The common advice is to do free work to get portfolio started, however, I have found that businesses that do care about having a site usually also care about finding the best person to handle their site. Business that don't care about their site just use a templated if there exists one, they get lucky if it meets their needs other wise they just leave it at that.
So when you have no experience and you approach a business they also demand a portfolio, which was the real purpose of doing the design for free.
I guess i am lost on how to approach and find businesses online and offline whose website i think could use a great redesigning and they want it to be redesigned. I once found a local company their site was unusable, broken links, half flash, etc. I offered them in detail why they need the redesign, and how could i help them etc. No response?
If I was a business and if my site mattered to me remotely won't i just accept that offer, but again if i did care my site wouldn't have been in state where even free work would be beneficial.
So what to do when even for free work you need to prove yourself :D /