When's the perfect time to start looking for new business? Any minute of every day you can possibly spend.
It's not something you stop doing because you've got a comfortable looking 6 month contract. A range of things could happen. The client could review the budget. In which case, you're probably the one costing them the most in the short term. The seagulls could peck you from the seat you've grown so used to spinning round in on Mondays. When the seagulls turn up, nobody stands still. Anyone who's eaten chips on a beach knows to piss off when they arrive.
Jane Austen used to write a lot of letters. They are works of art. But remember what you're trying to do here - get some new gigs in the most economic way. Some people say writing a letter to a hiring manager is a good move because it's novel. There might be situations where this seems the right thing to do. In those cases, by all means do it. Mostly though, I think it's just a waste of paper. Pick up your phone and call the company you'd like to offer your service to. Then try and get through to the right person. It's the next best thing to speaking to them face-to-face. Try and skip the receptionist, the security guard, the third mate, the fourth mate, the ship handler, and anyone else who's irrelevant to the main goal. Then get the relevant person's email address. Ask them to read it back to you to check. Be nice. If someone's rude or evasive, they might just be fighting over a falafel wrap with a seagull. These birds make humans angry because they invoke the law of the jungle we've spent so long pretending we're no longer a part of.
Just because a job says permanent, doesn't mean an organisation might not be considering taking on a contractor or freelancer. They want a job done, tasks completed, processes - and maybe even people - managed. The last time I checked, contractors have a lot of experience at all of these, so put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes. Like the speculative phone call situation, give them a buzz first. Try and get to the right person - someone who can make decisions. Dial, email, done.
Some companies might not welcome the cold calling approach. For example, they might have their own process for getting freelancer's CV's on their table. Today I saw a freelancer-specific portal thingy which said 'Pitch yourself'. Yes please. That's an open invite to be inventive and tell a company what you do and how you could help them.
I hate spreadsheets because they look like:
But for the sake of keeping track of who you've spoken to, they're a quick solution. There's also Google Docs (an online version of word) for listing company name, contact email and phone number.