The truth is, it's not easy to find your first client as a freelancer; it's not easy to make a client trust you and it's not easy to find a really good client like the one I found. But these things are not impossible.
Here's my story...
I am Russian and I have skills in very narrow areas such as customizing and setting up Google Analytics Custom events and reporting for advertising campaigns.
I worked in this area for almost 3 years and felt satisfied with the small company I worked for. But I knew things could be better; I knew I could earn more. So I started looking for other means to supplement my earnings by working on side projects.
In the end, I decided on freelancing. I opened accounts on 3 freelancing platforms: Freelancer, oDesk and Guru.
I felt more comfortable on Freelancer because I'm Russian but I found out that there were more clients for my specialty on oDesk than on Freelancer, so I stuck with oDesk.
For the first month, I simply completed my profiles, read job requests and checked the profiles of applicants for ideas.
Because I wanted only jobs that were related to my field, I found a program that could monitor new jobs on oDesk and send me only those that are related to my field or had the keywords 'GA,' 'Marketing reports,' 'Google custom events,' etcetera.
I got an average of 2 such job openings every month. Because it was a very specialized field, there were only about 3 to 7 applicants for each job and I was available only 10 to 20 hours per week, I did not hurry to apply to these jobs. Besides, I wanted to find a valuable project with a reliable client as well.
One day, I got a message with an interesting offer to develop custom events and customize Google Analytics reports. This was what I did exactly on my current job.
I wrote a very detailed cover letter answering the client's questions and providing some likely positions based on my practice.
The client was very interested, so he sent me further clarifications; I read those and made further suggestions too.
We bounced clarifications and technical suggestions off each other for three emails before the client accepted my application and asked me to start.
This is why I say it is not easy. You have to be patient. You need to learn to be friendly and you must know your stuff. Now, sometimes, you could go back and forth with a client like this - research his problems and send him suggestions, etc - and in the end he may not even hire you. That doesn't mean you should give up; forget the bad feeling and try again.
Anyways, I started and got access to the client's source files hosted on Amazon cloud server. Some of the tasks I had to do required technologies I did not know like Node.js, PHP, jQuery, etc. Even though these were not related to my job directly, I quickly researched on them, sometimes I asked help from friends and I was able to complete the tasks.
The client became more confident in my skills and gave me more access to his FTP, GoDaddy account, Control Panel, Amazon Dedicated Instances and so on.
I also became more confident in what I could do and felt really good with myself, who wouldn't?
I worked hard on this project every evening and weekends just to get my best out.
When the client was satisfied that I knew all the details of what was required for the project, he invited me to support him in the project he was working on at the time and to participate in new projects too. He had a new web project he wanted to launch, so he asked me to hire a small team to work with me on the project. And that's how I became a boss in freelancing, ha ha.
7 months down the line, I resigned from my work and started to work remotely with this reliable client. I worked really hard. I was honest with him and handled his accounts with utmost carefulness. These helped me establish a rewarding long-term relationship with him. I still work with him till today. He has been really awesome.
You can find a client as reliable as this one, maybe even more, but you need patience and you need skills. As a freelancer, you must be ready to learn at all times. They only trust you when you prove to them you know what exactly they want and you have ready solutions for their issues.