Your small business must meet some basic requirements before you can compete for government contracts.

Content Overview 

  • Get proper registrations and ID numbers
  • Meet size standards
  • Register with SAM
  • Maintain compliance

Get proper registrations and ID numbers

In order to sell goods and services to the government, you’ll have to register your small business.

DUNS number

Before you can bid on government proposals, you need to get a Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number. A DUNS number is a unique nine-digit identification number for each physical location of your business.

When registering for your DUNS number, you’ll need to have the following on hand:

  • Legal name
  • Headquarters name and address for your business
  • Doing Business As (DBA) or other name by which your business is commonly recognized
  • Physical address, city, state, and ZIP Code
  • Mailing address (if different from headquarters and/or physical address)
  • Telephone number
  • Contact name and title
  • Number of employees at your physical location
  • Whether you’re a home-based business

To apply for a DUNS number, visit DUNS Request Service.

NAICS code

You’ll also need to match your products and services to a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. NAICS codes classify businesses based on the particular product or service they supply. A business will generally have a primary NAICS code, but it can also have multiple NAICS codes if it sells multiple products and services.

To find your NAICS code, view the NAICS code list at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Meet size standards

To be eligible for government contracts reserved for small businesses, your business must meet size requirements set by the SBA. These size standards define the maximum size that a business — and its affiliates — can be to qualify as a small business for a particular contract.

The SBA assigns a size standard to each NAICS code. Most manufacturing companies with 500 employees or fewer, and most non-manufacturing businesses with average annual receipts under $7.5 million, will qualify as a small business.

However, there are exceptions by industry. You can view these in Title 13 Part 121.201 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) or in the SBA’s table of small business size standards.

To determine if your business qualifies as “small” for government contracting purposes, use the SBA’s Size Standards Tool.

Register with SAM

To participate in government contracting, you must register your business in the federal government’s System for Award Management (SAM). SAM is a database that government agencies search to find contractors.

Using SAM, you’ll able to certify that your business is eligible for contracts that are reserved for small businesses. You’ll also be able to represent if your business is eligible for contracts under an SBA contracting program because it is disadvantaged, women owned, veteran owned, or located in an underutilized area.

Your small business’ profile in SAM is like a résumé. Creating a profile that’s accurate and appealing is important to winning a government contract. Make sure to use accurate, descriptive terms about your business so that contracting officials will be able to find you in search results.

Maintain compliance

In order to participate in government contracting, you must comply with all laws and regulations. The federal government’s purchasing process is governed by the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Regulations covering government contracting programs for small businesses are listed in 13 CFR 125.