Your business is growing, and you can’t do it alone anymore. As you look to outsource business tasks, you might have been thinking about hiring a virtual assistant–but do you actually need to hire an online business manager?

Well, maybe. In this post, I’ll help you understand what an online business manager is, whether you need one, and if so, how to hire (and keep) one.

What is an Online Business Manager?

An online business manager, or OBM, is someone who helps you manage and run your business. She is often a strategic partner in your business, providing insight and feedback to help you operate more efficiently or effectively. Often an OBM is overseeing or managing multiple aspects of your business, and sometimes she is also overseeing team members as well.

How does an OBM differ from a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant, broadly speaking, is anyone who works virtually providing assistance to another person. When it comes to the online business space, a virtual assistant, or VA, is usually going to be doing specific tasks as assigned by you, the business owner. The VA might be scheduling your social media, creating graphics, or managing your email inbox. Some VAs do multiple tasks, and there are VAs that are specialized as well as those with a wide skill set.

On the other hand, an OBM is going to have a better understanding of how all the moving parts of your business fit together. She’s usually going to be involved in multiple areas of your business rather than just one or two. In addition, she might be providing input into how to improve different aspects of your business. She may be helping to develop a strategy for a specific project or area in which she has expertise, rather than just implementing tasks assigned to her.

The biggest differentiating factor between a VA and an OBM is the level to which the person is invested in your business. This, of course, can be very subjective, so you may have a VA who is actually operating as an OBM, or vice versa.

How does an OBM differ from a project manager?

Again, there tends to be a lot of overlap and similarities between an online business manager and a project manager (PM). But generally speaking, a project manager is usually going to be managing a specific project for a limited amount of time, whereas an OBM is likely a part of your team. Some larger businesses do have a project manager who is there long-term, but another difference is that the PM usually is not doing a lot of the implementation, whereas an OBM usually will be.

Typically, a business might need a PM if they have a large team already implementing projects, and the business owner needs someone to oversee and manage all of the projects. But a business who has an online business manager may want that person to both manage some projects as well as provide the implementation for those projects.

(Need a great Project Manager? I recommend Natalie Gingrich, Business Planning and Project Management).

Even amongst the online business manager community, there can be a wide range of types of support provided. Some OBMs specialize more in the administrative side of your business, and some may have a speciality in digital marketing. Some may bring a team that can provide an array of services, and others operate as a solo freelancer. Some have a strong tech skillset, and others excel in administration and service. 

Hiring an Online Business Manager

How Do I Know if I Need to Hire an Online Business Manager?

Often I hear business owners wondering if they need an OBM or a VA. This list might help you make that decision.

You may need an OBM if…

  • You have multiple streams of income and are having a hard time keeping up with everything that keeps your business running.
  • You’re overwhelmed with keeping up with your email marketing and growing your list.
  • You’re great at coming up with ideas for your business but not so great with follow-through.
  • You have trouble getting your blog posts (or YouTube videos or podcasts) published each week.
  • You need help getting your business organized so you have a big picture view of what’s happening.
  • You have a VA who does a lot of tasks for you, but doesn’t understand overall online business strategy, or doesn’t have a wide skill set to implement a variety of tasks in your business.
  • You want to be able to focus on content creation and client interaction rather than maintaining your website or creating graphics for social media.
  • You need someone who understands and supports your business goals, and has creative ideas to help you achieve those goals.
  • You’re making enough money to invest in a high-quality team member and are not worried about not being able to pay her each month.

Let’s repeat that last point: you’re making enough money to invest in a high-quality team member.

If you are at the start of your business, you’re not ready for an OBM. Most businesses I work with have been operating for at least a few years and are earning a consistent income each month from their business.

Don’t try to invest in an OBM before you are ready… but also don’t wait until you are so overwhelmed that you can’t manage. Most business owners start with a VA to take certain tasks off their plate and then add an OBM when they are ready. Or, sometimes, their VA becomes their OBM, if she has the skillset and the understanding necessary to do so.

How to Hire an Online Business Manager

Okay, so you’ve established that you need an online business manager, but how do go about hiring one? How can you grow your team for your online business without wasting time or money?

First, you should create a clear job description of what you are looking for.

The best job descriptions that I see include the type of work that the OBM will be doing, details about the business, the tools that are used in the business, as well as what character traits and qualities are needed. Many OBMs will be able to pick up on new tools, so I find it more important to focus on the type of work and the qualities you are looking for in an OBM.

It’s also helpful to share your core values, as well as your business mission statement, as this can be a key factor in whether an OBM will be a good match. If your values are not in line, then there will be more challenges working together.

If you truly want the process to go well, I recommend setting up a Google Form for an application so that you can review all the applications once they come in. This also makes it so that your inbox is not inundated with emails. You can screen out anyone that is immediately not a good fit and then contact the ones that are.

Second, ask for referrals and post your job description.

Many OBMs operate primarily via referrals. So ask your colleagues if they have an OBM or if they know of one they would recommend. A personal referral is most often going to be more effective than just doing a google search or asking in a FB group.

You can also post your job description in places where online business managers might be available. I recommend posting to the Create Your Laptop Life Network, which I happen to be a part of.

Third, talk to several candidates.

Next you’re going to want to interview several candidates that apply. When doing so, keep in mind that the OBM is also a business owner, and unless you are planning to hire an employee, she will be a an independent contractor. This means that her time is valuable just like yours is, so the conversation is less of an interview and more of a chance to find out if you are a good fit. In fact, she may also have questions for YOU, so don’t be surprised if she starts asking you a variety of questions.

I do not recommend working with someone after only a brief phone call. You’ll want to have a chance to get to know the prospect more in depth before having her join your team. And it goes both ways – if it’s not a good fit, it’s not going to be beneficial for either one of you to move forward.

Finally, work together for a trial period.

Once you have an OBM that you feel would be a great fit, you can agree upon a trial period in which you will work together. Keep in mind that it will be impossible for the OBM to get all of your systems and projects running smoothly in a short period of time, so be sure to set some realistic goals and objectives for the time frame.

In my case, we typically start with a one-month trial period so that we can determine if it makes sense to continue working together. But this does not mean that we will be able to get everything organized and all the processes in place in that initial month. Usually this is more of a chance to get to know each other better, for us to get to know the business, and to begin implementing some of the systems or processes we established at the start of the work.

How to Keep Your Online Business Manager

Once you’ve hired your OBM and begun working together, it’s likely that you will want to keep her. I often hear the phrase, “I don’t know what I’d do without you!” I hear other business owners share similar sentiments about their OBMs as well. So how do you make sure you can keep your OBM once you have her?

Appreciation thank you cards - How to Hire an Online Business Manager

There are a few things that you can do as the business owner to keep your OBM:

  • Communicate your expectations clearly. While your OBM is likely someone who does not need to have her hand held, she does need to understand your expectations. Do not assume that she can read your mind, and do not give her half of the information about a project. Make sure that you have clearly outlined your expectations and needs for any of the projects you are working on.
  • Include her in your business strategy and growth, and ask for her feedback. Many OBMs are excellent business owners in their own right, and they often have a background in online business. They also are usually very willing to provide their input, and they may see things that you don’t see. Always be open to hearing their ideas, and you may be surprised where it takes your business.
  • Appreciate and reward her. If you have an OBM you want to keep, find out how she best receives appreciation and offer that to her. One of the biggest reasons people leave their jobs is not finances – it’s lack of appreciation. While this may not be a typical employee situation, the concept carries over. Appreciation goes a long way in keeping your key team member.

I hope this post has helped you have a better understanding of what an online business manager is, determine if you need one, as well as how to hire and keep an OBM. If you are ready to outsource business tasks, you may be ready to hire an OBM.

Grab my free cheat sheet with the 7 Things To Do Before Hiring an Online Business Manager: