Unfortuantely, you've picked a real bad time to strike out on your own.
Best advice I can give:
First and foremost, you need to create, and then spend the money on, an advertising budget.
Join your local builders associations. Attend the meetings and other events.
Visit home shows and expos, with a wad of business cards in your pocket. Don't be shy about introducing yourself. And don't give out cards one at a time.... give each person 3 or 4: they're cheap, and you don't know who those people know!
Get on your local Craigslist site. Look for builders and handymen there who advertise "It's OK to contact them with other services or commercial interests." (This will be at the bottom of their listing) Drop them a short, simple email to introduce yourself. I've gotten one builder, two remodelers and two house-flippers this way!
And my favorite method: whenever you go to the Big Orange, Big Blue, or even the local hardware store (Ace, True Value, whatever) look for the trucks and vans that have "Fred's Home Improvement", "Handy Dave, Dan's Older Brother" or "Quality Construction" on them. And not just 'builders', .... landscapers, painters, roofers, drywallers, plumbers.....ANY construction trade lead can pan out. Stick a business card in the drivers window. The worst that can happen is they throw it away.
Real estate agents are another 'forgotten' source. Many people who buy an existing home immediately want to change it, so if you buddy up with realtors you can be 'first in line' when it comes to the new homeowners' upgrades.
If (or should I be more positive and say when
) you do find a builder, remodeller or flipper, be sure not to forget the person or people who are paying them.... the owners. Make contact with them, introduce yourself, and by all means, give them a card.
Want to start doing commercial? Drive around town and find all those little strip malls and see if there are any empty bays. Contact the name & number on the sign (after all, it is for rent, isn't it?), and find out who owns the property. Contact that person, introduce yourself, and simply ask if it would be possible for you to submit a bid when a new tenant is found.
Many local stores have bulliten boards you can put a small print ad (easy to do today with computers and printers) or a busniess card. It's free, and you never know.
Be persistent. Be sociable. Be friendly. You will not get every lead, you will not get every bid. And you will need to learn to deal with rejection.
But most important: create an advertising budget. And stick to your advertising plan. If one method doesn't seem to work, drop it and spend your money on other ideas. Business cards are the cheapest form of advertising, and the easiest to use. They fit in your pocket, so there is no excuse for never having a card
to hand someone.
It WILL take some time, but if you do quality work at a reasonable price, you'll keep busy. And by reasonable, I mean fair
. DO NOT try to comptete on price alone. DO NOT promote yourself as Wal-Mart Electric. If you do, you WILL fail.