Setting out solo: A quiz to see if you should go it alone

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Crewless. Not clueless. That is how I run Tight Line Media. I’m a one-women whirlwind in the woods and on the water.
Going freelance and working alone has its perks. Yes, I’m to blame if a shoot goes south, but I also control it and I don’t let it go south. I’m never too tired to match my own pace. I never have to explain to myself why a certain shot is worth the effort. And I never have to worry about pulling a no-show on myself.
I joke about my boss being a beast on my back, but it’s no joke. I ride my own case harder than anyone else will, but that’s how it has to be when you want to multi-task the world of media at a successful level solo.
Working solo has its rewards, but it isn’t all idyllic. Exploring the crewless concept? It’s time for a reality check before you decide.
Ask yourself these five questions. Keep score.
1. Are you a fisher or a freelancer?
Fisher=10 Freelancer=5
I’m not a fisher who wants to freelance. I’m a freelancer who knows how to fish. There’s a big difference. I’m working the river for a story, whether it’s for video or print and sometimes both. A fisherman is casting lines and hoping for some funky fish footage he can talk someone into buying as a film. Truth is, my rod rarely sees daylight on a river shoot.
2. Are you watching the clock or the sun?
Clock=10 Sun=5
The sun doesn’t know 9-5 in July. Neither do I. I pull 15-hour days in the summer as a crewless freelancer. I’m in charge of all the jobs required on a shoot so I work hard when the light is alive. Winter shoots may be uncomfortably cold, but at least I’m home for dinner. It’s dark by 5 p.m. Natural lights-out equals camera-off. If you want to check out before that, like when the traditional workday whistle blows, you are a clock watcher. Keep your day job.
3. Mirrors or Mud?
Mirrors=10 Mud=5
Check my briefcase — which is actually a backpack — for office essentials. Pen and paper are there. So are sunscreen, granola bars and gloves — neoprene gloves, not driving gloves. I don’t have a mirror, but I have plenty of mud. I work the water in waders instead of standing around a water cooler. There’s no women’s bathroom let alone a door on the stall.
4. In or Out of Shape?
Out=10 In=5
I haul 40 pounds of gear on my back in the backcountry. That’s just not physically possible for the average American’s unhealthy body. I’m not a calorie counter or a gym rat, but I really get a kick out of what I do for a living. If I want to keep working outside, I have to exercise. Long days, longer miles. They’re deadly if you are out of shape. You need to develop a sincere intensity for fitness as a crewless freelancer. Not interested? Best to stick with watching your favorite TV show, then. Have a batch of cookies with it too.
5- Money or Moments?
Money= 10 Moments=5
What matters most to you? Money or moments? As a crewless freelancer, the moments are always there. The money isn’t. Playing bill collector is less than glamorous, so is rolling around the river. I do both. If I want the moments, the bills have to be paid. There is money running a crewless show, but it can’t be the sole motivator. It just can’t. I live amplified with a no-quit attitude at all times whether I’m shooting a film or shooting cans with my kids. The moments matter. Not the money. Did you cringe? My scrapbook is bigger than my wallet, but my family and I have everything we need. Not buying it? Stick with the money.
So how did you shake out? Is your score closer to 25 rather than 50? Drop the rod and write on. ♦
— Kris Millgate is an active OWAA member. She is a multi-media outdoor journalist based in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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