Government Contracting Tips for Federal Contractors 101
The United States government has an employee base far larger than the average person may realize; by mid-2016 there were nearly 22 million individuals that worked for the U.S. government!
Many of these jobs are in areas such as veteran affairs, military, health and human services, and those which keep the entire thing running.
On the other end of the spectrum, when there is work needed to be done without the internal workforce, are Federal contracts.
Federal contracts are a mechanism so the U.S. government can allow individuals and companies to bid on projects in exchange for the sale of property of services.
It’s like freelancing for the government — yet with it comes strict regulations and the need for consistent reporting.
In this article, you will learn about the process required to get started as a federal contractor, how to bid government contracts, and extra government contracting tips to help seal the deal and start your new career on a strong note.
To get started you must first understand what’s required.
The Process of Becoming a Federal Contractor
Becoming a federal contractor takes an awful lot of paperwork and patience.
Ask yourself the following questions to make sure you’re ready to take the leap into working with government contract work:
- Do I have an established business?
- Am I reliable and offer a quality service or product?
- Do I have proof of my performance?
- Will I be able to scale and hire new employees if need be?
- Can I weather the possible long payment cycles and stay afloat?
If you’re able to answer yes to these questions then you’ll want to take these next steps:
- Obtain a D-U-N-S Number (a nine digit identification number for the physical location of your business)
- Register with the System for Award Management (SAM) which houses the primary database of vendors and acts as a way to certify your credentials
- Find your NAICS code which handles the tax end of the process
- Collect, document, and create reports on your past performances (can be done in-house but likely better to go through the Open Ratings, Inc Past Performance Evaluation)
- Gather the remaining items for registration (TIN or EIN tax ID, SIC codes, product service codes, and an optional Federal supply classification)
Whew. That’s quite a lot!
Once you’re within the system you will now have the credentials to begin bidding on jobs — this, in many ways, is similar to a typical job search but limited to those that have federal standings.
How to Find and Apply to Federal Contracts
The majority of jobs and government contract work come through these main portals:
These sites are very intuitive and easy-to-use if you’ve ever browsed other job listing sites like Monster or Indeed. You can type in keyword or phrases to find listings, plunk in your location to browse what’s in the area, or drill down using the side options with categories such as job categories, pay grade, department and agency, keywords, and more.
You are also given the ability to upload your resume (allowing others to find you when they are seeking potential contractors).
There is a wealth of information on the help pages of each which explains all aspects of using and navigating the sites to its fullest so be sure to give it a once over since these will become the main portals for you as a federal contractor.
The vetting process could take a good deal of time depending on the clearance and timeframe the government agencies are accepting bids so don’t get discouraged if you do not receive an immediate reply.
You may also want to consider subcontracting as a way to get your foot in the door.
Through subcontracting, you can work with a business that already has access and ties to government contracts who are willing to pass off in your direction.
Your business will build relationships with the different agencies and branches of government which will later look great when presenting the business toward new contracts.
There are ways to improve your chances, though.
Government Contracting Tips to Your Increase Success Rate
You can expect stiff competition for government contracts.
Your greatest tool for landing these contracts is your knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile. It’s about understanding everything you can about the process & rules and creating a conversation with the contacts.
Here are some government contracting tips to boost your success rate:
- Familiarize with the person you’ll be contacting by taking the time to understand the needs of the contract. Get in contact with the person and create a back-and-forth versus blasting resumes at will.
- Find opportunities where others have failed. Government contracts demand a high return on performance. Contracts cancel on a whim if the contractor cannot meet the goals. Pay attention to your competition and step in when they falter to swipe the contract right under their feet.
- Get out there and attend industry events. This will put you in direct contact with the people that matter. Spread your brand to the influencers and learn from the industry professionals. Consider, too, taking on a mentor!
- Get certified through SBA’s HUBZone program, SBA’s business development program, Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses initiative, or Women-Owned Small Businesses initiative.
- Change the way you market your business so that it’s tailored to government agencies. Educate yourself on government procedures and talking points. Place what you’ve learned into your marketing materials. Improve how you and employees interact with government officials in person, through email, and over the phone.
Here are some additional government contract tips to aid in the process.
Sometimes it’s the people you know. Do realize certain contracts may go to someone already close to those placing the listings. Yet, with these government contracting tips, you should gain a slight edge versus the typical contractor that’s only doing the minimum.
Becoming a federal contractor (and winning the contracts) places you in a very amazing position. There are thousands of well-paying jobs needed doing all around the United States.
The vetting process to become a federal contractor may seem difficult and tedious. Remember there is a lot of money and trust on the line along with security clearances.
If you can make your way into this area of business then you are setting in motion a stable career path with explosive possibilities for growth.
Have you considered a career as a Federal contractor? Have you gone through the process or currently in the field? Share your experiences and government contracting tips with others!