One of the areas of photography that I've been quite lucky in is having access to a large studio quite freely. I met a local photographer at my first season shooting at Edmonton Fashion Week who ended up teaching me quite a bit of what I employ today in general events and studio shooting.
Through that I've also gained a large amount of appreciation into the work that goes into bringing together a studio shoot successfully. Learning early on to network and keep contacts and then organize and bring all those people together -- from models, makeup artists, hair stylists, designers and assistants -- into a single shoot becomes an important asset. It also takes a lot of practice and patience as nothing ever goes according to plan. That's Murphy's Law for you I guess.
It's great to start easy, ask a friend to pose for you for some shots. Most certainly wont mind just helping out and they get some quality shots out of the deal for Facebook. Going from there you can ask friends who may be into hair styling or make up to perhaps help out. It's great to get the local community involved, friends who are trying to make it in their own business. It gives you a chance to practice shooting and you get the assistance of talent you may not normally have at your disposal. Through that your friends or contacts get a chance to get some free work for their portfolios that they can use to further their own pursuits.
Through it all you build a network of friends and contacts that can not only help you in a pinch but recommend you to others bringing you more opportunities and business.
On that note, sometimes people get a few paid shots early on and end up convincing themselves they no longer need to do free shoots. While i'm not one to argue with somebody who flat out wants to pay me for my work I still try and take the time to do a few shoots i don't charge for.
It's good practice.
It allows you to create an opportunity you otherwise may not have.
It benefits both parties.
It's great for networking.
There's many other reasons for it. Don't discount free work, it pays for itself in the long run.
In any case, start of with the people you know and new opportunitys will come to you. Build up an arsenal of friends and contacts you can work with and trust and you'll get some amazing results with the help of others.