Many entrepreneurs have great ideas for a business but no experience running a company. Whereas you may be able to get your business off the ground, there will come a time when you’ll struggle to manage operations on your own. If you want to grow your startup into a small business, you need to move into the role of CEO and hire an online business manager.
What Is an Online Business Manager?
The concept of an online business manager is relatively new, but it’s already taking off. This person provides support to your business virtually, taking over the operations side and managing workflows. This gives you the chance to lead your company, grow your business, and make decisions that will shape its future.
In terms of hierarchy, an online business manager is right below you — the business owner — and above all the other members of your team.
What Does an Online Business Manager Do?
In a traditional business, you have an office manager. Online business managers have the same responsibilities, with the difference that they carry out everything online. This includes:
Overseeing projects from initiation to completion.
Planning, assisting with the launch itself, and organizing the post-launch activities.
Streamlining activities at your business to improve quality and productivity.
Looking at KPIs and providing you with advice based on metrics.
Keeping your team organized and on track.
Some online business managers also offer support with business strategy, such as for brand development or building your customer base.
Online Business Manager Rates
The amount you pay for an OBM will depend on the experience and qualifications of the individual. A number of institutes offer training to become an accredited online business manager. To receive a certification, professionals usually need to complete real projects for clients to a high standard.
Typically, you pay a retainer for the OBM’s services rather than paying by the hour — which is a difference from most other virtual positions. You’ll purchase a package for a set number of hours for a month and then work with the online business manager to decide how to allocate these hours. The good thing about this system is it gives businesses with a wide range of budgets the chance to work with an OBM.
At the lowest, online business managers charge the equivalent of $10 an hour, although the average rate is $29/hour and the most expensive OBMs charge upward of $55. On top of this, many work on an incentive basis. This means you pay more if your business fares well because of the work the OBM does for you.
Differences Between an Online Business Manager vs a Virtual Assistant
An online business manager is not the same as a virtual assistant. In fact, many online business managers start out as virtual assistants and move on to become OBMs. Others have a background in project management or previously worked as personal assistants.
Although both OBMs and VAs work virtually and carry out tasks you lack the time or expertise to do yourself, it’s here that the similarities end.
Management vs Administration
As we’ve seen, online business managers are mainly concerned with the operations side of your business. A general virtual assistant, in contrast, carries out administrative tasks, like scheduling, travel arrangements, and correspondence.
Bear in mind, though, that a general virtual assistant is only one type of VA. There are also specialized virtual assistants who can support you with tasks ranging from customer service to pay-per-click ads.
Need for Guidance
Virtual assistants expect you to provide them with set tasks. They may also want instructions about how you want these tasks completed, which is great if you have a specific way of doing things and don’t want to change.
Online business managers require no guidance. They just need to know how your business works and then they can take over the management side for you. An OBM will even find issues you’re unaware of and resolve them.
Number of Clients
Since online business managers tend to have a base rate of at least 20 hours a month, they are limited to working with just a few clients at a time. In contrast, it’s up to you to decide how many hours you want a virtual assistant. Some may ask for regular hours, but there will still be an element of flexibility. If you need a virtual assistant to work just a couple hours a week — or even only a few hours a month — your VA will have time to work with several other clients.
As a result, OBMs tend to be much more committed to their clients than VAs. The likelihood is that they’ll be available when you need them, whereas a virtual assistant is less likely to be able to provide support on demand.
We’ve already seen the OBM rates. How does this compare to the cost of hiring virtual assistant? Again, it depends.
If you outsource a VA from abroad, you may be able to pay as little as $3 an hour, although you’ll likely only be able to find VAs without experience for this rate. For a virtual assistant in North America, expect to pay a minimum of $15 an hour. The rate increases according to the complexity of the tasks, reaching to as high as $75 — although few charge more than $60.
When you factor in the fact that OBMs tend to require a minimum of 20 hours per month, this means virtual assistants can cost significantly less than online business managers.
Tasks vs Goals
Virtual assistants work with the aim of completing specific tasks, whereas an online business manager needs to do whatever it takes to reach your targets. If your virtual assistants are struggling with any aspect of a task, they’ll ask you for further clarification or support. Online business managers, however, need to resolve any challenges they face on their own.
Usually, you’ll tell your virtual assistants when you need specific work completed. Although VAs work the hours they choose (at least to an extent) and fit tasks into their schedule as they see fit, they have no control of workflows beyond this. Online business managers, though, set their own priorities. They decide what work needs doing to meet their goals.
Online Business Manager vs Virtual Assistant: Which Is Right for You?
Both an online business manager and virtual assistants can be valuable assets to your team. Whether you need one or the other comes down to factors like the size of your business, your needs, and your goals. Ask yourself these questions to figure out which would be right for you.
Do You Feel Like There Are Not Enough Hours in the Day?
The fact is that almost everyone feels like this. To decide whether an OBM or a VA would fulfill your needs, look at your schedule and figure out what kinds of activities are taking up most of your time.
Are You Spending Too Much Time Communicating with Team Members?
If coordinating with different members of your team is taking up a significant portion of your workdays, you may need an online business manager.
Do You Want Help Managing Your Business?
Similarly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the management of your business and would prefer to focus on the details, an OBM is the solution. However, if the issue lies in particular activities — especially monotonous tasks — a VA is a better option.
Do You Want to Maintain Control?
Many entrepreneurs feel as if they are not ready to hand over a major part of their business to someone else. As long as it’s feasible to continue managing everything yourself, this is fine. You may like to wait a little longer before you hire an online business manager, but a virtual assistant could provide you with the support you require.
Are You Familiar with the Latest Tech?
To successfully manage your company, you need to know about project management, video conferencing, time tracking, and bookkeeping software. You may also need to tell your team what graphic design, web development, and keyword research tools to use. This requires either prior knowledge or a large amount of research.
Alternatively, you could rely on an online business manager. An experienced OBM will know exactly what tools and software are necessary to keep everyone on track and produce quality work.
What Can You Afford?
It may be out of your budget to pay for an online business manager right now. If an OBM is unnecessary for your business at the moment, a better investment could be a virtual assistant.
Whereas you may prefer to just hire a virtual assistant for the time being, there’s a good chance you’ll require an online business manager later. In fact, if you want to avoid the need to hire employees entirely, you could even create a team consisting of an online business manager and several virtual assistants. As your company grows, you may end up hiring some in-house employees, but the likelihood is you’ll always need to outsource some tasks.