It’s taken me 1286 hrs to write this Online Trainer Academy review (you'll see why later). Other trainers and industry thought leaders have compared the course to university and college courses.
That's quite a claim so to write the best possible review, Jon Goodman sent the course books and a free flask (yay) all the way to my house in Thailand! Here's how it went.
What is the Online Trainer Academy?
The Online Trainer Academy is the world's first and only online personal training course and certification created specifically to teach personal trainers how to take their fitness business online.
The course is taught via text book delivered to your door and an online portal which you’ll get access to straight away.
The Online Trainer Academy course is made up of 5 modules, each of which dives into a specific topic you’ll be expected to learn and pass a test on to become a Certified Online Trainer. Here’s a quick breakdown of the modules:
Module 1: Getting Started
The first module lays down the foundation for the lessons to come. In it, Jon Goodman, the course creator and presenter, talks about how to use the textbook and digital portal together to maximise how you learn.
Straight away, Jon addresses some fundamental business principles you’ll need to create not only a profitable online business but an offline business that makes money too.
In module 1 you’ll address some of the most common questions personal trainers have when starting out, inducing how to define a niche, choosing a business name, creating a USP and how to get a couple of clients straight away so that you can hit the ground running.
Module 2: Structuring Your Business
The purpose of module 2 is to get your business running like a well oiled machine (Jon’s words, not mine). You’ll learn fitness business basics, including:
In short, by the end of module 2 you’ll have your packages, prices and a business model set up, a good idea for what software to use, a better understanding of business legalities and a few strategies for gaining referrals and ensuring renewals.
Module 3: Taking Care of Clients
I was a little surprised and delighted to see a whole module dedicated to taking care of clients. It’s not something most business owner talk about and it’s certainly not something you see being taught everyday.
However, being an ex personal trainer and now a website designer to personal trainers, taking care of clients is something I not only emphasise myself but also teach my clients.
In the chapters of this module, Jon talks about whether you can actually assess clients online and the validity of those assessments, celebrating little wins with your clients and using the tools available to you to make sure you acknowledge your clients' hard work.
Also included in the module is whether you can use training templates, when to use them and what considerations you need to take when creating specific training programmes for individual clients.
Module 4: How to Get Clients
How to get clients is usually where most PT’s would like to jump in. But in good business fashion, the module on how to get clients is one of the last to learn. Presumably because there’s no point having a ton of clients if you don’t have the systems in place to serve those clients to your best ability.
In module 4 you’ll learn how to use your existing network to get more leads, how to build out your list of contacts and how to attract potential list of clients that aren’t just made up of your friends and family members.
You’ll also cover important marketing topics like Facebook Groups, email marketing and Facebook ads. It might sound complex but don’t worry, each marketing strategy comes with its own how to guide and scripts you can copy and paste.
Module 999: Skills
The final module is more of a skills add on to compliment the other modules. IN it you’ll learn about sales, sales copywriting, getting testimonials and becoming an expert.
You’ll also get answers to common questions like the difference between posting on Facebook Pages and posting on Facebook Groups, how to hire a virtual assistant and what to do if your gym doesn’t approve of your online training.
In short, Module 999 contains the less essential skills you need to get going and scale.
The test to become a Certified Online Trainer consists of 60 questions. You need to achieve a 75% score or higher to graduate.
Your first attempt to take the test is free but additional attempts should you fail will cost you $50 per test. I imagine this is to prevent people from taking the test over and over just to pass, without completing the course material. Good idea!
Unfortunately for me, I wanted to check out the test format so I clicked the button to start the test and left it running in the background.
I got one question correct in 1286 hrs 54 mins 17 secs. Not my proudest moment.
Online Trainer Academy Strengths
One of the best features of the Online Trainer Academy course is the multiple learning formats. I get told time and time again that the My Personal Trainer Website Academy is awesome but there’s no video. Some people learn better with video.
The Online Trainer Academy is both video in the form of a digital portal and text format in the form of a textbook that gets delivered to your door. It’s ideal for many learning types and designed in such a way that you must show proof in the form of an exam that you understand a module before you move on to the next.
Jon was kind enough to send the course materials all the way from Canada to my house in Thailand. And it was worth it. Delivered to my door was an Online Trainer Academy Text Book, accompanying Course Book to fill in essential business decisions as you learn and a bonus water bottle which was made with surprisingly good quality considering it was free.
The textbook makes it super easy to learn on the go or without an internet connection and the accompanying course book has sections to fill in your pricing, packaging, lists ideas and epiphanies.
This is what Jon sent me.
While most courses provide you with the minimum you need to get the course done, the Online Trainer Academy takes it a step further by providing you with literally everything you need to take action.
And taking action is pretty much emphasised at every step.
Resources include scripts, templates, examples, Excel spreadsheets, worksheets, checklists and software recommendations. And it’s all laid out module by module to save confusion.
Online Trainer Academy Weaknesses
While Jon has taken great care to make the course as methodical as possible, including withholding access to some of the digital portal until your text book arrives, there’s still a sense of “holy crap I have a lot of work to do” when you first get started.
Unfortunately, that’s just going to be true for any course of this magnitute. For the majority of personal trainers who would buy this course, they really do have a considerable amount of work to do to become proficient in basic business fundamentals. Something you don’t learn on your PT course.
On completion of the Online Trainer Academy certification, you get a “Certified Online Trainer” badge to add to your website and marketing materials. While you could argue that this badge could give you an edge over a competing trainer who doesn’t have an OTA qualification, potential clients have no idea what a Certified Online Trainer is.
It would be cool to see the Certified Online Trainer badge link to something that helps the potential client see what they are getting themselves into. What is a certified trainer and why should they choose a certified trainer over a non certified trainer?
Perhaps it could link to a dedicated page with an overview or code of conduct you might expect from a Certified Online Trainer.
One of the pros of the Online Trainer Academy course is that you can learn in your own time. That’s a good thing for a lot of people but because the course is laid in such a way that you have to go through the basics to get to the meat (how to get clients) I imagine a lot of trainers procrastinate and don’t get around to learning the course material and taking the test.
While I’ve seen loads of people complete the course (you can get updates in the Online Trainers Unite Facebook Group), some of them have been almost half a year later. Perhaps there could be an actual course like format where people log in at certain times.
I realise while typing this that that would be a massive logistics operation. What with time zones and busy schedules, etc. It may also bump up the price somewhat!
I find that the most successful online trainers use online training as a way to enhance their existing client service so that they can serve them better. They’re not trying to be "location independent" or "financially free". Although is some cases that does happen.
I think they understand that when it comes to training, online training is a completely different service than face to face training.
Sure, you can mix and match the two and create hybrid models for your clients, but the actual service delivery you provide online is so different to face to face training and for that reason, the Online Training Academy is not for everyone.
With that said, I think the Online Trainer Academy is ideal for personal trainers who:
Of course, there’ll be exceptions to the recommendations above and the decision is ultimately up to you. Even if you don’t fit any of the criteria above, the business lessons alone would be well worth the investment.
If you've been thinking about purchasing the OTA course, I hope this Online Trainer Academy review has helped somewhat. You can find more details about the course and sign up options using this link ;)
Online Trainer Academy Options
Note: Since the first draft of this blog I was asked to contribute and write the website design section for the Online Trainer Academy. I'm now a contributor and will in fact get paid for my work should you choose to use one of the links in the review.
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