Lorraine Wood's reply:
First of all congratulations on deciding to go freelance - I’m sure you will enjoy it.
In terms of a portfolio I would suggest both. An online portfolio is very simple to set up and can be updated and editing quickly. There are lots of wordpress templates and sites such as https://www.behance.net/ where you can set up your own pages to showcase your work. People will always google you to see who you are what you’re about. Also if you set up a Behance page you can link it to your LinkedIn page as well – which is great for social media and researching the companies and people you want to get it contact/work with.
A physical portfolio is always great for when you go and meet new clients/companies, people still like to look over work especially if you can show it on the product/magazine etc it was used in. Always try if you can to make the work you showcase in the portfolio specific to the company you are meeting. Add in a few pieces showcasing the breadth of the work you can do but specific pieces which relate to the work they are after is always handy.
In terms of getting in touch with companies, research those that you wish to work with and find out who the best person to speak to is. Write a letter introducing yourself, asking for half an hour of their time and make it showcase your personality as well as your work. You want them to remember you when you call them to arrange the meeting. Include some samples of your work either on the letter or on a postcard. But always make sure you follow the letters up with a phone call, speak to the person you wrote to.
I hope this has helped and I wish you lots of creative luck in your new freelance career.