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Guide to Becoming a Government Contractor: Your Path To Success

Becoming a Government Contractor

Becoming a government contractor can open up significant opportunities for businesses to expand their market and increase profits. With the United States spending over $100 billion on government contracts each fiscal year, competition to become a government contractor is fierce. However, the process of becoming a government contractor is not easy and requires businesses to navigate a detailed registration process and adhere to specific regulations. This guide will provide you with the essential steps and strategies to become a successful government contractor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding the requirements and regulations for becoming a government contractor is crucial for success.
  • Establishing a well-functioning business is the first step towards entering the government contracting market.
  • Completing registrations such as SAM registration, obtaining a DUNS Number, and applying for certifications are necessary to qualify for government contracts.
  • Utilize the System for Award Management (SAM) to search for open federal contracts online.
  • Consider bidding on smaller state and local government contracts to gain experience and enhance your skills.

Establish a Business

Before embarking on your journey to become a government contractor, it is crucial to establish your own business. Starting a small business lays the foundation for accessing government contracting opportunities and ensures that you can provide the products or services required by government customers. A well-functioning business is key to success in the competitive world of government contracting.

When establishing your business, consider the following steps:

  • Choose a business structure: Determine whether you want to operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC). Each structure has its own implications for taxation, liability, and operation.
  • Register your business: Register your business with the appropriate state and local agencies. This typically involves obtaining a business license and registering your business name.
  • Obtain necessary permits and licenses: Depending on your industry, you may need to obtain specific permits and licenses to operate legally. Research the requirements for your particular line of business.
  • Create a business plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your goals, target market, marketing strategies, and financial projections. This will serve as a roadmap for your business’s success.
  • Secure funding: Determine how you will finance your business’s operations and growth. This may involve securing loans, attracting investors, or utilizing personal savings.

Table: Business Establishment Checklist

Step Description
Choose a business structure Select the appropriate legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC.
Register your business Complete the necessary registrations with state and local agencies to formally establish your business.
Obtain permits and licenses Determine the permits and licenses required for your industry and ensure compliance with all regulations.
Create a business plan Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projections.
Secure funding Identify potential funding sources and secure the necessary capital to start and grow your business.

Establishing a business is the first step towards becoming a successful government contractor. By laying a strong foundation, you can position your business for growth and maximize your chances of securing lucrative government contracts.

Register your business

Once your business is established, the next crucial step in becoming a government contractor is to complete the necessary registrations. These registrations are essential to qualify for government contracting opportunities.

DUNS Number

The first registration you need to complete is obtaining a DUNS Number, which is a unique nine-digit identifier for your business. This number is required for all government contracting activities and can be obtained for free from Dun & Bradstreet.

System for Award Management (SAM)

Another vital registration is with the System for Award Management (SAM). SAM is the official database for businesses seeking government contracts, grants, and assistance. It is crucial to register your business on SAM to become eligible for government contracting opportunities.


When registering on SAM, you will also need to determine your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. The NAICS code classifies businesses based on their industry, allowing government agencies to match contracts with relevant businesses. It is important to choose the correct NAICS code that aligns with your business activities.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

Obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is another essential step in the registration process. An EIN is used to identify your business for tax purposes and is required for government contracting.

Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code

A Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code is a unique identifier assigned to businesses by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). This code is necessary for businesses that plan to do business with the Department of Defense (DoD) or other federal agencies.

Apply for certifications

In addition to these registrations, you may also qualify for certifications offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). These certifications provide access to specific contract opportunities set aside for small businesses, women-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, and more. It is worth exploring the available certifications and applying for those that align with your business’s qualifications.

By completing these registrations and obtaining the necessary numbers and codes, you will position your business for success in government contracting. These registrations are essential for qualifying for government contracts and accessing a wide range of contracting opportunities.

Searching for Open Federal Contracts Online

Once you have completed the necessary registrations and obtained the relevant codes, it’s time to start searching for open federal contracts online. The System for Award Management (SAM) is a valuable resource that holds information about government contracts that are open for bidding. This online database allows you to search for contracts, explore past purchases, and access detailed information about current bidding opportunities.

When using the System for Award Management, you can filter your search based on various criteria such as contract type, agency, location, and keyword. This helps you narrow down your search to find the contracts that align with your business’s capabilities and objectives. Additionally, you can set up notifications to receive updates on new contracts that match your preferences.

Once you find an open federal contract that interests you, it’s essential to carefully review the solicitation documents and requirements. Pay attention to the scope of work, evaluation criteria, deadlines, and any specific qualifications needed. Understanding the contract’s details will enable you to prepare a competitive bid that addresses the government’s needs and stands out among other proposals.

Table: Example Federal Contract Opportunities

Contract Number Agency Description Posted Date
ABC123 Department of Defense IT Services for Cybersecurity 01/15/2022
DEF456 Department of Health and Human Services Medical Equipment Supply 01/20/2022
GHI789 Department of Transportation Road Construction and Maintenance 01/25/2022

Table: Example Federal Contract Opportunities

Source: System for Award Management

Check for Smaller State and Local Contracts

Before diving into federal contracts, it can be beneficial to consider bidding on smaller state and local government contracts. While these contracts may not offer the same level of revenue as federal contracts, they provide valuable experience and opportunities to enhance your skills and gain confidence in the government contracting arena.

Each state and local government has its own registration process and available contracts. It’s important to research and reach out to your local government procurement office for more information on how to get started. They can provide guidance on the registration requirements and any certifications needed to qualify for state and local contracts.

When exploring state and local contracts, consider the specific needs of your business and the types of goods or services you can provide. Look for opportunities that align with your expertise and capabilities. Keep in mind that competition for state and local contracts can still be significant, so it’s crucial to present a strong bid that highlights your unique value proposition.

By starting with state and local contracts, you can better understand the government contracting process and build a track record of successful projects. This experience can then be leveraged when pursuing larger federal contracts in the future.

Table: State and Local Government Contract Registration Process

Step Description
1 Research your local government procurement office
2 Identify the required registration forms and documents
3 Complete the registration forms and submit all necessary documents
4 Attend any mandatory pre-bid conferences or meetings
5 Prepare and submit a compelling bid proposal
6 Follow up with the procurement office for any clarifications or additional documentation
7 Await the evaluation and selection process
8 If awarded the contract, fulfill all contractual obligations
9 Seek feedback from the contracting agency to improve future bids

Research government agencies

When pursuing government contracting opportunities, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research on the government agencies or departments you are interested in working with. Understanding the specific requirements, budget limitations, and procurement processes of these agencies can give your business a competitive edge.

By gaining insights into the needs and practices of government agencies, you can tailor your approach and offerings to align with their priorities. This targeted approach increases your chances of securing government contracts and building successful partnerships.

Start by identifying the agencies that align with your business’s products or services. Research their mission, objectives, and any recent initiatives or projects they are undertaking. Look for information on their procurement policies, contract opportunities, and past contracts awarded. Pay attention to any specific certifications or qualifications they may require from potential contractors.

Table: Example Government Agency Research

Agency Name Requirements Budget
Department of Defense Security clearance, defense-related experience $714.6 billion (FY2020)
Department of Health and Human Services Healthcare industry expertise, compliance with regulations $96.4 billion (FY2020)
Department of Transportation Transportation infrastructure knowledge, safety regulations $87.1 billion (FY2020)

The table above provides an example of the information you may find during your research. It highlights the agency name, specific requirements they may have for contractors, and their budget allocation for the given fiscal year. Use this information to guide your decision-making process and determine which agencies are the best fit for your business.

Meet Size Standards

One of the crucial requirements for businesses seeking government contracts is to meet the size standards set by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA determines size standards based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, which categorize businesses into different industries.

Each NAICS code has its own size threshold, including criteria such as the number of employees or average annual revenue. It is essential to review the size qualifications for your specific industry and ensure that your business meets the requirements before submitting proposals to government clients.

Meeting the size standards allows your business to qualify as a small business for government contracts. Being classified as a small business can provide advantages such as access to set-aside contracts specifically reserved for small businesses and increased opportunities for competition.

Table: Small Business Size Standards

NAICS Code Industry Description Size Standard
541511 Custom Computer Programming Services $41.5 million in average annual receipts
541612 Human Resources Consulting Services $16.5 million in average annual receipts
561110 Office Administrative Services $7.5 million in average annual receipts

It is important to regularly review and update your business’s size qualification status, as exceeding the size standards can impact your ability to compete for certain contracts reserved for small businesses. Additionally, if your business grows and no longer meets the size standards, you may need to transition to pursuing contracts under larger business categories.

Place Your Bid

Now that you have met all the necessary requirements and conducted the required research, it’s time to place your bid for government contracts. However, before you jump into the bidding process, it is crucial to carefully study each contract, understand the contract conditions, and ensure that you are well-equipped to meet all the terms and regulations outlined in the agreement.

Preparing a successful bid requires attention to detail and thorough understanding of the project requirements. Here are some bidding tips to help you navigate the government contract bidding process:

  • Read the solicitation thoroughly: Take the time to read the entire solicitation document carefully. Understand the scope of work, evaluation criteria, submission requirements, and any specific instructions provided by the government agency.
  • Understand the evaluation process: Familiarize yourself with how the contract will be evaluated. Pay close attention to the factors that the contracting officer will consider, such as price, technical capabilities, past performance, and compliance with requirements.
  • Pricing strategy: Develop a competitive pricing strategy that balances profitability with the government’s budget constraints. Ensure that your pricing is fair, reasonable, and competitive compared to other bidders.
  • Highlight your strengths: Clearly articulate your unique selling points and emphasize your strengths that align with the government’s requirements. Showcase your experience, qualifications, past performance, and any relevant certifications or awards.
  • Submit a compliant and complete proposal: Ensure that your bid package is complete and complies with all the instructions provided in the solicitation. Submit all required documents, forms, and certifications within the specified deadlines.
  • Review and proofread: Before submitting your bid, review and proofread all documents to eliminate any errors or inconsistencies. Make sure that your proposal is professionally presented and free of grammatical or spelling mistakes.

Remember, the government contract bidding process can be highly competitive, and it may take time before you receive a response. Be patient and follow up with the contracting officer if necessary. Seeking assistance from government procurement consulting services can also be valuable to navigate the complexities of the bidding process and increase your chances of success.

Table: Examples of Bidding Tips in Action

Bidding Tip Examples of Implementation
Highlight your strengths Provide case studies showcasing successful government projects you have completed in the past.
Pricing strategy Offer competitive pricing without compromising the quality of your products or services.
Submit a compliant and complete proposal Ensure that all required forms, certifications, and supporting documents are included in your bid package.
Review and proofread Double-check your proposal for any errors or inconsistencies before submitting it to the government agency.

Receiving an Answer

After submitting your bid for a government contract, the contracting agency will undertake an evaluation process to assess your proposal. This evaluation can take several months as the agency carefully considers factors such as your business’s responsibility, technical acceptability, past performance references, pricing, and terms. The contracting officer, along with the government agency, will review the proposal to determine its suitability.

During this evaluation period, it is crucial to be patient and await a response from the agency. The process can be lengthy due to the thoroughness required in assessing each bid. It is important to remember that rejection does not necessarily indicate a lack of quality in your proposal; it may simply mean that another bidder better met the specific needs or requirements of the contract.

If your bid is successful, the government agency will publicly announce the contract award. This announcement will include the name of the company that received the contract and the projected amount of the award. It is an exciting moment when your hard work pays off and your business is awarded a government contract, opening up new opportunities for growth and success.

Contract Evaluation Process Contracting Officer Contract Award Announcement
The evaluation process assesses various factors such as responsibility, technical acceptability, past performance references, pricing, and terms. The contracting officer, along with the government agency, reviews and evaluates the proposals. If a bid is successful, the government agency publicly announces the contract awarded, including the company’s name and projected amount.

Networking within Government and Procurement Programs

Building relationships and networking with government agencies is essential for long-term success in government contracting. By establishing connections and fostering business relationships, you can position your company for future government contracts. Attending government agency events, workshops, seminars, and conferences provides opportunities to connect with key decision-makers and gain a better understanding of their needs and budget capabilities.

Networking events allow you to showcase your expertise and capabilities, ensuring that government officials are aware of your business and the value you can bring to their projects. Additionally, by engaging in conversations and building rapport with government contacts, you can gain insights into upcoming projects and potential contract opportunities.

When attending government agency events, it’s crucial to approach networking with a strategic mindset. Be prepared to make a lasting impression by having concise and compelling elevator pitches about your business and its unique selling points. Remember to listen actively and ask relevant questions to demonstrate your interest and commitment to understanding the challenges and goals of government agencies.

Benefits of Networking in Government Contracting:

  • Opportunity to meet and connect with key decision-makers in government agencies.
  • Access to valuable information about upcoming projects and contract opportunities.
  • Enhanced understanding of the needs, challenges, and budget capabilities of government agencies.
  • Potential to form strategic partnerships and teaming arrangements with other businesses in the industry.
  • Increased visibility and credibility within the government contracting community.

Best Practices for Networking in Government Contracting:

  1. Prepare in advance by researching the attending agencies and identifying key individuals to connect with.
  2. Create a compelling elevator pitch that highlights your business’s unique capabilities and value proposition.
  3. Listen actively and ask open-ended questions to demonstrate genuine interest in the needs and challenges of government agencies.
  4. Follow up after the event with personalized emails or LinkedIn connections to maintain and strengthen the relationships built during networking.
  5. Participate in industry associations and organizations relevant to government contracting to expand your network further.

Networking within government and procurement programs is an ongoing process that requires patience, persistence, and a genuine commitment to building meaningful relationships. By investing time and effort into networking, you can position your business for lasting success in the competitive world of government contracting.

Be Willing to Innovate

In the dynamic world of government contracting, adaptability and innovation are key to sustained success. The government sector is constantly evolving, and as a government contractor, it is crucial to stay ahead of the curve. By embracing a mindset of continuous innovation and adapting to change, you can position your business for long-term growth and profitability.

One way to foster innovation is by proactively scanning for changes and emerging trends within the government contracting industry. Stay informed about new technologies, policies, and regulations that could impact your business. By identifying these opportunities early on, you can leverage them to differentiate your company and gain a competitive edge.

In addition to staying informed, be prepared to adjust your strategies and approaches to meet the changing dynamics of government contracting. This may involve exploring new business models, adopting innovative technology solutions, or diversifying your offerings to align with evolving government needs. By being flexible and willing to adapt, you can position your business for success in an ever-changing landscape.

Remember that innovation is not limited to products or services alone. It also applies to how you approach relationships and partnerships within the government contracting community. Collaborate with other contractors, government agencies, and industry experts to exchange ideas and insights. By building strong relationships and leveraging collective knowledge, you can drive innovation together and propel the industry forward.

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