I’m a modern-day butler working for ultra-high-net-worth clients – here’s what has surprised me most about the job (and the one mistake you can NEVER make)
- Daniel Prattley has been a full-time private butler for various clients since 2009
- He shares videos about his career on TikTok, where he has 53,000 followers
- READ MORE: Undercover boss! Lufthansa CEO works as cabin crew
This is the man ultra-high-net-worth individuals call upon to make sure their homes are run as smoothly as possible.
Daniel Prattley has been a full-time private butler since 2009, and works for a variety of clients in luxury villas and grand estates for several weeks at a time.
‘I think of myself as a “modern-day” butler,’ the Royal Household approved butler tells MailOnline Travel, pointing out that many still carry outdated notions of butlers being Downton Abbey-esque characters.
Turning this stereotype on its head, the 50-year-old, who is originally from Devon in the south of England, shares videos on TikTok that document the reality of working as a butler in a contemporary age, showing him doing everything from flying business class for work to laying beautiful tables for dinner parties.
So what is it really like working as a butler in 2023? Below, Daniel reveals all, from the things that have surprised him the most about the job, to the mistakes that successful butlers will never make…
Daniel Prattley (pictured) has been a full-time private butler since 2009. ‘I think of myself as a “modern-day” butler,’ he says
BECOMING A BUTLER
Daniel’s journey into the industry came with a dash of showbiz sparkle.
Formerly a theatre manager, as part of his role he worked alongside the late comedian Joan Rivers, helping her to entertain guests after her stage shows.
‘After one party she told me I should be a full-time butler, and in a now-or-never moment I changed course in my career and have never looked back,’ he reveals. ‘There are a lot of similarities between running a theatre and running a private home or luxury villa rental so the change in career was not such a big one.’
‘Taking care of people is my superpower and now I get to do it in lovely homes around the world,’ says Daniel
The Royal Household Approved butler works for a variety of clients in luxury villas and manors for several weeks at a time
He chose not to attend a butler training school, and instead learned on the job. ‘The list of skills required on a day-to-day basis is so extensive it has always been better for me to learn on the job especially when you are having to park supercars or pour wine from a Jeroboam-sized [a double Magnum] bottle,’ he says.
However, he does recommend that industry newcomers who are hoping to work for a formal household or for a high-net-worth family attend one of the specialised schools ‘that train you in etiquette, table decor, wine, maintaining antiques, and wardrobe management’.
THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF THE INDUSTRY
Where do junior butlers tend to fall down? Daniel says that the most ‘common mistake’ is getting frustrated by the long hours required of the job. He says: ‘When on the job you must be totally committed to that client and their guests so balancing a private life can be difficult – but definitely not impossible.’
Daniel typically works from 6.30am until the entire household has gone to bed, which normally falls around midnight. ‘I am usually the first person [clients] see when they wake up and the last person they see before going to bed,’ he says.
Another no-no, he says, is ’pulling rank’ on the housekeeper. ‘Without the support of a great housekeeper you are stuffed,’ he explains, noting: ‘There is so much to do that requires wardrobe management, antiques and silverware upkeep [and] cleaning, that even the most experienced of staff need more than one pair of hands.’
It’s also essential for budding butlers to ‘know their limits’, Daniel explains, saying: ‘If you genuinely don’t know how to remove a stain from an expensive suede shoe, or spilt wine on a Chanel jacket, don’t do it. Don’t even Google it to see ideas. You might make it worse. Only experience and knowledge will help here.’
Daniel learned this lesson the hard way. He recalls: ‘I was once handed a very expensive pair of Ferragamo suede shoes that had candle wax on them to clean. I followed instructions from the internet and made the situation much worse.’ He notes that thankfully, the client was gracious about the shoe mishap.
One mistake that butlers should never make, Daniel says, is crossing professional boundaries with clients. He explains that while he has built ‘lifelong relationships’ with clients, it’s important to remember that you’re an employee first and foremost.
In line with that, discretion is of utmost importance, he explains, saying: ‘Do have [discretion] and don’t abuse it.’
One of the properties that Daniel has worked at. In the background is a table he has laid for dinner
It’s important to learn and adapt on the job, as ‘every client is different’, Daniel notes
What else must a butler do to succeed? Daniel says: ‘Be flexible – everything can change on a dime and you need to roll with that. You could start your day in France and end it in Austria, or set a beautiful table for 20 [dinner guests only] to be told an hour before dinner that it’s now 30.’
It’s also important to learn and adapt on the job, as ‘every client is different, so being stuck in a rut is not helpful’. Another essential quality in a butler, he says, is a ‘sense of humour’.
On top of that, Daniel says it’s crucial to have good relationships with small businesses – from butchers to florists and car mechanics – and maitre d’s of good restaurants so he can ‘always get a reservation’.
Becoming Royal Household Approved is evidence of Daniel’s talent in the role. This means he has been verified by MI5 and government officials, he explains, noting: ‘I do sometimes work for three different Royal Households… it’s a way of letting new clients know I can be trusted in their homes and lives.’
How much money can you expect to make in the industry? A salary for a junior butler will start from £35,000 ($44,000) and go up to £150,000 ($190,000) for an established butler, Daniel explains. The highest salary he encountered in the industry, he notes, was a New York butler who earned $1million (£789,000) per annum.
As he operates as a sole trader for a variety of clients, Daniel charges a daily fee with a minimum three-day booking required. If the job is outside the UK, all of his travel is covered, as well as his accommodation, expenses, and food – with chef-prepared meals his ‘favourite’ perk.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A BUTLER
Daniel has worked with many of his clients for over a decade, waiting on them for everything from five days to five weeks at a time. Between clients, he makes sure to fit in some ‘me time’ back in the UK.
What does an average day on the job look like? Giving an example of working in a luxury property in the South of France, he says: ‘It is my job as the butler to ensure all those coming into the house feel at home immediately and I am there to take care of everything for them.’
His day begins with a trip to the local bakery to pick up breakfast goods, which he lays out at the villa.
Once breakfast is wrapped, he ensures there are fresh towels at the pool and floral displays are maintained. He keeps on top of guest laundry and guides the housekeepers through the making up of bedrooms and the cleaning of communal areas.
Daniel keeps an eye on cars at the property, ensuring they’re clean, have full tanks of petrol, and are fully stocked with bottles of water. He also makes sure the cars’ sat-nav systems are up to date with where the clients are going and how they can get back to the villa.
‘I am usually the first person [clients] see when they wake up and the last person they see before going to bed,’ Daniel says
Daniel says it’s his job as the butler to ensure all those coming into the house ‘feel at home immediately’
At the same time, he sets the table for lunch and makes sure that the activities for the day – which can be anything from tennis lessons and hair appointments to massages and days at the beach – go smoothly.
When guests return from excursions, he has refreshment tables set up to welcome them back.
Daniel says: ‘At every minute of the day, I will be keeping an eye on all my clients to ensure they have everything they need whilst at the villa.’ He notes that this ranges from ‘something as simple as keeping them topped up with water and sunscreen’ to making ‘treats’ such as fresh fruit bowls or juices for clients to enjoy while they’re relaxing.
There’s never a task he can’t complete. He explains: ‘I never say no. There is always a way.’
Throughout the day, he works closely with the chefs. ‘I need to know every ingredient and how every dish is prepared and always need them on my side when a client wants something different at the last minute,’ he says. Post-lunch, he goes over the dinner menu with the main client and discusses the wine they’d like to pair with the meal.
Dinner tends to be a ‘more formal affair’ than the other meals, Daniel notes, adding that he likes to ‘make the table different every night’.
He changes into a new outfit for dinner service and ‘will set up an aperitif area for pre-dinner cocktails or wine and canapes’. Throughout the meal, he has to be ‘very present at the dinner table, always making sure everybody has everything they need’.
A pool and a table setting at one of the properties that Daniel has worked at. The butler works closely with the chefs at each property
Some of Daniel’s beautifully laid table settings. He likes to ‘make the table different every night’. Dan will be ‘very present at the dinner table, always making sure everybody has everything they need’
When the meal is complete, he guides guests to a new space for cups of tea or glasses of whiskey, where he stays with them until they retire for the night.
His work doesn’t end there. With certain clients, he also pays most of the household bills, recruits and trains additional staff and liaises with the gardeners, pool companies and contractors.
Daniel says: ‘I will do weekly rotas for the housekeeping team allocating blocks of time to ensure any silverware is kept up to standard and the glassware is sparkling.’
As demanding as it sounds, Daniel never tires of the industry. ‘No one day is ever the same and I love that,’ he says.
Daniel says that one of the things that surprises him when it comes to working with ultra-high-net-worth clients is their ‘immediate trust in [him] when it comes to driving their supercars’ – especially as Daniel finds driving these uber-luxe cars ‘terrifying’.
On top of that, people are often surprised to learn that ‘as a general rule of thumb [ultra-high-net-worth clients] are most respectful and kind people towards their domestic staff’.
And the best parts of the job? The travel and culinary experiences afforded by the role are among some of the biggest perks, Daniel says.
He also truly enjoys ‘getting to a point with [his] clients where [he] can deliver [his] style of hospitality in their home before they have to ask for it’.
Daniel adds: ‘I genuinely love taking care of my clients and do so with a lot of passion… taking care of people is my superpower and now I get to do it in lovely homes around the world.’
- To see more videos and content from Dan, visit his Instagram and TikTok profiles.
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