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There’s a LOT of confusion between the two roles, so I’m digging into a few of the key differences in this episode.

Ready to take my free quiz to find out if you’re working as a VA or an OBM? Here’s the link.

Before you go, don’t forget to hit subscribe in your podcast app of choice so you never miss an episode.


I’m Victoria Tretis, and this is the podcast for ambitious Virtual Assistants who want to step into their expertise and move into the Online Business Manager role.

In today’s show, we’re talking about the differences between the Virtual Assistant and an Online Business Manager. Now, if you’re not sure which one you’re operating at right now, feel free to go to the show notes and do my free quiz, ‘Are you a VA or are you an OBM?’.

Now for the main part of the show.

Hello, welcome back. So in episode one, we spoke about the Online Business Manager role and what is involved, but I also mentioned that there’s a lot of similarities with the Virtual Assistant role, and that’s where some people are getting confused.

I want to dig into the differences between the VA and the OBM. So let’s dig in.

Now, the main core difference is that the Virtual Assistant is typically reactive and task-driven.  They’re very much often working in a silo, and they don’t need to know what’s going on in the rest of the business in order to do their job. VAs know what they need to do and when it needs doing. That’s what they’re really, really great at doing.

Now, in comparison, an online business manager absolutely needs to understand all of the other moving pieces of a business to do their job and their role.  That may involve hiring team members or managing team members to see the projects that they’re responsible for all the way through to completion.

Often, an OBM will also have a Virtual Assistant on the team that they’re working for on a particular client.  The OBM will be helping from a strategic level, work out what needs to doing and when.  The VA will be doing the ‘doing’ and ticking through those tasks on time. So the core differences are, the VA is doing the doing and the OBM is approaching it from a managerial perspective.

I’m not saying that they don’t roll their sleeves up and muck in, of course they do, and quite often if an OBM is brought in early in the business, there might not even be a VA on the team. They may be doing some VA work for a while until they hire a team member. To reiterate, the main core difference there is that the VA is doing the doing, and the OBM is doing the managing.

So another difference would be that VA typically charges hourly, whereas an OBM has other pricing structures available to them, which means that they’re not going to be capping their earning potential based on the number of hours that they choose to work. So, a VA normally has an hourly rate and may work on an ad-hoc basis or may do block bookings or a retainer arrangement. An OBM could work in exactly the same way with an hourly rate.

Typically, an OBM charges a higher rate than a Virtual Assistant because of the expertise that they’re bringing to the table. They also have the option to introduce the other pricing structures so that they’re not capping their earning potential based on the number of hours that they choose to work.

The numbers might be a package with a set scope defined, or it could even be that there’s a baseline pay that they receive. An OBM may negotiate with the clients that they receive an incentive, a bonus amount based on the amount of sales that happen, say, in a launch or on a new product or something similar.

I’m not saying it’s commission only; definitely not. But there is base pay. They’ve also got the option to incentivise to earn more, even though it probably means working a little bit more over their contracting hours to make sure that the launch is a success. They’re incentivised because of that as well.

So number three on my list is strategic thinking.  OBMs plug into that big picture vision; they need to know everything that’s going on within the business.

As I said earlier, the VA just needs to know what’s going on in their world. They can, of course, can get involved in other stuff. But knowing what else is going on in the business isn’t vital to what they’re doing. They know how to do their stuff with or without it. VAs are typically task-driven and reactive. By that I mean that it’s the client who is assigning the tasks, informing the VA what and when tasks need to be done, or asking if they can do those tasks. It’s waiting for the client to tell you what needs doing.

Of course, this occurs to an extent within the OBM role, but it works on more of a proactive level. The great skill for an online business manager is anticipation. Because they are plugging into that big picture vision, they understand what needs to happen and when, and therefore they can be more proactive around it as well.

From a mindset perspective, they have more autonomy to move forward with business decisions on behalf of the client.  They would have had a conversation with the client to understand what their remit is, and what can be managed without input, and what needs referring back to the client.

Quite often, though, if there’s a problem, it’s not a case of going to the client and asking them what needs doing next. Like “oh, my gosh, this has just happened, what should we do?”. Instead, from an OBM perspective, it is more likely you will hear “oh, my gosh, this has happened. I’m going to fix it, and then I’m going to tell the client what I’ve done”. So it’s a different mindset in terms of fixing things, presenting solutions rather than problems, making recommendations, as well as having the confidence to make recommendations to the client.

If an OBM can identify a smarter way of working and a client is doing it another way, then they feel self-assured enough within their role to be able to make those recommendations as well.

I think a big part of that also comes from keeping one eye on the metrics that lie behind the business as well.

So, they will have sight of the data that relates to, say, Google analytics or the email marketing software or even the financials so that they can make recommendations again, about how the client could shape their business to work smarter, gain more web traffic, get more leads, have better open rates, make more sales per customer sale, that type of thing.

So, an OBM has client insight, and I guess, client intelligence from purely the data. They’ve got access to more information, which means that they can make more intelligent recommendations as well. It’s highly likely that if you’re listening to this podcast today, some of the OBM roles already resonates with you.

For instance, maybe you’re thinking ‘I am trading time for money, and I’d love an alternative’, or perhaps you’re thinking, ‘from a mindset perspective, you already feel really confident making recommendations to your clients and really being their strategic partner, their sounding boards, their second brain’.

So, if you’re currently marketing yourself as a Virtual Assistant, but you suspect you’re doing some OBM stuff as well, please feel free to do my free quiz, which is, ‘are you a VA or are you an OBM?’.

The link is in the show notes, and of course, before I sign off today, I would absolutely love for you to subscribe so that you don’t miss the next episode.