For many small contractors, the most challenging part of their business is having enough projects to bid on to keep themselves and their crew busy throughout the year. The cycle often looks something like this: A contractor randomly gets a referral or two from friends or prior clients, bids the work and eventually lands a project. They diligently perform the work, complete the job and find they have little to no work lined up going forward, so they begin the process anew in search of more work, going without a source of revenue in the interim. Growing up, my dad was a small contractor and I was all too familiar with the ups and downs of this cycle.
While some small contractors have found marketing channels that deliver various levels of success, many more are left disappointed. More importantly, it's very hard to track which jobs came from which marketing sources to see if the return on investment was worthwhile. What if there were a better way to have a consistent flow of projects to work on? What if these leads were also free? Interested yet?
Many small contractors find working on public works projects to be an excellent source of consistent revenue. While small contractors may think public works projects are only for the big firms, every city and county inevitably has jobs of all sizes, many of which will not be of interest to larger firms. Best of all, these jobs are typically posted online and free to bid on. To find these bid opportunities, many contractors find it very beneficial to join their local builders exchange which will generally have postings for local public works projects as well as a forum for tradesmen to network with larger general contractors to establish potential working relationships.
Aside from local builders exchanges, a simple Google search of a contractors local city + bid opportunities will reveal public postings for upcoming jobs, like this page for the city of Sacramento.
While there are many positive's to working on public projects, small contractors will find they will need to become very organized if they are not already and establish a maximum bonding capacity with their surety if they have not done so yet. Many public works projects will require a contractor to be bonded as a result of the Miller Act. These types of contract bonds, often collectively referred to as a bid bond, performance bond and payment bond, establish that the contractor bidding on a public project will follow though if awarded the job and has the capacity to complete the work including any payments to subs and suppliers. While contractors may or may not be familiar with surety bonds and how they function, a quick call to their insurance broker can typically get this process started fairly quickly.
Once a contractor has established their ability to be bonded, they will have a good idea on the size of projects they qualify for and are ready to start pursuing public work opportunities.