Have you heard of Vegemite?

It’s the descendent of Marmite, if that rings more bells.

Both are classed by most people as disgusting, but something you need to try at least once when visiting Australia (Vegemite) or the U.K. (Marmite) for the first time.

But aside from being a seriously acquired taste (or mouth-puckering, depending who you ask), most visitors don’t really know what they’re putting in their mouth–or why it’s the perfect example of the gap between successul and struggling businesses.

Very simply, Vegemite was create from industrial waste.

Now it sounds even less like something you’d want to eat, I’m sure, so let me clarify.

Vegemite, and the original version Marmite, serve a very important nutritional purposes: they are one of the best sources of B vitamins. Period.

B vitamins serve two important purposes: making sure you extract the most nutrients from the foods you eat and assisting in the creation of red blood cells, the building blocks of our circulatory systems. Typically, they come from animals sources.

In the early 1900s, and particularly during the two World Wars and the Great Depression, these sources of vitamin B were hard to come for much of the world’s population due to rationing, poverty, and supply disruption.

At this time, there was considerably less regulation on corporate waste dumping than there is presently, and beer breweries would dump their yeast after using it to make beer. Food engineers were tasked with turning this waste into something not only edible, but tasty, and, nearly 100 years later, Vegemite is so ingrained in Australian culture, it is their version of the PB&J sandwich for children’s afternoon snacks.

So why do we care about Vegemite, besides the potential nutrional boost–especially if you’re a vegetarian that hasn’t tried it?

Taking waste, turning it into something useful, packaging it, and making money off it is a very real business strategy that you need to be aware of in your own freelance business.

In fact, managing and minimizing waste (of materials, time, and money) is the single biggest difference between businesses that flourish and those that fail.

Business that turn a profit find ways to:

  • streamline their processes (in the freelance travel writing or FTW case: have systems in place for acquiring clients, researching and producing articles, turning trips into pitches)
  • always look for efficinecy gains (FTW case: continually access the relationship between input and output in marketing, sales, and writing time and tighten the process with small tweaks over time)
  • decrease production speed (FTW case: invest in tools or create processes to automate as many parts of your work as possible, just as using scheduling software for interviews and social media posts and batching work)
  • acquire materials for production at the lowest possible cost (FTW case: do the absolutely minimum viable research and writing for each piece of writing)
  • pull the plug on entire divisions that are draining resources (FTW case: fire clients that are needy or otherwise tank your hourly rate)

I know this sounds difficult to apply to your own business at this moment, but that’s likely because you aren’t yet concious of your own waste or that of your clients.

You can take:

  • recordings of conference talks, meetings, or tours from clients and turn them into blog posts
  • client’s email newsletters and turn them into blog posts
  • questions and answers customer service staff in CVBs encounter and turn them into blog posts
  • the research you do for an article that doesn’t end up in the final version and write a new story from it
  • and many, many more reuse options of both your and client’s un-or underused work product

If you want to dig more into this topic, besides just as food for thought (and another reason you absolutely need to install a time tracker and see where your time is really going), here are two resources:

  • Easier to consume, but takes the message a *little* too far for our freelance needs: The Founder, film staring Michael Keaton
  • Delightful, incredibly informative, but can be hard to get through: High Output Management, a book by Andy Grove, one of the founders and former CEO of Intel


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