I just finished listening to a book called The Drunkards Walk. A very interesting and highly recommended book about statistics in everyday life. One of the points that the author makes is that the difference between being a success at what you do and being a failure is persistence. If you have a satisfactory amount of talent your chances of success will increase the more you hang in there, from a statistical viewpoint. As an example he describes how some of the best selling authors sent their first manuscripts to 20-30 publishers before being accepted for publication. If these same authors had given up after being rejected 5 or 6 times we would never have heard of them and they would have to have stuck with their daytime jobs. How does this apply to making it as a freelancer? Marketing. The more marketing methods you use the greater your chance that one of them will pay off. For example, I had a website, blog, adsense and other avenues in place and was considering whether or not to sign up for Linkedin. I finally decided why not? and signed up. Several months later I found one of my better clients of the last few years through one of the Linkedin groups.
Another thing that reminded me of the connection between statistics and being a freelance happened last week when I was about to finish a project and it occurred to me that I had very little left on my plate. During the next two days I got two new projects from previous clients that sent me new projects after not hearing from them for around a year. It occured to me that the longer you are a freelancer, the greater your chances of getting work through returning clients.
The hard part is getting started and having the financial backing to be able to hang in there until you reach the point where the business is self-perpetuating.