How to Earn Six Figures as a Personal Assistant

Forget all those Devil Wears Prada stories you hear about beleaguered and belittled personal assistants whose lives are consumed by ego-maniacal tyrants paying them pennies per hour. There plenty of interesting jobs out there with kind-hearted, wealthy people who are willing to pay more than $100,000 per year, plus bonuses, gifts and perks, to someone they can trust with their children, credit cards, social security numbers -- basically with their lives.

If you're responsible, resourceful and thick skinned, "personal assistant" might be for you.

Don't let the "assistant" word throw you. You would be no one's personal slave. "It's incredible how much power assistants have. They are the gatekeepers" says writer/director Steve Morris, whose film on the subject, aptly titled The Assistants, was just released. The film borrows from his friends' and colleagues' real life experiences as assistants in Hollywood. He says it's no stretch for assistants to be managing investment portfolios, accepting or rejecting scripts and making crucial casting decisions.

Yes, they're sometimes asked to do menial tasks ranging from the humiliating to the humdrum, and many are expected to be available 24/7, but the more the employer trusts you and the more responsibility you take on, the more employers are willing to pay. They don't want to have to find someone new and re-train them. They don't want to share their secrets with someone else, and they don't want their children/spouses/pets to have to form new bonds.


It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it

The downside to being a Hollywood assistant, according to Morris? Aside from having to be available at all hours of the day and night, most entertainment industry assistants don't want to spend their lives helping someone else achieve their dreams -- they have dreams of their own to pursue.

"That's what my film is about," he says. "A lot of people move to L.A. because they want to be actors or writers or directors or producers, and end up getting a job as an assistant to pay the bills, make some contacts and learn about the industry. Then they wake up one day, in their mid-to-late 20's, and ask themselves, 'who am I?' Do I want to be someone's assistant for the rest of my life, or do I want to accomplish something on my own? How much am I willing to sacrifice for it?"

It's a question just about everyone asks themselves at one point in their lives, no matter what their career. But you don't have to move to LA to find the answer or be a personal assistant. Brian Daniel has fulfilled his dreams and his bank account by assisting the uber successful, and now he's showing others how to do it.


On beyond Hollywood

"I made a career out of being a personal assistant by working for celebrities and high net worth individuals (including Johnson and Johnson and Royal Saudi families)" he says. "I now run an outfit that places personal assistants and estate managers with high net worth families."

And there seem to be more of these jobs available than ever, according to Daniel, "With the rise of the super rich, the demand for career personal assistants is high. And they don't have to live in New York or LA -- there are high net worth families living all over the U.S. There are over 1000 billionaires in the U.S. There are about 50,000 U.S. households that have net worth between 50 and 500 million." He points out that even in places like Grand Rapids, MI, there are incredibly successful people who started Amway and Steelcase. You'll find the wealthy everywhere.

The more money they have, the more complicated their lives become, and the more they need someone they can trust to help them manage everything. He says it's not uncommon for them to pay their assistants $150,000 and up, and to even hire assistants for their assistants. "It's a misnomer that you work really hard at this and only get paid $10 an hour," he said. Of course those types of jobs are out there, but you don't have to take them.


Helping to give away millions

Paige Bilbrey, an executive/personal assistant for a philanthropist committed to using her family fortune to bring the fine arts to everyone, couldn't be happier about her career choice. She gets to learn every day from some of the most successful people in the country, and she facilitates charitable giving. "I love my job!" she enthuses.

Hailing from Sun Valley, Idaho, she began her assistant career at age 18, when she moved to Los Angeles to become one of several nannies for a celebrity. "I wanted to move out of Idaho and go to the big city, but I never would have been able to support myself and live in such a beautiful home if I hadn't been in the service of someone else," she says. She then got a job as a floating temp job at a production company, and after that, she was qualified to be an invaluable personal assistant to anyone in the entertainment industry. She knew how it all worked.

At this point in her career, the glamor of Hollywood and celebrities is not as enticing as the opportunity to learn and make a real, positive difference in people's lives. Those are among the main reasons she's made the choice to work for a philanthropist, although she's had plenty of celebrity offers.


Amazing perks -- but you have to earn them

Daniel also says that serving as a personal assistant can be incomparable to any other profession. When he was working for the Royal Saudi family, he stayed in the finest suites in the best hotels all over the world, and always flew either first class or in luxurious private jets, eating and drinking the most expensive food and wine the world has to offer.

He was also under intense pressure. He would work 12-17 hour days, seven days a week, and go for months without a day off. His duties as their Executive Personal Assistant included being in charge of other subordinate assistants, drivers, maids, nannies, security personnel, estate managers, cooks, and groundskeepers. He also traveled with them everywhere to make sure their stays went smoothly.

After about two years of this luxurious but taxing lifestyle, Daniel decided to take a break, move back home and start The Celebrity Personal Assistant Network, through which he places others in similar positions. But he'll still take on the occasional short-term stint with distinguished CEOs, A-List celebrities, and high-profile families.


What you need to succeed as a personal assistant

Daniel broke into this world by starting out as a personal trainer at a posh Beverly Hills Gym. He then took a job in the front office of The Beverly Hills Hotel. When high profile professionals in the entertainment industry began offering him jobs, he couldn't resist. "This is one of the few fields where you don't necessarily need a college education to excel," he says, noting that he doesn't have one. Neither does Bilbrey.

So what qualifications do you need exactly? "A thick skin, more than anything," Daniel says, noting that you'll be with these people so much you can't help but see them at their worst. And sometime, since you're always there, you're the most convenient one to blame when something goes wrong.

But you also must be consummately discreet, dependable, resourceful and proactive -- anticipating your client's needs and any potential mishaps well before they happen. You must be able to handle intense pressure and think on your feet and out of the box. You also must be a true care-taker and be service oriented, and have classic administrative skills.

And above all, you must be flexible, which rules out most people with close family ties. You could go for weeks without seeing your significant other or children, and even if you don't live on your your client's premises, you will doubtless be called up in the middle of the night to attend to their needs.

Daniel is single, and Bilbrey, who is 40-years-old, has no children and is married to an understanding and supportive husband who has many professional obligations and interests of his own.

Being a personal assistant is certainly not for everyone, but if you think you might have what it takes, Daniels invites you to contact him via his website, FindCelebrityJobs.com. He says he actually knows of more openings than appropriate people to place in them, because not everyone has all the right qualifications to be what he knows is a good personal assistant.

Whether you become a personal assistant as a career choice or a way to break into your chosen profession, it might not be a bad move. The story of Pepper Potts, although she's part of Iron Man legend, is not so outlandish. She began as Tony Stark's personal assistant, and ended up running the entire company.

According to Daniel, Bilbrey and Morris, that doesn't just happen in the movies.


Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Editor

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.

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Jennifer t.

I can be a great assistant have only 3 years of experience speak Spanish as well good with people love assisting others in what I can I'm very interested in being part of this opportunity my email address is jennifertavarez21@gmail.com

January 07 2014 at 5:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ria van Niekerk

Hello Daniel,
I have the criteria to be a excellent personal assistant for a celebrity.
I am actually from South Africa but live and work for the past 5 years in the United States.I have a registed Certified nurse assistant as well as a home health care certificate. I lived at the moment in Wichita Kansas.
I am open for any discussions concerning the field that you advertised.
Hope hearing from you soon.
Regards
Ria

April 06 2013 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ashley

I can be your assistant! I am colorful, organized, very creative, and not too bad to look at. I am quick and steady about things and can do a lot in a crunch of time! i can assure you that i am the best candidate, because there is always more room for learning, and I am the easiest person to get along with. (But don't take my kindness for weakness, because that is far from it!). If you would like to hire me, send me an email to ashleydean200@yahoo.com

December 06 2012 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
danni

Hello

June 09 2012 at 2:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Angie

If you want the nice things in life then you have to pay the price. Many, many celebrity personal assistant jobs have gone on to other things. For example: Al Pacino's personal assistant started his own production company. Madonna's personal assistant started her own management company. Oprah's assistant... do I need to say more. The stories go on forever!

December 12 2010 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paige Bilbrey

Wonderful and insightful article. The Personal Assistant industry is one that can create a very fulfilling and rewarding career. For those interested it is a path to many amazing opportunities.

December 10 2010 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SONIA

I have been an Executive and Sales & Marketing Assistant for years. The jobs have paid well, have provided me with great travelling opportunities like Hong Kong and Germany, stayed at very nice places, eaten at beautiful fancy restaurants and such,and the employers have not "owned my life". However, reading this article makes me sick. If you are willing to sacrifice your entire life to cater to someone else (nice person or not) then I believe you have no self respect or no ambitions of your own. I would not do this job for 1 milliion dollars.

December 10 2010 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bdyoung2112

People. Before you get too excited, do the math. If the assistant makes $100,000. They work 15 hours/day 7 days a week, that's 105 hours per week. If you divide the $100,000 by 52 weeks, then divide the 52 weeks by 105 hours per week, that comes to about $19 per hour. WOW! That sounds like a deal. And no free time to spare.

December 10 2010 at 9:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to bdyoung2112's comment
autirose

I agree. I've often thought of this. If you won't get that kind of wealth in your lifetime, why not be an assistant to a great employer. They can expose you to an outstanding life and you are facing reality. Get you're education and the experience will make you more valuable. Rise from the valley and soar amongst the mountains, I say. Who knows you may join them on a trip aboard a commercial flight to outerspace. lol

December 10 2010 at 3:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Terry

OMG! I thought I had a good job.

December 09 2010 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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