Launching a membership program is an excellent way for writers to get paid. The benefits of a membership program go beyond revenue, though. A strong membership platform gives you a direct relationship with your readers.

Choosing the right platform for a new membership program is a huge step and an extremely important one. With so many options available, it can feel overwhelming to determine what’s best for your needs.

Paid Memberships Pro is an easy-to-use WordPress plugin that has everything you’ll need to launch a membership program, manage your community, and scale with growth. Another option people use to monetize a membership community is Substack, an email newsletter platform that lets users restrict some content behind subscriptions.

This post compares Paid Memberships Pro and Substack to help you decide between the two options.

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Paid Memberships Pro

One of the biggest draws to Paid Memberships Pro is that it integrates directly into WordPress. Services to manage memberships are supposed to make things easier, and that’s where Paid Memberships Pro excels.

Because it functions seamlessly with your existing WordPress website and offers tiered levels of customization, it’s a perfect choice for tech-savvy veterans and newcomers alike.

  • Paid Memberships Pro is free with 34 membership-boosting Add Ons included, allowing anyone to build out their offerings.
  • There are also paid plans with advanced tools to take your site to the next level, including more than 50 additional Premium Add Ons designed to deliver deeper audience insights and help kickstart community growth.

Paid Memberships Pro scales to what you need. It will handle your membership bookkeeping needs, saving you valuable time. And, as your community grows and you’re looking for ways to level up your offerings, Paid Memberships Pro has you covered. The high level of customization is why it’s a popular choice for managing premium content, members-only podcasts or discussions, online courses, paid newsletters, and more.

Features of Paid Memberships Pro

Paid Memberships Pro is free, flexible, and easy to use, allowing you to offer a custom membership experience quickly.

Other key PMPro features include:

  • Member Management Tools. Your membership list is everything, and Paid Memberships Pro gives you the tools to control the data. It’s easy to import or export member lists, customize roles among members, and create unlimited membership levels. Managing all of this with one plugin is a big time saver.
  • Full and Detailed Reports. Anything you could want to know about users and their experience with your membership can be generated with Paid Memberships Pro. The detailed reports come from one easy-to-navigate dashboard and provide information about membership behavior, including sales-tracking data, membership growth and trajectory, and insights into what content resonates with your audience.
  • Content Restrictions. Paid Memberships Pro offers all the traditional features of restricting content to members-only spaces. It also allows you to customize how and when you want your content delivered across membership levels. You can restrict content to membership levels, sell one-time access, or create personalized content for individual subscribers.
  • Easy Payment Options. Paid Memberships Pro works with most major payment options, giving members an easy way to pay no matter their circumstances. Paid Memberships Pro integrates with popular services, including Paypal, Stripe, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet. You can also customize payment options, including setting up one-time purchases or flexible pricing.
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The User Experience

One of the major draws of a membership management platform is that you don’t have to worry about correcting small or technical issues for customers. Paid Memberships Pro does that by giving users control of their own experience.

Users only have to create one profile, and they can manage all aspects of their memberships. They can reset their password and log in on their own, view their current membership status, update payment information, and view past invoices. 

Members can set their own name and what information they display, and they can upgrade or even cancel their membership all from a user-friendly dashboard. This information is also included in reports, giving you valuable insight into what content and practices work best for your community.

These features make for a smooth user experience and, most importantly, give you back a lot of time.

Pricing Plans for Paid Memberships Pro

The best membership plugin for WordPress is free. Paid Membership Pro has the major features you need to get started:

  • unlimited restricted content
  • unlimited levels of memberships
  • no cap on subscribers
  • easy member lookup and account management, and more.

There are almost three dozen free Add Ons designed to help you launch a membership community from the ground up. When you’re ready to take the next step, many companies and creators opt for paid tiers, which come with the additional Add Ons and plugin licenses for more than one site.


Substack is a platform for email newsletters and publishing, with an option to restrict content behind a paywall. It aims to make it simple to quickly publish content directly to thousands of people who sign up, with the option to place some of that content into a membership program.

One of the biggest draws to Substack is how easy it is to get started.

  • There’s no cost associated with creating an account on the platform, and its straightforward execution lowers the barrier of entry for anyone interested in building a newsletter subscriber list.
  • In addition to publishing, it offers tools for designing newsletters and handling payments.

Features of Substack

While signing up as a creator on Substack is free, Substack charges 10% of the regular income users earn on top of the percentage taken by their payment gateway Stripe.

Substack’s best features lie in its ability to quickly and easily publish content and deliver it to a list of subscribers. This ability has made it a good fit for many types of companies and creators who prioritize getting in front of their audiences as quickly as possible and who don’t already have an existing WordPress site.

While it doesn’t offer a fully robust set of marketing or advertising tools, Substack excels as a subscription-based content platform. It allows users to set up a custom domain for their blog and has begun to expand its featured offerings to non-written content, including podcasts as well.

  • Substack allows for content restrictions, including selling one-time access to a newsletter audience.
  • Users can set their one-time or subscription prices where they want and collect payments through Stripe.
  • Also included are detailed reports, including hit rates on newsletters and subscriber feedback.
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The User Experience

Whether that’s through a newsletter or another way, However readers end up on Substack—whether that’s through a newsletter or another way—they’re encouraged to sign up for an account and begin to subscribe to newsletters. Many Substack articles are free to read, and users can choose when to subscribe to individual Substack authors.

The biggest benefit to end users on Substack is the ability to sign up for multiple subscriptions. Subscribers can also purchase access from many different authors through a single account.

  • Users view their profile and payment history across all subscriptions.
  • Users can update account information, including payment method, username, and password, for all subscriptions at once.

Pricing for Substack

There is no set price for using Substack to manage memberships. However, the company will take 10% of any revenue earned. This model makes it easy to start, but there is no cap to how much you might pay for the platform as you grow.

What other costs are there to using Substack? You’ll pay credit processing fees of about 3% per transaction and a .5% billing fee for recurring payments.

Paid Memberships Pro vs. Substack

Paid Memberships Pro and Substack are both services to manage a membership program. How do they stack up?

FeaturePaid Memberships ProSubstack
Cost$0 – $397/year
2.9-4.9% gateway fees
13-15% of all revenue after fees
Content RestrictionAble to restrict content to any level of membership tiers. One-time purchases possible.Able to restrict content to free, paywalled, or available only to recurring subscribers. One-time purchases possible.
CustomizationAbility to modify membership tiers, customize membership trial periods and renewal dates, and create content tailored toward individual membersContent restriction enabled, ability to tailor newsletter content to membership tier
Data and ReportingSales and revenue trends, user feedback, member behavior and engagement reports, and easy access to all account and payment informationNewsletter reports, detailed behavioral data, and engagement rates. Straightforward access to all account and payment information.
IntegrationsWooCommerce, Mailchimp, Zapier, Social Login, BuddyBoss, bbPress, and LifterLMS. View all 50+ integrations.Easy to share and embed Substack links. No advanced integrations.
Administrative ToolsManually add or remove members, import and export member lists, and generate user behavior reports and accounting receipts.Manage subscriber lists and access, and import and export subscriber lists, reports on reader behavior, and newsletter stats

Why Choose Paid Memberships Pro?

Paid Memberships Pro offers full member management services that integrate directly into an existing WordPress site. At the same time, Substack is a strong tool for building a newsletter subscriber base with regular and engaging content. Different users will find various uses for each. Substack is established in its space but can be harder to integrate into existing websites.

The choice between PMPro and Substack comes down to how much control you want of your platform. If you already have a WordPress website, setting up PMPro to charge for access to your content is straightforward and worthwhile and lets you customize the experience from your existing site.

If you’re just starting out and looking for one platform to manage your content, subscriptions, and newsletter, Substack may be a better option. You won’t need to set up a website of your own. 

Ready to find out more? You can read case studies from some of our partners and then choose the right plan for you.

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