What’s the Difference Between a VA, PM, OBM and DOO?
Lessons from a Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant who actually does the work:
It’s my mission to help my fellow moms, military spouses, and women starting second careers to work from home in this digital economy. Through my podcast, blog, Facebook community, and the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School, I teach women online marketing implementation skills and mechanics to be able to work with online business owners as a well-rounded, digital marketing assistant.
There are usually two long-term tracks for my students that this digital service provider world opens up:
1. The Administrative Assistant who becomes the business brain: who runs, organizes, manages projects and operates day-to-day business tasks.
2. The Creative Service Provider who becomes the visionary: who creates, designs and shares the creative content and messaging to build the brand.
Both roles are crucial to business owners and are completely different scopes of services. Both roles require solid foundations of online marketing and digital business that I teach inside the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School.
Today I want to dive into the role of #1, the Admin Assistant, who is on his/her way to becoming a project manager (PM), online business manager (OBM,) or director of operations (DOO). Wonder what the difference is between them? Keep reading!
*This post may contain affiliate links for products and tools, I use and recommend. If you purchase with the links in this blog, I could earn a small commission. Thank you for your support!
The Admin VA who is Meant for More
I have never liked the term “Virtual Assistant” (VA). For years my clients called me this term, and I had to google what it meant. (Being military and from the DC area, I first assumed it meant Veterans Affairs or Virginia. ?) To me it sounded low-level, and I have always been more than just an assistant. It’s a broad term that doesn’t communicate the actual duty, title, and tasks. I rant on this all the time.
But for now, it’s the accepted industry lingo, so we’ll go with it.
It’s a starting place, especially when you’re new to the digital world.
But not everyone will stay “just a virtual assistant.”
If you have any kind of hunger, critical-thinking, problem-solving initiative, you will quickly outgrow the “Just a VA” role and become so much more and have a bigger impact in business AND make more $$$.
Watch the interview with behind-the-scenes business builder Ange Quinn
I recently chatted with Ange Quinn inside my free Facebook group about her high-level contractor consulting work with online business owners. (I also turned her interview into a podcast and you can save it to your podcast player and listen to that one here.)
Ange is an engineer by trade with corporate experience who found her niche online helping business owners. She started out as a project manager and online business manager and has since narrowed her services to DOO work. This interview is GOLDEN INSIGHT for learning what training to take, what business owners really need help with, the services to offer, and how to set yourself up for success in your own business as a high-level business consultant.
Click here to watch the recorded interview with DOO-certified Ange Quinn
What is a Virtual Assistant?
The virtual assistant (VA) is an all-around role for someone who is an implementor, taskmaster and helper. This generic role could be anything from a hyper-specific specialist to a well-rounded generalist. The common denominator is the VA is working remotely to support the business owner, whether it’s an in-person or online business.
Administrative Virtual Assistants help with basic tasks that help the business owner like: calendar support, inbox management, invoicing, following up with clients and community support, data entry, website updates, event support and even bookkeeping.
Digital Marketing Assistants (DMA), or what I call unicorns, help with many online marketing tasks like social media, graphic design, email list building, video editing, email marketing, content marketing & blogging, affiliate marketing, search engine optimization & website updates, course creation, membership site building and launching. This is what I did for work for years and how I built my business. (Download my top ten most requested digital media tasks here.)
What is a Project Manager (PM)?
If you find yourself managing an entire project for your clients, you are a project manager. Project management usually involves a scope, a timeline, and a budget. In the digital world, you could be doing the work or managing the people who do the work … or a combination of both. The big picture is you’re completely overseeing a project, getting to completion, plus tracking and managing the deadlines with a very specific end result.
In the online space this can be different types of projects that all have end games. You could be overseeing a website overhaul, building a brand voice guide or developing an entrepreneurial operating system with SOPs (standard operating procedures). Many virtual assistants will end up being project managers as part of their progression within a business owner’s team.
- Affiliate Program Manager
- Launch Manager
- Website Launch/ReBrand
- Course Creation
A project manager can also be in charge of an ongoing project or aspect of the business with a specific scope and no end in sight. In my opinion, if you are doing this level of work for clients, you should call yourself a Director … but a manager works too. Just know you are NOT “just a VA” at this level.
- Podcast Manager
- Social Media Manager
- Content Manager
- Website Manager
- Marketing Manager
- Creative Director
Not everyone wants to do the social media, the tech or the digital marketing tasks. There’s a niche out there that fits – the key to your success is finding it.
What is an Online Business Manager (OBM)?
Getting promoted to an OBM is a great next step for the virtual assistant who is already running many of the crucial day-to-day tasks deep inside an online business. You absolutely do NOT need to get certified to be an OBM, but there are options out there that will give you confidence in this realm but also cost a pretty penny… or 500,000 pennies. LOL.
The OBM manages the team and reports to the CEO.
The pitfall of an OBM is if you’ve been used to doing all the tasks yourself, it’s hard to break that habit. Plus, if you’re a home-grown VA, many biz owners are used to YOU doing the work. You’ll have to step into the new role and own your promotion to truly manage the teammates, tasks and projects.
Think of yourself as Bill Lumbergh in Office Space. He follows up on the TPS reports, but he doesn’t actually create the TPS reports. He’s a mid-level manager.
What is a Director of Operations (DOO)?
A DOO is an executive-level role and leadership position inside an online business that is scaling. You’ll also hear this role called Integrator or Chief of Operations or COO. The DOO works with business owners who are the visionary of their business and need help staying focused and executing their vision. Clients at this stage are overwhelmed with too many balls in the air. They come to Ange at this point saying, “I can’t manage my team, run my launch, manage my social media and pay attention to my finances.”
To benefit from this high-level strategic expertise of a DOO, clients should be making at least $350,000 in revenue in their business.
Ange works with clients in an ongoing relationship or does strategy sessions helping biz owners set up their metrics. DOOs can even specialize in their area of expertise like HR, scaling, or strategy. Go back and watch the YouTube video and you will learn much more!
What does a DOO need to know?
- Systems & Processes
- Project Management
- Data & Analytics
- How to run meetings
- Onboard and offboard clients
- How to keep people accountable
This is a higher leadership role in an online business.
DOO Training & Certification
Again, there is a DOO certification program, which Ange references, that will give you the training and confidence to step into this role.
Former corporate HR and project manager, Natalie Gingrich runs the Ops Authority, that Ange references in this interview as where she got her DO Natalie spent several years managing projects for 6 and 7-figure online business owners, just as she did as the Chief of Staff for senior executives in corporate.
Through her online experiences, she found that there were a lot of other women just like her: women who were gifted or skilled in operations and had the potential to lead teams and manage projects, but who needed some additional mentorship and training in order to step into the role they deserved.
And that’s how the Director of Operations Certification was born.
Let me tell you a little about the DOO program…
Who this program is perfect for:
- You’re operations-minded and ready to leverage your leadership skill set
- You want to be credentialed in Operations
- You’re ready to uplevel your clients and your business in a sustainable way
- You want access to proprietary tools and resources that are proven to work
- You need a mentor and community that gets you and what you do
When you graduate from the Director of Operations Certification Program, you will:
- Be officially certified as a Director of Operations
- Have access to all of Natalie’s licensed resources that you can leverage for your own services
- Develop new offerings that are aligned with your strongest skills
- Be part of the exclusive referral network JUST for graduates of this program
If you want to learn more about the program go here.
What is the Difference between an OBM and DOO?
An OBM manages the day-to-day tasks and revenue-generating functions, while a DOO focuses on growth strategy and business development, making high-level financial decisions.
There can be a gray area where an OBM is functioning at an expert-level DOO. Both roles should NOT be doing the implementation of tasks. Virtual assistants, contractors, PMs are the ones who perform the tasks and actually do the work.
⚡️ Must-Read Book Alert: Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman
If this is an area that’s right up your alley for work, then I encourage you to read the book Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman to truly understand the role of an integrator vs the visionary, the biz owner. You can skip a 5k program and read an $11.99 book.
What’s the Difference Between a VA, PM, OBM and DOO?
How to get started in the Digital Economy
If you’re new to the online world and want to work in the digital economy, you have to start somewhere. You can’t just jump in without online business and marketing knowledge or experience.
I got lucky because I started my freelance digital business 10 years ago right when this world was exploding. With my implementation and tech skills, strategy knowledge, and background in public relations & marketing, I quickly booked out. I started teaching my friends to help me with the client load.
Without any online marketing knowledge, these friends have been able to secure work in the online space as virtual assistants, project managers, and OBMs.
The gateway into working online is through my Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School. It’s an 8-week online program that teaches everything you need to know to start working ASAP as a unicorn digital marketing assistant, plus gives you plenty of job opportunities to help you get started.
Once you begin working and getting hands-on experience, you can niche down your services toward one of the freelance paths I showed you in the graphic at the beginning of the blog. You can move up to a digital marketing specialist or manager.
The key is: you gotta learn what biz owners need and expect.
Get on the waitlist for the Unicorn Digital Marketing School here. We only open twice a year, so you won’t miss out if you’re on this list. With these implementation skills and online business knowledge, you can up-level into the PM, OBM or DOO.
Who makes a good OBM or DOO?
Ange and I discussed the personality types that the best online business managers and directors of operations. Many business owners are looking to hire a certain personality type. It’s about fit, pace, attention to detail, communication… and most importantly … balancing the personality of the business owner, who is quite often the creative “visionary.” Quite often they require their applicants to submit their personality test results.
The Kolbe A Index Test is the most popular among biz owners to signal out the best project manager types. It measures a person’s instinctive approach to creative problem solving and how he or she tackles challenges. The test breaks down the raw and natural way each person takes action in four ways: Fact Finder, Follow Thru, Quickstart and Implementor.
(Click here to read my previous blog about the other 4 personality tests to know for your next discovery call. Because I want you to look smart!)
Other key talents:
⚡️ Related Podcast Alert: Another Systems Guru
I have a great podcast episode with Business Growth Strategist and Systems Expert Kristen Wescott from Kristen Westcott Media. Kristen helps business owners streamline their business systems, systematize their workflows and scale their business. If you are this administrative VA or project manager, you will benefit from this podcast.
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Libsyn | iHeartRadio | Listen Notes
How to Up-level your Virtual Assistant Services
If you’re ready to get out of the generic “Just a VA” role, you can totally progress up the ladder to a project manager, OBM and beyond. As you learn from podcasts, challenges, courses and workshops, bring your knowledge to the next meeting with your client. Look for opportunities to offer suggestions and offer that next level of services to your client. You will quickly demonstrate your strategy, earn respect and step into a consultant role that will bring you respect, new projects and higher paychecks.
- Tracking Metrics on spreadsheets or use Reporting Ninja
- Tracking KPIs (key performance indicators)
- Managing other teammates, contractors
Take the Quiz: What Kind of Digital Service Business Is Best Suited for YOU?
I created a quiz to help you decide which of the VA Tracks you should look into based on your strengths and personality. There are FOUR different results, one which is clearly best suited for the VA to OBM/DOO track.
Click here to take the 2-minute quiz.
Maybe it’s time you learn the Digital Marketing Skills to get hired?
1. Like I said, social media management is only one area of digital media marketing that you can do as a VA. In fact, I have a list of 10 different virtual job tasks for you right here so you can see what working online from home is all about!
2. Then sign up for the free Digital Media VA Training Series here.
This is a 15-video tutorial series that will walk you through the behind-the-scenes tasks of a digital marketing assistant, including Kajabi, ConvertKit, and graphic design, so you can go above and beyond social media
Go check it out to get started in the online space, and I’ll let you in on exactly what clients need right now. They’re coming to me asking for help for these specific tasks, and if you get those skills, you’ll be ready to jump right in with clients of your own.
3. Consider doubling down on your Facebook knowledge and adding Facebook community management skills. I have a 2-hour workshop that will teach you everything you need to know to get hired as a Community Manager and help digital course creators, business coaches, membership site owners, and influencer manage, engage and grow their free and paid Facebook groups. Click here to learn more.
This is a crucial role to many six-, seven-, and eight-figure teams that tap into your social media talents and get you more billable hours with a single client. For many social media virtual assistants, this is the next step!
For Biz Owners: How to Hire Virtual Assistant who will Grow Up to be Your DOO or OBM
As your business grows, you will need help. And finding a new team member can be intimidating. So don’t start from scratch. Instead, ask other business owners and friends who they are using as PMs, OBMs and DOOs. A good word-of-mouth referral is king. If someone is killing it online, and you’re noticing, ask them who they have hired. Chances are you’ll stumble into an underground network of implementors and managers.
You can also submit a form here and I’ll share your job position with my students who have taken my courses. The course graduates will be a solid bet because they’ll be able to grow with your business as they already know so much more than just basic social media dos and don’ts. Some of my students are on the creative track, others have vast experiences in corporate and/or project management, running their own businesses or education that makes them suitable for OBM/DOO level. They can step into the role in your business and grow up with you.
The truth is many business owners are looking for a teammate who is more than just a VA who can cross the lines of implementor/strategist and help them do the work and have ideas. Their first hire is a “Unicorn”…. from there as the team grows and becomes successful, you can hire to your unicorn’s weakness and promote them based on their strengths.
It’s all about team growth.
If you fill out this form, I’ll post your job opening to my unicorn workgroup.
Further Related Reading for Digital Biz Owners
- 5 Must-Have Tools in your Freelance Contractor Business
- Build your Digital + Social Media Portfolio to Land Better Clients
- VIP Day Rates and One-Day Intensives with Sarah Masci
- How to Help Your Clients be More Productive
Keep reading my blog and listening to my podcast for more insider tips.
-Emily, Digital Marketing Consultant and Implementer
“I help smart women learn the in-demand digital marketing strategies and tech skills to get hired as a unicorn virtual assistant.“
4 Ways we can work together
- Do you need to acquire digital marketing implementation skills? Check out the Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant School. (It opens twice a year so jump on the waitlist)
- Already doing the work and have clients? But need more clients and a better referral network? Apply for my Digital Marketing Workgroup.
- Maybe you don’t need to learn the hard skills but need help setting up your independent contractor business. Don’t spend $1300 on a “typical start-your-VA business course.” Learn the quick steps in my Freelance Biz Kickstarter for only $297. Inside you’ll get a contract to use with your social media clients and services.
- Need to hire a Unicorn Digital Marketing Assistant? Submit your job opportunity here. I’ll share with my workgroups totally free.