I'm in a similar boat. I contacted my old contacts and whilst I felt uncomfortable about it I got some positive emails back. I think the danger with being self employed is that you are not forced to take yourself out of your comfort zone. See this as a necessary "out of my comfort zone" experience and once it is done you will feel better for it.
Hobbes sorry to hear that you have lost a bit of confidence, but well done on "getting back on the horse" and getting ready to get out there again.
I'd agree with Friendly, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to contacts. And you are potentially solving a problem they/their contacts have, so try not to see it has hassling/bothering them even though it can feel like it!.
It could be worth looking at your contacts to check if you should segment them, are there particular people that warrant a separate/personalised message?
However, the beauty of a non-personal message is that by its nature there is no room for any "sorry we haven't spoken for a while" etc. So maybe that covers it. And personal messages might lead to "we should catch up for a coffee", which is probably not want you need; you need a new contract.
I did something similar when I left a horrible job before I started freelancing and I got a good few leads from it.
Maybe something like:
"I do hope you are well.
I am about to finish an enjoyable and interesting management consultancy contract with a xx client, where I have been looking at xx.
I am contacting you, as I now seeking new opportunities and I wondered if you could keep me in mind if you hear of anything if you or any of your contacts are looking for support.
The sort of business issues I can provide support on are:
* xxx * xxx * xxx * xxx
My full LinkedIn profile is here - xxxx. My mobile is xxxx.
I do hope it was ok to contact you.*
*I did try to add a sentence about offering to reciprocate, ie if they want you to keep them in mind re your contacts. But actually I think it is probably best to keep it simple and focused on the main message. You don't even need to add the sentence about ' Hope it is ok' but personally I would, I am sure if I was a -s weeping generalisation - man I wouldn't bother!
The worst that can happen is they'll say "don't contact me", but that is very unlikely and the likelihood is you'll pick up some work.
I'm in a very similar boat -- back freelancing after accidentally taking a permanent job for two years, and really hating the touting for work bit.
However, put yourself in their shoes. Would you mind if someone you worked with three years ago emailed you reminding them who they were, saying they were back on the market and available for work, and asking you to recommend them if they came across something suitable. No you wouldn't.
The worst that can happen is that they don't know of anything. I think it's something you just have to grit your teeth and do.
I'm a freelance management consultant. I feel like I'm quite good at what I do, but I've never been very good at the networking side. I get on well with people, but I feel a bit funny about approaching them for help in getting jobs. This wasn't a big problem in the past as one job tended to lead straight into another, but I've recently had a big gap out of work (partly recession but then I got pregnant and took some time at home) and it's knocked my confidence.
I'm coming to the end of a contract and need to find something else. This was my first job since having my son. It wasn't a very good fit for me and I feel like my confidence has taken another big knock. I've brushed up my CV and my LinkedIn profile, and now I know I'm going to have to get back in touch with ex colleagues and ask them if they know of any opportunities for me. How should I word this? Just bluntly ask for help? In the past I've been quite sociable and kept in touch with colleagues this way, but that's really dwindled now I have a young child. Is it OK to just email people, some of whom I haven't seen for 3 years or so, and ask if they know anyone who needs someone?