One of the things I've learned from being a freelance artist is that you need to have a mix of stable and variable work. Most full-time artists these days must juggle 3 to 10 or more smaller jobs at once rather than having a 9-5 (this does not include artists that have a non-related day job). In my Venn diagram above, "stable" means recurring - either monthly, weekly, or daily. Teaching has set hours, but the rest of my jobs are flexible, meaning I can fit them in from home on my own time, so even though work is stable doesn't mean it's inflexible. The key to create stable work is to align yourself with a few solid companies or non-profits and have ongoing positive relationships with them. Now that I have a solid 3 forms of recurring work, I am finally starting to grow financially instead of just keeping afloat.
Variable artist work is the most random. Earlier in my comic career, I relied too much on these forms of income: comic conventions, illustrations, and comic coloring. These projects are fun to be involved in, but unless you have a constant client base, it's very difficult to make ends meet solely on variable, non-recurring work. Comic cons are great, but I realize I shouldn't exhibit too often due to burnout, since I sketch on-the-spot. Also, there's no guarantee there will be a large crowd so I may not make as much money as hoped. Now that I have more stable work, I can target only the larger conventions I know will have good traffic flow, and not feel compelled to exhibit in every single show. I can also fit in illustrations like custom comics in between my stable work, especially if there's a flexible deadline. I just squeezed in a short comic coloring gig for Action Lab Comics last week. I hired an assistant to do the flats instead of struggling to do the entire thing myself in such a short amount of time, which allowed us to meet the deadline comfortably without killing myself over no sleep. ("Flats" are the first step to comic coloring work - like the solid colors in a coloring book. The next step is making sure all colors harmonize, then shading/rendering.) Before, when I didn't have the trio of stable work, I'd do almost all the flats myself to get more money, but I'd have major burnout. Having stable work can be more freeing to consider options like hiring assistants instead of being in "survival mode" all the time, which is not healthy.
I encourage you to make an artist's Venn diagram of your own paying projects to help see your situation more clearly. What projects are you spending most of your time in - the variable diagram or the stable diagram - and what steps can you take to improve your situation? One step could be reaching out and reconnecting with past clients.
You could have another Venn diagram of fun comic projects of your own that are not paid projects. Just be careful not to spend too much time in the area of unpaid work though, because we can trick ourselves into thinking we're being more productive and making more money than we actually are. Good luck!
The next in my (D)(R) series - Happy Valentine's Day!