As a consultant, you need to spend a good percentage of your time looking for work. Even if you have a gig, you still need to be prepared at any time to get another one since contracts can sometimes end without much notice.
The standard recommendation is to build a network that you can tap in to when you need to find work. This is a good advice and there's nothing like a referral to help you get your foot in the door. But sometimes your network has nothing to offer. Or if you're moving to a new area your network may not be of help to you. In such situations you'll probably resort to using recruiters a.k.a. headhunters.
Recruiters can play a valuable role in your contract search. Good recruiters have established connections in their geographic areas and have a good understanding of their client's needs. Bad recruiters, on the other hand, are just looking for quick turn-over. You want to look for and work with the good recruiters. Let your instinct be your guide and make specific not of who you think is good and who you think is bad. Eventually, you'll learn the signs that mark each group. In a follow-up posting I'll go over some of the things that make a recruiter good or bad.
Thanks for this good advice.
About one's network sometimes drying up or being too tied to geography - one thing that can help with this is having a constant online presence. That way, clients from all over the world will always be able to find you.
Check out ProCompare.com - it's a new site that helps SMBs find technology, and IT professionals (this is where the networking for consultants comes in...) to deploy and support it.
You can set up a very self-promotional profile there, with links and lists of certifications, and then review products to get exposure and build a reputation. Since businesses who need consultants go there, it's a great place to have high visibility.