Everything that everyone claims should work - doesn't work. Most "popular" marketing techniques - popular as in what people on message boards and social media claim will work - don't work that well.
Advertising will waste your money. Social media is extremely overrated. Blogging is overrated.
If you want to get to work in your primary field of work, you need to find clients yourself, not waste money obeying what other people claim with absolutely no hard proof to back it up, will work.
(It's interesting how many nobodies you never heard of before with anonymous screen names make claims about social media and blogging being a fountain of new business. Social media is like a cult today.)
Here's my story.
Several years ago I tried the PC repair business. I didn't like that particular line of work but that's not really my message here.
I advertised in a local B2C advertising magazine two different times, and spent about $700 on those ads. I landed exactly one significant job (which did not lead to follow-on work) from a small business from the first ad, and a few phone call inquiries that lead nowhere from the second ad. (The ad both times was 1/4 page in a "Reach" style glossy magazine with a circulation of 20,000 or so in an affluent suburban area.)
I ran a local small town newspaper ad - a 3 x 3 inch ad in the first section of the paper - for about $300 for two months that lead to exactly one call and no sales.
I wrote an IT related advice column for several months for the ~1000 member chamber of commerce that resulted in absolutely no interest, emails or even comments. I belonged to that chamber for a total of five years - the business that resulted was always low-end, and a couple of chamber members chiseled me on the payables.
I ran a Yellow Book display ad, costing $1200 for one year. It netted perhaps five actual prospect calls the entire time it ran - I think one call was productive and resulted in a small home project - and a bunch of B2B sales calls like insurance, and people selling advertising crap like custom ballpoint pens.
I did some direct mail to small businesses - jumbo graphic postcards. I got one incredibly bad client from a 400 piece mailing that netted me $240 for an entire day's work, and maybe two other calls. The mailing (cost of printing the pieces plus postage) actually cost more than the revenue it generated.
So, I did what everyone says should work, and it cost me plenty of money, resulted in minimal business, and in a few instances very undesirable business.
I believe that for a solo freelancer, advertising on the scale required to get repeatable results is basically unaffordable. Advertising is for traditional businesses and for businesses that can make a long term financial commitment to advertising placement (just one placement does no good, you need several appearances to start to become recognized.)
Adwords is interesting, but the effort, time and experience required to become good at SEO, ad writing, and controlling Google's placement of ads is prohibitive (in my opinion.) (Google's default settings like "display networks" JUST LOVE to erase newbie account holder's balances with unproductive hits from places like idiotic dating sites)
So, prospect. Don't sit around waiting to be discovered. A dirty word today because today you're supposed to ask the world for permission to conduct your business. Yes, I am being sarcastic.
This guy has a really interesting take on the subject. (and he mentors freelance graphic artists just starting their businesses.) Note his comments on the utility of social media to most freelancers.