Thrive Apprentice has been a course platform for building, organizing, and connecting with third party tools to sell access to courses for several years. Over time its features have evolved to make it one of the best course platforms for WordPress, but it was always missing one key element that made it reliant on other tools: The ability to protect more than just courses.
That has all changed with the 4.0 update.
Thrive Apprentice is now a fully-functional membership plugin for WordPress with the ability to organize, protect, and sell any content on your site.
I want to go through each of these main points and showcase how Thrive Apprentice is now my favorite and perhaps even the best membership plugin for WordPress.
Create Membership Content in Thrive Apprentice
When you think about "memberships" in the sense of content in a WordPress site, you typically think about content that gets associated with a membership level. Content gets locked behind it so that only users with accounts granted access to that level (through a purchase or other means) get access.
Thrive Apprentice's version of membership levels are products. Think of products figuratively like a box or container. It helps that their imagery illustrates this. You put the content inside the protect and only people who get access to the product can get at what's inside.
Products can contain courses and "other content" which is basically any other content on your site. If you have an all-access membership like I do with Convology Pro, you would put everything you sell access to into a product and call name it as you wish.
If you have a membership level that gets access to one course then you would name that membership level whatever you want and add the one course.
See what I'm getting at here?
Thrive Apprentice products are ridiculously convenient compared to other membership plugins because you can do it all within the one single product interface.
You just click the type of content you want to add (course and something else) then you check the boxes next to that content or do a search for it if your site is large. Check the boxes, click add to product, and you're done!
Protect Membership Content in Thrive Apprentice
The protection side of Thrive Apprentice is mechanically very simple. You've already made the products, and products are by nature going to restrict access.
Once content is in a product, you just need to determine what mechanisms give someone access. Is it a WP user role, a purchase from ThriveCart, or something else?
Access restriction rules allow you to decide what happens when someone tries to access to your content. Again, this is very simple in Thrive Apprentice. You can set these are the default level, or based on the product. For memberships, this means you can give different messages to different membership levels.
In my earlier example I mentioned the all-access membership. If you have a less-access membership you may wish to use language that encourages them to upgrade or get access to more by leveling up their membership.
None of the Annoying and Clunky Settings/options
One of my personal frustrations with every other membership plugin for WordPress is the unfriendly nature of the interface and the workflow for protecting content.
Other plugins make you go into each page and configure protection settings, and/or they have a very dated "in WordPress" feel to the management side of content on a hard-to-navigate list that resembles the WordPress page list interface. If you've ever used one of these plugins you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Thrive Apprentice has streamlined the options interface.
Sell Memberships with Thrive Apprentice
Thrive Apprentice directly integrates with ThriveCart, WooCommerce, and SendOwl. You can technically integrate with other tools and membership plugins.
Selling a membership allows the a payment gateway like ThriveCart to handle all of the billing and subscription side, and simply tell Thrive Apprentice whether someone has purchased, refunded, etc.
I personally prefer ThriveCart's integration, and find it handles the integration with autoresponders/email marketing systems, payment providers like Stripe or Paypal, and more complex systems via Zapier extremely well.
🎁 BONUS: Get access to my complete Thrive Apprentice to Master course if you pick up ThriveCart through my link.
Display Content Only to Members Even on Public Pages
A new feature added to Thrive Apprentice is the ability to link a membership level to what the user can see on a page. Thrive call's this "Conditional Display".
Imagine having content on a page and choosing who can see it.
You can have three different calls-to-action on the same page based on what the user has access to. If they're not a member they see one CTA. If they only own a course they see another CTA. If they're in your all-access maybe they see no CTA at all or see a note about your 1-on-1 coaching program.
You can sell access to a particular part of your content, too, by having content show only to members who buy access.
Conditional Display can be used to create entire areas of your site restricted just to members, including unique headers, member dashboards, etc.
Technically, you can completely design your entire site around the access someone has to your membership.
This is a feature you can't find in any other membership plugin.
Thrive Suite Enhances Thrive Apprentice's Membership Features
Thrive Apprentice has the advantage of being part of the broader Thrive Suite.
- Thrive Theme Builder - Craft your entire site exactly how you want it
- Thrive Architect - Design pages, landing pages, and membership experiences with no coding & no hassle
- Thrive Automator - Connect and integrate with almost any external tools
This synergy within the Thrive Suite takes an already awesome Membership Plugin like Apprentice and elevates it to an entire ecosystem.
Yes, this does mean you rely more on one company's tools. But they're still tools on your WordPress website vs. an all-in-one SaaS tool. You can still use or not use any of these features.
If you're looking to streamline your tech stack, remove the frankenstein monster you had to duct tape together, and avoid the non-stop frustration, I highly recommend the Thrive Suite ecosystem for your membership site.
Thanks for this guide Doug. Now that Thrive Apprentice can be used as a membership plugin, I can simplify my tech stack and ditch the dedicated plugin I bought but never used!
Doug, thank you for the breakdown of the updated features. It sounds great. One question though. Previously you mention setting up Apprentice on a subdomain instead of the primary site for speed, etc.. But, will we be missing out on any of the update features having the course site separated? Thanks.
I will still be using a subdomain and find that in my use case there will be only one feature I’ll miss out on *slightly*, which is conditional display. While I’ll still get a lot of use out of conditional display, I won’t be using it to its absolute fullest potential.
I’ll be releasing a video on this shortly.
What do you think if we use WP Remote Users Sync to sync User for subdomain instead of the primary site, It would be great to combine this for Primary Domain vs. Subdomain: Pros and Cons coming soon
That can work, yes. You can also use single sign-on to sync users. Either way would work to combine primary site with a subdomain site. I still believe that the best route is to have one place where users log in. If you have two, consider why and perhaps adjust it to just one. Reducing the complexity of your tech stack connections is better for the future.
Good, Thanks you
Doug, I’m weighing up the pros and cons of going with a subdomain for my membership and will want to make potentially substantial use of conditional display for content in posts on the main site. Did you make the video about conditional display and subdomain considerations?
Conditional display that references user data needs to happen on the site site as that user data. If you have a main site with blog posts and a subdomain with user data, then you won’t be able to take advantage of conditional display on the primary site.
Since that’s how I set things up myself, I can tell you there are a couple of times that I wish I could do conditional display on my main site. But those couple of times really don’t outweigh the positives for me. And I use extensive conditional display on my membership site for all sorts of things. It’s still very doable there.
There are no workarounds there that I can come up with to get around it.
What do you use for your community inside of the dashboard?
I use Circle for the Convology Pro community. My dashboard is built with Thrive Suite.
Hi Doug, thanks for your video’s, very helpful. Why don’t you use Thrive Comments for your community? Can you do a video on combining Apprentice and Comments to build a community?
Thrive Comments are simply an interface that replaces the existing comments feature in WordPress. They are a single comment section for a single piece of content like a post or a lesson. My community is built on a platform that looks and behaves more like a Facebook group. There are numerous conversations happening, discussion areas, chats, etc.
I do use Thrive Comments for all of my courses (these posts like the one you’re commenting on) so that people with specific questions about specific posts or lessons can ask a direct question and I can respond. It’s then present for everyone in the future to see as well and preserved in context.
I’ve moving to a membership system from a production system. I already use thrivecart and I’ve currently setting up Thrive Apprentice. The part I can’t figure out is when a customer is logged in, along with their profile, I want them to see a billing section that shows subscription status and gives them ability to cancel subscription. How do I set that up? Everything I ready about Apprentice 4.0 seems to indicate that Apprentice is now a full-functioning membership plug-in but yet I can’t figure out how to show that to members. Any direction is helpful. I’ve googled for the evening and come up empty.
Using ThriveCart, purchase data isn’t passed anywhere. You’ll need to use the customer hub inside of ThriveCart and link to it from a user profile page.
Thanks! For as long as I’ve used Thrivecart, I had no idea they had a customer hub….but then I’ve always used TC for single purchase products. Thanks a ton!