If you are looking to make a career out of writing, such as freelancing, then I do not agree with you that these are the only 3 options. I am a full-time freelance writer and I didn’t use content mills or free writing, but nor did I price myself super highly with no experience.
When you’re first starting out, write 2–3 sample pieces you’re proud of and that show you are a decent writer, and then simply start looking for work.
Network with people in real life, message people on Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. Post free ads on Craigslist and Reddit and also respond to ads.
Put yourself at the top of the bell curve and charge around average for your prices.
To this day, I do not have an official portfolio, I direct people to my Medium blog or my website (free, wordpress) to see my writing. I have raised my prices as time goes on.
I have gotten many clients from Instagram specifically, which I’ve gone into more detail here.
But even with no published experience, never EVER work for free. It devalues you and your skill, as well as devalues writing as a profession and brings down the average pay.