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Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc.

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Free Resources That Are Worth More Than You Paid For Them

My Yahoo!

I love this site - My Yahoo! Sign up for a free account and you can create your own page where you keep notes, a calendar, bookmarks and free mail. For someone who travels frequently, like I do, it is very convenient to be able to access my calendar or notes wherever I am and whatever computer I am using. More than once (WAY more than once!) I have had to replace a computer and all of my notes, appointments and other information was right here.

Office software

Microsoft Office.

If you have already bought Microsoft Office there is a surprising bounty of free resources included in the Project Gallery. Maybe you never paid any attention to it. It is the first choice in the FILE menu. It has some very useful templates in Word, such as brochures, newsletters, labels and just about any paper a small business needs. This can save you quite a bit on a graphic designer. On the other hand, there is not much at all included in the Project Gallery for Excel, and our personal view on the Project Gallery offerings for PowerPoint was that they were free only because they were not worth paying for.

There is not much in the Project Gallery to help with such basic business needs as business plans, financial statements, loan calculations and so on. All of that can be downloaded for free at the Microsoft website template gallery for Windows and, for the rest of us, there is an even better template gallery for Macintosh. Why is Microsoft giving this stuff away for free? As a small business, we suspect it has something to do with driving all of the small consulting, graphic and web design firms out of business so that everyone has to go work for Microsoft which will then rule the world. Until that time, we have to admit this site can save you money.

Appleworks - Free stuff for the rest of us.

If all of this time you have been just selecting your application - wordprocessing, spreadsheet, and so on, you may have missed two very valuable free sources. The Assistants guide you through specific tasks such as financial planning or creating a certificate of achievement. The templates provide just that, a template to begin. The latter is much like the Microsoft Office Project Gallery. Both of these are free and, need I add, Appleworks is much cheaper than office.

Free training and information

Sometimes I think the only reason a person would pay to attend a conference is for the change of scenery and the chance to meet people you can convince to buy your goods and services. It certainly is not essential to learn new information. One of the best places to get free articles and even tutorials to download is the corporate websites for the products you use. We already mentioned Microsoft. Other excellent resources are:

Free stuff from Adobe and friends

Adobe sometimes seems to have captured every market Microsoft doesn't already monopolize. Adobe makes GoLive, which we at Spirit Lake Consulting use for our website. They also make Photoshop, Illustrator and the ubiquitous Reader, to name a few. There are plenty of organizations willing to sell you training and products on the Adobe website. If you are on a tight budget, I recommend going directly to the Adobe support page and seeing what you can download for free.You can download both tutorials and templates. Just pick the products you use. A nice feature is the download basket. It is just like going to a software store and going shopping but when you check out, you don't have to pay. First, you have to have downloaded the Adobe toolkit, but, guess what, that's free, too! I suspect the major reason Adobe is doing this is to get free publicity - and hey, it worked with us, we are giving them a plug right here.

Free information on grantwriting, evaluation and working in tribal communities

Miniwakan News - our quarterly, or when we get around to it, corporate newsletter.

Even better, on the Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. intranet, you can get copies of funded grant proposals and annual reports that you can download for free. Why would we do this? On Dr. Longie's part, it is because he was raised with the Dakota values of generosity and believes that we should give away what we can. On Dr. DeMars' part it is because she believes that once people get a realistic idea of how much work it really is to write a fundable grant proposal, some of those people will decide they would rather pay us to write one for them. She thinks generosity is okay, too.

Free stuff on web design

Web Page Design for Designers

Resources for Creative Professionals - at gives good advice not just on design, but on business in general. Their features, such as their series on how to set the rates you charge customers, can be applied to all kinds of businesses. We have often seen this as a problem for people just starting out, they either price themselves too low, or have some extravagant idea of what they should be paid.

For SAS software (database management and extremely powerful data analysis software).

The three best sources, based on a randomly sampled of one (Dr. De Mars) who really liked all of these:

SAS Institute the corporation that designs, develops and markets SAS.

The archives of the wonderfully, generously helpful mailing list, SAS-L wherein you can find the answer to almost every SAS question ever asked.

The SAS Consultants Special Interest Group website. Scroll down a bit on the left of this website and you will find sample code libraries, SAS tips - better than some courses I have taken.