The coaching industry is proliferating, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote work. In the last few years, we have seen a massive increase in the number of people offering coaching services, as well as a broadening of the topics and industries that coaching covers.
Today, you can find sessions and programs on almost anything, from how to grow your own business to how to lead a healthier lifestyle and everything in between – and many of them are carried out 100% online. Studies actually show that this modality is becoming the mainstay of the industry, with the global online coaching platforms market size expected to reach USD 4.1 billion by 2027.
As the online coaching industry continues to grow, the number of coaching tools and platforms available to those looking to bring their coaching businesses online has seen a similar boom. As a result, it can feel a little challenging to choose between the many options available to find a good fit for your online coaching business.
In this article, we will discuss what makes a coaching platform great and take a look at some of the best online tools and resources available to help you bring your online coaching business to the next level.
What are Online Coaching Platforms?
At a basic level, an online coaching platform is essentially a space where you can host your online coaching business. There is a range of different platforms available, each one offering different levels of functionality and customization. Many of them will integrate a combination of various coaching tools and resources, so picking a coaching platform that suits your business will depend in large part on which of these services you require.
To be honest, an online coaching platform that offers a truly all-in-one solution is rare. With most platforms, you will need to look into add-ons or integrations to add more specific functionality. That’s why we have compiled some of the common tools and resources offered by the best online coaching platforms. Let’s go through them in a little more detail.
Learning Management System (LMS)
An LMS is a piece of software designed to help you build and deliver online courses. Many online coaching platforms will have an integrated LMS component that gives you access to tools such as quizzes, exams, images with hotspots, and many others.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
Your CRM is the place where you store all the data about your coaching clients. Some digital coaching platforms do not require a CRM, as they store their data internally, but many of them integrate with a CRM or similar management software in order to boost their scope for interacting with customers. For many businesses providing online coaching programs or services, CRMs are an essential part of daily operations.
It doesn’t matter how good your online coaching sessions are if you can’t attract any customers! This is why many online coaching platforms include their own built-in marketing tools or are able to integrate with popular marketing services, such as social media platforms, email marketing platforms, and more.
Subscriptions and Payments
For an online coaching business to succeed, you will need a platform that can offer flexible payment options so people can pay for courses, sessions, or any other supplementary material you want to provide. At a more advanced level, some online coaching software will also offer options for regular subscriptions, coupons, cross-sells, and upsells, among others.
Many online coaching platforms also offer some form of scheduling tools to allow coaches to easily plan sessions or schedule appointments with their clients without relying on an external service. This can be quite an essential feature if you want to provide one-on-one mentoring sessions, live webinars, or video conferencing calls.
What Makes a Good Online Coaching Platform?
You can actually have as many coaching styles as there are coaches! Each person will run their online coaching practice differently depending on their level of coaching experience and the type of coaching they offer (e.g., one-to-one coaching, group sessions, or pre-recorded lessons), so the elements that make an online coaching platform great will depend on their specific requirements.
That being said, having access to the majority of the coaching tools we discussed above is likely to be an important consideration when you begin searching for an effective coaching platform. Some other important considerations to ensure that your chosen platform offers options for include:
- Customization: The best online coaching platforms will allow you to fully customize your lessons and programs to match your brand identity. This is also known as white labeling.
- Extensions and Integrations: Perhaps you have found a platform that you think could be a great fit for your business, but it doesn’t quite tick all of the boxes for what you want or need out of a coaching solution. In that case, you will want to make sure that you can easily integrate those missing features into the tool to achieve your desired functionality.
- Scalability: Lastly, you want an online coaching platform that can scale with your business and continue to support you as you grow.
The 5 Best Online Coaching Tools, Platforms, and Resources for 2023
If you want to create an online coaching course, you might be wondering what tools and platforms are available and what each of them offers. Below, you will find what we consider the best ones for 2023 and why.
AccessAlly is a WordPress plugin designed to enable online businesses that specialize in online courses, group coaching, and memberships to scale substantially.
It’s difficult to directly compare AccessAlly to the other coaching tools, platforms, and resources we’ll mention on this list because it actually offers a rather unique solution for its clients. The difference is in how it is built specifically to cater to all their needs, while other tools will provide a portion of AccessAlly’s feature set but will require additional tools to fill in any gaps.
By offering such a comprehensive solution, users that choose this platform can save a lot of research, time, coding, and effort, which they would otherwise spend putting together a combination of different tools.
This being said, here are some of the other features that make AccessAlly stand out as one of the best coaching platforms available:
As we have mentioned, finding a platform that meets all of the requirements professional coaches might have without the need for add-ons or supplementary tools is rare. This is one essential thing that makes AccessAlly stand out from its competitors.
The platform delivers all of the functionality a good coaching platform requires (including payments and invoicing, memberships, course structure, affiliate management, member directory, community management, and much more) while also offering an advanced feature set tailored to enhancing your online coaching business. For example, AccessAlly also offers gamification and personalization features you won’t find on other platforms.
Extendable for Extra Functionality
While AccessAlly already includes all of the major features that coaching professionals could want from a coaching platform, it also offers opportunities for extensions that allow you to bring your coaching business to the next level.
For example, you can use AccessAlly’s integration with the automation platform Zapier to connect it to any email marketing platform, or you can integrate AccessAlly with a separate CRM to add extra power to your business’s customer management capabilities. These tools are by no means mandatory, but allow you to enhance AccessAlly’s already robust feature set.
AccessAlly is designed with scalability in mind. This means the platform can grow easily as your online coaching business blossoms. All payment plans allow unlimited courses and members, and because AccessAlly includes all of the features coaches could need regardless of their business size, there is no need to upgrade or add on additional features as you scale. With AccessAlly, you won’t need any expensive or time-consuming adjustments as you grow your business.
AccessAlly is a WordPress plugin, and as such, provides access to the infinite customizability and extendability that WordPress promises. In fact, the platform offers far more flexibility in customization than other comparable solutions, which are usually just limited to a range of customizable templates.
In contrast, AccessAlly allows you to customize every aspect of your site’s appearance using any WordPress theme or builder (or AccessAlly’s own WordPress theme). You can adjust everything from fonts and colors to the overall page display and can even use custom CSS to apply more complex changes to your site’s appearance. And if you use shortcodes, you can easily display elements like progress tracking, order forms, and quizzes anywhere on your site.
As the only genuinely complete solution available for online coaching professionals, AccessAlly is able to help you save the time, money, and effort of connecting various different coaching tools and resources into a fully functioning solution.
The platform’s pricing starts at $82/month for an annual membership. This gives you access to everything you need to start creating and selling coaching content online as well as AccessAlly’s top-of-the-line support.
Like AccessAlly, Thinkific promises an all-in-one online coaching platform solution. The tool offers built-in support for creating courses, communicating with clients, processing payments, and more.
Here are some of Thinkific’s key features:
- Easy Builder: Drag-and-drop course builder to help you easily create new courses
- Payment Systems: Thinkific integrates with Stripe and PayPal payment gateways to allow for easy payment processing (though you should note that Thinkific takes a 5–10% transaction fee on top of Stripe and PayPal fees if you are one of the less expensive plans).
- Marketing and Promotions: The platform offers some built-in marketing functions, including the ability to sell through affiliates.
While Thinkific claims to be an all-in-one platform for online coaches, this solution actually disappoints when it comes to flexibility. For example, users must host their websites and courses on Thinkific’s closed platform, which is difficult to extend with plugins or addons. This makes it much harder to add extra functionality like integrated forums or gamification options and also makes customizing the platform to meet your needs quite difficult.
In contrast, AccessAlly, a WordPress plugin, offers total control over the customization of your site and grants you access to thousands of supplementary plugins and extensions, so you can get your site to look and work exactly as you want it. Additionally, Thinkific’s community features are somewhat limited, with no provision for creating events or groups.
Thinkific offers a free plan to allow you to create your first course and test out its core features. Paid plans start at $74/month for an annual membership.
Unlike AccessAlly and Thinkific, Satori is not an all-in-one coaching platform solution, but rather specializes in new client onboarding and scheduling. The tool also includes some sales features, such as support for coaching packages, discounts, and payment plans.
Some of Satori’s top functionalities include:
- Centralized Dashboard: You can keep your client coaching on track with a client-facing coaching dashboard where users can schedule sessions, review session notes, track progress, and more.
- Reminders and Calendar: Satori includes an automated client follow-up messaging tool to remind people to schedule sessions, check in on client progress and leave reviews.
- Onboarding Tool: This platform allows for a streamlined client enrolment and onboarding process.
Satori is a great option for coaches that are looking for a tool to help streamline their admin processes and automate manual tasks like client follow-up. However, it is not a complete online coaching solution. For example, there is no provision for course creation – which means you will also need a separate LMS to set up your lessons.
A free version of Satori is available to try out its core functionality, with paid plans starting at $15/month if you commit to an annual subscription. However, for the majority of Satori’s more advanced (and best) features, including access to the client portal, one-touch client enrolment, and most automation features, you’ll need to opt for the most expensive plan at $32/month.
Kajabi is an online platform designed to help you create and sell online courses and focuses on built-in marketing tools. Kajabi also has an integrated site builder to help you create your own landing pages and built-in CRM and affiliate marketing tools.
Kajabi’s main features are:
- Course Builder: Kajabi offers an integrated course builder with support for text files and videos.
- Marketing: The platform includes some nice advanced marketing tools, such as email campaigns, affiliate program tools, and landing page creation.
- CRM and Payments: Kajabi has a built-in CRM and can integrate with payment gateways.
One major downside of Kajabi is the platform’s price, which starts at $119/month when billed annually. Also, this tool offers a less comprehensive feature set than some of the other tools on this list, including AccessAlly, which costs less. The platform also becomes more expensive as you scale because each pricing tier has limitations on the number of active clients and products you can have at any one time. In contrast, AccessAlly allows unlimited courses, memberships, and members regardless of which plan you opt for.
Kajabi’s community and support options are also very limited, as is the platform’s scope for customization. There are only eight different fonts available and fixed options for editing the existing theme templates.
Paperbell specializes in the administrative side of coaching, so it includes more built-in features that focus on scheduling, payment processing, and direct communication with clients.
Some of the platform’s other key features include:
- Personalization: Paperbell offers full customization of the platform to include your business branding.
- User Management: The platform includes an integrated client management dashboard where you can keep track of all appointment data, payment history, and more.
- Payments: Paperbell can work with a few flexible payment options, including coaching plans and packages.
- Integrations: The tool can collaborate with platforms like Zapier, Google Meet, and Zoom, allowing you to enhance the functionality of the base platform.
While Paperbell excels when it comes to user administration, it isn’t an all-in-one platform like AccessAlly. This means you will need to look elsewhere for a suitable LMS solution if you want to build your online courses yourself.
Paperbell offers a free trial option, where you don’t pay anything until you sign your second client. Thereafter, pricing starts at $40/month (for an annual subscription).
Take your coaching business to the next level
Online coaching is a growing industry, so as a professional, you will want to ensure you are set up as well as possible to take advantage of that growth. If you’re considering joining this movement, this is the best time to do so.
As we have seen, there are a few good tools out there you can use to create, promote, and manage your courses and coaching business. However, it’s always worth taking the time to go through each of these solutions’ features and understand whether they are a good fit for your business needs. In particular, focusing on how a specific online coaching platform can meet your professional needs.
This is what makes AccessAlly stand out. Not only is it a complete solution that doesn’t require any additional infrastructure or add-ons (although you can extend some areas of its functionality if you wish), but it’s also built to scale with your business. The platform is also fully customizable and comes with its own LMS system, CRM system, and scheduling and marketing tools.
Online coaching companies love the robust feature set and customizability that the platform offers:
“I’ve tried a TON of different membership software and AccessAlly is by far and away the best-looking, most functional and most strategic one. I was so fed up with my last membership site because the user interface was terrible for my clients (and it didn’t look good, which bothered my over-achieving perfectionist self). Now, I’ve gotten an unbelievable amount of customer feedback from my clients telling me how much they absolutely love it… and I do too!”
Amanda Goldman-Petri – Market Like a Nerd
Try AccessAlly today with a free demo, or book a free discovery call to find out what AccessAlly can do for your online coaching business.