Merryl has been a freelance celebrity PA for the last 15 years. Clients have included Julian Clary, Anne Robinson and Jonathan Ross. In the past year she has been expanding into training and hopes to do more if this in the future.
When you work for a private individual, defining your role in their life can be complicated. As well as dealing with all the usual challenges, much of it depends on their personal situation, which reflects what is required. Given the nature of my role as a PA, I usually find myself working in a client’s home so the relationship is very different from that in an office. Looking back over many years and many clients I have identified a few categories.
‘Professional Wife’ probably best describes my role for my longest standing client. From keeping the household running smoothly and overseeing home improvements to making tea for the window cleaner and shopping for his family’s Christmas presents, these are the kinds of tasks that a super-efficient wife would perform. Let’s just say a wife is not on the cards in this case, and when my husband asks why I don’t always snap to it so speedily at home, I remind him of my hourly rate.
For another client, my role was more of a ‘Surrogate Girlfriend’. He was young and shy and setting up home in the big smoke for the first time. We looked at sofas, and I did Ikea runs for potted plants and magazine racks. I worried about his appalling diet and made sure there was fruit in the flat. Happily, I was one of the first people he called when he got engaged to his girlfriend on holiday, and helping them plan their wedding felt like the perfect natural end to my job with him.
‘Gal Pal’ best describes my position for a lovely young woman client. I helped her choose outfits for big nights and select and then book restaurants for cosy dinner dates. I would use my keys to get clothes from her house and have them delivered to her in case of wardrobe emergencies – this was in addition to all the usual administrative tasks one's job as a PA involves.
‘Third Wheel’ sums up how I felt caught in the middle of a high powered couple. Being given lists of tasks by both parties is fine....it’s when those lists contradict each other that problems arise, especially when I was the one expected to broker a diplomatic solution to whatever situation was causing disagreement. And picture this, husband asks me to source and purchase a gift for wife. Wife then asks me to return the item for a refund. Awkward!
It goes without saying that all these roles were undertaken entirely on professional grounds but remind me why I have enjoyed the roster of clients I have had to date. I think you do have to be ‘good’ at relationships and certainly very flexible to be a successful PA, whether private, professional or even a celebrity PA.
I always begin a job full of expectations after interviews and discussions about what the job will entail, and wondering who I may end up being once I get settled in.
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