For many contracting business owners securing a government contract is like the golden goose egg of all contracted work. I think often times is because of the misconceptions of all the government wasteful spending and in the past, that was the case. However, things have changed quite a bit since it was a free-for-all for government contractors. Granted there is still government waste in spending, they just have implemented a policy where you have to prove all line items on bills to the US government. There is no more making up line items and expecting to get paid for it.
Before you even consider working for the government, the number one thing you need to be prepared to handle is a lot of paperwork. If you do not like paperwork then you are not going to be able to do any contracted work for the government because it entails a lot of paperwork and all of this paperwork must be filled out completely. Skipping line items because they do not apply is not acceptable. If an item on a form you are filling out does not apply to you, you need to take the time to write N/A, which stands for non-applicable. This needs to be done on every space that does not apply to you. Do not leave these spaces blank or draw lines through them.
The second thing you need to take into consideration is that everything in your business must operate on an open book policy where you must be able to prove that any given time that you are paying your federal payroll taxes, as well as all your employees at the federal minimum wage rate for that specific job designated in the contract you are fulfilling. Yes, they tell you how much you have to pay your employee’s and often times it is much higher than what they are making working for you as it is. This means employee’s often times like working on government contracts as well. Part of the agreed hourly employee rates is you also must pay holidays and overtime at time and a half if you are doing work for the government. This includes everyone on the job site, even if it is the owner of the company you must have documentation to prove that everyone that had worked during that billing cycle has been paid the approved government rates for the contract you have secured. Every time you spend money for anything on a government-contracted job, you need to have copies of the receipts to submit with your billing.
Consider your businesses organizational structure prior to applying for government work on FBO. The reason being is that if you fill out your profile on FBO and would like to go change your business profile later, it is a major pain. They make it hard to just change your address. Therefore, if you need to reform your organizational structure of your corporation or you still need to get your classification as a veteran owned, minority owned, or woman owned business do this prior to filling out your FBO registration online. Minority owned, women owned, and veterans owned businesses often times get special considerations over regular contractors that do not meet this criteria when they are bidding on government projects. Even some projects specify they will only hire a veteran owned business, a minority owned business, or a woman owned business for the project. You can attain these certifications for your business at another government website called the small business administration website. Typically you business must be owned and operated by 51% share of woman, veteran, or minority to qualify for this designation.
If you think you can handle the above the next thing you need to do is get very familiar with the government’s main contracting website, FBO or Federal Business Opportunities website. All the work that the US government contracts to private contractors is awarded through this website. You will not be able to do any work for the government unless you are registered on this website. After you are registered, you can do many specialized searches for work that is available in your area. You can also see contracts that were awarded in the past and who they are awarded to. This site can be very overwhelming with contract postings, which makes it easy to get overwhelmed with the plethora of information when you check out each job. Do not waste too much time reading everything unless you plan to apply for that particular contract. Also, be sure to limit your search to contract within the last 30 days for the best results.
Once you have found a suitable contract that you feel you could adequately fulfill for the US government you need to download all of the documentation associated with the bid packet off of FBO. You need to read everything that is included about the project. If you have questions, do not be afraid to get in touch with the project supervisor to ask as many questions as you need to in order to successfully fill out the bid packet. By showing, the project supervisor that you are very diligent about making sure that you completely fill out the bid packet correctly really sets a great impression prior to you turning in your numbers. Be mindful to look to see if there is any pre-bid meetings were you can actually go to the job site and meet with the supervisors that are in charge of the project. Any supervisor that you have when you are working with the government will be government employees they will be the person who will check to see that you have actually perform the work and that you’ve done it to the standards that were requested in the bid. Everything is checked and double-checked to make sure that it was performed to the standards requested including your paperwork that you submit with your final invoicing. It is crucial that you attend any pre-bid meetings or any meetings in relation to these projects prior to submitting your bid numbers get to know the supervisors of the project. Make sure they know you and how you can help them with this project. Government supervisors love contractors that are very organized, because you make their life a lot easier and a lot of government workers prefer to do as little as possible! Especially when it comes to approving invoices and watching the budgets.
Once you are to the point that you are ready to fill out the bid packet you are going to notice that it seems like you’re filling out the same paperwork over and over and over again. You need to read these documents carefully because typically, there are only a few minor changes in each one of these forms and you need to adjust your price accordingly. Typically, they will ask you things like, what would be your minimum charge and maximum charge for certain service. Then the next form may ask what will be the minimum a maximum charge for the same service on a holiday. It’s various and usually they are very small differences. This is why it is very important to read everything slowly and carefully and answer each line item completely. Part of the reason for this is because in order to be paid you will have to fill out just as much paperwork and if you are not capable of filling out the paperwork required to submit your bid obviously, they are not going to hire you. Do not make it easy for him to throw your bid right out the window simply by not following directions.
After you complete filling out all the bid paperwork. Have someone else go over the bid packet and double check it. There should be a check sheet to help you make sure you include everything requested for the bid packet. These will all vary depending on the project and what department of the US government is contracting the work. You will always need to supply proof of adequate insurance for the project as well as proof you can bond the project when you submit your bid packet. These requirements will all vary depending on what branch of the US government you are working for is and what kind of project you are bidding on. They also typically require proof of your worker’s compensation insurance along in the bid packet.
After you, submit your bid packet. It is a waiting game. You may not find out for a year, who was awarded the project. Nothing in the government ever moves fast and what has happened to me in the past is that I was awarded the work in November, when budgets were spent and had to wait until the next year for the next year’s budget before I could begin my work that I had been awarded with the US Forest Service.
That is it in a nutshell. If you are prepared to fill out mountains of paperwork and provide proof of everything, you would make a great government contractor. It’s a long and frustrating process but attaining a government contract does provide you credibility for your small business and usually is a great opportunity for you, so long as your patient and you fill out all of your paperwork completely no matter how many times you have to fill out the same form, over and over, and over again.