You work with people. Those people know people. They know other people. Someone says 'I need a good PHP guy' and a guy in the network replies 'I know a guy, SadWebDeveloper - here is his email address'. Boom: you have made contact with someone who wants to hire you.
Join the Whatever User Group in your area. Go to the meetings - introduce yourself. Be a presence on their mail list. Boom: more networking contacts.
This is a really good example. TJIC and I have talked on the internet for -years- via email and twitter and blog. A customer of mine mentioned she was looking for a local developer (Los Angeles) but couldn't find anyone who met even her minimal standards.
I said 'Hey, I know a guy', he lives 8,000 miles away, he's about a hermit and a half, and he knows his sh*t' and a few weeks later TJIC got some months of work and everyone was happy.
And now, here we are, talking. Maybe I can be converted to a networking contact. You never know, hunh?
No they don't. And your solution to not being stuck with closed and insular groups is join some closed and insular groups so that your name can be passed around as one of the group.
All you have to do is set your mind to it.
...and you're doing a great job so far!
* I emailed a band I liked whose song was featured as Demo Of The Month in a magazine, asking to buy all their CDs. We kept in touch, and months later they asked me for some (free) advice about setting up their website. Later again, one of their friends was looking to hire someone & they recommended me - I worked remotely for them for 10 years.
* I wrote a script in PHP and made both a free version & a paid version, then mentioned it on a forum. I got a handful of sales, but one of those customers liked the code quality so much they asked if they could hire me for contract work. That work was done remotely too.
* I went to a blogger conference overseas & before I went I made a Twitter list of all the attendees, read their tweets and made online friends with a few who I found interesting. I met some of them at the conference, and one of them I kept in touch with for a year after the conference. We grabbed some coffee when they visited my city, I mentioned I was having a slow work period, they mentioned they needed someone technical, and we worked together for a couple of years. Again, mostly remote work (though I did fly to their offices every few months).
Instead of being negative, plant the seeds now. Start making friends, keep those friendships alive, keep letting people know what you do, keep creating proof that you're good at what you do (even if it's your own projects). It's a long process and it still won't guarantee you work, but it will give you a much better chance of offers coming your way. That's what worked for me anyway.
Therefore it works for everyone.
There are lots of people that do not make friends easily. There are lots of people that do not have friends in the industry that they work in. There are lots of people that have moved very far away from any friends once or many times in the past few years and have either completely lost contact or don't have friends that would be in any position to throw other contacts your way.
So no, it is not just go make friends and everything will be great.
> No they don't.
Could be you are a deaf and mute yak herder in Outer Mongolia and suffer the heartbreak of psoriasis. Your situation is unique and you have my pity.
For those of us in the mart of competitive commerce there is no possible way a person can exist in this economy without knowing people.
> join some closed and insular groups
You have no idea what you are talking about.
You have my pity.