I would say first off if you don't have any in-house experience then ring, phone, write etc and get a unpaid placement. For as long as you can afford. (I did two days a week at a local magazine publishers for about 6mths). Just look locally for places or if there's a company that you really like write and tell them and with any luck they will appreciate the flattery and get back to you. But maybe don't leap into straight off asking for work exp, just ask to come in and look around there studio and ask for advice on your portfolio and that will give you an opening to ask for work exp.
As for freelance I do in house freelance on a day rate and freelance remotely on an hourly basis. It is tricky getting connections and can depend on where you live. Get an online portfolio and put your profile on places like linkedin, behance, people per hour and spend a good amount of time building things like this up. (I don't know if you have these already)
And also again just contacting local studios and asking for a meeting and some advice is always helpful and just meeting with people is the best way make connections also unashamedly use friends, family etc for connections poke and bother them they usually know someone useful.
Erm.. hope that's helpful : )
Probably the most invaluable source that helped me to get clients, and even jobs. If you're into branding, find a branding community / forum. If you're into interface design, find a community. Anything you're into, follow suit. You'll meet hundreds of others doing the same as you. You'll make friends before long, and they'll double as connections. You'll be recommended to people, and your portfolio will grow and grow until you have an online reputation.
You'll find that there are many more opportunities online than there are in your hometown, but that's not to say you shouldn't scout in both places. But seriously, get yourself in a community! Invaluable resource.