After starting web and app design and development in 2012 which I really enjoyed I began working as a freelancer in 2013 and sold my first two websites in the first year.
The first project was by a local restaurant. My approach to get the job without any references was quite outlandish because I simply designed and developed the entire site without the owners knowing about it. Once I was done I visited them, presented it and asked them if they wanted to buy it. That is how I got my first job as a freelancer. Ever since then I continued that work - but got better in design and development.