A review of the Online Trainer Academy – How to Become a Certified Online Trainer in 4 ‘easy’ modules
Easy, doesn't that sound great? I was skeptical at first, could a course about training people online really be something for me? Earlier this year, I found myself stuck, overworked, underpaid and very, very tired. I needed to break the pattern and I thought starting to train people online again (that is how I started my career) would be the perfect way for me to make a change. Turns out the Online Trainer Academy was even more than I hoped for.
I’ll start by letting you know a bit more about me, in case you don’t already know me, to give you some background. I currently run a huge and amazing training facility in Sweden called Massive Performance. It’s like a playground for adult fitness enthusiasts who enjoy lifting, laughing and want to spend time in the company of amazing people who make life better! I launched my business in 2014 by myself, and have now built up the business to a place where I want to expand it in several interesting directions, one of the being online training. I first got acquainted with online training in 2010, when I got my own online coach (who was a lot better than I could find locally). In 2012 I started coaching other women online myself, and in 2012 I started a network for wimminz who loved iron, called Barbelles. Barbelles is in fact what led me to start Massive Performance in the first place, because of the amazing culture and openness we shared. When I lost my best friend to suicide in 2013, Barbelles was there for me in a way to no one else was, and the trauma of losing my friend made me grab life by the balls and follow my dream. I stopped doing online coaching and put 100% focus on creating the wonderful social platform and facility, that is now Massive Performance.
Anyways, despite being a course that is developed for making people awesome at training people online, the OTA can be used for so much more. It’s a highly informative course that you can apply to any fitness business. In my case, it helped me turn my physical business around (which is now thriving, in part of how I’ve applied new knowledge to the customer journey / customer experience at my facility).
Shipping and physical products
A couple of weeks after enrolling in the Online Trainer Academy, my books arrived at the door. Pretty good shipping time, considering I live in Sweden, and sometimes international shipping takes forever. I was blown away at the quality of the textbook (and the workbook). Clearly a lot of work has gone into things such as paper quality, layout, sequence, colors and images.
The Online Trainer Academy is like Precision Nutrition, but for quality assurance of trainer who operate online (or through a hybrid model). If you too have gone through Precision Nutrition Level 1, I’m sure you were pretty blown away when you received THOSE books.
Now, something to remember is that the Online Trainer Academy is NOT a personal trainer course with anatomy, movement screening etc. It is a business course to help you start up, launch and run a successful training business online, with minimal hassle, maximal freedom and great customer service.
I think in my case it was the customer service perspective that made me invest in the OTA. I’ve been working on collecting, analyzing and improving the customer experience in my facility since June 2016. To design an experience that is just what you intend sounds really easy, BUT it is in fact very difficult. Sure, if you manage to get the perfect client/customer, you planned experience might work. But how many % of your customers are ’perfect’? How do you ensure that the rest of the people who work with you, get an as great experience as possible? The OTA helps you address these things (perhaps not in those same words).
If you would rather watch what the OTA has done for me, you can check out this video about me talking about it >>>
How is the OTA structured?
The course is split into five parts;
Module 1: Getting Started
Module 2: Structuring Your Business
Module 3: Taking Care of Clients
Module 4: How to Get Clients
Module 999: Skills
Module 1 is all about setting your business up. If you already have your business set up, this is still a pretty good module to go through to see if you’re currently working efficiently of not. Personally, this is where I see a lot of business owner do less well – you want to do everything and work with everyone, which makes it very difficult to appeal to anyone.
This module also talks about money, that we all need, but most of us are to scared to actually get paid well. The OTA starts in the other end – what do you need, and how do you get there? Rather than ’I NEED ALL THE CLIENTS AAAH I HAVE NO TIME’ (I believe some of you may be familiar with this feeling). As I said, this is about figuring out how to work smarter, not necessarily more of harder. We all want more freedom, right?
There's also a whole chapter about how to find you unique selling point, which sounds easy enough, but do you recognize this - "Oh, well I work with successful business men in their 40s. But I also work with new mom's, and actually I prefer working with athletes if I can pick and choose, and who doesn't LOVE a good bodybuilding workout, gotta get those bi's pumping!". That's like 90% of online trainers! You need to start with a bit of a niche to build up a good reputation, get those testimonials and most importantly, know WHO you want to work with. Plenty of trainers think they want to work with athletes (until they get to work with athletes). Get this right from the start and it will save you time, worry and stress.
The second module is probably my favourite module, because it has everything to do with customer experience, even if it’s called ”Structuring Your Business”. A bad structured business usually provides a bad experience – for both you and your clients.
If you don’t have structure, things will take too long, you won’t get paid enough and general mess leads to general misery.
For the client it might mean that information is unclear, they don’t understand, they don’t feel supported, they can’t see the value of your service and a whole bunch of other things that means that you won’t get to keep this client for long.
The gem of this module is Chapter 14, the Welcome Package. We have made this into a physical product in the gym that we give all new members. The package exceeds their expectations by far, which means WOW. Everybody likes to get the wow experience. For different businesses the package will obviously be structured differently, but in the OTA there are many examples of great welcome packages that you can model yours after, to make sure that your and the clients’ expectations are on the same page. It also saves A LOT of time because your client gets their question answered before they might even know they had that particular question. And also, it feels great for them to be informed because it creates a feeling of safety and certainty - this trainer knows what s/he's doing!
There are a bunch of other really useful and practical parts of this module that everybody working online should use to set their business up right, like what software is right for your business, pricing structure, renewals, how to offer support and how to be/stay productive through your work.
In module three the OTA moves on to how you can best take care of clients. So basically this is the part of customer experience that is more easily controlled 'on the fly' (interaction, unlike business setup). Basically it shows you ways of keeping your clients accountable, happy and on track! Depending on who you work with, this may look different from business to business.
There's a whole chapter on Adherence and and Activation alone, which for me (as a customer experience junkie) deserves a gold star. This is so, so important to master if you want to make people happy and get them results! That chapter is followed by Assessments and Accountability, again, very important parts of a customer journey that keeps your client happy and make them want to stay with you.
For you convenience when programming, there's also a really good chapter about how to create you programming templates. Honestly, if we were to make every single program from 0-100 every time, online training would have to cost a lot more. So if you want to service more people, with similar needs (I would say big segments of Gen Pop) there are ways to create templates, or ways of thinking so you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time you get a new client. Obviously, don't get lazy with programming - they should be individualised, but save time where it can be saved. When your business grows you'll find out the true value of TIME.
As with a lot of the previous material, I have been able to up my game in my physical facility by applying the last chapter of module 3, the Referrals chapter. This was something I used to suck at (obviously can still get better at), but with the right structure around this, it makes it so much easier to get things done (which is what we all want, amirite..).
This chapter is a bit shorter than the others, not because it’s less important, but because when all of the other parts are structured in a great way, taking care of your clients just becomes so much easier.
The last module is all about how to get new clients, and I think this is something we all need, even though it’s definitely very important to keep those that we DO have. If you have set up module 1-3 right, your clients will likely renew more often than not. And if that isn’t set up right, it should probably be your focus before getting to module 4 anyways.
There is a short section in module 1 by the way, if you really need clients fast (to say, pay for the OTA), so no need to skip ahead ;) When all your systems are in place, you are definitely ready to kill module 4, chapter by chapter!
Again, in this module there are so many things that can be applied to both a physical business as well as an online business. How does marketing work, how can I stay ‘top of mind’, email marketing, facebook ads, contests, scholarships and more. The struggle in this chapter is overwhelm – where to start? I think as with many of the other parts of OTA – read, learn, analyze your business and its needs, make a plan. Try plan, revise plan, execute.
And if I were you, I’d start with one of these strategies at a time, because no matter if your starting your business fresh or if you already have a functioning business, change and habits takes a bit of time (especially if you have employees that needs to get onboard), and if you try to do all the things at once, you’re back to TOO MUCH TO DO, TOO LITTLE TIME. We don’t want that!
For every module, you need to provide snapshots from the workbook to move on to the next step. This is a good way to prevent overwhelm I think, and makes it easier to actually DO the work, not skip ahead and make sure you are doing the course at the right pace for YOU. To become a Certified Online Trainer, you also need to pass the examination, which you will if you have studied the materials well. To pass you need a score of at least 75% (45/60).
Module 999 is an extra skills module that isn’t required to take the examination, but what you find in there is pure gold when it comes to provide the best possible experience for your client/customer. (I use both client and customer, because many of us sell both products and services). There’s a very useful chapter on how to hire VA’s (Virtual Assistants) that has really helped me to improve my recruitment skills, and I have used those to create the amazing team I now have in place at my facility.
I used to struggle with testimonials too, but with the help of module 3 (the chapter about referrals) and module 999 (the chapter about great testimonials) I have now produced video testimonials (and more planned!), collected written testimonials, over 120 reviews on facebook and a team of strong, loyal ambassadors. If you haven't figured it out yet, I work a lot with designing the customer experience - not only with this material, but other resources as well. The OTA has helped a lot though, especially because the material is so easy to consume and learn. Research is not!
Another thing that we work a lot with is a combination of the contest chapter in module 4, combined with the sales call chapter in module 999 (they complete each other). Our competitions don’t look the same as the examples in the OTA, but we’ve found a way to rock these two together. Our last competition has had over 110 entries (still going strong), and that’s a 100% increase from our previous competition that we ran without the knowledge that we have now. How bout dat!
What could improve?
For those who have less experience working 1 on 1 in a facility, it takes time to learn how to analyse movement and do the right assessments online. I think this section could be improved upon, but I also think there’s an element that can’t be taught through a book. You NEED real experience, or it will be too difficult to really help people. And this is something else that affects the customer experience – if you can’t analyse and give the right cues it will be hard to provide help that people will pay good money for. OTA recommends at least one year of experience, but I’d say the more, the better.
Sadly those who need this probably wouldn’t read a chapter like this anyway. We are all very different as people and I think it could be beneficial to add something about how to communicate to different types of people (I’m thinking red/yellow/green/blue style). It’s easy to misunderstand things when you communicate in writing, so the better your understanding is for different types of people, the less misunderstandings you’ll have.
Hopefully, if you have a personal trainer certification, both these point were addressed in your training for that. If not, go to YouTube for looking at a gazillion movement videos and Amazon to do crazy book sprees (don’t act like you haven’t done it…).
The investment in the OTA depends on when and how you buy. I invested $1300 and I would say I’ve made the money back on the fact that I’ve gotten so much useful information out of it regarding business structure, welcome package, support, marketing and hiring, that I would probably have paid more than that had I known what I was buying. And we haven’t even launched our online programs yet! The total investment is $1500, but you can save money by either signing up early, or by paying in full.
I paid in full and got it for $1300. If you can afford it, I would advise to just get the payments over with so you don’t have to think about it. If you get it on early bird pricing, you can save another $200, so then it’s only $1100, which is really a bargain. If you get the early bird price and want to pay in installments, it’s $260/month, so in total $1300. Regular price with payment in installments is $250/month.
For 2018’s intake the price will go up with $500, making it an investment of $2000 (but the early bird and pay in full options will probably stick around, so you might not have to shell out the $2000 in full).
You need to get on the waitlist before November 2nd if you want to get the early bird pricing. You can register here; Online Trainer Academy Early Bird (FYI - I’m an affiliate).
My main objection was actually pricing, because I had no idea what I would get for it or if it would be worth it. But if you are serious about doing business online, and want to make sure you provide a high quality service, you will make the money back in no time. For me the plan wasn’t to launch a 1 on 1 service again, but more about preparing a larger online course (more about this later, I’m currently in the process of hiring the right staff for this) and to make sure I could refine my business structure before launching it. All of the customer experience information was just a huge bonus that I didn’t expect. To make my money back by strictly selling online services and not counting the improvements made to my physical facility, I would have had to sell 2 packages to 2 clients.
I think another thing that made me take the leap is the fact that I've followed Jon and seen him grow as a business man since he started the PTDC. He has provided pretty much unlimited free information through my whole career as a trainer, an I already had confidence in him before I decided to buy. I also used to be one of those people who wanted things for cheap because I was scared I wouldn't be able to make use of the information (or that the information would suck), but since I've grown myself, I invest more and more money into material from others. Any course or training is an investment for your career and for your life, and ONE product might not change your life, but the combination of information on business building, how to train people, behaviour science etc is what makes YOU an awesome trainer (and business wo/man).
When you do graduate, you can also become a part of the OTA referral program, like I am. It’s a good way to be able to get more people certified (=higher quality of services worldwide) and also provides an opportunity to make a little extra money on the side, each time the program opens. I love the experience of this too, as I want to set up the same type of system for my coming online course, and I had no clue about how referral/affiliate stuff worked before. So I’m thinking of the affiliation as an added bonus, both as a learning experience, but also the potential for extra income.
If you have any questions about my experience with the Online Trainer Academy, feel free to ask. I'll take any excuse I can get to talk about customer experience and business development!
And hey, transparency is important to me;
All the links in this entry are affiliate links - if you don't want me to earn a buck by your purchase, just type in the link in the search bar instead, that was they won't have my 'tag'. If you do want me to earn a buck, make sure one of my links is the last one you click before purchasing :)