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I’m just going to say it: there is some serious confusion about the difference between a VA (Virtual Assistant) and an OBM (Online Business Manager) that I’d like to address.

In short: more partnering, less helping

The OBM partners with their clients on a strategic level.

They offer advice and support based on their own experience and the hours they’ve invested in training and self-development. In fact, they’re thirsty for knowledge and want clients to directly benefit from their ongoing curiosity and personal development.

They plug into the big picture of the business, have a clear understanding of where the client wants to go, and know exactly what pieces of the puzzle need to be in place in order to create success. And OBMs are often hired to project manage those moving operational pieces to ensure progress is being made.

The role requires total proactivity all round, particularly when managing team members. Personality-wise, they take personal responsibility for the client’s success so they truly thrive when treating the client’s business as though it were their own.

OBMs present solutions, not problems. Their ideas are heard because their knowledge is respected. And their mantra is: ask for forgiveness, not for permission…. Is that what you already do?

They help shape the marketing strategy and determine which metrics are to be measured based on their own experience of working with other clients, and what they know about their client’s business. They have sight of the financials behind the business and will creatively identify gaps in the current reality versus where the business needs to be to meet its goals.

It’s a chunky role that requires a lot of brain space to do well, so in terms of pricing, they charge a higher hourly rate than a VA, or perhaps a packaged-up offering that’s value-based rather than tied into trading time for money. As time progresses and trust is built with their clients, they feel so confident in the results they can get for their clients that they propose a base pay combined with an incentive structure directly linked to actual sales.

Because of the huuuuuge amount of information an OBM stores in their head about each client, their sweet spot in terms of productivity and mental capacity means they can only work with a select few businesses at any one time.

The problem

What I’m seeing more and more often is someone who’s marketing themselves as a VA, charging VA rates, doing the day-to-day doing, but then also assuming all or part of the role of OBM – ie adding masses of value to the client in terms of strategic planning, operational support and hiring team members, managing projects through to completion, and rolling their sleeves up in whatever area they feel they can step into. That’s a heck of a role when charging VA rates.

My experience of this icky-ness

I am sharing this with you because I used to be there myself. And the truth is, it was hard work working hard all the time, and it left me feeling frustrated, unfulfilled, and heading for burnout.

What was worse, because I was using so much creative energy on driving forward my clients’ businesses that I didn’t have the time or inclination to work towards my own dreams. I had big goals of taking on employees, buying myself a car so we could become a two-car family and I could gain some much-needed freedom, launching a podcast, helping more people step into their own big dreams through coaching, and actually having more time with my family.

The entire situation helped me stay small and far away from my income goals. I had zero time or energy to invest in writing the training course that safely remained in my head, or create and implement my own marketing strategy. It was flippin’ exhausting.

Please don’t let that be you.

If just one person reading this is inspired to take action — to raise their rates, ditch the high-demanding clients who want the moon on a stick for a fiver, or steps fully into their expertise — then this post has been worth it.

And, of course, if you’re working your socks off and would like to step into the shoes of the ambitious OBM you actually are, download my idea sparks here or let’s have a virtual cuppa to talk about how we can elevate your role.