The government provides just about every service imaginable, from public programs for education to community centers for arts, music, and connection. They are the top provider of services in the nation, and they require a great deal of specialized support to build and develop the programs our citizens rely on. As a contractor, you have a unique skill set and background that can lend to federal, state, and local projects. It may feel overwhelming to bid for such large-scale contracts, but there are some simple steps you can take to get started in this lucrative sector.
Register as a government contractor.
This is the first step in being able to throw your hat in the ring. Federal and state agencies look for contractors that are qualified to perform the type of work they need for a project, and registration will demonstrate just that. The government uses the online database SAM (System Award Management) to locate and secure public contractors, so you will want to start by registering online at sam.gov. From here, you will be expected to meet some minimum requirements for your business to qualify, at which point you will be issued a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). This will allow you to be seen and contacted through SAM for relevant government projects.
Determine your NAICS code.
You likely have a specific field of expertise, even if you consider yourself a general contractor. In order to bid for federal projects, you will need to determine which code your products and services fall under. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) has a range of codes that help categorize contractors based on the services they provide. It is possible to have more than one code if you provide a range of differing services. You can easily view and locate your NAICS code with the U.S. Census Bureau at census.gov/naics/.
Figure out which federal agencies and state departments suit your industry.
There are a wide range of departments at the federal, state, and local government levels. Each agency manages and supports a unique aspect of our nation or local community, including labor, agriculture, transportation, environmental protection, and more. You can easily find federal and state agencies online to contact directly regarding potential contract opportunities. This will ensure you have the necessary resources and qualifications to execute the contracted work, not to mention it will make the work more meaningful to you and your business. You can view federal departments and their requirements at usa.gov/expand-business to learn more.
Establish your own scope for acceptable government contracts.
When you get started with this sector, it can be tempting to jump on every opportunity, even if it is only slightly relevant to your past experience. Make sure the jobs you bid on align well with your skills and knowledge so you are well-prepared for the work ahead. Contracts may have clauses that allow you to exit the project, but in most cases, contracts are legally binding and may have serious repercussions if you are forced to abandon a project because it requires more knowledge or is too big for your business to handle. By sticking to your industry and expertise, you can choose projects that fit within your scope and will be easy to successfully complete.
Begin searching for projects.
The government is required to publicly post government contracts for small business owners and individual contractors to see and bid for. You can locate available government contracts online through sam.gov/content/opportunities. Here you can easily search for relevant contracts based on keywords that apply to your services. There are also a plethora of resources to help you find what you are looking for and get started, so you can get the support you need right off the bat.
Understand the proposal expectations of the bid before submitting.
Government agencies often use two types of solicitations: Requests for Proposal and Invitation for Bid. It is important to understand the difference between these and to thoroughly read the additional asks in the proposal before submitting your bid. A Request for Proposal is used when the soliciting agency has a project without specific requirements or a developed plan for execution. This could be for various reasons, but is often because the agency wishes to defer to the contracted company for direction on how the project should be undertaken.
An Invitation for Bid is used when the agency has clear and specific guidelines and expectations for a project and is looking for contractors that can meet those specifications. An important distinction with this type of bid is that there is usually no room for negotiation and they often go with the lowest bidder since the project is not directly affected or determined by the chosen contractor.
Government contracting is a great way to earn additional revenue while supporting the services and programs in our local communities. You can easily contribute to making our towns and cities a better place for your neighbors, and grow your portfolio and brand in the process. To learn more about government contracting, visit usa.gov/government-contracting-for-beginners. As always, we are here to support your business with the right coverage and protection. Contact us to review your current contractor’s insurance policy and bonding needs to make sure you are properly protected.
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