4 Major Differences Between an OBM and a VA

We’re serving up some nice, warm alphabet soup here at the VA Studio Blog today to answer a question I get a lot from potential clients and people deciding whether they want to be a Virtual Assistant or an Online Business Manager.

There’s a rare breed out there who offer their services as both an OBM and a VA, and I’m one of them! I cherish both roles and bring equal value to my clients in each capacity, but the two are very different. Whether you choose to be one or both, it’s essential to know what the differences are, since everything from discovering your ideal client to creating your branding and marketing to planning for the future depends on what you choose to call yourself.


These are some of the most important differences I explain to contacts and potential clients right away, and I’m sure there are more. Let’s get started.


OBMs are planners; VAs are doers.

While an OBM works with their clients to create custom-built strategies and then manages the project from start to finish, a VA is task-oriented and takes on assigned specific projects to help clients achieve defined outcomes.

In my OBM practice, I prepare project briefs, provide tools, compile policies and procedures and offer guidance to my team of assistants and sub-contractors who specialize in their fields. They do the work I can’t or don’t have time to do.

Pro Tip: It may help to think of this metaphor: If a VA and an OBM worked in a clothing store, the VA would be stocking shelves, while the OBM would be in charge of running the store, handling cash and tracking inventory.


OBMs and VAs are motivated differently….

One of my favourite tasks to do as an OBM is to jump on a breakthrough call with a client. During our time together, they tell me about their goals, and I pitch the ideas and provide the roadmap that will help us reach and exceed their expectations. Watching my clients’ faces light up with excitement when I pitch an idea they love is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. I also take pride in reinforcing their goals and explaining how we’ll make them a reality. I spend about 70% of my time building the strategy with my client’s input.

On the VA side, I relish the moment when that task list starts to diminish. This is another difference: While the OBM derives satisfaction from identifying goals and creating the task list, the VA loves sinking their teeth into the work and checking items off the list.


….So their client volumes and financial models are drastically different

Everyone discovers and sets up a specific model that works for them, but here’s how it works in my OBM practice:

If I’m implementing a launch, my client and I create a good-better-best scenario to track and measure its success, where ‘good’ is the break-even point, ‘better’ is a pre-set milestone and ‘best’ is always 200% of the predicted revenue. After we reach a specific revenue milestone, I split the profits with my clients. Since these projects are long-term by nature, my contracts span 6 months to a year and I work with 2 to 5 clients at a time.

Contrast this with the fact that most VAs charge an hourly rate or negotiate a monthly retainer fee, and can take on a higher volume of clients (usually anywhere from 5 to 10).


OBMs understand the numbers behind the business; VAs are masters of their tools & trade

You can’t manage a business without being able to interpret the meaning behind the numbers on the spreadsheet, so it’s critical for OBMs to have a business degree, knowledge of business foundations and solid real-world experience. We’re on top of business and financial trends, and know how to take a business that’s struggling to survive or grow and develop results-oriented strategies that transform it into a resounding success.

As OBMs, we almost have to know more than our clients to properly manage their business, because we’re providing the strategy and guiding them along every step of their journey to success.

Conversely, the VA’s world is very much task-based. In my VA practice, it’s up to me to keep up with the cutting edge tools and programs that help me produce the very best, highest quality work for clients. I devote a significant amount of time to researching new tools, understanding the concepts behind them and testing them to see how I can use them effectively on projects.


Have any more thoughts on differences between VAs and OBMs? Tell us in the comments!

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