The Upside

You’ll Never Look At Paid Membership Communities The Same Way Again

Yesterday I was having a virtual coffee over Zoom with a fellow colleague and she was debating whether or not to continue her membership in a networking group that we’re both part of. 

Baffled, I asked, “What is there to debate?” 

Her reply, “I just don’t get that much value out of it.”


I’ve had this exact conversation dozens–if not hundreds–of times. 

The real problem is that members of paid communities, co-working spaces and networking groups often don’t know how to measure the ROI of their memberships. 

Sure, you may get referrals, press opportunities or quick answers out of your paid membership communities. And all of that is very high value. But the true ROI is in the connections.That’s because the value of one connection can be priceless.

Let me explain how:

I met Belma McCaffrey of Work Bigger through Dreamers & Doers. 

We set up a coffee, chatted about the future of work and became fast friends. She also became one of my closest advisors and confidants. 

Early in my business I became so frustrated that I called Belma in a panic and said I was ready to throw in the towel. 

Belma calmed me down and convinced me that my business was worth fighting for, and that I simply needed to take a couple of weeks off, regroup and change the business model. 

Three years later not only do I love my business, but it’s thriving and helping others in ways I used to only dream of. 

If it wasn’t for Belma, I may have given up on my business. If it wasn’t for Dreamers & Doers, I wouldn’t have known Belma. The ROI of that one connection? Priceless.

I met Sue Groner, aka The Parenting Mentor, through Heymama. 

Sue and I became fast friends and she was always good for golden nuggets of parenting advice, especially advice that helped me relax as a parent and focus on what mattered most. 

Then, Sue developed a corporate offering at which point she decided to join The Upside. Sue loved The Upside so much that she gave the company shout-outs all the time, leading to others joining as well.

During COVID, Sue invited me to her home for an outdoor lunch and break from the day-to-day. We went for a 2-hour hike, bonded over common stories and for one day, I felt like the world was normal again. 

Sue made me a better parent. Sue joined The Upside. Sue tells others about The Upside. Sue gave me an unforgettable day during a difficult time. If it wasn’t for Heymama, I wouldn’t know Sue. The ROI of that one connection? Priceless. 

I met Ezinne Okoro, DEI leader, through my membership with The Cru. 

At the time, Ezinne was Head of Diversity & Inclusion at H&M. 

Ezinne and I have had many fascinating conversations about women, diversity and careers. During one of our chats, I asked, “Ezinne, since you’re a decision-maker at a global company, can you tell me about speaking fees? How much do you pay for your speakers and workshop leaders?”

Ezinne shared invaluable insider information on speaking and workshop fees, which I then went on to share with Upside members. At least 3 of those Upside members doubled their speaking fees as a result. And one member tripled her workshop fee.

If it wasn’t for Ezinne’s insights, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver that value to our members. If it wasn’t for The Cru, I wouldn’t have met Ezinne. The ROI of that one connection? Priceless. 

I met Kara Richardson Whitely, author, influencer and speaker, through The Co-Co in Summit, NJ. 

After meeting Kara, I decided to read her book, Gorge

Gorge forever changed the way I look at diversity and gave me a much more empathetic lens from which I now view the world. Kara also decided to join The Upside. 

Gorge upleveled my perspective. Kara joined The Upside. I wouldn’t know Kara if it wasn’t for The Co-Co. The ROI of that one connection? Priceless. 

Are your paid memberships worth the cost and time invested?

What’s important when evaluating the ROI of a membership is not the value of the membership offerings and programming, but the value of the connections you have made through being a member.

So the next time you find yourself asking, “Am I getting value out of my membership?”, think about every person you’ve met through that organization and list the impact–both personal, professional and emotional–that has stemmed from each of those relationships. 

Did one of those members become a close advisor?

Did one member become a friend?

Did one member introduce you to a book that upleveled your views?

Did one member introduce you to someone who then became a client?

Did one member tell you about a TV series that you love and brings you joy?

Did one member give you quick and invaluable advice that led to making a great decision?

Did one member introduce you to a resource that has since made a big impact on your life?

Did one member invite you to an event where you ended up meeting someone important?

Then, decide if you’ve received value.

Want more resources to help your consultancy thrive?

There are two great ways we can work together: 

Are you a consultant looking to expand your network and advance your business? Then The Upside Membership is for you.

Are you an early-stage consultant (or on the fence about leaving your 9-5) and want a bootcamp-style program to build a thriving consultancy? Then The Upside Accelerator is for you.

Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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