Making Money Using Your Acting Skills- Part II

Jun 28, 2011 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Paying Bills

Hey, everyone! Last time, we talked about standardized patient work as one of the unique ways to use your acting skills to make money. Here’s Part II of the series, outlining another job I currently hold:

Part 2- Corporate Trainer

Most of us, at one time or another, have worked for a company that held training sessions for their employees. Often, the sessions train on more than policies and procedures — they also can be used to boost morale through team building exercises, and improve management skills by training on interpersonal communications. This work can be very similar to standardized patient work, and usually involves actors role playing scenarios on a specific topic that the company is focusing on.

It’s kind of hard to describe what corporate training is like without getting specific, so here are three types of modules I present through various corporate training companies I’ve worked for:

• True Colors Personality Theory •

I work with a group of actors here in NY who go into corporations with live shows created by True Colors, a “model for understanding yourself and others based on your personality temperament.” With this live show, we work with a group of employees to help them figure out what their dominant personality type is, and teach them how to collaborate with others who are different personality types. There are 4 actors, and each of us represent one of the types. Of course, most people are a mix of all 4, but for the sake of the workshop we portray the personality types to their furthest stereotype, which makes it a heck of a lot of fun. I play Trudy, the “blue” personality, who is a bundle of emotions & energy and is passionate about collaboration, artistry, warmth and harmony. (Nope. That’s not typecasting at all.) We then break up the employees into groups based on their types, and lead them through a series of exercises to help them understand other personality types. (This includes creating a mock commercial for their company aimed at attracting employees of the opposite personality type.) As you can imagine, actors are a very important part of this concept, so it’s a great way to use acting skills.

On a practical note, anytime you work in the corporate world you stand to make more money than for much of the acting we do. So, it can be a very lucrative opportunity. For True Colors, each team is different with regard to casting, but usually the facilitator will contact actors as needed, and if the actor is available they’re used. So, in that way it’s similar to temp work.

• Emotional Intelligence Training •

For the past year, I have worked with a corporate training firm to deliver programming on the topic of Emotional Intelligence. I, along with 3 other actors, go into corporations and train executives on how to use Emotional Intelligence to more effectively manage their departments and employees. (Emotional Intelligence can be defined as understanding the thoughts and feeling of yourself and others, and taking action accordingly.) This program uses actors to demonstrate 3 scenes where emotional intelligence is being ignored, and then we do role playing with the executives to recreate the scenarios using their suggestions for better emotional intelligence. For example, one scenario might involved an employee running into their co-worker’s office ranting about something, and the boss ends up feeling attacked or frustrated. We teach the employee ways to approach their colleague in an emotionally intelligent way, which will help the employee get what they need more quickly.

Working as a corporate trainer can be VERY lucrative. The problem for actors is that in order to do this work, you must have a flexible and open schedule and be available to travel. Most corporate trainers are on the road several weeks out of the month, so it ends up being too strict a schedule for actors to handle. But on the off chance that you can work with a team of actors who share in the work, this can be a great supplement to your acting income.

• Emotion Science Training •

Based on my work as a standardized patient at Mount Sinai, I was hired to teach a 2 hour workshop on the basics of Emotion Science, which was brought to the forefront by Paul Ekman (the man behind the tv show, “Lie To Me.”) Ekman’s life work revolves around the idea that there are 7 basic emotions native to all human beings, and these 7 are expressed with a unique facial expression, which is the same no matter where they live or what kind of society they have. These emotions are: Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Surprise, Disgust, and Contempt. Ekman has demonstrated that when a person has a genuine emotion, their face will exhibit it in a very specific way. But there are times when a person tries to hide how they feel (for example- pretending to be happy when your friend gets cast in a role you wanted. I swear I’m not bitter.) Ekman says that there are certain ways one can tell that someone is lying, and that is to look for “hot spots” — places where the true emotion is “leaking out” from the “mask” we’ve created to hide it.

So, why would a medical school be interested in this kind of work? Like law enforcement and the justice system, the medical profession often deals with clients who lie, or misrepresent the truth. If we can train doctors how to read body language and facial cues, they could establish intimacy with their patients more easily and detect when something serious is going on. And who better than an actor to teach this course, demonstrating how each of the emotions are registered on the face? This is one of the more rewarding “day jobs” I’ve had, because I learned the science behind much of what we do as actors.

So, there you have it! 3 examples of corporate training jobs that utilize acting skills. Now, on to the part you’ve been waiting for…

• How to get this kind of work •

Truthfully, most of this work comes by referral — you meet someone on set or in rehearsals who notices your intelligence and professionalism, and they ask you if you’ve ever done corporate training. On occasion, you might find something like this on the job boards, but rarely will you find it on casting sites. Outside of someone approaching you, the best way to find this work is to let people know you’re looking. Post requests on Facebook and Twitter, letting people know that you’re interested in getting involved in this kind of work.

For True Colors — There are hundreds, if not thousands, of facilitators across the globe. There’s not a central place to reach out to them, but if you’re interested I might suggest that you browse the True Colors website and see if there’s a person you can contact to find facilitators in your area.

Important to note:

Because corporate training is serious business, you must be the utmost professional. You must be well spoken, clean cut, and always on time. You must be a good listener and have the ability to represent both the consulting firm and the corporation you’ve been hired by. Most companies require that you have corporate attire (suit jacket, with shirt & tie for men; suit jacket with slacks or skirt for women.)


What do you think? How many of you have done corporate training work, and how has it supported your acting career? Any funny stories? Crazy stories? Leave a comment- I’d love to hear from you!

– Erin 🙂


Added Bonus: (Because at Playbills vs Paying Bills, we think you deserve bonuses every now and then!)

Here are some links to articles about actor-based corporate training and team building, and its positive effect on many different kinds of industries…Link 1Link 2Link 3Link 4



Erin Cronican is the New York contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view her materials on her website, or read the rest of her blog posts.