15 years ago I had exactly the same issue ... How to find my first clients
- I put up flyers around the local area and started with very small (few hours to a week) jobs.
- We had a few breaks, a friends father owned a company, he sent out a flyer to all his clients with their renewal notices saying "Redgum are a startup and wanted to help out" good PR for him, and it got us our first few medium clients.
- We went to various events and talked to people enthusiastically about all the things we thought we had and could build, this got us our longer term clients.
From these starting points we got our first jobs, which led on to new jobs, after a few years and 20 or so projects on the board we got our first overseas gig.
Basically your about to do the same thing, while you have no work do something of your own so you have a project to point at.
Notes on your current approach.
- Larger companies are not going pay attention to you until you have proved yourself with smaller jobs and smaller companies. The key reason for this is they are taking a gamble that your as good as you say, without any proof. If they loose the bet they may loose their job ... not many people are willing to take that bet, especially if they are in a big company. Therefore you have to make the bet look as safe as possible and having previous work is a big part of making it look safe.
- Don't try to blindly contact software companies overseas. I get about 3-4 call every week from offshore companies wanting me to give them my clients and my work (which is what a software development company is going to think if you approach them). I'm not going to bet my companies 15 year hard won reputation on you without any proof that its a safe bet. Even if it is a safe bet I'm not likely to anyway because I want a long term relationship with my client which means I need to know their project backwards, something I can't do if your the one building it.
So where to start?
- As others have said eLance and oDesk are great for the first few projects and for getting your reputation started.
- Showcase your projects on a website.
One possible strategy could be to help out your local community by building things they need funded by the crowd.
- Come up with a project that could help a local school/business/friend, put it on kickstarter (or similar crowdfunding site) with a very low threshold so that you get the job (and the reputation started).
- Do the second one with a slightly higher threshold (and a bigger profile reputation).
Keep going with this and you could gain a reputation and help out your local community at the same time. Good Luck.