Government contracts can be lucrative, with billions of dollars' worth of contracts being awarded to small businesses every year. But with significant competition, how can you get your small business in on the action? Here are some guidelines for getting noticed for the next contract in your field.
Get Registered -- and Get Certified
In order to be eligible for government contracts, your small business needs to be registered with the Central Contractor Registration. You can register online, and as part of the process you'll sign up for a number with Dun & Bradstreet that you'll use when applying for any contracting work. Sit down to complete the registration process sometime when you have a significant chunk of free time and come armed with patience -- there's a substantial amount of paperwork to go through.
Once you're registered, check to see if your business qualifies for any special certifications that could give you an edge. Regulations require government agencies to designate a percentage of contracts to certain businesses, so preference is given to businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans. Businesses located in designated HUBZones, which are areas suffering economic problems, also qualify. Depending on your business's category for qualification, various organizations offer certification that you meet requirements for that category, such as the Small Business Administration or the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Having your business certified as such can give your application for a contract a boost.
Find Suitable Contracts
The Federal Business Opportunities website lets you search for contracts that fall within your business's range. The application process is time-consuming, so try to narrow your options to those you have the best chance of winning. If you're just starting, aim for small projects that you might reasonably be awarded. If you're not sure what might be your best bets, do some research into past contracts to get an idea of what the government agencies look for in a small business and what kinds of contracts businesses similar to yours have been awarded.
Networking can also be beneficial for landing a contract. If you're worried your business will be overlooked, try subcontracting with businesses that already do government work to show your worth and meet people who know how the process works. There's also support available from various organizations. The Small Business Administration's Office of Government Contracting advocates for small businesses in federal contracting, especially small businesses that qualify as minority or disadvantaged. For women-owned small businesses, the ChallengeHER initiative provides mentoring, workshops, and other resources to help access government contracts.
Once you've found a contract that you believe you qualify for, begin the application process but expect some hiccups along the way, from paperwork glitches to agency delays. Actually being awarded a contract can be a time-consuming process, so be prepared to wait up to two years for final approval -- once you've secured the contract, you'll be glad you were patient.
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