Every year the U.S. federal government contracts with businesses to the tune of billions of dollars. Thanks to Obama's stimulus plan, there are more opportunities than ever. As I mentioned in last week's post "Why specializing may help IT consultants cash in," the stimulus plan earmarks about $20 billion for technology-related jobs.
You might think the stimulus money is out of your reach but the U.S. government is going to award a lot of that money to small companies and consultancies. If your consultancy qualifies as a small business, you've actually got a bit of an edge. Currently, the U.S. government is required to award their contracts of $3,000 to $100,000 to small businesses.
Be a successful government contractor with these tips
The downside to government contracting is all the red tape. Government contractors must jump through myriad hoops to satisfy wage and safety regulations, and sometimes the effort is too much for small companies with limited resources and staff.
If you decide to open the door to this opportunity, here are six tips on how to make your government consulting experience a success.Be patient and persevere
The bidding process isn't for the meek, and it might take months or even a couple of years to land your first contract. Being patient will serve you well.Register
You can't just bid on a contract; you must register with the federal government via its Central Contractor Registration process. Be sure to include all the (optional) codes for the appropriate product categories and to supply past performance references. A comprehensive registration makes it easier for government representatives to find you.Network
Registering probably isn't enough; you must be proactive by getting to know the people who can help you get a contract. The place to start is FedBizOpps.gov. This site puts vendors and government representatives together.See if you qualify for special considerations
Your technical expertise, performance, and great bid might not be all you've got going for you. If you work in a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) or you're a service-disabled veteran, your bid might receive special preference. Take advantage of these special considerations if you qualify.Sign up as a subcontractor
Large businesses must work with a certain number of small business contractors, so sign up to be considered. You can learn who's looking for subcontractors in your area by searching the SUB-Net database. In other words, you sign up twice -- once through the CCR process and again with large businesses looking to subcontract some of a large contract.Learn from your mistakes
If you don't win a contract, ask the agency why; they will tell you what you did wrong or if someone just outbid you. In either case, you'll learn something valuable that you can put to use the next time.
Get in the contracting game
The truth is, the process is laborious, tedious, and often seems to be more about disqualifying you than finding the best match. It's the nature of government contracting, but the money's out, there and someone's going to win those contracts. It might just be you.
For more information about government contracting, visit these sites:
- U.S. Small Business Administration
- OSDBU Procurement Conference 2009
- APTAC - Procurement Technical Assistance Centers
- Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)
Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.