Ideas on how to secure good clients for web development? Or—How to turn my skills into decent pay?
Don’t get work through elance—get stuff from your personal network instead. If you don’t have a personal network, start building one!
Depending on where you live, an excellent starting point might be to join a co-working space. Brighton, UK for example has a number of great co-working spaces where you can hire a desk on a monthly basis or hot-desk. Those spaces are FULL of freelancers, and they frequently refer work to each other or hire each other for short periods to deal with projects too large for just one person.
In your situation though it sounds like you’d be better off getting a job for a few years, using that to build up a financial cushion and a good network, and then going back to freelancing once you’re in a better position to land the right kinds of client.
Don’t worry about not having a formal education—talented web developers are in very high demand these days. If you’re any good (and can show good code, a decent portfolio of projects etc) you should be able to land a decent position somewhere. At my company we pay very little attention to formal education, instead looking at portfolios and prior experience.