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s2member-proWordPress is great for multi-users and for creating blog sites. But what if you want to monetize it so you can charge for subscriptions? There are some plugins available, this one we found to be not only free, but fully featured.

Of all the ones tested, this was the most complete out-of-the-box, and had the most documentation, with over 50 help videos. The documentation is excellent, but I found the first few steps to be time consuming with trial and error. Here is a quick-start guide to s2Member:

Step 1: Installation

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Installation is the same simple installation that all the WordPress plugins use. Go to "Add New" under the Plugin section of the administrator dashboard. Search for s2Member®. Choose to install it and it's done.

Or you can download it from this link and install it manually.

The s2Member menu will be added to the dashboard:
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Step 2: Become comfortable with S2Member configuration

Configuration is a complicated process with a plugin like this with so many features and levels. There are a lot of decisions to make. Start with the QuickStart Guide at the top of the page.

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There are 55 tutorial videos, and you can watch them all before you start, or view them as you need them. To get the basic setup fully configured, though, just go down through the following sections and make choices.

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Each section opens an explanation of what happens, with instructions on the choices you need to make and guides on how to implement them.

Step 3: Start with General Options and continue down the list

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Each time you click on an item in the menu, you will see another list of configurations options to work with for that section. Just like the Quick Start Guide, each section expands to give you details about each step.

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There will be an explanation of the option, a field for making the choice, the recommended setting, and a link to more information if you need more explanation.

Step 4: Create two pages for registration

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Go to Pages > Add New in the dashboard and create two pages that you will need to refer to later during configuration.

1. Welcome Members Page - create and/or choose an existing Page to use as the first page Members will see after logging in. This special Page will be protected from public access ( automatically ) by s2Member. You don't need to put much on the page yet. "Welcome New Member" would work for now.

2. Members Options Page - create and/or choose an existing Page that showcases your Membership subscription options. This special Page is where you will insert the PayPal® Subscription Buttons generated for you by s2Member. This Page serves as your signup page. It should detail all of the features that come with Membership to your site, and provide a PayPal® Subscription Button for each Level of access you plan to offer. This is also the page that Users will be redirected to, should they attempt to access an area of your site that requires Membership.

Step 5: Set up a PayPal sandbox

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Before you can fully test the site you need a way to create the pay buttons. In the Pro version of this software, you can use other payment gateways, but the free version is restricted to PayPal.

You don't need an actual PayPal account to setup a sandbox (which is strictly a test environment so you can see if everything is working.)

Go to https://developer.paypal.com and set up an account and create two test accounts.

  1. Merchant Test Account
  2. Customer Test Account

After you have those, go to the API Section and write down the API Information so you can enter it later.

Step 6: Set your membership labels

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Go to General Configuration > Membership Levels/Labels and add your levels. The free version comes with 5 levels, the pro version allows unlimited levels.

You should decide what you are going to name them and figure out the pricing and features of each so you will have the information handy when you go to create the PayPal buttons.

Step 7: Add your PayPal account details and set other paypal options

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From s2Member®>PayPal® Options go to the top of the page and expand the PayPal® Account Details section.

Enter the PayPal information you wrote down in step 2. Or if you're ready to go live, enter your actual PayPal® API information in this section.

Step 8: Create Your PayPal buttons

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From s2Member>PayPal® Buttons, expand the sections button levels and create buttons for the levels you want.

IMPORTANT: * Buttons are NOT saved here. This is only a Button Generator. Once you've generated your Button, copy/paste it into your Membership Options Page. If you lose your Button Code, you'll need to come back & re-generate a new one. If you're in Sandbox Test-Mode, and you're NOT using the Shortcode Format, please remember to come back and re-generate your Buttons before you go live.

Step 9: Fill out the PayPal options and generate the code

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Paste the Shortcode in the Members Options page you created.

Step 10: Place the button code in the membership page

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Put any html, pictures or text you want to describe your offer on this page, and then publish it.

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When you view the page you will see your description plus the PayPal buttons. You are now ready to test or take subscriptions. If you're in sandbox mode, you can try it out and judge your user experience before going live. Just be sure to regenerate all your buttons and copy the new codes into this page.

Step 11: Fix the design and content of the membership page

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Once you have your s2Member® -> General Options configured, and you've got a good understanding for how things work, go back and customize the title and content for this Page. You'll want to be creative with your Login Welcome Page. However, you should configure your General Options first, and test things out. That way you'll understand why this page is important.