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Virtual Assistant vs an Online Business Manager: What Each Does

You’re not alone if you’re unsure who to hire between a virtual assistant vs an online business manager. That’s why some people choose to become virtual assistants because it’s the name many people use to market their services.

However, as your business grows, you’ll realize that you cannot do it all alone. You’ll have to decide whether to hire a virtual assistant (VA) or an online business manager (OBM) to help you manage your clients.

And if you are looking to take your business to the next level, you might need both, a VA and an OBM, here is what you need to know about them.

The Meaning of a Virtual Assistant and an Online Business Manager

A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who remotely provides administrative services and technical and creative assistance to clients. As a business owner, you hire a VA when you need specialized help in certain business areas.

An online business manager is a virtual support professional who helps organizations manage daily projects, processes, and team members. They virtually manage the day-to-day operation of your business as you focus on growing your company and making decisions that will shape the business's future.

The OBM will work on your behalf to manage your workflows and the operation side of your business. An Experienced OBM will make the day-to-day business decisions without consulting you. Therefore, you can see why they will offer you enough breathing space to focus on your business's future.

Does Your Business Need a Virtual Assistant or Online Business Manager?

Delegation is the only way you will get enough time to focus on the core functions of your business. However, you must ensure that your current and future business needs to influence your delegation decision.

Here is a simple questionnaire you can use to evaluate whether your business needs an online business manager or VA at this point of growth.

  • Do you need help with strategic business awareness? - If yes, you need an OBM.

  • Are you looking for someone to help you manage your business or someone to help you around with minor tasks in your business?

  • Would a task-oriented delegation be better to improve your business operations efficiency?

  • Are you willing to provide detailed instructions and be a manager, or are you more focused on staying out and only helping with the oversight?

  • Are you looking for someone to help you with short-term projects or someone for the long-term running of the business?

Strategist vs. Doers

When choosing between the two, consider OBMs as planners while VAs are doers. You can work with your OBM to develop strategies to help your business achieve its objectives.

An OBM will help you implement projects from start to finish.

However, a VA is more of a task-oriented professional. They will take on the tasks you assign them and work towards achieving your goals.

Based on these definitions, it is evident that an OBM will be higher than a VA in your business hierarchy. You may hire an OBM to manage all of your VAs and the various projects in your business.

But there are other notable differences you can use in defining your expectation for each of these professions.

Business Approach

How your OBM will approach your business is quite different from the approach taken by a VA. That's why their motivations may differ.

An OBM will derive satisfaction from developing plans for the various projects under their control. Then they will guide others in implementing these plans successfully.

On the other hand, a virtual assistant is always motivated to check off tasks from the long list of tasks you will assign them. A VAs only concern is the tasks you have assigned to them. Their scope of involvement in your business operations is limited to the specific tasks assigned to them.

Regarding the job approach, an OBM has a long-term view of the business instead of the short-term view a VA may take. The OBM will identify the emerging needs of your business and communicate them to you.

They will also advise you in advance of changes that may impact your business. You can also count on them to help you strategize how to improve your business's competitive advantage.

However, if you are looking for someone to implement the strategies you have already devised, then a VA is the way to go. You just have to transform these strategies and policies into instructions they can follow.


Whenever you think of an OBM, the idea of a traditional chief operations officer should come into mind. They focus on the systems surrounding every project being undertaken in your organization.

The OBM takes the daily management of your business off your plate. They focus on what needs to be done to achieve certain business objectives.

Once they do this, they will work on the projects required to achieve this objective with your VAs. The OBM will split the project into sub-tasks they can assign to each VA based on the area of specialization.

Creator vs. Approver

Another notable difference between the two professions is how they operate. When hiring a virtual assistant, you expect them to use their skills and innovations to create things for your business.

An example is when you want to run an online marketing campaign. You begin by hiring a social media manager to run the campaigns. Then you need to hire a graphics design VA to create the campaign graphics. Also, you will need to hire a content creator to develop all the SEO content required for a successful campaign.

All these VAs need to run the work through you for approval before they can post it. But what if you don't want to be that involved in such a small business marketing project? Then, you will have to hire someone to coordinate all these VAs and approve their various tasks.

That person who’ll discuss the marketing campaign objectives with you and then see if they are achieved within the agreed timeframe will be your OBM.

Virtual assistant vs. Online Business Manager- What Works for You?

When hiring a VA vs OBM, the decision may be easy based on the above differences. But if you’re choosing which career path to choose, you need to understand the skills needed to perform these roles efficiently. Join our Royal VA Community to interact with professional VAs and OBMs and gain tips on succeeding in these fields.


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