New ways of working


Case studies:Working life beyond the nine to five

Paul Keegan Volunteer business mentor

“I didn’t want to see my business experience go to waste,” says Paul Keegan, who volunteers his expertise with start-ups in north Dublin, through Tolka Area Partnership.“I had a number of businesses in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, in fast food, grocery and the leisure industry, so quite a mixture.”

After returning to Ireland in 1997, he worked with Dunnes Stores, Costcutter, and then a wine and spirits company in Cork. When it went out of business, Keegan completed a master’s in business at UCC, and after his wife died and he moved to Dublin to be closer to family, he says he wondered what to do.

“I thought, what’s the best way to start? And the best way to start is to help people.”

A baby-clothing boutique, a coffee shop, a mobile fruit and veg business, an upholsterer and a company providing doves for release at funerals and weddings are just some of the businesses he has helped to get off the ground. He’s also involved in a renewal programme for Finglas village.

Now in his 60s, he’s sharing the lessons learned from a lifetime in business.

“You think you don’t know much until you work with a client and can give them ideas and they say, ‘Oh, I didn’t think of that,’ ” he says.

“A client might say, ‘I don’t know how to register for tax,’ or ‘I don’t know how to design an invoice,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do book keeping,’ and I’ll say, ‘I can help sort that out for you.’ ”

“I started in business myself and worked my way up, so I’ve experienced the problems and hurdles they’ve had.

“I love when clients become successful. You get more by giving than taking, and that sums it up for me.”

Niall Byrne, aka Nialler9 Music blogger and gig curator

“I guess like most things, if you have a passion for it, you just start doing it,” says the music blogger Niall Byrne, aka Nialler9.

After finishing a multimedia programming course at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology seven years ago, Byrne set up a website to showcase his skills. Though it quickly bagged him a website-design job, he maintained the site, using it as an outlet to write about his passion for music.

“In the US, the music blog was already taking off, so I started doing that kind of as a way to chronicle the stuff I was into.”

Now the most-read Irish music blog, with about 35,000 unique visitors a month, nialler9.comwas named Best Music Blog at the Irish Blog Awards five years in a row.

His reputation as a muso has seen him extend into writing about music for ‘Cara’ magazine and the ‘Irish Independent’, while he continues to design websites on the side.

Another string to his bow is as a gig curator, picking line-ups for events such as SXSW in Austin, Texas and the Camden Crawl in London and Dublin.

“I have a reputation as somebody who is a filter for people’s tastes, so I guess that translates into someone who knows their stuff and could pick line-ups for events that are really good and cutting-edge.”

Byrne says the notion of a CV is redundant: “My CV is everything I do online.” With income from advertising on his blog, music writing and website design, he says finances balance out.

“Sometimes I think, I wish I knew what was happening next month or if there was a bit more security, but generally it works out,” he says. “And I get to work from home and have a lovely life and hang out with the dog.”

Joy Redmond Marketer

“Not only is it great not to have my creative work tied to nine to five, but it’s lovely to be at the school gate a couple of days a week too,” says Joy Redmond, a Gorey-based marketer.

Combining a part-time marketing role at the video-technology company Sonru with freelance consulting for “high-potential start-ups” and being on the mentoring panel with Wexford County Enterprise Board, Redmond juggles multiple projects to a schedule that works for her.

She works with start-ups, helping innovators to communicate their ideas. “My speciality is bringing their marketing materials up to blue-chip level – to a level that they fit in when they are selling across the table to multinationals.”

She doesn’t do regular hours. “I have no problem with a 40-hour week; it’s just having to do it within nine to five, Monday to Friday,” she says.

“If you are coming up with a whole new brand for a client, it’s very hard to shoe-horn it into nine to five. I might do a few hours and then go for a long walk or a swim,” she says. “If I’m doing research, I might do my statistical analysis and, before I write it up, sleep on it or take a day off and then really be ready to write up my conclusions.”

With two sons, her younger on the autism spectrum, being her own boss fits better with family life too.“When you are self-employed and have your own hours, it’s easier to manage.”

Redmond also volunteers her marketing skills with Cottage Autism Network, a charity for the families of children with autism, of which she is a board member.

She has no fears about job security. “When you are managing yourself you have absolute security. You have more control over your life.”

Tara O'Rourke Service style executive with O2 and self-employed holistic therapist

“I hate routine,” says Tara O’Rourke, who combines a full-time corporate job with work as a holistic therapist.

“On Saturday I’m Tara the homeopath and therapist. During the week I’m at O2, and I give that 100 per cent as well,” she says of the mix.

Combining her office job with four years of study at the Irish School of Homeopathy, O’Rourke qualified as a homeopath, having previously trained as a therapist with the organic skincare brand, Dr Hauschka. She feels both roles complement each other.

“I have a much better appreciation of my clients at the Dublin Holistic Centre because I know the busy corporate environment they might be coming from.” But she loves corporate life too, though she admits her O2 job title, “service style executive”, draws curiosity. “The role is really about creating a consistent experience for customers wherever they interact with us,” she says. “The tone, the language, the feel – whether it’s on the phone, in a shop or on the web, it should feel like you are dealing with O2.”

She says she can bring a little of her holistic side to the corporate environment too. After she made vitamin-rich juices for colleagues, the company introduced a juicer to its canteen.

She says she doesn’t want to do hands-on therapy full-time because it could be draining. The key to maintaining two careers, she says, is rhythm.

“You can have a busy schedule but do it from a good place where you have energy and are enjoying it. That’s the difference, I think.”