How to Get Government Contracts as a Consultant: 3 Steps

By MBO Partners | June 30, 2021

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Have you ever wondered how to work with the government as an independent contractor? The federal government engages more contractors than any other organization in the world, which presents many opportunities for independents. Each year, billions of dollars in contracts are set aside for small businesses, women, minorities, and veterans.

Many independent consultants look to government contracting as another option for growing their business. Follow these three steps to understand the processes, requirements, and resources needed to get government contracts as a consultant.

What government contracts require

1. Time and resources

Independents need to be aware of the number of hours and resources required to pursue and manage a government contract. For example, part of the process to apply for federal contracts involves completing Representations and Certifications. These provisions require you to represent and certify to a variety of statements ranging from environmental rules and compliance to entity size. Representations and Certifications are designed to ensure that you are in compliance with laws and regulations and are an extremely detailed part of the process.

In addition to taking a great deal of time to complete paperwork, there are legal implications as well. If you’re going through this process for the first time or on your own, it’s advisable to obtain a legal review.

2. Liability Insurance

In addition to the time, resources, and credentials needed to obtain a government contract, there may be additional requirements. Government contracts, similar to many large commercial contracts, may require additional liability insurance.

3. Special invoicing and payment terms

Invoicing and payment terms may differ from standard business contracts. It’s common for government contracts to be monthly, net-60, which means you may not receive payment for 90 days. Any mistakes can lead to a delay in payment for several months.

There may also be special invoicing requirements. Government contracting requires you to keep track of your funding and notify the government when you’ve reached 75% of your funding. Failure to do so may carry a penalty. It’s therefore important to read contracts very carefully to ensure that you understand your responsibilities as a contractor.

4. Relationships

Relationships will help you stand out among many available vendors/contractors. Continue to apply the same practices of networking and relationship building to government contracts as you do to other business opportunities.

How to Get Government Contracts

1. Register Your Business

In order to win a government contract, you will need to take several steps to register your business in the System for Award Management(SAM). SAM is an official website of the U.S. government that houses a database of companies interested in government contracts. You’ll need to create an account and complete your profile to become searchable.

Obtain a Employer Identification Number (EIN)

While some small businesses prefer to operate off of the owner’s social security number, the government does require its contractors or vendors to have an employer identification number (EIN). If you need to obtain an EIN, you may do so for free through the IRS.  Think of this number as a social security number for your business.

Establish a physical address

The government does not allow you to register a P.O. Box in SAM, so you will need to obtain a physical address. If renting office space is not right for you, there are options to utilize a virtual office space or a registered agent to meet this requirement.

Obtain a D-U-N-S Number

To be eligible to win government contracts, you will first need to obtain a D-U-N-S number—a unique 9-digit number for each physical location of your business. Dun & Bradstreet (D&B) provides this number within one business day at no cost to you.

Determine Your NAICS Code

NAICS—the North American Industry Classification System—classifies businesses to collect data related to the U.S. economy. You’ll need a NAICS code to register your business and to apply for certain federal contracts. For more information about NAICS codes, check out guidance from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Establish a Contractor and Government Entity (CAGE) code

A CAGE code is another unique identifier for your business that is designed to be publicly available and has been required to do business with the federal government since 2014. These codes allow the government visibility into company ownership and contracting activity through various payment systems. If you are not yet a government contractor and need to apply for a CAGE code, you may do so through the Defense Logistics Agency’s website.

After you have completed the steps above, you are ready to complete your SAM registration. It is recommended to consult an expert before attesting to FAR and DFAR requirements. Inaccuracies or inconsistencies can be construed as making false claims to the government which is a felony.

2. Explore Active Opportunities

Now you’re ready to explore active federal government contracting opportunities. There are a few different ways you can go about this:

    1. Register with Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) to search and bid on open opportunities.
    2. Search the Government Services Administration (GSA) Schedules program. GSA Schedules spends approximately $50 billion per year in federal procurement, much of which goes to small businesses.
    3. Check out SUB-Net, where you can find subcontracting opportunities.

3. Consider Small Business Certifications

If you are a socially or economically disadvantaged business, you may benefit from obtaining 8(a) status. These certifications do require a formal process with a third party, but may create additional opportunities for you. In order to begin this process, you must first be registered in SAM, and then you can start the application process through the SBA (Small Business Association). Once you obtain your certification, you will be able to compete for set-aside and sole source contracts. In addition, you will be provided resources such as a Business Opportunity Specialist to assist you in navigating the federal contracting landscape, opportunities to participate in mentorship programs, as well as management and technical assistance to assist with executive development. If you are interested in becoming certified, first complete the SBA’s suitability assessment to see if you qualify.

Keep in mind that government contracting is a tough area to navigate alone. The criteria can be difficult to meet—it can be hard to hold your own security clearance, for example—so many independents find they have to go through vendors or integrators to secure contracting opportunities.

The Bottom Line

Government contracting is a big task and can detract from billable time if you are not familiar with the process. It is important to assess the requirements before deciding if pursuing a government contract is right for your business. However, while the process may seem overwhelming, opportunities do exist and could be the right fit for you.

MBO Partners is currently on the GSA schedule and offers several programs of interest to government contractors, including support for completing the associated paperwork. If you’re interested in pursuing government contract opportunities, consider joining MBO Advantage.

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