The butler industry is booming in Australia, reports Alexis Carey
If you'd rather spend your weekends at the beach instead of doing chores, you're not alone.
As Australians become more and more time-poor, the personal services industry is booming — and the use of butlers in particular is skyrocketing.
While in the past the outsourcing of domestic tasks was reserved for the upper crust, these days, even everyday Aussies are hiring butlers and cleaners and having their groceries and shopping delivered to their front door.
Start-ups like Jarvis promise you can have "all your cleaning and errands handled just A$35 per hour", while Running In Heels offers once-off personal concierge assistance for A$65 per hour.
Butlers can make your bed, clean the house, empty the bins and do the laundry as well as run errands such as grocery shopping and organising dry cleaning, while some services also offer home and office organisation, gift buying and even holiday planning.
Jarvis co-founder Matthew Vethecan predicted the personal services industry was worth a staggering A$2 billion per year in Australia.
He said his company had been growing at a rate of over 20 per cent per month since the start of the year, with up to 70 butlers now on the books in Sydney and Melbourne.
"Personal services is a really exciting space, and we estimate it's worth $2 billion a year in Australia alone," he said.
"It's being propped up by other trends as well … now the middle class has a higher discretionary income, we work longer hours than ever before, we're seeing the rise of the milenial generation, and there's a whole lot of changing attitudes about the outsourcing of domestic tasks.
"It's becoming more and more normalised and it's entering the mainstream. Clients are seeing it's OK to ask for help, especially when it means they are able to spend their weekends how they want rather than cleaning up after themselves.
"We're also seeing the role of technology as an enabler. There are some really exciting start-ups that are revolutionising business models, and that wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago."
But what is it like to actually be a butler?
Mebourne mum Steph Tan has worked as a personal butler for Jarvis for eight months, and she said none of her clients had ever hired a butler before her.
"Originally I thought I'd be working for super affluent people in huge houses and I didn't know what I would have to do — should I draw them a bath? But my clients aren't like Paris Hilton — they are average people who have no spare time and could use some help.
The only thing my clients have in common is that they have no time," she said.
"Most clients when we first meet have no idea what we are able to do. I ask them what they really don't like doing, and I help them think of things they'd like me to do. It's different for everyone.
"Once clients realise we can be a big help they start adding things to the list. Because we're not classified as cleaners we can get a bit creative with what we can help with, like organising closets.
"For example, one of my clients is Jewish and I do all the stuff they can't do on the Sabbath, like turning off the dishwasher and putting stuff in the washing machine or dryer."
However, Australian Butler Services CEO Christopher Reid said the rise of new personal services companies was concerning, as it was "changing the landscape" of the traditional butling profession.
"I'm seeing a trend of people coming into the industry who have not been properly trained at a formal level. There seems to be a trend taking place where there are services offered by people with no experience in the profession at all …[which could lead to] a distorted view of what a butler is," he said.
"The profession has been around for 1000-plus years. It is about serving with dignity, intelligence and respect.
"The profession of bustling requires a heart for service and excellence, and the butler has to have been formally trained or been entrenched in the profession in a home for many years.
"Butlers can be concierges but concierges can't be butlers. It's not a transaction, it's a relationship."
He said the demand for traditional, high-end butlers was also growing as more and more wealth was created both globally and in Australia.
"In some countries a new billionaire is made every 55 days. Business is flourishing globally and there's a lot of new money coming into the market, and there's also a lot of old money," he said.