top of page


Updated: Feb 17

You have decided it is time to bring on virtual support for your service-based business! But you aren’t quite sure… do you need the help of a VA (Virtual Assistant), or is it time to hire an OBM (Online Business Manager)?

Both roles are crucial when it comes to scaling your business. Knowing the difference between the two roles and when to hire them will save you time, money, and so many headaches! If you want to know what an OBM and a VA can do for your business, you've come to the right place.

The difference between a VA and an OBM. And how each can help your business.

What's the main difference between a VA and an OBM?

OBM: Creates high-level strategy and plans out the details.

VA: Thrive at implementing the details.

OBM: Delegates tasks that need to be completed.

VA: Completes the tasks assigned.

OBM: Audits and streamlines the business systems and operational processes.

VA: Works within the systems and follows the procedures.

OBM: Manages the team and plans for business growth.

VA: Assists the team and the business.

What does a VA do?

Some virtual assistants operate as generalists and take care of whatever tasks you send them. While some VAs specialize and focus solely on providing design support, social media, marketing, and customer service tasks. The fluctuating nature of business and responsibilities is why most virtual assistants charge by the hour and work for a set number of hours per week. VAs often work with many businesses.

What does an OBM do?

An Online Business Manager is like a business strategist, delegator, and leader rolled into one role focused entirely on your business goals. They are proactive and responsible for developing plans, processes, and systems to make your business run smoothly. Team management and business operations are at the top of an OBM's priority list. The term Certified OBM means they went through a business management course and are an active member of an international association that provides continuous training and resources to support small business owners.

Since an OBM does more in-depth work, they take on fewer clients and commonly offer a monthly package of hours or retainer that completely covers your needs.

How can I tell if I need a VA or an OBM?

To determine if a VA or an OBM is the best fit for you, ask yourself the following:

Am I overwhelmed by my to-do list or my team?

Make a list of what you're hoping someone could take over for you. Can the things on your to-do list be completed by anyone? A good VA can follow step-by-step SOPs, take action, complete repetitive tasks, and tackle those to-dos that are draining your time and energy.

An OBM ensures that the right people are on your team, in the right roles, and taking on the right tasks. They will manage the projects for your business, establish how things should be done, and keep everyone focused on your vision and objectives. If you feel overwhelmed managing a team, it's time to hire an OBM.

Do I need more time, or do I need more bandwidth?

A VA and an OBM will save you time because they're doing work you'd otherwise be responsible for. However, an OBM will increase your bandwidth by taking over the complexity of planning for the business at large. This frees you up so you can focus on money-generating tasks and creativity.

Client Words: "I feel like Kirstin hears me and understands my desired results. She explains her recommendations clearly. I feel calm and excited when working with her." - Michelle McNally

Can one person do both roles?

A good example I like to use is you would not want to hire a talented designer to lead your client work and then train them to do your bookkeeping, too. The value the designers bring would be compromised. Hiring a VA and training them to manage your business may be tempting. But I strongly advise against this. If you do decide to hire an OBM first, chances are they will need to take on a few VA responsibilities in the beginning. But in the long run, it is not a solution since day-to-day details may distract them from providing the business management you need to move your vision forward.

What is the pricing difference between a VA and an OBM?

A Virtual Assistant can range from $25-55/hour and up, depending on their specialties and the needs of your design business. A Certified Online Business Manager rate typically costs $65/hr and up. As mentioned above, an OBM typically offers retainer packages versus hourly charges. Their package costs will vary depending on the size of your team and your business's needs.

The rate for an OBM is more than VA because of the strategic value they bring to the table and the level of responsibility they take on. An OBM is planning for business growth - always looking ahead to what is coming up and creating plans & systems to ensure the business is running smoothly and effectively. They are focused on your revenue goals.

That said, a great VA who is responsive and dedicated to your business will also be an invaluable team member. As mentioned above, an OBM typically offers retainer packages, and the cost will vary depending on the size of your team and your business's needs.

Need help deciding if an OBM or a VA is right for your design business?

In a complimentary 30-minute call, we can discuss your outsourcing challenges and get you moving forward! I started KB&Co with a simple yet powerful purpose. I wanted to bring my project management experience from big businesses to small businesses, all while creating my own life-first business.

Certified online business manager, Kirstin Brenders
KB&Co Brand Photo | Credits: P3 Photography

To learn how we can partner together, check out my Services.

Like this post? Check out the others - You’ll find more about mindset, tools, and systems to help you run your business.


bottom of page