The most common excuses I hear from my friends are that they either don't have the time, or that they don't have a clue where to start. This is a load of crap and everyone knows it. You've always got time if you choose to make time, and it's not about the best place to start. There is no right or wrong place to start, but the key to this is just doing it. Most people will never start.
Hopefully the following tips will help you getting started:
Cast a wide net.
Don't be afraid to send a ton of emails to ANYONE that may be able to help get you a gig. You just never know who will be able to help and the worst thing that will happen is they won't respond. When I did my initial batch of emails, I was trying score some wedding gigs for my group. I sent around 500 emails to church music directors and wedding planners within two days of making a sampler. Guess what? We didn't hired for a single wedding. Not one. As a matter of fact, we still haven't. BUT, we actually got hired to put on a full recital at a church, we've got a really awesome Easter gig coming up (I got about 5 offers for that weekend which I was able to pass along to friends), a funereal, and we're also being considered for a concert series at a church in Cambridge, MA. Now this is only a handful of gigs to get us started, but in addition to these I have gotten the other guys a handful of individual gigs as well.
The argument of time always comes up when I talk to friends about this stuff. People never seem to have enough time. Most people (myself included) don't use their time effectively at all. This doesn't have to be a major investment of time if you do it right. I found that the easiest way to do this was using directories and other already compiled lists to contact. It would take an eternity to go on every church/wedding planner website to find their contact info. But if you work smarter, you'll save a ton of time and cast a much wider net. No matter what you're trying to start, I think it is well worth the time to do some thorough research before starting this process. You'll thank yourself when you save hours of time.
And one more quick thing on efficiency: Make an email that can be sent to everyone and BCC every in to the same email. It keeps all of the contacts together and will save oodles of time. If you're looking for a playing gig, attach sound clip AND a link to your website to make it easier for the person receiving it. People are very busy and get flooded with spam in their inbox. Don't let your message go unread. Slap a nice subject line on there and make it short and sweet.
Be prepared for that first call.
When you do get a bite, don't waste the opportunity by not being prepared. You should have a fee in mind and everything figured out before you actually start a dialogue with someone that could potentially hire you. Nothing makes you sound more unprofessional than not having your details ironed out. If the gig is an hour away, figure out how much compensation you need for travel. Is it outdoors? Cover every base and leave nothing to chance. People will not trust you or take you seriously if you're fumbling around on the phone trying to pull answers out of thin air. Don't lose a gig by being unprepared.
Since I started hustling this group around the area, I have probably sent around 750 emails. Want to know how many people have responded? I give you a hint, it's nowhere close to 750. I'd ballpark the responses around 30 to be quite honest. But I don't let it get me down, and neither should you because of those emails sent, I have already made a lot more money freelancing than I would've otherwise. Even though most people didn't respond that doesn't mean that they won't eventually.
I got a call just the other day from a wedding planner that is looking to hire us. She probably received my email two months ago and just now called me back. Even if she doesn't hire us this time, I have now at least had the opportunity to connect with her and that goes a long way. She knows we exist and will hopefully spread the word to other vendors.
The fact is, most people won't respond. That's totally fine. But if I had only sent 50 emails, I may have never gotten anything. Again, don't be afraid to cast a wide net because quite frankly, it's the only way to really effectively get out there.
Doing this and everything else that I've talked about in the past few posts will seriously take you less than a week. It really doesn't even matter what your situation is for this stuff to be applicable. If I were moving to new city next week, I could use the same process to get started with a career and so could you. You don't have to be the best player in town to get started, but you certainly do have to put yourself out there. If you do even half of this stuff, you'll have a major leg up on the majority of your colleagues who are still waiting around for the phone to ring.
Get to it!