In Florida you register into the bid system online then wait until they release a bid in the area and specialty you registered for. It is a low ball auction. Low bid wins. Out in the counties, it helps to have an uncle on the board.
Federal jobs, go to fbo.gov. You have to register you business and keep your registration current. Hope you take creditcards because they are doing away with checks.
You may be eligible for preference hiring like small business, minority owned, etc. All that info is available on the website. Those only apply for jobs up to $100k For larger projects like new construction and major renovation, you will have to work with a general contractor. The govt will deal only with the GC and the GC deals with his/her subs.
When doing govt work, there's a bit more paper work involved like submittials, training, and O&M manuals so you should add some for that.
And the big one is you will be required to pay your peeps Davis-Bacon wages and there's a butt load of rules and regs and more paper work that will be needed to add to your costs
The municipalities around here advertise them in one of the local papers. The information is also available online, but the websites are always a few days behind the curve.
Like Sparky says, watch out for requirements for a certain amount of MBE, WBE, local residents, local Subs, etc. or you can get burned going for the job. Even worse is forgetting about those things and then actually getting the job...then you can end up with a negative profit very easily.
They're also typically very slow to pay so figure that into your quote.
Florida wasn't particularly slow in paying but you needed a lot of paperwork. I had to send up to 14 pages per inspection I did (counting all the copies, 5 separate documents, 4 in triplicate). If there were multiple inspections for one agency you could put some of the information on the same forms but I worked for a lot of agencies. If you screwed up one page, they sent everything back. This was a "small town phone book" sized package every month. If I was doing this all by hand it would have really been a pain. Even using the computer, getting my bills together took a few hours a month and nobody paid me for the programming time to get it set up. They also changed the process occasionally, just to make you nuts. Happiness was a "smiley face" from Penny and a check
Expect to lose lots of money on the way to learning the real system.
At this point in the business cycle the bidding is viciously competitive -- and additional bidders are not desired by the 'ins.'
You will find that there are plenty of unwritten rules when bidding government work.
The first and scariest is that there will be an attempt to put you out of business. Yes, 'they' will.
No 'fat' is left in the system to meet your financial needs.
Davis-Bacon related errors result in draconian penalties. Get professional advice.
Work rules are going to mirror the IBEW's. You might find that the other trades will actively sabotage your work -- now that you've kicked their friends to the curb with a lower bid.
And the government --- at all levels --- is astonishingly slow to pay. Try half a year. Bet they didn't mention that. That's why you MUST have a banker in your pocket to carry you.
I once ran the books for a Federal government contractor that did purely DoD work. They typically had to wait seven to eight months to get their bills paid. Yet most of their billings were mere salaries! Yes, that's it: payroll!
Everything was audited and often re-contested.
Don't expect that to change for you.
Perhaps now you know why the small guys shun government work: they'll go broke before the government pays off. The big guys are left sniggering and laughing.
You CANNOT make your money by running a more efficient crew. That kind of thinking is illegal. You'll find that out the hard way: work rules.
I was on a job recently where the EC was in hock to his supplier for more than $2.5 Million and he was unable to get the government paperwork processed through the mill to get his first nickel for the better part of a year.