1. Make sure you have a web presence, and work on your SEO
First and foremost, get yourself set up with a professional looking website that showcases your skills and enables people to easily contact you. You can do this yourself, or hire a web designer to do it for you. Make sure that you clearly state on your website that you are available to take on work. Include plenty of keyword-rich copy on your site and update it regularly. This will help to improve your SEO and make it easier for people to find you through Google and other search engines.
2. Register with freelancer websites
You can set-up a profile on websites such as eLance, O Desk and People Per Hour and gain exposure to clients from all over the world. Just be aware that these websites typically take a percentage of your earnings (usually around 10%) and you’re competing with thousands of other freelancers from all over the world, many of which are prepared to work for an extremely small hourly wage.
3. Call/email potential clients
Make a shortlist of businesses that you would like to work with, give them a call or do some searching online to find out the best person to contact, and then send them an email or call them and ask to set-up a meeting so that you can pitch your proposal to them. You’ll probably have to contact a lot of businesses before you find someone that is prepared to meet with you, but if you can get just one new client out of a week of cold calling it can be well worth it.
Attending networking events and other functions is a great way to meet you new people and tell them about your business. Aim to make connections rather than sales. People will be put-off if you go in with the hard sell. For more tips on networking, you can read my article: How to Handle Networking Events Like a Pro.
1. Encourage referrals & word of mouth
I would argue that the best way to get work as a freelancer is through word of mouth. Of course, this is easier said than done, and is really only something that can happen over time as you build up your client base. When I was starting out, I got the ball rolling by doing free work for charities and community groups. Not only did this allow me to build up my skills and confidence, but it also generated paid work for me through word of mouth. You can also offer incentives to encourage your existing clients to spread the word. For example you could offer them a gift card for any new business that they send your way.