Basic requirements

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


Get proper registrations and ID numbers

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

Unique Entity Identifier

Before you can bid on government proposals, you need to get a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). A UEI is a unique 12-character, alpha-numeric value.

You will receive a UEI when you register with SAM at Entities doing business with the federal government must use the UEI created by the system.

Businesses no longer have to go to a third-party website to obtain their identifier (DUNS number). This transition allows the government to streamline the entity identification and validation process, making it easier and less burdensome to do business with the federal government.

If your entity is already registered with SAM, your UEI has already been assigned to you. Learn how to view your UEI within SAM at the Federal Service Desk.

Refer to the Guide to Getting a UEI if you want to get a UEI for your organization without having to complete a full entity registration. If you only conduct certain types of transactions, such as reporting as a sub-awardee, you may not need to complete an entity registration. Your entity may only need a UEI.

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 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.

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 SBA’s table of small business size standards.

To determine if your business qualifies as "small" for government contracting purposes, use 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 be 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.

A pen on a contract.

Is your business SBA certified?

Government agencies reserve contracts for small businesses that are certified in SBA’s contracting programs.

Cybersecurity requirements

Small businesses looking to contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will have to show the ability to safeguard their systems and data. Each DoD request for proposal will list a Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) level required to bid the work.

To help small businesses with the tools and training to meet this standard, DoD developed Project Spectrum, a free platform that:

  • Assists in CMMC certification
  • Provides tools and training for cybersecurity awareness
  • Educates users on risk management
  • Helps small businesses install or boost cybersecurity hygiene

Visit Project Spectrum to sign up, learn about what you need to get certified, or to complete a self-assessment of your company’s cyber readiness.

Last updated June 27, 2024