Online Business Manager vs Virtual Assistant: What’s the difference? | Byte Bodega

Online Business Manager vs Virtual Assistant: What’s the difference?

Once you start looking for clients online, you’ll start to see them hiring for different types of positions within their business. Once of the most common, other than VAs, is an Online Business Manager or OBM.

Although the roles of online business manager vs virtual assistant are very different, I often see them used interchangeably or incorrectly.

This can lead to confusion for entrepreneurs that are hiring, because they don’t truly understand what kind of team member they actually need. Plus, because Online Business Manager role is lesser known than the Virtual Assistant industry – a lot of business owners don’t even know they exist!

That’s why I want to share a little bit about each of these job roles so we can clear the air and you can feel confident about what to call yourself when you market your services to clients (or what position you’re hiring!).


What is a Virtual Assistant?

In a nutshell, Virtual Assistants are the implementers.

They are the members of the team that complete the tasks that are assigned to them fully and correctly in order to lift some administrative burden off of the business owner. This helps them focus more of their energy on the bigger picture of the business, rather than the nitty gritty details that someone else can take care of.

Virtual Assistants don’t typically strategize or create processes. They are the ones that take the processes that have already been created and put them into practice.

They also tend to work less for more clients. It’s not uncommon for a Virtual Assistant to carry 10 or so clients working a handful of hours each week for each person. This of course is not always the case, but I find it’s fairly common.

This is why Virtual Assistants are often compared to administrative assistants, because they fill a very similar need in online businesses as they do a traditional office setting.

Last but not least, VA’s are usually more familiar with various tech platforms as they switch between them on a regular basis working with different clients. This doesn’t mean that you have to be or are expected to be familiar with them all in order to become a VA, but it’s not uncommon to have familiarity with multiple.

Read Next: What is a Virtual Assistant and What do they do?

What does a Virtual Assistant do?

Virtual Assistants do generalized work, meaning they complete a very wide array of tasks. Although some Virtual Assistants specialize in a certain area, most focus on “whatever the client needs”.

That’s why they are kind of seen as the “do it all” person. I have a full list of popular virtual assistant services you can check out if you’re interested in learning more about what they do every day.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most commonly requested services:

  • Blog Management
  • Email Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Email Newsletter Creation
  • Podcast Editing
  • Bookkeeping
  • And many more!

You’ll see that the range is pretty wide. That’s because the Virtual Assistant is the person that truly just hops in and gets the job done, which is what almost every business owner needs when they first start to outsource. They need that “generalized” person to complete whatever they need to get stuff off the client’s plate.

Virtual Assistant Salary Averages

Since the “Virtual Assistant” job title really covers a wide range of services, the pay rate can also range quite a bit.

I find that the pay range is somewhere between $10-30 per hour for Virtual Assistants.

You can expect to pay around $10 for VA subcontractors, professionals from outside the US due to conversions and VAs who are just getting their businesses off the ground and require more experience and training.

The middle range of $20 is for growing VAs with skills and experience they can bring to the table from the start and require less training.

The high end of $30+ is going to be for an experienced Virtual Assistant who is familiar with the majority of the platforms you use within your business and are capable of hopping in and getting to work right away with little guidance.

Of course, these are all just estimates as every VA is going to choose their own rates. 🙂

What is an Online Business Manager?

Online Business Managers are the strategists.

They typically stand at the top level of the business with the business owner and support them in making big picture decisions for the company vision. OBMs are the ones who help track and analyze the performance data to see what’s working, what’s not and steer the business and the team in the right direction to grow revenue (and profits).

Since they work so closely with the business owner, they typically work more hours with less clients. So it’s not uncommon for OBMs to have only 2 clients working 15-20 hours a week for each person. Some only have one client! This allows them to stay really focused on the few clients they have to perform at this higher level.

This job role also acts as the point of contact for the other members of the team, instead of the business owner themselves. So if the team consists of a copywriter, blog manager, podcast editor, and a tech virtual assistant – They would all report to the OBM.

Team structures like this help the business owner focus on truly growing the business rather than managing and operating it on the day to day. That’s the Online Business Manager’s responsibility.

What does an Online Business Manager do?

Online Business Managers really focus on the operations side of the business.

They spend their time meeting with team members, making sure things are completed correctly and on time and they make sure they’re fixed when they’re not.

They also outline action plans for new projects and delegate the tasks to the appropriate team members. For example, if the business owner is launching a new podcast – The OBM is going to find and hire the podcast editor, get the website designer to create a webpage for it, get the copywriter to write the weekly show notes and so on.

As the project unfolds, they are going to regularly check-in to make sure that it’s meeting the timeline and revenue goals that were set for it and make adjustments as needed.

All the business owner will do is hop in and give their final stamp of approval once it’s all been done.

Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular tasks an OBM handles:

  • Team management
  • Project management
  • Hiring / firing team members
  • Tracking + analyzing business performance data
  • Meeting with the business owner to brainstorm new ideas
  • Systems building / Creation of Standard Operations Procedures
  • Industry and Market Research

Online Business Manager Salary Averages

Online Business Manager salaries tend to range a little less than Virtual Assistants because the work they do doesn’t range quite as much.

The general range to expect is between $40-65 per hour for OBMs.

You can expect to pay something in the $40-50 range when you’re working with a Virtual Assistant who has recently transitioned (or is still transitioning) into the role of an Online Business Manager.

The middle range of pay, from $50-60, is for OBMs that have a proven track record of working with clients at this level and carry those 2-3 clients they work very closely with.

The high range of $60-70+ are the Online Business Managers that have a specialty. There are OBMs that focus solely on launching, systems creation or something similar. So they can command higher rates based on their knowledge of that niche.

But again, these rates can vary as OBMs traditionally work for themselves and choose their own rates based on their personal experience and value. 🙂

The Typical Online Business Structure: OBM vs VA

I’m a very visual person, so I thought a chart outlining a basic structure showing where the Online Business Owner vs Virtual Assistant fall on the business hierarchy. So, here ya go!

online business team member hierarchy

Key Differences Between the Two

Task Doer vs. Strategist

Virtual Assistants are truly task doers that focus on the needs of today while Online Business Managers help to strategize and figure out the future of the business.

Team Member vs. Manager

My favorite analogy for this a restaurant’s business structure, because most people understand it more easily. Your server or hostess is the equivalent of the virtual assistant. They are essential to business operations, but the business doesn’t grow because of them. Whereas the Restaurant Manager is like the Online Business Manager. They help decide when and how things should be run, and help the Restaurant Owner (aka the Business Owner) understand how the business is performing.

Yes (wo)man vs. Decision Maker

Virtual Assistants are usually “yes men” because they take on pretty much anything that the business owner throws their way. If the client decided to change the priority of something last minute, the VA is going to follow them. Where the OBM is going to give the client some pushback and say, “Well, let’s look at how this is affecting our business vision and growth”. So they truly help make the decisions, rather than just accept them.

Creator vs. Approver

Virtual Assistants are usually creating things for the business. This could be social media graphics, blog posts, etc and then sending them off to the business owner for approval before finalizing them. However, the OBM isn’t going to be the one creating but the one asking for them in the first place and approving those pieces as they are made by the team members.

Do you need an OBM or a VA?

I hope the descriptions of both of the roles gave you some clarity around who you might need for your team!

If you’re still a little confused on which direction to go, here’s a few helpful questions to ask yourself that should help:

What tasks am I hoping to outsource?

Work on getting super clear on what you want to get off your plate by tracking where you spend your time. If you find that you spend the majority of your day interacting with your team and answer questions, you might need the support of an OBM. On the other hand – if you want to stop spending time in your inbox and on instagram, a virtual assistant might be the person you need.

How many team members do I currently have?

Once you reach a certain number of team members, usually 3-5, it starts to reach the point where you need an Online Business Manager vs Virtual Assistant to get the business operations off your plate.

What’s your monthly budget?

Sometimes it simply comes down to budget. OBMs typically start around $1,500+ a month while VAs are more in the $300+ range. So choosing based on what you can afford can make the decision for you.

I hope this gave you some clarity around the job roles of OBM vs VA! Do you offer one service or the other? Are you interested in hiring one of them? Let me know!

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