Key Differences Between a Virtual Assistant and an Online Business Manager

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I get a lot of questions whether they want to be a Virtual Assistant or an Online Business Manager (OBM) or hire one, but there are some differences.

These are some of the most important differences I explain to contacts and potential clients right away, and I’m sure there are more. Let’s get started.

A Virtual Assistant (VA)

Likely your first thought when you consider outsourcing, the right assistant can be a total game-changer for you and your business — just ask any corporate CEO.

If you’re primarily looking for someone to outsource specific tasks to so you can get things off your plate, or you’re working with a smaller budget, then hiring an assistant is likely the right fit for you.

1. Assistants are Task-Oriented

You will have an agreed-upon set of tasks — be it inbox management, social media scheduling, or client inquiries — that your VA handles, and they will do these as assigned.

2. Assistants Require Direction

It isn’t a hard and fast rule, but most VAs will work on tasks as assigned. Meaning, if you haven’t assigned them the job in Asana or Trello or your preferred project management tool, it won’t get done.

3. Assistants Specialize and Offer General Support

When searching for a VA, it’s essential to know what you’re looking for because there’s an incredibly wide range out there.

Some VAs offer general admin support, like handling inboxes and calendars, while others provide specialized support like social media management, graphic design, or video editing. You can also find VAs who will do both — handle the more general admin related tasks while also having the skill set to provide more specialized support.

All three are out there, which is why it’s important to know what you’re looking for to help you find the right person!

4. Assistants Do Less Work For More Clients

Since most assistants are task-oriented unless you run a large business and have an incredibly large number of tasks for them to handle, most VAs do a smaller amount of work — usually 20 hours a month or less — for a larger number of clients (5 to 10).

5. Assistants Have a Lower Price Point

Just like with any online business, there is a pretty massive range of what you could pay for a VA, but on the whole, a VA is going to have a lower price point and will often work at a set hourly rate, typically ranging from $15-$35/hour for low-level and mid-range assistants or as high as $50/hour for more specialized ones.

Some VAs, specifically those who specialize, will sometimes charge per project or task, like per blog post or image, rather than per hour.


Online Business Manager (OBM)

Just like the right assistant can be a total game-changer, the right business manager can be a complete game-changer, but in a completely different way.

If you’re looking to up your game in business — grow your team, increase your revenue, expand your reach — and you’re looking for a right-hand person to come alongside you and help make that a reality, you’re probably looking for an OBM.

1. OBMs are Project and Management Oriented

While VAs are generally more task-oriented, an OBM is going to be more project and management-oriented. Since their primary role is to help you manage their business, they look at things from a more strategic perspective and get to know your business inside and out.

They will handle some day-to-day tasks, but they will also handle things like project management, team members, streamline systems, and can often provide perspective in vision casting and help you brainstorm and plan out your projects, products, and ideas for growth.

2. OBMs Take Initiative and Work Independently

Unlike a VA, who generally needs to be guided on what to do next, an OBM will jump in and make your business their own, taking the initiative, working independently, and handling things in your business you didn’t even know needed to be handled.

When you work with an OBM you trust, it allows you to truly focus on the things only you can give to your business, knowing they’re keeping everything else running smoothly. It also gives you the freedom to do things like go on a sabbatical or maternity leave without having to worry about anything while you’re away!

3. OBMs do More Work for Fewer Clients

While VAs will generally work 15 hours per month or less for a client, OBMs are usually the opposite and will typically work for a minimum of 20 hours a month or more, which means they’re doing more work for a smaller number of clients — sometimes as few as two.

It is because the greatest asset you can give your OBM is time — the time they need to dive into your business, get to know it, understand how it works, and use their skills to keep it running like a well-oiled machine. But the result is a person who knows your business just as well, sometimes better than you do and can give you the freedom to do the things you do best.

4. OBMs have a Higher Price Point

Due to a combination of the time they’ll spend in your business and the elevated level of service they’re bringing to the table, an OBM is going to come at a higher price point than a VA will. Though it varies from person to person, most OBMs will work with a monthly retainer or package rate.

If you’re beginning the search for an OBM, you can expect to spend a minimum of $1500 to $6000 per month.

When it comes to outsourcing, there’s no right answer for everyone. Only you can honestly know your business, your current situation, and your goals for growth. Knowing those things and bringing on the right team member can make those dreams a reality in ways you never even dreamed.

Have any more thoughts on the differences between a VA and an OBM? Tell me in the comments.


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