Old-fashioned networking -- the kind that people do with each other, instead of computers involved in wireless or wired communications -- is the key to finding work in down markets (and, of course, is also helpful in up markets as well). I suggest you start hanging out on the various active .NET developer message boards and mailing lists. You should do everything you can to prospect for work as you near completion of your new credentials. Remember that the very best jobs are seldom posted or advertised, but that information about such jobs is usually spread through informal contacts, word of mouth and so forth to "friends and family." Make yourself a friend and participate actively in the community in which you wish to work, and you should have no trouble finding work when you're ready to take the plunge.
This was first published in November 2002