Chris, I loved your article on figuring out what to charge. That naturally leads into the question "Where do you get your clients?"
Once you have a decent portfolio, It’s a little easier to say "I charge $75 per hour and here’s what I can do". If you don’t have a portfolio, how do you get started?
Personally, I have done tons of websites for myself and groups I’ve been part of. Most of those are defunct and/or the code is so dated I wouldn’t use it to show off my work. My paid sites have involved setting up osCommerce stores for folks and are fine for attracting more of the same but really aren’t worth showing someone who wants a different type of site.
I could, of course, create a number of mockup sites just to show off my skills and that’s probably the best route but I thought maybe you, or someone else, might have other suggestions?
Not sure this is worth a Q&A article but your last one suggested the question so I thought I’d ask it. :D
I got my break by doing freelance work for friends that had an agency. I charged them way below market value because my skills were green so it took me longer than someone who had been doing it for years. This also meant that I didn’t have to worry about designing, but I did have to learn how to slice photoshop files correctly, and what had to be an image, and what could be done with HTML. Because the work was designed professionally I was able to build a decent, yet small, amount of work to shop myself around. I didn’t want to freelance though, because I wanted the experience of a company, and hopefully the mentoring of a senior person who could teach me workflow, techniques, advanced languages, etc. I landed an in-house job for a real estate company, which was a great starting point. With more experience and more work under my belt I transitioned to a Design Studio. I still flirt with the idea of full time freelancing, but I enjoy the stability of full-time work, and I have to be around people – working from home all the time would suck.
Look into non-profits in your area. If you need to build a better portfolio, you have to find clients. Spec work is okay, but published work is better, even published work for a non-profit that couldn’t pay you. Look at Churches, animal shelters, local Heart Association, Cancer Groups, etc. When I started I worked a full-time job during the day, took night classes, and did free-lance projects when I could get them.