I found local websites in my area by searching Google. I targeted websites that were poorly done and mismanaged.
Next, I would use the email address on the page and send a FREE, detailed report about how the business owner could improve their website. I didn't make any offer... I simply provided value for the owner immediately. My suggestions were specific and quick; just a few rapid fire ways of making the site better (Layout, colour scheme, copy, etc.)
Finally, after just 4 emails, a small owner contacted me with a request to do business (that is a ridiculously high 25% response rate ). I was shocked... not only did he take my suggestions seriously, he also wanted ME to be in charge of making the improvements! He asked a price, and I said $100. I thought that I was way overshooting it... but later I found out that he was saving up for another designer that charged $1500+! Boy... did I kick myself after finding that out.
So, my suggestion for people out there is to leverage a skill that you already possess... and do exactly what I did. First, provide value with no strings attached. After awhile, people might come to appreciate the work you did for them and offer an opportunity. Leave room to be surprised... and don't necessarily chase the money. Instead, chase helping others and the money will come. I'm sure you've heard that saying before!
Remember: I was NOT amazing when it came to WordPress design. I was just more skilled at it than my client... and that's usually all that matters when you are starting out.
The next step for me is to switch over from freelancing to a more marketing-oriented income source. But freelancing is a great first step.