Do you know your break-even point?

All business owners need to be aware of their break-even point — the number of units they need to sell to cover their operating costs.

Once you’ve reached your break-even point, it’s time to celebrate: your business is no longer in the red, and you are officially earning a profit.

This article will show you how to calculate your break-even point to make wise business decisions supporting greater growth.

Why your break-even point matters

Entrepreneurs who attempt to run a business without knowing whether or when they’ll be profitable probably won’t be in business long.

Knowing your break-even point comes in handy whenever you’re making plans to invest in your company’s growth or making a decision that will impact profits (i.e., a cost-benefit analysis).

Another key advantage of knowing exactly how much you have to earn to generate profits is improved accuracy of your budgets and forecasts.

What are your fixed costs?

The first step to calculating your break-even point is to list the predictable, ongoing monthly expenses required to run your business.

Examples of fixed costs include:

  • Rented or leased office space
  • Rented or leased retail space
  • Employee salaries
  • Office expenses
  • Insurance
  • Utilities (e.g., heat, electricity, phone service, internet)

Do the best you can to include the most accurate numbers on your break-even spreadsheet – and be sure to add 10% to cover unforeseen miscellaneous expenses.

List your variable costs

You’ll also want to consider the business expenses that vary monthly. To be as precise as possible, calculate an average monthly cost by tracking your variable expenses over two to three months.

Examples of items you’ll want to include monthly estimates for are:

  • Inventory
  • Labor
  • Commissions
  • Shipping costs
  • Delivery fees
  • Interest fees (calculated on your business credit cards or lines of credit)

Based on your fixed and variable monthly costs, you can now determine how much you need to sell to reach your break-even point.

Try this simple break-even formula

To find the break-even point for any product or service you offer, enter the following numbers in the formula below:

  1. your company’s fixed overhead costs
  2. the price of each item for sale
  3. each unit’s variable costs

Fixed costs ÷ (unit sales price – variable costs)

For example, let’s calculate the break-even point for a web designer offering fixed-rate website packages priced at $5,000/each.

Fixed operating expenses: $10,000
Variable expenses/package: $1,000
Current sales price: $5,000/package

$10,000/($5,000 – $1,000)
$10,000/($4,000) = 2.5

According to this calculation, the web designer must sell 2.5 website packages to break even and earn a profit.

To improve profitability, the designer may cut expenses, switch to lower-priced business service providers, raise her rates, or try to sell her customers new “add-on” services.

Final thoughts

To ensure you’re always making business decisions based on the most accurate, up-to-date

info, make it a habit to update your break-even analysis each quarter.

Now that you know your company’s break-even point, what will you do to increase your small business’s profitability today?

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