Once you have your business set up, you need to tackle how to get the word out that you are available. Compile a list of who would need your services - be creative. Just because you have always worked in an insurance company, doesn't mean your skills aren't useful elsewhere. What about the people who file claims like hospitals? Your expertise on the most efficient way to get forms processed to expedite payment may be invaluable to them. The public library and the internet are great places to get names and addresses of possible clients. Look for trade and industry publications, membership directories of associations, or industrial and corporate directories. The yellow pages can even be a good starting point. Before actual contact is made, identifying the appropriate person at each company is important. Secretaries can be terrific resources if you ask the right questions. Be clear about what department you need to contact and the type of individual you want to speak to. Don't feel you need to hide who you are or what you are seeking - and don't let yourself be directed to the human resources department unless it is human resources consulting you want to do. Human resources will circulate your materials to the appropriate department, but they will not get the same attention as a personal contact.
Send an introductory letter including some of the illustrative work and reference material you have developed to the people you have identified as potential contacts. Mention in the letter that you will be following up with a phone call. Keep the letter low pressure, pleasant and service-oriented. Make a call a week to 10 days later. Your goal is to arrange a personal interview in which you can discuss any needs that they may have that you might have the right skills to provide.
Before the follow-up phone call learn as much as possible about the company from any published materials you can find. If the business is publicly traded, there should be annual reports and other financial data available. If they are not, industry wide data should give you some information on trends and challenges they may be facing. Don't present yourself as the expert who can handle anything, but give an honest assessment of the skills you can provide, noting how they may be useful in situations that the firm might be facing. Be clear about what you are prepared to offer. Remember the client is interested in their own success, not yours. What can you do for them to help make them a success? Listen. Listen. Listen. Learn to ask questions that draw them out about their needs.
If opportunities exist, suggest that you write a proposal to handle the work. Put together a plan of action, which includes the tasks you will perform, the schedule for completion and the costs for both you and any additional expenses that might be involved. The proposal can be an actual proposed contract which can be signed by the appropriate party at the firm to engage you for the work. Be certain the proposal is realistic because you may find yourself committed on very short notice. It is important for you to meet any commitments you make (that is how you get repeat business) so give yourself plenty of latitude for unexpected problems. Include in you time frame a regular payment schedule - and invoice according to the schedule. Do not expect payment without an invoice.
Getting business from old colleagues is a common way to get off the ground. Go through your former customer, sales rep and coworker lists from your previous positions and write them a personal letter announcing your new status. Do tread carefully if you signed a non compete agreement with a former employer. Such agreements are taken seriously and need to be honored. Maintaining relationships, however, makes good sense. Not only does it make you feel less alone, but their friendship may be essential to you in getting good feedback on how you are doing and in just keeping you going when the going gets rough.
There are also a number of online services that link independent contractors to jobs. If you are willing and able to handle jobs over the internet, this can be a great way to make contact with businesses you might not otherwise reach.