I've been making small affiliate websites for myself for years and living off of my work. I'd like to start a service making small websites for others but I don't know anyone who needs a site made, and I live in a new city where I don't know many people.
How can I find people who need small sites made for them starting from scratch?
When I was starting out freelancing, I was also starting in a new city without much of a network at all.
I built my network by looking at local meetups, conferences, mixers, and pretty much anything else I could find where people would show up who were either A) doing the kind of work I do, or B) were the kinds of people I wanted to work with.
I volunteered to give small sessions to help other people in my industry, which established me as a perceived authority. This led to referrals from people in the industry who were overbooked or had a lead they weren't sure how to handle.
I met as many people in my target client group as I could, helping for free (with advice and ideas only) in person, connecting them to other freelancers when it was appropriate, and generally being nice and helpful. This led to word-of-mouth referrals.
One note: this is a slower way to start. However, once I built momentum (this took me maybe a year, and I was working a full-time job in addition to networking), it's NEVER slowed down. I have never advertised or marketed myself, and I'm nearly always booked enough that I have to turn clients away. The agency I built and sold using this method is still referral-only and profitable, even after two years of new ownership.
Running ad campaigns can be effective, but it requires constant money and attention. Building a strong network requires a lot of upfront effort, but costs little and becomes less time-consuming as you become more successful.
I'm happy to talk more on this if you want to work on a specific action plan. Hit me up for a call and we'll hammer something out.
The best way to find them if you don't have your own network is to advertise online. You need to organize what you can do into simple products, and sell them through your own site. You can try word off mouth if you have access to a specific network that would benefit from your services. We can chat on a call if you want to go into more detail.
Jason's answer is a great approach, because you get to showcase your expertise, rather than simply say: "I build websites".
You're really solving an expensive problem for them, so by asking them about that problem, rather than speaking about your service, you're in a much better place.
And, although you may be offering to build websites from scratch, you might also find that they have an old or broken website, which means that they have at least thought "I need a website." You could still create the new one from scratch.
Re: talking about the expensive problem. My local suburban butcher was getting less foot traffic due to the demographic changes. Someone said: "instead of a placeholder website, how about you start offering online orders." They now deliver to the whole of Sydney, and a simple email to their list with a video on "how to sharpen knives" or "here's how we make Irish sausages to celebrate St. Patrick's day" is enough to trigger hundreds of orders for people who think: "Oh! That's right. I meant to order meat for my party."
So, seeing the website as a solution to an expensive problem (not enough people coming in the door) made it super lucrative.
As with most problems, it comes back to talking to the client to find out what expensive problem it is they need some help with.
Of course, I'd be happy to help on a call, but it sounds like Jason would be a great fit for your situation.
I made a video awhile back to explain my answer:
Make sure you pick your target market before you start...otherwise, you'll get stuck in the low budget level.
You will have to talk to people.
Network with people who do other things for people who need websites. Accountants, attorneys, bankers, etc... people who help people setup businesses or who know businesses that may need an update to their site.
Make sure your title on LinkedIn is concise and specific.
Create a Slideshare illustrating your work over the years and include it in your LinkedIn profile.
Connect on LinkedIn with the kind of people who would hire you--freelancers and small business owners.
Create simple websites for some friends and ask them to provide testimonials on your LinkedIn page.
Visit the websites of small businesses in your area, walk into their shops, and tell them what you'd do to improve their online presence. Think pizza shops, salons, independent grocery stores, etc.
What you’re talking about is business development. For my own business and many others, I’ve found that a blend of approaches to business development is best, and many good options are listed here already.
What appears to be missing, however, is cold calling. Yes, the gut-wrenching (for most) practice of calling many people you don’t know (or going door-to-door in denser markets) and educating them about you and your service.
Ultimately, building your business is a numbers game: The more people who know about it, the more likely you are to find someone who can use your services today, six months down the road, one year out or even three years into the future (a pleasant surprise that boosted my business significantly). Consider cold calling foundational—a core way to promote you, your services and your drive in a targeted fashion.
Sorry, I didn’t say easy or painless, but cold calling can be an incredibly valuable tool in your business development plan.
Good luck and let me know if you need more assistance.