Running A Business

Employee Health Insurance, Networking, and More: Join a Trade Association

Aug 19, 2022 • 10+ min read
Professional association membership
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      Maybe you’re looking for health insurance for your employees at a price your small business can afford? Or you need other types of small business insurance, workers comp assistance, payroll services, or help with LLC paperwork. You shop around … but the costs seem to eat too far into your small business budget. What do you?

      Join a professional association. Also known as professional organizations, trade associations, or even professional bodies, these are professional groups that provide connections and support to your specific business, situation, or industry. You may already be familiar with groups that support individuals and sole proprietors in your industry, like the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the National Association of Black Accountants, or Freelancers Union. But be aware: there are regional trade groups for businesses, too, like Food Export Association of the Midwest USA and Silicon Slopes, and so many more.

      Professional associations are known for networking opportunities, access to the latest research and expert insights, and professional development through conferences, workshops, and certifications. But a little known secret: small business owners may also be able to tap into more affordable and much needed services, like employee health insurance, with them, too.

      The Best Professional Organizations for Any Small Business Owner

      To find a trade organization that’s right for your business (and there’s always more than one), start by looking at these 6 options, which work with small business in general, regardless of industry:

      1. Your Local Chamber of Commerce (CoC)

      A chamber of commerce is a group of local businesses working together to promote buying local, growing small businesses, and supporting the community. When you become a member of your local chamber of commerce, you can gain trust and loyalty within your town.

      Your business’s name will go in the chamber’s directory, so you get free marketing and publicity, too.

      Your chamber of commerce may even partner with local publications to get you special discounted rates on advertising in newspapers. They may also help you get discounts for important business services, like shipping, software, and supplies. You may even connect with another CoC business owner to find collaborative opportunities to grow your visibility or improve operations.

      You can also join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which provides access to even more resources, networking opportunities, and partnerships. Be sure you also inquire about a state-based small business development centers, too, some of which can assist you with filing required paperwork and other resources.

      2. National Small Business Association (NSBA)

      The National Small Business Association (NSBA) is a small business advocacy organization that specializes in conducting and publishing economic research. This organization also provides educational resources regarding many important issues impacting small businesses, including government policies regarding labor, COVID-19, and the environment.

      In addition, the NSBA is one of many SMB organizations that partner with business-to-business (B2B) service companies to give members exclusive discounts, special interest rates, and access to high-quality programs. Here are some of the NSBA partnerships you can take advantage of as a member:

      • Savings on computers, monitors, and other equipment from Dell
      • Special rates on IT services from GoTo and Cisco
      • Special deals for HR and payroll management through SAGE
      • Access to free and discounted legal advice through LegalShield
      • Special rates for business insurance through Mutual of Omaha
      • Up to 42% savings on health savings account (HSA) insurance plans AHiX
      • Easier qualification for funding opportunities through trusted partners

      Having access to the NSBA’s research can be critical in staying up to date on the latest economic, social, and government trends as they impact your business and get in front of projected issues to protect and preserve your business. Plus, saving on a variety of services means you can reinvest your money back into other areas of your business.

      Annual membership fees range from $250 (1−9 employees) to $5,500 (250+ employees) based on the size of your organization—but 75% of your dues are tax-deductible.

      3. National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) 

      The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is another advocacy and lobbying organization that represents small and independent businesses around the country. They offer their members a free legal center to get help navigating the complex legal issues around SMB ownership, such as compliance and contracts. 

      Here are some of the other benefits you can take advantage of as a member:

      • Low-rate, full and flexible health care coverage through NFIB Health Solutions
      • Great rates on workers’ compensation insurance for members in Ohio and Texas
      • Discounts for technology through Dell, shipping through FedEx, and uniform design and manufacturing through UniFirst
      • Offers for fuel savings programs, low credit card payment processing fees, and payroll management
      • Easier qualifications and special low-interest rates on business credit cards from trusted partners

      Annual dues for members of the NFIB range from $395 to $3,000, depending on your size.

      4. National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)

      The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) represents and provides resources to self-employed individuals and micro-businesses that operate with just a few employees. NASE helps SMB owners access benefits that are typically only available to major corporations.

      For instance, NASE members have access to high-quality legal counsel, full-coverage health insurance plans with dental and vision, life insurance, home office insurance, and business credit card offers.

      NASE has dozens of partnerships, including:

      • ADP Payroll Services
      • Crowdspring
      • Dell
      • Epsilon
      • HostGator
      • Lenovo
      • MindEdge
      • PODS
      • Office Depot
      • QuickBooks
      • Wyndham Hotels
      • Enterprise Rent-a-Car

      NASE also partners with financial organizations to fund and manage their own business growth grants. The organization offers scholarships for members to take college courses, workshops, seminars, or other educational opportunities to further develop their skills and business acumen.

      As a NASE member, you have several resources available to help you grow your small business and prepare yourself for competing with other businesses on Main Street.

      Membership fees for NASE range from $25−$120 yearly. Some plans offer monthly payments between $11.95 and $21.95. This organization also welcomes and provides discounts for students and veterans.

      5. StartupNation

      StartupNation was launched in 2002 to help entrepreneurs grow their startups in any industry. This organization focuses on providing research, insights, and online educational content on a variety of important business topics.

      You can find several digital resources, including videos, podcasts, and articles, on starting and growing a business—successfully. While they don’t have many local chapters just yet, they’re launching new community groups soon in addition to their current in-person group for Detroit business owners.

      Similar to many organizations on this list, StartupNation also partners with Dell to give startups and small businesses discounts on the technology they need to serve customers and clients. They also partner with Verizon to offer the Small Business Digital Ready program, which provides one-on-one mentoring, marketing guidance, and more for SMBs in Detroit and all over Michigan.

      Lastly, StartupNation is free to register.

      6. International Council for Small Business (ICSB)

      ICSB is the first-ever international professional organization to protect and advocate for small businesses. They have representatives from more than 85 countries, so it’s a great organization for SMB owners who are ready to serve international markets and partner with other small businesses overseas.

      ICSB specializes in offering high-quality, expert-led educational opportunities, including conferences, workshops, and certifications in a variety of business functions and issues. Having an ICSB certification can help you develop and refine your leadership and strategy skills to grow your business—learning these skills at a fraction of the cost of college courses.

      This organization is available to students, individual professionals, and SMBs. They have flexible payment plans offering options for monthly, annually, and bi-yearly dues. Fees range from $69−$2,000 per year, depending on which membership option you choose.

      Top Professional Organizations and Trade Associations

      In addition to joining an organization that serves small businesses generally, consider becoming a member of one of the many industry-specific professional associations. These organizations provide training, education, and networking opportunities to help improve your skills and establish relationships in your unique industry.

      Real Estate and Property Management

      Marketing, Advertising, Media, and Communications

      Arts and Entertainment

      Finance and Accounting

      Construction and Architecture

      Science and Engineering

      Get Help From Professional Organizations That Know Small Business Ownership

      Joining a professional association, whether it’s for any small business or within your specific industry, is an investment in yourself and your company. Membership fees for small business organizations can range from $69−$4,500 a year, depending on the size of your business and the organization you’re joining. Becoming a member of an industry-specific trade organization varies just as widely.

      However, the skills you learn within these organizations in addition to the networking opportunities and other partnership savings can more than justify the membership dues. Moreover, many of these fees are tax-deductible, which cuts the costs down even further.

      If you’re a business owner, you’re aware of risks—it comes with the job. However, you can mitigate a lot of the risks that come with running a business if you prepare yourself through education, training, and great relationships. These are just a few of the many benefits that come with joining a professional organization.

      So, if you’re a small business owner who feels like they need some additional support or just wants to continue their personal growth, consider joining a professional organization.

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      About the author
      Derek Miller

      Derek Miller is the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at, the co-founder of Lofty Llama, and a marketing consultant for small businesses. He specializes in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing, and his work has been featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy,, and StartupCamp.

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