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Difference between Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant

What’s the Difference between an Online Business Manager and a Virtual Assistant?

Do you know the difference between an Online Business Manager and a Virtual Assistant?

Because knowing how they differ is so important, I ask all prospective clients this question when they apply for a discovery call. In addition, we may discuss the difference at a deeper level as we talk.  

As you read on, you’ll learn why this question is so important. In addition, it helps you to understand which team members you'll need to support your online business.

The ​Elusive Search for an Online Business Manager

Did you know the term "Virtual Assistant" is searched on Google approximately 74,000 times a month? 

In contrast, the term "Online Business Manager" is searched far less – at last count, about 40 times a month.

Recently, a business owner shared with me that it’s hard to find an Online Business Manager. In fact, this business owner found the term "Online Business Manager" a bit mysterious.

In my expert opinion, some of the reasons for that confusion include:

  • Not only are business owners not sure what kind of help they need at different phases of growth, but they also don't know who to hire to support their businesses.
  • Everyone who works online knows the term Virtual Assistant. When a business owner begins looking for support, she often asks friends, other business owners, or a coach. In addition, she may do a Google search for the closest term she knows that aligns with business support.
  • My experience is that many coaches and consultants aren't clear on the differences in the roles of Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant. (With this in mind, I'll explain those differences later in this post.)
  • Many Virtual Assistants and companies market themselves or their services as Online Business Managers. Frequently, this sends a mixed message to business owners who are desperate to hire business support.  
  • Many coaches and consultants believe an Online Business Manager is a higher level, more experienced Virtual Assistant.
  • Finally, when you Google "Online Business Manager", the results are mixed with companies that provide educational training sites. The results don't focus on the service provider searching for support. 

What is an Online Business Manager?


Tina Forsyth first coined the term "Online Business Manager" in her 2009 book, “Becoming an Online Business Manager – Playing a Bigger Game with Your Clients.

Due to the popularity of Tina’s book and certification training programs, a movement of highly trained online business service professionals resulted (me included). 


As highly skilled professionals, we're ready to step into our clients' businesses in a big way. We help our clients increase profit, reduce cost, and build scalability and efficiency.

Many of us have many years of experience managing businesses, teams, and projects in the traditional office setting. 

Personally, before moving to serving clients online, I worked for nearly 30 years in traditional industries such as oil and gas, investment management, manufacturing, marketing management, and healthcare.   

When Business Owners "Hit the Ceiling" in Growth

What is the Difference between Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant?

A time comes in the growth of all businesses where the business owner is simply “tapped out” in her ability to grow any further. This happens when she is the only one in charge of everything in her business. 

As your business model proves that it works, and you’re gaining traction in your target market, you’re entering the growth phase of your business.

For women coaches, consultants, and other purpose-driven service providers, this “tipping point” typically starts around $250K in revenues.

No doubt…

You’ve already begun to feel you're “hitting the ceiling” in the growth of your business.

You're most likely experiencing the following signs of growth right now?

  • You feel overwhelmed, over-worked, and stressed by your business instead of inspired and energized by it.
  • You continue work long hours on operational tasks that don't bring you closer to your profit and business goals.
  • Expenses are soaring. Your business is now 10X’d. It takes more resources to produce and deliver products and programs to your growing client list.
  • You feel lonely in your business with no one to turn to for advice on how to grow past these new challenges.
  • You leave money on the table by not closing deals or getting more out of existing clients.
  • Finally, a few clients complain because you don’t have sufficient customer support systems in place. You risk losing them.

You didn't start your business so you could run it, right?

Inevitably, in any successful business, the owner’s role must change at ​at this point to continue growing a profitable company. Unfortunately, old ways of doing business won't open new opportunities for growth.

If you’re past the $250K revenue mark in your business, you’ve hired Virtual Assistants and other service providers to do tasks for you.   

Certainly, that’s smart. 

Surely, that’s what you need to do. 

Now add another $100K, $200K, $300K and more to that top number, and your business ​looks very different. 

However, if you still manage the day-to-day operations in your business, you’re the bottleneck to further growth.

Because you're so involved in managing, you simply ​do not have the time and energy to focus on growing a profitable business. 

How Can An Online Business Manager ​​Help Me Grow My Business?

An online business manager is an independent contractor who works from a remote location, typically from a home-based office. We're able to help our clients by giving high business management support typically found in traditional offices.

Online business managers help clients scale and manage daily operations, projects, team, marketing, and numbers. 

Because virtual managers take care of the day-to-day, their clients gain back the time they once spent on activities that didn't add to their bottom line. Now they have time and energy to focus on SCALING and GROWING their businesses.

Due to the broad scope of work, an online business manager typically works with 1-2 clients at a time.

What is a Virtual Assistant?

A Virtual Assistant is hired to do administrative, technical, social media, and other customer support tasks. Virtual Assistants also work from remote locations, typically a home-based office. They support their clients by giving execution support for assigned tasks and projects.   

Because they execute tasks rather than manage, Virtual Assistants typically work with up to 10-12 clients at a time. As a result, their focus is on completing assigned tasks and typically have little time to give more attention to the bigger picture.  

What is the Difference between an Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant?

What is the Difference between Online Business Manager and Virtual Assistant?

An online business manager holds the back-end pieces of your business together while you step into your role as CEO.  

When you're ready to step out of day-to-day operations, you'll hire an online business manager. She will recruit, hire, and manage your team of Virtual Assistants. 

Instead of growing and managing the business, your focus is now on leading your business into future growth.

Are you ready to step down from managing your business and up into your CEO role?

Sound like we may be a good fit?

You’re invited to a no-cost discovery call.  Click ​on the link below to set up ​​your FREE 30-minute session with me.  This link will ​will take you to a short application ​before ​you receive a link to my ​online schedule.  This process allows me to get you know you ​before we​ chat.

Was this post helpful?   I would love to know your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author Brenda Violette, Fractional Integrator

Brenda Violette is the founder and CEO of Violette Business Services, LLC an online business and operations management company serving visionary women entrepreneurs since 2008. Brenda’s core service offering is Fractional Integrator, often called a Virtual COO in the online entrepreneurial space. If you are familiar with the book Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, you will recognize the roles of Visionary and Integrator. The V/I Duo. Some Integrators like Brenda, work with online businesses that need the expertise of an Integrator but are not yet ready to hire a full-time Integrator. She partners with women CEOs generating early million-dollar organizations while sitting in the Visionary seat of the company and running their online service-based company on EOS®. The Entrepreneurial Operating System® has become more and more popular in the marketplace. And Brenda loves it because it is a simple and straightforward framework for creating traction and growth for her clients. In the role of Integrator, it is her job to drive the model. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurial women grow and scale their purpose-driven service-based companies. To learn more about how a Fractional Integrator can help you create big growth and sustainability visit www.BrendaViolette.com.

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  • Great post. Definitely this one of the informative and useful post to me. Thanks much for sharing.

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