Heads up: this post is a bit old. Caveat emptor.
December 2015 update: I wrote a book on freelancing/consulting with my mastermind group. Learn more about that here.
I've been exchanging emails with a friend about his career, which includes considering whether to make a stronger move toward freelancing over employment. Yesterday he asked me this:
I guess I’m more of at of a loss of where to get clients. I honestly have no idea. I was thinking there was two routes to go down. 1) work with agencies or 2) work with small businesses. I figured the agency route would be much easier from a developer point-of-view, but since I haven’t done either, I’m just guessing. Which do you work with? Have a preference? Advice?
Here's what I said, which should be useful to others not in his specific situation as well:
We (The Bright Agency) pretty much exclusively work directly with the end client. We've been happy with that, but if I were starting from a blank slate, I'd be going after whatever I could find, and building some agency relationships would almost certainly be part of that. I wouldn't advise making that a long-term strategy as I believe your profit would be very limited, but it would get some projects under your belt and pay the bills. At the same time, I'd be trying to find end-client work as well. I think I'd give Robert Williams' Workshop a try - I haven't paid for the service as we get enough work without it, but his content is great, and I think it's a compelling sales pitch for someone in your position.
I'd also strongly suggest reading Double Your Freelancing Rate if you haven't already - it has a pretty solid foundation on pricing, how you position yourself and communicate that to leads/clients, etc. I'm a big believer in moving beyond the "$xx/hour for ____ development/design service" model, and toward the "$xxx/hour or $xx,xxx/week for making your business big money" model. I'd also suggest calling yourself a "consultant", instead of a "freelancer". Again, it's all about the positioning.