There will always be slow times and times when you're completely slammed and drowning. When you're slammed and drowning, all you can do is put your head down and work like a dog until you're through the backlog. I do suggest you do not accept any jobs until you're through your backlog. If you do, you're just burying yourself further.
But this is about those times you are slow.
In California, you are a freelancer, an independent contractor. No matter how much an agency may try to guilt you into not working for anyone else, don't buy into it. Believe me, every agency goes through slow times and they will not be able to guarantee you a job. You can call anyone you want and accept a job for any agency that you want to.
This is where dialing for dollars comes into effect. Basically, I go through my list of agencies that I've worked for and start calling them and asking them if they need help with their calendar. If they don't have anything for you, then start thinking broader. I start Googling Los Angeles agencies, San Diego agencies, Riverside Agencies. I then call and ask if they need help w/their calendar.
Here's the secret. A San Diego agency is going to have lots of stuff for San Diego and the area they're located in. But unfortunately, there are times when the attorney will have to take a deposition somewhere other than San Diego. The attorney will call up the agency to set the depo. Is that agency going to turn that job down just bec. they don't have a reporter in Timbuktu? Of course not. This is when they call you to cover the job for them.
If the calendar department does not have anything for you. Do not take it personally. They simply do not have a job for you. It does not mean they do not like you. Call again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. Sooner or later, their calendar will be heavier than the number of reporters that they have and they will call you.
Perserverence is the key. I have called over 20 agencies in a day and still not gotten a job. But sometimes, right around 5 o'clock, I'll get that random call from calendar asking are you still available, I have a last minute add-on.
The other odd thing is that when calendar is extraordinarily heavy for one agency, it will be extraordinarily heavy for all the other agencies that you've called. It's really odd how alll attorneys must have their deposition going the same day. On those days your phone will be ringing off the hook.
Also, if it is slow for you, be ready to cover emergencies. Sometimes, I will call at 9 a.m. in the morning to remind my favorite agencies, hey, I'm still available if you have any last minute emergencies. They will love you and you will quickly move up their list of reporters to call.