Exploring the Diffe­rences: Online Business Manager vs. Virtual Assistant

Many businesses increasingly “went digital,” providing products and services online. According to recent statistics conducted by IBISWorld, the percentage of online business is forecast to grow at an annualized rate of 4.0% over the five years to 2024, reaching 28.8% of all online business activity.

However, managing a successful online business requires a significant amount of work. With the growth of online businesses, the need for professional help to handle specific business functions or tasks has also increased. That’s where outsourcing comes in!  Two of the most popular roles you’ve heard of in the digital space are the Online Business Manager (OBM) and the Virtual Assistant (VA). They’re often confused, although similar – both are driven to ‘get stuff done’ – but the two roles have some key differences. So, let’s dive in to understand better how they contribute to the smooth functioning of a business.

What is an Online Business Manager?

The official definition of an Online Business Manager (OBM) is a virtual support professional who manages online-based businesses, including the day-to-day management of projects, operations, metrics, and teams. An Online Business Manager is responsible for:

    1. Project Management – laying out plans and managing projects through to completion, including launching and managing programs, creating new revenue streams, etc. They ensure deadlines are met, resources are used effectively, and the team works towards common goals.


    2. Operations Management – automating systems and creating processes for all day-to-day activities in the business to streamline and simplify things for maximum productivity.


    3. Metrics Management – tracking stats for key business activities to see what is working and what is not working so that decisions can be made for ongoing growth.


    4. People Management – outsourcing, managing, and leading the efforts of the team to meet business goals.

An Online Business Manager acts as a bridge between you (the business owner) and the team (contractors working in your business). OBM ensures the team works harmoniously towards common goals. In an established online business, a team with an OBM might look something like this:

Org Chart

What is a Virtual Assistant?

On the other side, we have the Virtual Assistant, a task-oriented professional who handles specific assignments with precision and efficiency.

A virtual assistant is a self-employed worker who offers administrative services to clients from a remote location, usually a home office. A Virtual Assistant is responsible for:

  1. Executive administrative tasks – scheduling appointments, making phone calls, travel arrangements, inbox management, research, and data entry.

  2. Sales and marketing support tasks – schedule social media, blog posts, and email campaigns, basic graphic design and video editing, prospect outreach, and sales follow-up.


  3. Back Office support tasks – Prepare invoices, proposals, contracts, NDAs, and more.

The advantage of hiring a virtual assistant is the flexibility to contract for the specific tedious tasks that need to be done that you know you’re spending too much time on.


Final Thoughts

The focus of an Online Business Manager is on ‘management‘; they keep an eye on the big picture and layout plans and work with the entire team to ensure that everyone is ‘getting the right stuff done’ and progress is being made to meet the business goals. Meanwhile, Virtual Assistants focus on ‘doing‘; they perform and complete specific tasks and often rely on YOU (the business owner) telling them what tasks must be done.

Both roles are a flexible, low-risk option for online business owners who need help with their business but don’t want to take an employee. However, understanding each role’s strengths allows for effective delegation as a business owner.

As an additional resource, I’ve compiled a list of 50 ways an OBM can support your businessDOWNLOAD HERE!

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