April 1, 2013 was the day that I signed a contract with a small company for my virtual assistance/bookkeeping services. It was a proud day! The way that it happened was quite unconventional.
The short of it: My relationship with this customer started out as my working part-time as an employee of a staffing agency. Yet inside I felt that if I provided great services, I would be able to make them my customer. At the end of my assignment, I signed them as my first customer and was able to become 100% self employed.
You don't have to do it as I did, but I do believe that it is key to make a major connection that demonstrates the quality of your services. Especially when you're a newbie. You may be offered employment, as I was, but if the customer really wants your services, they will have you on your terms.
Another key is to make sure to establish your startup as an LLC or corporation. I say this because IRS guidelines are more clear when it comes to differentiating between employees and subcontractors. And enforcement of those guidelines has become stricter. You have to make sure your i's are dotted and t's are crossed in this regard. Otherwise, it can be bad for you or any customer that utilizes your services.
I would love to talk with you about other things you can do. Contact me and let's talk further.