Profit margin, a key indicator of a company’s financial health, is calculated by dividing net income by revenue and expressing the result as a percentage. 

This metric highlights how effectively a company converts sales into profits.

This guide will help you understand how to calculate profit margin and how to interpret it.

This guide is also related to our articles on how to calculate breakeven point, how to calculate burn rate, and gross vs. net profit.

cartoon graph of moneyThis list includes:

  • profit margin formula
  • net profit margin
  • operating profit margin
  • improving profit margins

Let’s dive in!

What Are Profit Margins?

Profit margins  tell you how much money you’re actually making after all the bills are paid. Let’s break them down into three types you need to know: gross, operating, and net profit margins.

Gross Profit Margin

Gross profit margin tells you what’s left after paying for the goods or services you sell, but before paying any other bills. It’s calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from your total revenue and then dividing that number by your total revenue. In simpler terms:

Gross Profit Margin = (Revenue – COGS) / Revenue

This margin gives you a quick snapshot of how efficiently you’re producing or sourcing your products. A higher gross profit margin means you’re keeping more money from each sale relative to the cost of your products.

Operating Profit Margin

Next up is operating profit margin. This one takes into account not just the cost of your goods, but all the costs of running your business things like rent, utilities, and salaries. Calculate it by subtracting operating expenses from your gross profit and then dividing by total revenue. Here’s the formula:

Operating Profit Margin = (Operating Income / Revenue)

This tells you how much money you’re making from your core business operations. It’s a great way to see if your business is being run efficiently.

Net Profit Margin

Finally, we’ve got the net profit margin. This is what’s left after all expenses are paid, including taxes and interest. It’s your bottom line literally. The formula looks like this:

Net Profit Margin = (Net Income / Revenue)

Net profit margin gives you the clearest picture of your overall profitability. It takes everything into account, so a strong net profit margin means your business is on solid ground financially.

Understanding these three types of profit margins helps you pinpoint where you’re making money and where you’re spending too much. For instance, a low gross profit margin might mean your product costs are too high, while a low operating profit margin could indicate high operating costs.

Components of Profit Margin

Before you can start calculating your profit margins, you need to gather some key numbers from your business’s financials. We’re talking about figures like revenue, cost of goods sold (COGS), operating expenses, and net income. 

Here’s a straightforward breakdown of each and where you can find them.

Revenue: Your revenue is all the money coming in from selling your stuff, before taking out any costs. It’s your total sales and sits right at the top of your income statement.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): COGS includes the direct costs to make or buy your products like materials or the purchase price. It’s found right after your revenue on the income statement. Subtract COGS from revenue to see your gross profit.

Operating Expenses: Operating expenses are the costs to keep your business going, like rent, utilities, and salaries. These are listed after COGS on your income statement. Subtract these from your gross profit to find out what you’re really earning.

Example Calculation of Gross Profit Margin

Let’s say your small business had a total revenue of $100,000 last year and your COGS was $60,000. Let’s crunch those numbers:

Calculate Gross Profit: $100,000 (Revenue) – $60,000 (COGS) = $40,000

Apply the Formula: ($40,000 / $100,000) * 100 = 40%

So, your gross profit margin is 40%. This means for every dollar you earned in revenue, you kept 40 cents after paying for the goods sold, not including other operating expenses.

Why This Matters

The gross profit margin is a quick way to gauge the health of your sales and production efficiency. A higher margin means you’re keeping more money from each sale, giving you a better cushion to cover your other expenses.

Keep an eye on this number over time. If it starts to dip, it might mean your costs are rising or your pricing strategy needs a tweak. Conversely, if it’s increasing, you’re on the right track, making more money from each sale.

Example Calculation of Operating Profit Margin

Imagine your business has a revenue of $200,000, COGS of $80,000, and operating expenses of $50,000. Let’s calculate your operating profit margin.

  • Gross Profit: First, find your gross profit by subtracting COGS from revenue: $200,000 – $80,000 = $120,000.
  • Operating Income: Next, subtract operating expenses from your gross profit: $120,000 – $50,000 = $70,000.
  • Operating Profit Margin: Now, divide your operating income by your revenue and multiply by 100: ($70,000 / $200,000) * 100 = 35%.

So, your operating profit margin is 35%. This means for every dollar of revenue, 35 cents are profit from your business operations, before taxes and interest.

Why It’s Useful

Understanding your operating profit margin helps you see how well you’re managing the costs related to running your business. It’s a key indicator of your business’s operational efficiency. 

If this margin is high, it means you’re doing a good job controlling your operating expenses relative to your revenue. If it’s low, you may need to look into reducing costs or finding ways to increase sales without equally increasing operational costs.

Example Calculation of Net Profit Margin

Let’s say your business has a revenue of $500,000, with total expenses (including COGS, operating expenses, taxes, and interest) amounting to $400,000. What’s your net profit margin?

  • Net Income: Calculate your net income by subtracting total expenses from revenue: $500,000 – $400,000 = $100,000.
  • Net Profit Margin: Now, divide your net income by your revenue and multiply by 100: ($100,000 / $500,000) * 100 = 20%.

So, your net profit margin is 20%. This means for every dollar of sales, you keep 20 cents as profit after all expenses.

Why This Matters

Your net profit margin is the ultimate test of your business’s viability. It takes into account every aspect of your business’s financial performance, making it a critical measure of your success. 

Improving your net profit margin means either increasing sales without proportionally increasing expenses or decreasing costs while maintaining or increasing sales.

Analyzing Profit Margin Results

After crunching the numbers for gross, operating, and net profit margins, you’ve got some solid data in your hands. 

Now, it’s time to understand what these results mean for your business and how you can use this information to steer your ship in the right direction.

Interpreting Your Profit Margin Results

  • Gross Profit Margin: This tells you how efficiently you’re producing or sourcing your products. If it’s high, you’re doing a great job controlling your production or purchase costs. If it’s low, it might be time to look at ways to reduce these costs or increase your prices.
  • Operating Profit Margin: This margin shows how well you’re managing your operating expenses. A dip here could indicate rising costs or inefficiencies in your business operations. On the flip side, an increase suggests you’re getting more efficient at managing your costs.
  • Net Profit Margin: The ultimate indicator of your business’s financial health. A high net profit margin means your business is good at turning sales into actual profit. If it’s low, it’s a signal to examine both your revenue streams and your cost structure.

Comparing With Industry Benchmarks

Knowing your profit margins is one thing, but understanding how they stack up against others in your industry is another. Benchmarking your margins against industry averages helps you see where you stand:

  • Above Average Margins: You’re likely outperforming many of your competitors. This could be due to superior cost control, pricing strategies, or operational efficiency.
  • Below Average Margins: If your margins are lower than the industry average, it’s a red flag. It suggests there’s room for improvement in areas like cost management, pricing, or operations.
  • Using Benchmarks for Growth: Comparing your margins to industry benchmarks not only highlights areas for improvement but can also inform strategic decisions, such as entering new markets, adjusting pricing strategies, or investing in cost-reduction initiatives.

Strategies to Improve Profit Margins

Improving your profit margins is like giving your business a direct path to more money in the bank. 

Whether you’re looking at gross, operating, or net profit margins, there are specific strategies you can employ to push those numbers up. Here’s how you can start making more money from each sale, cutting unnecessary costs, and making your business run smoother.

  • Cut Down on Costs: Look closely at your expenses. Can you negotiate better deals with suppliers? Are there cheaper alternatives to some of the services or materials you’re using? Even small savings can add up and boost your gross profit margin.
  • Streamline Operations: For a better operating profit margin, streamline your operations. Automate where you can, cut out redundant processes, and make sure your business is as lean as it can be without sacrificing quality.
  • Adjust Your Pricing: Sometimes, to improve your net profit margin, you might need to adjust your pricing. If you’re significantly lower than competitors without a clear reason, it might be time for a price hike. Just make sure you’re adding value to justify the increase.

Strategies for Cost Reduction

  • Bulk Purchasing: Buying in bulk can often secure you a lower price on goods, reducing your COGS.
  • Outsource Non-Core Activities: Consider outsourcing tasks that aren’t central to your business’s operations. This can often be more cost-effective than maintaining in-house capabilities.

Boosting Efficiency and Productivity

  • Technology is Your Friend: Invest in technology that automates repetitive tasks, organizes workflow, and improves communication. This reduces labor costs and mistakes, improving your operating margin.
  • Training and Development: Invest in your team’s development. A skilled, efficient team contributes to a smoother operation and better profit margins.

Thinking About Price Adjustments

  • Know Your Value: Don’t just compete on price. Understand the value you provide to your customers and price accordingly. Sometimes, customers are willing to pay more for a product or service they perceive as superior.
  • Monitor Competitors: Keep an eye on what others are charging but don’t feel compelled to match or undercut prices always. Focus on delivering value.

Regularly Reviewing Profit Margins

  • Set a Schedule: Make it a regular task to review your profit margins. Monthly or quarterly reviews can help you spot trends, issues, and opportunities early.
  • React Quickly: When you notice a change in your margins, dig deeper to understand why. Then, take action to address the issue or capitalize on the opportunity.

Improving your profit margins isn’t a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process. By continually looking for ways to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and adjust pricing smartly, you can ensure your business not only survives but thrives. 


This article has unpacked everything about profit margins: what they are, how to crunch them, and why they’re your secret weapon for a profitable business. 

From the basics like gross profit margin to the nitty-gritty of net profit margin, we’ve shown you the key metrics that reveal your business’s financial health.

Next, check out our articles on how to read a balance sheet, what is a chart of accounts, and understanding owner’s equity.

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FAQ: How to calculate profit margin

Here's some answers to commonly asked questions about how to calculate profit margin.

What's the difference between gross, operating, and net profit margins?

  • Gross Profit Margin: This is about the costs directly tied to making your products or services. You figure it out by subtracting the cost to make your goods (COGS) from your sales. Here’s how: (Sales – COGS) / Sales * 100.
  • Operating Profit Margin: This takes into account costs like rent, wages, and utilities things you pay to keep your business running. It shows profit before interest and taxes (EBIT) with this formula: (Operating Income / Sales) * 100.
  • Net Profit Margin: This is the big picture, showing what percentage of your sales is actual profit after paying for everything, including taxes and interest. Calculate it like this: (Net Profit / Sales) * 100.

Each margin tells you something important about your money, from how well you’re making things to your overall earnings.


How does profit margin differ from cash flow?

Profit margin measures the percentage of revenue that turns into profit after accounting for all expenses. Cash flow, on the other hand, tracks the actual money moving in and out of your business, reflecting its liquidity.

How can I improve profit margins?

To boost your profit margins, you could:

  • Cut Costs: Talk down prices with suppliers, skip the extras, or find cheaper ways to get things done.
  • Boost Efficiency: Make your operations smoother, automate stuff, and train your team to work smarter, not harder.
  • Adjust Pricing: If it makes sense for your market, consider charging more for your products or services.

Benchmark and Review: Keep an eye on how you stack up against others in your field and regularly check your margins for any needed tweaks due to changes in how you do business or shifts in the market.