membership website.
- 14 free add-ons – including email service provider plugins like MailChimp and ConvertKit, along with WooCommerce and members-only events plugins too.
What I really like about this plugin is that it allows you to take payments through it, meaning you don’t have to hook it up to online payment services manually.
It also tells you that you need pages set up on your site for the plugin to work, like billing information and checkout pages. What’s really neat is that it gives you the option to create them yourself or there’s a button for you to generate them automatically.
If you want to use it Paid Memberships Pro comes with the Memberlite theme. Although you don’t get access to the demo content unless you buy the theme, it’s still a theme designed with membership sites in mind.
Choosing a new theme isn’t something I enjoy doing so when I’m given a recommendation by a plugin I’m using it makes it easier.
You can customise the emails sent to members, but you will need to install the email templates add-on, which is one of the free templates. Although I couldn’t tell how much control you have over what events trigger emails.
This is another decent free membership plugin for WordPress and the ability to take payments through it is a big plus, in my view.
WP-Members Membership Plugin
This is another popular choice when it comes to free membership plugins for WordPress. At the time of writing it has 80k active installs and 4.5*.
- Restrict or hide posts, pages, and custom post types
- User login, registration, and profile integrated into your theme
- Login widget
- Create custom registration and profile fields
- Notify admin of new user registrations
- Hold new registrations for admin approval
- Create post excerpt teaser content automatically
- Shortcodes for login, registration, content restriction, and more
This is a ‘does as it says on the tin’ kind of WordPress membership plugin. No members directories or any other fluff involved here, it just quietly goes about it’s job of restricting your content to unauthorised users.
You can choose whether you want to block unauthorised access to posts, pages or both. And you can also decide whether or not you want to display excerpts of the content you’re blocking too.
There’s the option to specify your login, registration and user profile pages too, otherwise I think it creates some default ones for you.
When it comes to your forms you get some choice in the fields that re displayed and in what order, but there are some that it insists on like usernames and email addresses.
You also get the option to customise a handful of emails and to set an email signature.
If you’re looking for a no-frills plugin to restrict your content to registered users only then this is the plugin for you. It doesn’t do the singing and dancing that the other plugins do, but it’ll get the job done.
3 remarkable free membership plugins for WordPress – verdict
I think all 3 WordPress membership plugins listed in this post have their merits.
If you want all singing, all dancing then Ultimate Member is for you, if you’re looking for something straightforward that will just get on with it then WP-Members is likely to be the way to go. If you desperately need a plugin that can take payments too then Paid Memberships Pro is the obvious choice.
When you’re looking into creating online courses or membership programs make sure you look at all your options.
As I mentioned earlier, a membership plugin on your WordPress site isn’t the only choice you have when it comes to restricting your premium content. Online course platforms are a great alternative that takes the tech load off your shoulders, but you need to be sure you’re happy with their terms of service.
My own preference from this list would be Ultimate Member. The number of features that you get for free is great, and even though it doesn’t include payment options I’d rather use something external that is built with that purpose in mind.
Whatever you’re looking for when it comes to free membership plugins or WordPress you’ll find something in this list.