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How to Bid On Government Contracts
There are several different ways you can start bidding on government contracts at the local, state and federal level. Before choosing how you would like to approach looking for contracts in the public sector, however, first you will need to register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM) to be eligible for federal contracts.
Find the contracts & Create a SAM profile
You will also need to provide your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. Create a list of codes that best describe the products or services that your business provides. (This information will also come in handy later, when you are identifying the contracts that you want to bid on.)
When your SAM profile is complete, you are ready to bid on government contracts that match well with your business’ service offer. Your SAM profile will also provide the information needed to receive direct payments from the government for work completed after you have been awarded a contract.
Once you are registered as a vendor with the government, you can explore the different options that are available for researching, evaluating, and bidding on government contract opportunities. Remember that if you are certified as a small, minority- or women-owned business, you may qualify for preferential access to certain contracts.
Find the best option for your needs
First, we will look at how you can find the contracts that you’re interested in. Then we will explain how to bid on a government contract with step-by-step instructions.
- Doing it Yourself
Federal government contracts are published on the FedBizOpps website. If you want to pursue contracts at the federal level, you can register your business with FedBizOpps to receive notifications about new opportunities that align well with your business.
Finding suitable contracts at the state, county, regional and municipal levels can be much more time-consuming for small and medium sized vendors. With thousands of Requests for Proposal (RFP), Requests for Quote (RFQ) and Invitations for Bid (IFB) being published across the U.S. every day, it can be difficult to keep up with them all.
In order to find opportunities in these jurisdictions, you will need to visit state bidding portals, municipal administration websites, and county purchasing departments. Most of these portals require you to complete a registration process.
If your business employs a person dedicated solely to researching contract opportunities, the do-it-yourself method can work for you. Keep in mind, however, that the time required to evaluate if a contract is right for your business can lead to spending a lot of resources on research and evaluation, instead of bidding on contracts.
- Using a Bid Service
Bid services provide vendors with information about contract opportunities that match perfectly with their business needs. For example, if you are a provider of food services in New Jersey, a bid service can send you all of the relevant contracts that are currently available for bid in your region, including state, county and local opportunities.
Using a bid service allows vendors to spend more time preparing proposals, quotes and bids, instead of looking for the contracts they want to bid on.
Bid on Government Contracts: Step-by-Step
- Find the contract opportunity that you are interested in. It may be in the form of an RFP, an RFQ or an IFB. Each of these solicitation methods requires vendors to provide a different response; make sure that you follow the guidelines when responding. Here is some information about the differences between RFPs and IFBs.
- Make sure that you can provide the products or services needed. Many vendors make the mistake of bidding on contracts that aren’t a precise match with the services they offer, or try to take on a contract that is simply too big for them to handle. You can improve your chances of winning a contract by bidding only on the ones that you are absolutely sure you can handle.
- Read the proposal submission guidelines closely and follow them to the letter. Government agencies will reject any bid proposal that does not conform to the submission guidelines. To avoid being rejected, make sure that your bid follows every rule of the agency’s submission process and get your proposal in before the closing date and time.
- Research closed bid information. By carefully reading closed contract information, you can learn about how much other vendors charged for similar services and who your competitors might be for a given contract. Here is an example of how vendors in a niche industry can use closed bid information to their advantage.
- Double-check everything in your proposal and be prepared for questions. Before submitting your proposal, bid or quote, double-check that you have responded to every need presented in the RFP, RFQ or IFB. Then make sure that you have satisfied all of the rules of the submission process.