Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 10 September 2010

There's a name for that sort of thing...


Once upon a time there was a very good little girl. She worked hard at school, played all the team games and always, always did her piano practice.

The little girl grew up and, such was the economic climate, found it hard to get a job. Still, there was one thing she knew she could do well, and conveniently, she could do it in her own home. She advertised and set about building up a list of regular clients.

There’s always a demand for the service she provided, so soon her books were full and she had to turn clients away. Resourcefully, she set about recruiting someone else to share the workload and found a recent college graduate willing to help out; a venue was booked and everything arranged.

Of course, the clients were hers – she had advertised and found them – so it was only fair that she should take a percentage of the new girl’s earnings. Demand grew; soon she had several girls on the payroll – all working part time – and began to call her business an agency and look for corporate clients.

Some of her girls were students, trying to make ends meet while studying; others were single mothers whose work had to fit in around the demands of childcare. None of them worked enough hours to warrant the trouble and expense of being self-employed, so they were content to settle for a share of their earnings.

Gradually the business grew, until she registered it for VAT – remember, she was a good girl. This meant the charges for clients had to go up, but the amount she paid her girls remained the same; clients were charged £40 an hour, of which the girls were given just £16.

By now, she had long since stopped working herself – there are things you do for pleasure that are no fun at all to do for money. She married and moved to a nice house in the suburbs. And the money kept rolling in – take off the VAT and overheads and she still pocketed a good percentage of the takings.

And the best thing of all, there was almost nothing to do. With plenty of demand, and clients referring others by word of mouth, she hardly needed to lift a finger, yet she was making a decent income from her girls and setting up new contracts all the time.

So when your child comes home from school this term with a massive bill for music lessons, don’t blame the teacher until you know whether there’s an agency involved. Your child’s piano, flute or violin teacher is doing all the work but someone else may be pulling the strings.

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