RammerJammer's nailed it - if he was only playing at Full Tilt, he's got an uphill battle to build from nothing. They don't run many freerolls, the ones they do run have either 2400 or 2700 players in them, and they're hardly deepstacks where you can make some moves.
Say you do finally cash for a couple of bucks... the only options you've really got are $1.25 SnGs, because the lowest cash games the site offers are 5/10c. There's only really four SnG options too - 9 or 90 player NLHE, or 8-player HORSE or Razz (from memory). It's very much an uphill battle.
I'm still trying to do it, but I'm probably some kind of poker masochist So far I've cashed in one freeroll for $2, then I was the bubble boy in the $1.25 SnG I played. Now I'm back to the start again.
Anywho... long story short, you need to play well, but you need to get lucky too.
Oh - I haven't tried, but from what I can tell you might have an easier time doing the same thing on PokerStars
- more freerolls, and 1/2c cash games give you more options?