I’m guessing some wont want to give away their secrets here, but I’m kind of curious how you go about finding freelance work. I’ve looked on sites like elance.com, but their “design” category is mostly webdesign (ick) or doing logos.
Networking works best. Cold calls are the worst. Although working a tradeshow floor isn’t terrible and I would put it in the category of cold-calling.
If you’re really good people come looking for you. Word of mouth.
I would actually like to make a case for the cold call.
However, the call should not be really cold but rather warmed up by research about the company and already a hook to why they should hire you. Maybe you bring a specific skill set that they are in dire need of but they don’t know it yet.
Just showing up at a tradeshow or sending an email saying “I wanna work for you” won’t cut it.
In the past I have gotten work, references and even sponsor money from simply approaching a company with a plan of attack.
Otherwise word of mouth and a strong online presence of course help but just sitting around waiting for companies to “find you” because you are awesome will probably not lead to much.
Go to designer happy hours and other social events and be the guy that actually talks to people (in a non weird way)+ have an awesome portfolio + be a good person to work with.
So in other words, be awesome?
Basically advertise and promote your services every time you have a chance. I met eventual clients at picnics, dinners, business events, conventions, on the airplanes, etc. Always ready with cards and some conveient, non fussy way to show some portfolio.