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Career Shift: Actress Goes Behind the Camera

Alice Barden is building a business producing video reels to help people find jobs or attract clients


New York actress, writer and director Alice Barden, 50, had one of those lightbulb-over-the-head ideas last year that changed her life. It happened during the editing of her actor's reel — a collection of video clips that give casting directors and film industry pros a sense of the performer's look, personality and range.
  
Barden, who has appeared in TV shows like Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Another World, was thinking about her cousin who had been laid off from a high-profile finance job. Barden realized that a short, well-produced video with great lighting and makeup could help job seekers like her cousin gain an edge over the competition.
 
“I told my cousin that if she had a little reel attached to her website and on LinkedIn, no one could resist clicking on it,” says Barden, who between acting gigs works as a real estate agent.
 
(MORE: Redefine Your Career: Adopt a ‘Gig Mind-Set’)
 
So last June, after receiving a “low five-figure” angel investment from a friend’s husband, Barden launched Reel Executives.
 
A Business of “Personality” Videos
 
Her company produces 30-second “personality” videos that are coached, styled and edited by professional filmmakers, whom she pays. When you get the finished reel, you link it to your online resumé, your LinkedIn profile, your website, or wherever you want. Cost: $599.
 
Within two months of launching, Reel Executives had completed about 40 reels. Barden grows her business through word-of-mouth from friends and clients as well as social media promotion. For example, she has posted her service on LinkedIn’s professional groups.
 
That marketing outreach has spawned a second type of client base: non-job-seeking professionals who want to promote themselves through video.
 
Case in point: In an attempt to put prospective patients at ease, one plastic surgeon made a reel to show his sense of humor. “That’s something that doesn’t come across in a photo," says Barden. "I believe he’s going to get a lot of business from the reel because he’s charming in it.” 
 
(MORE: Assess Your Skills to Find Your Next Job)
 
Barden doesn’t plan to quit acting or real estate just yet. But she’s thrilled with the success of her new venture, particularly because it lets her work in film, the industry she loves, and use her skills to help other people.
 
Business Plan in the Works
 
Barden concedes that she is still developing her business plan.
 
That’s a bit cart-before-the-horse. As I wrote in an earlier Next Avenue post, “The 3 Key Elements of a Business Plan,” a well-constructed blueprint can help an entrepreneur avoid crises.
 
Barden says, however, that the hands-on experience she has gained since opening Reel Executives will help her form the plan.
 
3 Tips for Shifting Careers in Midlife
  
1. Consider a gradual transition. “I’m still doing all the things I was doing before and working up to 10 hours a day on Reel Executives,” says Barden. Despite the schedule, she says she loves working on both sides of the camera and hopes to continue doing so for many years.
 
2. Find your niche. Although there are plenty of traditional video production houses, Barden has a focused approach that’s aimed largely at unemployed professionals looking for jobs.
 
3. Have a cash-flow plan. Barden is covering her personal and professional expenses from her initial angel investment, and continues taking acting jobs and selling real estate. She isn’t drawing a salary yet; instead she's putting the company’s revenue back into the business. She hopes to start paying herself in the next few months, though, once Reel Executives is a certified hit.

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