Every day, I spend about 15 minutes posting ads on various sites.
Just this week, I got 2 assignments in. A post card mailing piece and a logo design. These two projects brought in a little over $1,000. Not bad for not leaving my home.
Most of the work I get now is through the internet. Years ago I knocked on doors and I still have some of those clients... but the bulk of my work now is through promoting through the web.
Another way of generating business is through the "Red Book of Advertising Agencies". Many agencies use freelancers to cover themselves when they are overloaded or if they think their people can't handle the assignment.
Go to the library to look at the Red Book of Advertising Agencies... it's a reference book. You can't take it out. So bring a pad and pencil or your laptop. Inside this reference book you will learn:
The agencies in your home town.
The name of the creative director and art directors.
The names of their accounts.
The address and phone numbers.
This is info is greatly important because if you have experience with package goods and they have a roster of package goods in your portfolio, then when you contact them you can play this up... Call the creative director up... "I've done work on similar accounts, Mr. Smith, can I come in and show you my portfolio this week?" The benefit of selling your serices to an agency is that they are professionals and will do all the "running around" for you... giving you the info and direction. They in turn will add a fee on top of your costs and sell it to the end user for a higher price.
Another way to generate business is to promote yourself to the end user... the company itself and not through the ad agency or graphic design studio. The benefit of doing it this way is that there are more companies out there that can use your help and you can come in a little less than "agency" prices and still make a reasonable profit. But be prepared to "hold hands" a lot because sometimes you will have to educate your client. Done properly, you will have a client that trust you and will be a client for life.
Bottom line... everyday you have to promote yourself... get on the web and to the library and do research.