With all due respect, this seemingly simple question has a complex answer. Much akin to "How do I drive a car?"
The most basic overview I can come up with goes like this:
1. Decide on a niche
There are a million freelance website designers. What makes you different and how can you offer something to your client that other may not be able to?
2. Connect with those who need your services to build a portfolio
Reach out to non-profits or small businesses to get started. You will need a portfolio and client recommendations as you grow. By getting this done early, you can use them to get larger, better paying clients
3. Build your network by offering valuable advice for those who may not know they need you
Use a platform like LinkedIn or Facebook to educate small business owners on the benefits of having a well-designed website. Offer tips on how to manage a website redesign, what to look for in a designer, how to manage a web project, etc. This plants the seed in the mind of your next customer and positions you in a place of authority
4. Have a process and system for growing your freelance business
Communication and time management are two areas freelancers of any industry struggle with. Having a process in place early will help you effectively grow without dropping the ball on the many projects you may have going at the same time.
Again, this is a very (very) high level overview. There are also considerations for pricing, demonstrating value (vs competing on price), lead generation and nurturing, outsourcing, and moving from project-based work to retainer work.
I would be happy to discuss this more with you, if you'd like. Drop me a note.
Best of luck!
I've been in your situation, having started a web design/marketing business 4 years ago, and am now facing the next step in my business...growth. Which is good but it comes with a whole host of new challenges.
My advice is to network and get to know people/build relationships. People do business with whom they know, like & trust. You may be a design/programming wizard that can build sites for anyone/anywhere but to get clients, starting out people are usually going to want to meet with you before committing to having you build/maintain their site for them. Becoming comfortable in front of people and being able to give group presentations is important.
Networking groups I can recommend are BNI, leads groups, and other industry specific groups such as realtor boards, if it's a niche you want to target.
I would also recommend offering more services than just web design/development. That would including hosting, security certificates, maintenance and other skills you may be able to provide such as logo/graphic design, SEO, etc. Don't stretch yourself too thin - stick with your strengths, but I do find it's beneficial for clients and your business if you're not too one dimensional, depending on where your interests and expertise lies.
I wish you all the best. I'd be happy to go over more of my experiences, recommendations, what I'd do differently, etc. in a call.
Succeeding on a large scale might be challenging, since web design is a crowded field with plenty of overseas talent in the developing world.
Those guys and gals are able to underbid local web designers in, say, the USA. What those remote designers may not be able to do quite so well is where YOU ought to focus.
You can walk up to someone in the neighborhood face to face and persuade them to hire you. Being from the same culture, you might communicate more clearly. And you can sit down next to your client at a coffee shop, showing them preliminary ideas. You can include them in design decisions. Sure, someone in Gujarat can share the screen remotely. But that's never as pleasant or efficient an experience as sipping coffee together, pointing at the work in progress, and so forth.
So my recommendation is this: Don't launch yourself globally. Don't try to market your services online, competing for attention with everybody else who's already out there. Even though you're a web designer and the internet is global, build up your clientele LOCALLY.
Eventually, you'll get client referrals and your portfolio of past design jobs will grow. So you may begin working with distant clients too. But you're at your best when you can offer something your competitors can't. It's unlikely that you'll be twice as good – in terms of design – as the rest of the world's designers. But you CAN be twice as good at listening, at being genuinely THERE.