How to find federal contracts

Why government contracts?

Government contracts are a tremendous financial opportunity for small businesses.
The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world. It buys all types of products and services — in both large and small quantities — and it’s required by law to consider buying from small businesses.
The government wants to buy from small businesses for several reasons, including:

  • To ensure that large businesses don’t “muscle out” small businesses
  • To gain access to the new ideas that small businesses provide
  • To support small businesses as engines of economic development and job creation
  • To offer opportunities to disadvantaged socio-economic groups

How to find federal contracts?

These tools can help you find contract opportunities that are right for your business:

  • Visit the the Contract Opportunities Search Tool on to search for opportunities. Search by keyword, agency name, and more. Use filters to narrow down the many listings to what is best for your business. Accounts are not required to view contract opportunities. However, you can create an account to save searches, add your entity to an opportunity’s Interested Vendors List, and receive automatic updates when opportunities change.
  • Businesses can apply to search and compete for contract opportunities posted through the General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules Program. This program is responsible for the largest government-wide contracts, and handles ten percent of the federal government’s contract spending. GSA operates over 30 different Schedules and each one covers a different type of supply or service. To get on a Schedule, your business must complete the following steps:
  • Order a past performance evaluation (PPE). Your business must have a current PPE to get on a GSA Schedule. This report is created by surveying some of your past customers. You must provide names and contact information for six to 20 of your past customers when you register and order a PPE.
  • Look up the appropriate GSA schedule number for your business, product, or service.
  • Once your business is on a Schedule, you must apply or submit information to solicitations electronically using eOffer/eMod.
  • When your business is awarded a contract, make sure you know how to effectively manage a GSA Schedules contract. GSA has resources that can help you learn about your responsibilities as a contractor, and strategize to maximize the potential of your contract.

Do Business with State and Local Governments

Learn how your business can search and compete for contract opportunities with states and local governments, and U.S. territories:

The process

The process of requesting proposals, evaluating bids, and awarding contracts should take place on a level playing field. The government should consider a bid from any qualified business.
Federal agencies must publicly list their contract opportunities. Some of these contracts are set aside exclusively for small businesses.
In some cases, these so-called set-aside contracts might consist of certain types of tasks on larger contracts. In others, entire contracts may be reserved for small businesses. When a contract is set-aside for one specific small business, it’s called a sole-source contract.

What makes a successful contractor?

The government prefers to work with established, reliable businesses. Do you have a track record of delivering quality goods and services on time and within budget? Is your reputation within your industry strong?
Not only can it take a long time to win your first government contract, it can take a significant amount of money. Some businesses spend between $80,000 and $130,000 to earn their first contract.
Also, it could take up to two years to start making a return on your investment. You’ll need to have enough cash flow to sustain your business. Maintaining a diverse list of private-sector clients can help offset any potential initial losses.

Being e-commerce savvy is very important in government contracting. For example, if you want to work with the Department of Defense, you must be able to invoice and receive payments electronically.