By now you likely know that I answer a lot of questions about membership sites and the development of your online platform. Most of the time, I use a service called Clarity.fm – which is fantastic.
The other day I was on a call where we were talking about developing a person's site, and they were asking me which plugin to use that would do what they wanted.
Of course the answer is always, “it depends.” But you already knew that.
The point of Clarity calls, however, is that we can dig into people's specifics and get a good handle on what their needs are. And that's when I can make a clear recommendation for them – along with things to watch out for.
Well, we got towards the end of the call, and the person thru out one last question:
Should I use RainMaker or host my own Platform?
This whole time we'd been talking about hosting his own site on a WordPress host. We had talked about the plugins that would deliver the best features for what he wanted. We had talked about what to look out for.
But we hadn't talked about RainMaker – a platform that does pretty much everything for you (from hosting, to themes, to features, to eCommerce, to marketing and more).
So the question took me by surprise – but just for a second. And the question was a good one, because it's easy to get caught thinking all about the various plugins you're going to use, without stepping back and asking – “do I really want to connect all these dots, or do I want RainMaker to do it all for me?”
Of course the alternative is that you get them to do a lot of the work, but then you have to ask yourself, “Am I willing to live within the restraints and constraints that their platform comes with?”
These are the two questions that drive the challenge highlighted above (to use RainMaker, or to self-host).
Either way, You're building a Platform
The first thing to remember in all of this is that you're not just building a website. You're building a platform. Your site is the core of all the various things you'll be doing – and you'll likely need it to do tons of things – from your digital downloads, to potentially managing events or ticket sales, to online courses, to newsletter sign-ups, and more.
I wrote all about this already:
- Part One: You need more than just a website
- Part Two: You need to start with a plan
- Part Three: You need to pick the base of plugins you’ll use
- Part Four: Building an Author Site with iThemes Exchange
- Part Five: Building a Band or Musician’s Site with Easy Digital Downloads
And as you can see, I created a couple of samples to highlight what you could do if you went with the self-hosted model. But does that mean you should always default to total control and self-hosting?
Or is there a case to be made for going with an all-in-one solution like RainMaker?
How to Decide
Sometimes it's easier if you have a set of questions or a nice little chart, right? So here's an infographic I created to help make the decision easier.