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I think that placement agencies are tremendously undervalued by freelancers, especially when starting out, and I recommend you create a relationship with at least one. Traditional placement agencies hire local talent to work in offices within a geographic area, some offer general office help, while other specialize in specific talents and industries. Such specializing agencies tend to pay better. So it's great if you can hook up with one of them. The advertising industry is one area of note. They often turn to such agencies and they require highly skilled workers for short periods of time.
Some contracts you get through placement agencies are actually for very long term projects. The upside for a freelancer is that such jobs tend to be steady and well paying, often lasting for months at a time. The downside is, well, they can last for months at a time. If you turn to freelancing for mobility and variety, this probably won't be a fit for you. Otherwise, talk to local agencies about long term placements. Competing with, and complementing these traditional agencies are the online ones such as Elance, Guru, and dozens of others.
They typically require less involvement to set up. Rather than filling out forms and taking tests in an office, you simply post your qualifications online. Then employers say what they are looking for and ideally, the two sides snatch each other up. Online agencies have varying amount of involvement with the jobs. Some sites are simple job listings, while others provide online collaboration services, payroll services, and so on. Whether you sign up for online agencies, offline agencies, or both, be sure you have all your marketing tools in place: your portfolio, resume, and so on.
An agency is a client. But unlike an individual client, it's one that leads to work from multiple sources. You can continue to find other clients on your own, but having an agency pulling for you, gives you stability during slow times.
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