Revenue vs. profit: What's the difference?

Revenue and profit are both good signs for your business, but they're not interchangeable terms. Both represent an important way to understand your business.

by Naomi Levenspil
updated May 11, 2023 ·  2min read

Revenue describes income generated through business operations, while profit describes net income after deducting expenses from earnings. Revenue can take various forms, such as sales, income from fees, and income generated by property. A company can bring in large amounts of revenue, but there will be no remaining profit if expenses exceed revenue. Let's dive into this topic for a deeper understanding of how revenue and profit differ.

man working register in his store

Revenue on the income statement

Revenue is the term for income brought in from operations. Revenue typically takes the form of sales, but a business may generate income in various ways from fees, interest, real estate, taxes, donations, grants, investments, and other forms.

Often referred to as the top line, revenue (specifically gross revenue) is literally the first line on the company income statement. Gross revenue is the sum of all proceeds generated by the business. For a manufacturing company, gross revenue would represent all merchandise sold regardless of the cost to produce it. For a non-profit, gross revenue would represent all income earned from fundraising, donations, grants, etc. Revenue may be divided into operating revenue and non-operating revenue, which describes incidental or secondary sources of income.

Net revenue is the difference between gross revenue and expenses directly related to it. For a company that manufactures and sells clothing, gross revenue equals total sales. The cost of goods sold is then deducted, which including manufacturing costs, raw materials, and selling expenses such as commission. The difference between gross revenue and the cost of goods sold is shown as net revenue.

Profit on the income statement

Profit, often called net profit, is quite literally placed at the bottom line on an income statement. Net profit represents the income remaining after all operating, and other expenses are subtracted from net revenue. Net revenue only considers expenses directly tied to revenue. In contrast, net profit further reduces revenue by deducting all other fixed and variable costs such as payroll, rent, insurance, supplies, utilities, and maintenance. Whatever amount of revenue remains after expenses is net profit, and any shortfall is a net loss.

Although you might toss around these two terms interchangeably, a company can generate significant revenue while operating at a net loss nonetheless.

Which is a more important number—revenue or profit?

While both are significant numbers, net profit provides the most comprehensive picture of a company's financial health. It accounts for all periodic expenses and shows how well a business is managing the complete picture.

Gross profit is also a significant number; it tells the story of business trends in sales and production costs. Top-line growth, as gross profit increase is known, provides essential information about a company's strength and potential growth. However, gross profit alone is a highly inaccurate picture of a company's overall profitability and financial health since it excludes all fixed and variable costs unrelated to production and sales. Net income, or bottom-line growth, is the figure that best demonstrates how well the business is performing.

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Naomi Levenspil

About the Author

Naomi Levenspil

A CPA by trade, but a writer at heart, Naomi Levenspil jumps at the chance to exercise the right side of her brain. When… Read more

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