What’s happening online is always in flux.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a social media network, a technology, an influencer, or a trend; what’s new is changing and what’s old is sometimes new again.
It’s hard to keep up.
Which is why one thing is certain in all of this. If you make a living online in any way – whether you own an online business or you’re a service provider that helps people leverage the internet to grow their business – you always need to be adapting, and you always need to be evolving.
Or you risk becoming irrelevant. Quickly.
Let’s just look at what’s currently taking place with Facebook.
If you’re a Social Media Manager, long gone are the days where you simply hit publish on a catchy image post, respond to comments as they come in, and watch your follower count increase.
Today – more than ever – businesses and brands question whether they even need a Social Media Manager and are either eliminating that role or replacing it with someone who has experience in driving paid traffic on social media. This is because free engagement across all major social media channels is way down, forcing brands to “pay-to-play”.
So in the last two years every Social Media Manager I know has either lost clients or has pivitoed their business to include Facebook (and Instagram) Ads management.
But just in the last 8-12 months even, there have been some major changes within the Facebook ecosystem, and running ads on these platforms is not as effective (or cost effective) as they once were, which is driving brands to scale back on how much paid traffic they use and/or to look ahead to what’s next.
This has meant that many Social Media Managers who invested lots of money into learning how to run paid traffic for clients are once again needing to find new ways to serve their clients in order to stay in business.
And through no fault of their own, this is happening to all types of online service providers – not just Social Media Managers. With the ease of use of so many online tools to help a business grow (i.e. WordPress, Canva, etc) even web developers, graphic designers and others have had to pivot their businesses because so much of what they previously could offer a client can now be done by a much more affordable offshore Virtual Assistant.
Two Options Going Forward:
The online business landscape will continue to evolve and change and it will continue to remain a busy place.
The way I see it, there are two options:
- Maintain the course. Constantly evolve your skill set, learning each new tool, system, fad, or platform. Keep yourself relevant by keeping yourself in the “doing race”. Continue to be the doer.
- Shift from being the doer, to being the implementor. Learn the business strategy, manage the doing, and implement for success. Then, enjoy always being in demand and always remaining relevant no matter how the landscape evolves.
In short, become an Online Business Manager.
So what is an Online Business Manager exactly?
Let’s take a look.
Who this guide is for
This guide is perfect for those who are already freelancing online as social media managers, content creators, and those who help with business operations (like website and blog management, customer support, etc).
If you’re ready to expand on the skills you already have, provide more value to your clients, and ultimately earn more money, I think you’ll find a lot of valuable information in this post.
This guide is also great for those want to make the transition online who have familiarity with things like social media marketing, blogging, and who are skilled at project management.
If you own an online business, and are thinking about hiring an Online Business Manager, you’ll get a lot of value from this information as well. It’ll help you understand what to look for in this person, how much you can expect to pay, and you’ll find out exactly how a skilled Online Business Manager can help you grow and manage your business.
If none of the above applies to you, and you’re looking to start a career online, keep reading.
While it may be premature to acquire a role as an Online Business Manager, use this guide as a reference point as you seek out freelancing opportunities to get started.
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What is an Online Business Manager?
There is not one job description for an Online Business Manager (or “OBM”). By nature of the role, there’s a lot of variation in what classifies someone as an OBM. And since the title is mostly self assigned (there are no formal degrees or certifications), there’s a lot of room for interpretation.
In general, however, an OBM is someone who helps manage the online business operations for a client or business. An OBM may help with the day to day, managing staff and teams, executing on projects, and working on business development.
The offline equivalent would be a small business “general manager”. Because an OBM assumes so much responsibility, they tend to be brought on in at least a semi-permanent capacity – working long term for a business either part-time or full time.
But this is not always the case. As a working Online Business Manager, I have had some long term clients, but I tend to work on short term projects and come in to oversee big launches, strategy restructuring campaigns, or even course development.
I see my role as an OBM being not just someone who can execute on a plan, but who can design a plan with growth and efficiency in mind. I charge a premium for my services so it doesn’t always make sense for a client to keep me around for the day-to-day if they are somewhat hands-on (and I like the flexibility of more short-term projects anyway).
What makes an “Online Business Manager” different from a “Virtual Assistant” or “Project Manager”?
There can be a lot of crossover in what a “Virtual Assistant”, “Online Business Manager”, and “Project Manager” does, so it’s important to understand the nuances that separate each role. Not only does the amount of responsibility vary greatly, but so does the level of compensation.
A “Virtual Assistant” or “VA” is someone that is hired to help complete certain tasks.
A Virtual Assistant has no real project oversight, does not manage staff, and isn’t responsible for reaching goals. While there are VA generalists – those who can handle a multitude of different tasks – it tends to be more efficient for both the business owner and the VA to narrow scope of function.
Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a business owner to work with a VA that helps them with social media tasks, a VA that responds to customer service issues, and a VA who helps maintain the website and other technical integrations.
Skill level and compensation fluctuate dramatically at the Virtual Assistant level. Geography plays into this as well. Business owners around the world can hire Virtual Assistants from countries with a low cost of living for $5 (or less) per hour to complete basic tasks like data entry.
And then depending on whether a business needs someone fluent in English and proficient at delivering great customer service or someone with a specific set of technical skills, compensation for higher-level Virtual Assistants can be as much as $45 per hour or more.
Someone who positions themselves as an “Online Project Manager” and someone who identifies themselves as an “Online Business Manager” have very similar functions.
Both roles are responsible for executing on projects as they relate to growing an online business, and both are responsible for overseeing all parties involved to make sure the job gets done.
The differences and few, yet significant:
- Most Project Managers only work on time-bound projects. They come in, do the work, and then are gone. While a good Project Manager will be concerned with the project goals, they generally don’t have their compensation tied to results.
- Many Online Business Managers work so that their compensation is tied to results. The better the results, the more they are paid.
- The Project Manager may come to the role with professional degrees or certifications in project management. This may or may not be important for a business owner deciding to hire either a PM or an OBM
- The Project Manager may or may not have the understanding of online business to offer strategy guidance like an Online Business Manager.
As you will see from this guide, one of the differentiating factors that makes up an Online Business Manager is their strategy insight.
As an OBM, I am forever a student of internet marketing, and I consider my contribution to the overall business strategy as my most valuable asset I offer my clients. If they don’t want my strategy insight and support in designing the plan or campaign, we’re not going to be a good fit for each other. I demand to be involved in the decision making process to help my clients reach the next level of business; it’s largely what they pay me for.
How to Know You’re Ready to Evolve into a Online Business Manager
If your favorite part of being a Virtual Assistant or freelancer is that you don’t have to “take your work home with you”, then becoming an Online Business Manager may not be the right fit.
And this is perfectly Okay!!
One of the great benefits of pursuing work as a freelancer is that you get hired to do a job, you do it (well and to the best of your ability hopefully), and you’re done. Go live your life.
But if you’d rather trade a little bit of that detachment for an increase in pay – or if you are the type of person who simply is unable to disconnect fully from the work they do – then you may be ready to evolve into an Online Business Manager.
Yes, I definitely wanted to see more income come in from my work, but what ultimately dictated my transition to becoming an Online Business Manager was that I felt like I could do a better job if I was more a part of the process.
Make no mistake, the clients I found on Elance during the early days of my freelance career and as a social media manager were legitimately annoyed at my level of interest. They wanted me to simply deliver the work they hired me to do and then get ready for the next assignment.
So my bringing this up is not to come across as “high and mighty” or altruistic in my wanting to be more involved. There’s always a time and a place, and I realized after freelancing for a while that my place required being more involved in the strategy and overall results my work generated.
I needed to attract clients that needed me more as much as my clients needed more help in their business. It was a symbiotic two-way street.
What Exactly Does an Online Business Manager Do?
We’ve discussed the big picture as it relates to the job function of an Online Business Manager, but now let’s deep dive into the nitty gritty of what an OBM does.
As I mentioned earlier, there is not one general job description for an Online Business Manager. There are a ton of different online business models out there, so naturally, a ton of different ways a OBM fits into the general management picture of a business.
Below are some examples from my own personal experience:
- I’ve been hired to manage a continuity program (membership site – including content creation, member retention, and promotional strategy).
- I’ve been hired to create course curriculums geared to getting students results and geared towards having a high completion rate. This involves unpacking the expertise of a client and formatting it into a training that is actionable and helps their students achieve a real, tangible result.
- I’ve been hired to design and manage launches (with webinars, using the “Product Launch Formula”, and even the “Ask Method”). To do this well, I need to understand the niche, customer buying triggers in that niche, copywriting, persuasion, and all the technical components required to execute on a launch.
- I’ve been hired to design sales funnels with upsell offers, nurture sequences, etc.
- I’ve been hired to streamline business operations (get things automated and add efficiencies). I’ve had to write processes for virtual assistants, create social media content and promotional calendars, integrate everything into software applications, and even hire employees.
And there’s more that an OBM can do!
- Help manage a podcast – scheduling interviews, production, distribution, etc.
- Manage an Ecommerce business
- Manage a blog, content marketing strategy, and social media
- Manage the customer experience
- Manage freelance and VA staff
- And much, much more. The sky really is the limit.
I share this not to overwhelm you, but to show you the diversity and what’s possible. I would never encourage someone to master all of these things at once. In fact, if you’re interested in becoming an Online Business Manager, I encourage you to hone in on one speciality at a time. Find one service as an OBM you can offer clients and slowly add more. Online Business Managers are in so much demand that once you provide a client with an amazing service, they’re going to naturally ask you to meet more of their needs. This is how my business grew, but you have to proceed slowly and at a pace that is manageable for you.
This concludes Chapter 1. Click here to go directly to Chapter 2 where I’ll share the Roadmap to becoming a successful Online Business Manager.