Sometimes the words ‘Virtual Assistant’ (VA) and ‘Online Business Manager’ (OBM) are used interchangeably. While both are support roles for a business, there are some key differences between the two. If you’ve been considering hiring a VA or OBM, knowing the difference will help you decide what level of service you need for your business.
What is the role of a VA?
When your business grows and tasks become too much to handle with the capacity and resources you have, outsourcing to a VA is a great option. Whether it is help with general admin, or specialist tasks such as social media management, a VA has the expertise to take on many common business processes on your behalf. A VA takes direction from you, so when you want help, you send your VA tasks for completion.
A VA often works for a number of clients, each for an agreed amount of hours per week.
What does an OBM do?
An online business manager is less task oriented than a VA, rather they focus their expertise on helping you manage your business to drive growth and increase revenue. Partnering with an OBM means you allow them to understand your business inside out, and use their knowledge to work independently and manage things as they see fit. The advantage with this is that you do not have to micro-manage, an OBM can solve problems and keep your business running smoothly without your input.
Another advantage of working with an OBM is that you can take time off work or put your effort into new projects without worrying about the details of your existing business. Your OBM handles it all!
Adding to the confusion between the two roles, there may be some VA’s that also offer OBM services, but an OBM typically dedicates more time to their clients and has a deeper level of business management knowledge. An OBM tends to have fewer clients, and charges a higher rate due to their higher level of business acumen and expertise.
Do you need an OBM or a VA?
The level of help you need, how much control you are willing to hand over, as well as your budget, will be factors in deciding whether to hire a VA or an OBM for your business.
If you are looking for someone to oversee the complete management of a project, want to hand over the running of some parts of your business, or need help with planning and strategy to take your business forward, an OBM is the right choice for you.
If you need more staffing power to speed up day to day tasks, you like to keep a close eye on your operations, or would prefer to hand over the less exciting jobs to free up your time, a VA is there to help.
It is easy to see why the two roles are often confused with one another, as there is some overlap with the types of activities that a VA does, and an OBM will oversee. But when you really understand the difference, the two roles are distinct.
There are many great reasons to hire an OBM, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs who typically lack a balance in their professional and personal life. There may also be a point where you feel as if you are spending too much time managing your business, and not doing the creative thinking that made you start your business in the first place. Whatever the reason for hiring an OBM, it can make a huge difference to your time, stress levels and overall well-being, as well as enabling new business growth and direction.
If you are looking for an OBM to help take your business forward, feel free to get in touch.
An Online Business Manager (OBM) provides professional, managerial level support for businesses. While there are similarities between an OBM and a Virtual Assistant (VA), there is a marked difference. A VA provides general office support, whereas an OBM oversees and manages a wide range of operational processes, freeing up your time so you can use your expertise where it is needed most.
Here are the top 5 reasons how hiring an online business manager benefits your business:
1. Handles Daily Tasks
Those daily tasks that seem to get in the way, yet are an essential part of keeping your business running smoothly, can all be handled by an online business manager. Project management, administration, communicating with staff and customers, organising documents and data… an OBM can create efficient workflows and improve time management.
2. Increase Growth
When you are not bogged down in the nitty gritty of core operations, it allows you to focus your time on developing your business further. You will have more time and resources to scale up and expand your customer base, and be able to act on new opportunities that come up.
Not only that, an OBM is likely to have the experience and skills to help you create new business strategies, and a wide business network where you can make new connections.
3. Fresh Set of Eyes
Sometimes, we are so close to our business that we ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. When you first began your business, you may have had ways of doing things that worked well at the time. However, as your business grows or changes, those processes become less efficient. It can be hard to make changes when you’ve always done things a certain way, or don’t have time to implement a new way of working. An OBM is a fresh set of eyes on your business, and may be able to suggest new ways of streamlining processes that you never thought of before.
4. Improve Work/Life Balance
Running a business is often challenging, especially for entrepreneurs who have to manage many aspects. When you spread yourself too thinly, both your business and your personal life begin to show the strain. There may also be times when you need to take a day or two off, such as through illness or commitments. It’s impossible to be in two or three places at once and still expect to be working effectively, so hiring an OBM can help provide that much needed manpower to make sure all areas of your business are running smoothly.
5. Freedom to be Creative
As a business owner, founder, or CEO, you are the visionary that steers the ship. When the day-to-day pressure is lessened, you can use your creativity to think of new ways to develop your business, how to best serve your customers or clients, and create future plans that fully align with your business values.
Ready to find out more?
Whatever the size of your business, if you are finding that time spent on core processes is slowing down growth, then hiring an OBM could be the answer you’re looking for. Feel free to get in touch to see how we could work together to support the growth of your business.
Having a team around you (even a virtual one) is a great benefit not only to your business, but also your health and state of mind. The fact I am in a position to delegate tasks to others is a great feeling, and achieving it yourself is not as hard as you may think.
When I first started my business, I struggled for a long time trying to do everything myself when, in fact, I should have been taking my own advice as a virtual assistant and outsourcing some of my work.
Now, having been in business for just over 8 years, I have been outsourcing work to freelancers for the past 6 of those at least, and I feel much better for it.
A few years ago I had a great conversation with a client on Skype about what can I offer to people that is unique. The conclusion was that not only can I provide services to clients myself, but I can also offer a team of freelancers who have additional skills and can go above and beyond the core services I offer.
My fab freelancers and I have found each other via lots of different avenues. For example, I used to use PeoplePerHour to look for freelancers and that’s how I met James (below), but nowadays I usually meet them on Facebook. I am part of a great group called Freelance Heroes and this is my first port of call when I am looking for some help with something I don’t have the skills for.
One of my clients also frequently tasks me with finding freelancers for him and his clients, and that’s where I head first. I also use some other groups, depending on the sort of person I am looking for.
Without further ado, I want to introduce you to some of the freelancers I work with as I think they are all fabulous.
My Virtual Assistant – Amy
I have been working with Amy for over 2 years now. We met through a client that we both work with (although I found her for my client and was so impressed I hired her too). We have an ad-hoc working arrangement, so I send her tasks as and when I need them completed. The tasks vary, from work for my own business, or helping me out with some of my clients’ tasks when they all have a lot going on at the same time. I am also teaching her the ropes on book formatting so she can start helping me out with this as well. I know that if I send a task over to Amy then it will be done within the given timescales and to a very high standard.
Amy has a website www.alvirtualassistance.co.uk.
My Graphic Designer – Ryan
Ryan and I have been working together for a while now. In fact, I am having trouble remembering how we first got together. Ryan works mainly with book covers, but more recently started formatting as well. For my eBook formatting service this works really well as I can recommend Ryan to my author clients or pass him enquiries when I am too busy. Many of my clients use Ryan to design their covers.
Other things I have used Ryan for are my social media cover images, as you can see all my cover images are the same across my networks now, and Ryan did a great job at designing these for me. He has also designed cover images for one of my clients, which they were really pleased with.
Ryan has a a website https://bookbrand.co.uk.
My Writer – James
As I mentioned earlier, I discovered James on PPH years ago. Since then, he has become my every day go to writer for both my own articles and for my clients. James helps to take away all my stress around writing by providing a fresh perspective and polishing stuff that I’ve written myself to make it sound that bit better. Without him, I would be a very stressed virtual assistant!
James is on LinkedIn.
So that’s my core team. Feel free to get in touch with any of them if you think they might benefit your own businesses. I am sure they would love to be of assistance.
I regularly get people contacting me through LinkedIn to ask how I started being a virtual assistant (VA). In fact, the frequency and number of enquiries prompted me to write this blog post – after all, I’m all about boosting productivity and efficiency, which is why it made sense to write an informative post and direct wannabe VAs towards it.
First and foremost, before I started my VA business, I did huge amounts of research. I spent a lot of time online digesting as many free resources as I could and absorbing all the advice and tips I was finding – there was a lot!
Google is your friend
A quick Google search for ‘how to become a virtual assistant’ yields a whopping 8.4 million results (at time of writing). Even if you just take the time to go through the first page of results alone, you’ll glean a huge amount of relevant info (as I did more than six years ago).
Next, I looked to satisfy the avid reader in me and checked what books relating to becoming a virtual assistant were available on Amazon. There wasn’t actually that many (at the time), but one did stick out, so I placed an order. It was “The Virtual Assistant Handbook: Insider Secrets for Starting and Running Your Own Profitable VA Business” by Nadine Hill. It’s a great resource because it’s so easy to read. I couldn’t put it down once I’d started and read it from cover to cover in no time. It was definitely worth the cost as it contained information about things I hadn’t thought about.
Another great book written by an acquaintance of mine is How to be a Virtual Assistant: Start and run your own successful VA business by Catherine Gladwyn.
With my interest seriously piqued and my passion to learn more in overdrive, I joined the Virtual Assistant Forums. Like most Internet-based forums, this one allows you to post questions and discuss topics with people who are virtual assistants already or working towards becoming one.
A great way to gain some exposure in such forums is by linking your blog and Twitter accounts, then adding real value to the conversations that are going on. People will naturally look at your profile if they see you as someone who knows what they’re talking about and may click through to your website/social media accounts as a result.
I then joined the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). It’s a non-profit organisation dedicated to VA development, education and raising public awareness of what VAs do. There are several different membership categories, all of which boast a number of benefits. Check out the IVAA website for more information.
There are two VA directory sites that I’d recommend to anyone looking to start out in this industry: Virtual Assistantville and BeMyVA. They are great places to advertise your services and potentially secure your first clients. Be sure to check out the membership benefits of BeMyVA, as there’s a chance you could feature on their social media accounts and have your articles featured in their newsletter.
Twitter lists featuring virtual assistants are great; all you’ve got to do is find some. The easiest way to do this is by using the Twitter search feature to find out profiles relating to virtual assistance, VAs, etc. One you’ve started following some of the profiles you’ve found, go through their accounts and look at any lists they’ve created and been added to. Chances are there will be some relating solely to virtual assistance, which can join or retrieve more useful contacts from.
Hashtags like #VA and #virtualassistant are also a great way to find tweets and profiles relating to the industry.
Last, but certainly not least, are all the virtual assistant Facebook groups out there. There are so many, each with their own benefits, that I would never be able to review each one separately. However, I have compiled this list of groups to get you started:
Two other Facebook groups I highly recommend are Freelance Heroes (great for general freelancing discussions and lead generation) and my own Online Productivity Tools & Applications group (great for insights into all the best tools and apps designed to boost productivity).
Over to you…
Are there any resources you use/have used that I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear about them. Drop a note in the comments or tweet me @JoHarris0n.
Being my own boss is great. It allows me to manage my time however I want, and that enables me to do a lot more of the things I enjoy in life. In fact, since I moved to France back in 2011, my work/life balance has been better than at any other point in my life.
However, being a professional virtual assistant isn’t without its challenges, and one area that I have had to give special consideration to is the need for client contracts.
Many freelancers – especially those just starting out – often overlook the importance of having some kind of contract with their clients. I know I did! Luckily, several of the virtual assistant training courses I completed highlighted that client contracts were nothing short of a necessity, and I’ve used them ever since.
It can be very tempting to overlook the paperwork when you’re in talks with a potential new client. Both of you are inevitably excited and singing from the same hymn sheet in terms of what you want to achieve, and there is a massive urge to want to jump in and get to work. This kind of enthusiasm is natural and definitely isn’t a bad thing, but you must make sure you get a few small formalities out of the way first.
Everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with so far as a virtual assistant has been honest. Let’s face it, in an ideal world we’d never need contracts for anything. The reality, though, is that we don’t live in an ideal world, which is why contracts are used throughout our daily lives.
Here are a few reasons why contracts are so important for freelancers today:
Contracts protect you
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been extremely lucky with all my clients, but not everyone is. Non-payment is the biggest issue faced by many freelancers and without a watertight contract there’s little recourse for them.
Late payments are also a problem, especially when you are living on a carefully-calculated budget and have bills to pay on specific dates. Your service providers expect you to pay them as per your contract and that’s why you should expect the same from your clients.
Some freelancers also find that when they eventually do get paid the amount isn’t what they were expecting. Their clients have seemingly made adjustments, and the lack of a binding contract has enabled them to do so.
Contracts protect your clients
It would be wrong to think that contracts should only be put in place to protect the freelancer. All of our business relationships are two-way affairs, and that’s exactly how contracts work.
I’ve heard many stories where a client hired the services of a freelancer and ended up high and dry because the project was left unfinished, or the end result was completely different from what they expected and ultimately served no purpose for them.
The whole situation is made even worse if the client also loses money in the process. It could mean they are unable to hire someone else to complete the project and it leaves a bad taste in their mouths about working with freelancers.
Contracts boost your credibility
We all like to think of ourselves as consummate professionals. So why would you even consider entering into a new client relationship without a contract?
By starting every new project off on the right foot with a contract in place, you are automatically showing your client that you take your responsibilities seriously and that you mean business. It affords a sense of reassurance and sets a professional tone for your relationship going forward.
While a contract might not be able to prevent bad things from happening or relationships going sour, it will stand you in a stronger position should the worst happen.
As a final point, it’s always best practise to get any contracts that you are considering using checked over by a legal professional to ensure they cover every aspect you need them to. As contracts get edited to suit different purposes, they sometimes lose their enforceability, which is something that can’t be fixed after the event.
Have you ever had any problems with clients, which may have been okay if you’d have had a contract in place? I’d love to hear about your experiences…