I am self-taught and I do not have a degree, but I do have an online portfolio. I have worked with Computer Graphics for years and I also have office experience. I have a full computer system and can do both Virtual Assistant and Graphics work from home.
Having an online portfolio is important but even more important is that you have reviews. You can put them directly on your portfolio site and they will act as 'social proof' enabling you to convert more jobs. Since you say that you've worked with computer graphic for years I assume you've done some work for clients. I bet in your e-mail you have these reviews just sitting there hiding from past clients or even associates or friends who have complimented your work. Publish them out there for prospect to see.
My portfolio is pretty weak relatively I think but more than anything when I link people to my reviews on codeable or my linkedin profile they instantly trust me and pull out their wallet :)
Outside of that another tip would be to specialize. There are lots of Graphic Artists out there you need to specialize and differentiate yourself. There are many really talents Graphic Artists out there who are successful without having a degree so don't let that hold you back.
Hope that helps. Cheers - Raleigh
It's great that you have an online portfolio, but what I noticed is missing from your description is a specialty or a description of concrete skills. Both "graphic arts" and "computer graphics" are broad and outdated terms. Are you doing Web / mobile UI design? CAD? 3D modeling? Vector drawing? Branding and marketing materials? Print design? What software do you use? In what media and channels do you have the most experience?
Normally, I do not recommend designers do pro bono, volunteer, speculative, or other unpaid work, -except- for in cases like yours where your professional design experience is nonexistent. Take on a few of these projects that interest you. Do them for 6 months to 1 year. After that, charge a reasonable starting rate for your area. After another year, raise your rate, and so on.
After that, as in any other business, is establishing your unique value proposition -- what you can offer that no one else in that specialty or skill set can.
Feel free to schedule a call with me to discuss further branding and design techniques.
You need to get out there and start hustling. Attend networking events, meet new people, start getting your name out there that you are looking for clients. You cannot make it by sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring or emails to come in.