Don’t Confuse Revenue With Profits When Growing A Business

Mexican Fisherman

Don't confuse revenue with profits. When you see someone online claim they are generating huge revenue, that doesn't mean how much they keep. You could generate $1 million a year in revenue, but if you spent $1 million a year in advertising, is that really that impressive? It's not.

Silly Revenue Bragging

I generated $100,000 from home in my underwear!” reads the headline. Immediately, you go ahead and click to see how, hopefully for free. But if not, maybe there’s some type of infoproduct you can buy for $99.

Revenue is sexy no doubt. Large headline numbers are used to suck you in. They trigger a “Me too wow!” emotion, and most of us fall for it. For growth companies, top line revenue is important to show the investor the company is heading in the right direction. However, for the consumer, revenue is a gimmick if you don’t highlight the net profit.

One of the greatest tricks in selling is to make something look so easy that any knucklehead can do it. Offer a 30 day money back guarantee, with processing fee of course, and a product that takes 100 days to complete to see results! By the time the consumer figures out what you’re selling is difficult to achieve or a piece of crap, you’ll have already taken their money and bought a nice trip to Maui thank you very much!

If your job is to sell the dream of making money online and following your glorious digital nomad lifestyle blogger, do us all a favor and be more transparent.

Don't Confuse Revenue With Profits Please

There’s an old saying that it’s not how much you make, it’s what you keep. It’s easy to be lured into the fact that being an online entrepreneur is easy. The fact of the matter is, after you deduct costs and pay taxes, you’re often left with less than a third of what you started with!

In any business, a 33% net profit margin is a fantastic return. In fact, a 33% net profit margin blows doors off of great companies such as Google and Apple. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to generate profits.

As a business owner, don’t lull yourself into stupid mode when you have a nice jump in revenue because you’ve got to watch your expenses. Cash flow is tantamount.

As a consumer don’t be mesmerized by proclamations of huge revenue figures, especially when costs are not reported. Your dignity is paramount.

To lifestyle bloggers, if you are writing about how everyone should quit their jobs and follow your path, great! Just highlight what your revenue, costs, operating profits, and net profits after tax are so readers can decide for themselves whether your journey is right for them.  We must compare your operating profits before taxes to our day job incomes before taxes.

Generating $60,000 online a year is solid, but if you’re only taking home $25,000 before taxes and saving no money, you might just misleading your readers and ruining their lives. Practically every full-time job in America pays $25,000 or more a year, and they come with healthcare benefits!

Open Your Eyes To Business Reality

It’s important not to fall for gimmicks. Gimmicks make you confuse revenue with profits. When people try selling you the dream, know that you are already awake. Question everything before you do anything drastic such as spending $299 on an info-product, or quitting your job just because someone says so. The worst is when someone makes you feel bad about having a job, and rubbing it in your face how good their lives are online.

On Untemplater, I pen a fiery post entitled, “Quit Your Job And Die Alone. You’ll learn about four examples of online entrepreneurs who are relatively popular in their respective niches who still can’t save enough for their family, get a mortgage to buy a house, or quit their jobs even though that's what they're advocating.

If they can’t do it, what chance do you have?  Bust open some popcorn and grab a drink, because the post is a long one.  If you've ever had aspirations of quitting your job to be an entrepreneur online, you won't want to miss this one!


Why You Need To Start Your Own Site Today

Why Blogging Is The Best Business In The World

Start Your Own Site

I never thought I'd be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai enable me to quit my job three years later. Today, I'm still writing and the site generates more than I did at my banking job with a lot more fun.

If you enjoy writing, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, see how you can set up a WordPress blog like mine in 20 minutes. It's cheap and easy to start.

Given low overhead and status costs, blogging is a high margin business. However, you can always spend a lot of money boosting revenue as well through advertising.

Blogging For A Living Income Example: $300,000+
A real income statement example from a blogger. Click the chart to learn how to start your own.

Invest In Private Growth Companies

Finally, consider diversifying into private growth companies through an open venture capital fund. Companies are staying private for longer, as a result, more gains are accruing to private company investors. Finding the next Google or Apple before going public can be a life-changing investment. 

Check out the Innovation Fund, which invests in the following five sectors:

  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • Modern Data Infrastructure
  • Development Operations (DevOps)
  • Financial Technology (FinTech)
  • Real Estate & Property Technology (PropTech)

Roughly 35% of the Innovation Fund is invested in artificial intelligence, which I'm extremely bullish about. In 20 years, I don't want my kids wondering why I didn't invest in AI or work in AI!

The investment minimum is also only $10. Most venture capital funds have a $250,000+ minimum. You can see what the Innovation Fund is holding before deciding to invest and how much. Traditional venture capital funds require capital commitment first and then hope the general partners will find great investments.

For further suggestions on saving money and growing wealth, check out my Top Financial Products page.

In addition, if you enjoyed this article and want to get more personal finance insights and tips, please sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. You’ll get access to exclusive content only available to subscribers.

Don't Confuse Revenue With Profits is a Financial Samurai original post.

45 thoughts on “Don’t Confuse Revenue With Profits When Growing A Business”

  1. Money Infant

    The one thing I’ve figured out after 6 years of online work is that there are no shortcuts leading to steady income. Oh and also that you need to work your a** off if you plan on making a substantial amount of money online. I guess that’s two, oh well so be it :)

  2. ThewealthyIcelander

    I think this is one of the most useful and true posts that I’ve read. People are much to tempted by get rich quick schemes. It is almost as bad as with lose weight fast…

    Its also nice to have some real numbers about income vs revenue in the blogging world.

  3. In reality, it’s difficult to verify on the internet. Like other commenters mentioned, think about your hourly rate and how dependent you are about your own personal labor. I think very few people really make a significant amount of money online.

  4. World of Finance

    Nice article Sam. I worked at a business brokerage firm and saw all types of investors (experienced to inexperienced)… what the individual focused on (revenue or bottomline) was a dead-giveaway.

  5. I think MLM people are worse than the lifestyle bloggers. I had a friend on my Facebook time line literally argue with me about working over joining his team. Once I asked them to prove they made money they got real quiet and left me alone.

  6. Darwin's Money

    Nice pic!

    Yeah, so I like the income, healthcare, other bennies and stability a salaried job brings me and use all the income from blogging for 529, IRA and fun stuff; works for me! I think I’d be pretty stressed if I had to live month to month worrying about the next google panda update.

  7. This Facebook IPO is going to be REDONKULOUS! I shit you not… thousands of new multi-millionaires buying cars, homes, going out to fancy restaurants. My money catch net is ready!

  8. Timely post. Groupon?!
    The CEO posts videos in his underwear doing yoga, according to the WSJ article today. I’m tempted to send him your post. And thanks for making me never want to look at a speedo again.

  9. Sam,

    One of the greatest source of misguidance is when you hear our politicians talk about taxing the rich – so called average Joe making $250,000. They are insinuating not the net income but rather gross revenue Joe’s business garners. These politicians are definitely harping on the ignorance of public.

  10. Good post.

    Online income can be good supplement income if one is really passionate about their topic (because income per hour is often not too high), but as a full time gig, one should be very skeptical.

  11. CultOfMoney

    Yes, I could easily have a 10 million dollar revenue business by the end of the month if I sold Ferraris at half what they cost to produce. And I wouldn’t even need to pay taxes because of that great $11 million loss I could carry forward. That’s right folks, you too can have a $10 million dollar business to the rich and famous, and do it without needing to pay taxes! Just send $499 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to…

  12. You hit the nail on the head. Without looking at all the expenses the picture is incomplete and can be quite misleading. It still amazes me how many public companies cook their books too and think they can get away with it forever. Transparncy is becoming more and more important and that’s a good thing for investors. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Afterall it costs money to make money!

  13. Good post. I only recently crossed the “profit not revenue” line when it came to blogging — and the profit comes from freelance opportunities, not actual blog income so maybe it doesn’t even count. I’ll probably never make $60,000 online but what a great point that there’s taxes + insurance + etc. to consider before anyone goes bragging about their income.

      1. Maybe, but it’s not worth it too me yet. I really like my full-time job and I’m not ready to pull 60 hour weeks again so blogging 20-30hrs per week is out! We’ll see what the future holds though!

  14. Can we at least agree it is kind of ironic that the post went up on Untemplater considering how the site started?

    Seriously though, that was one of the best posts I have read in a long time – when I read the stories you linked to I couldn’t believe Baker only took home $20K…and almost seemed alright with that return.

    1. Somewhat. I was either going to publish it on Yakezie or Untemplatet. Yakezie has a queue of posts already, and I’ve already talked about job quitting last week.

      Untemplater is the perfect avenue for such a post IMO.

      At least a baker doesn’t have to pay a lot of taxes!

  15. I was just talking with my husband about this. A former coworker was talking about his great 2 million in revenue last year, but his profit market was like 5 percent or something ridiculous like that. Sounded like a lot of work for little return in my opinion.

  16. This is not much different from the infomercials that promise get rich quick schemes. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort. There is no easy way to get there, but people keep trying. It reminds me of all the diet books that are out there. All the diets that are advertised, you still have to change your eating habits to keep the weight off. A profitable business requires a lot of effort to make and keep it profitable. Online or brick & mortar, you still need to put in the effort.

  17. Dollar Disciple

    One of the best personality characteristics a person can develop and have is a healthy amount of skepticism.

    If someone makes some outrageous claims, there’s gotta be a catch. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t, right? I say no, if it’s too good to be true, do more research and then decide!

  18. About to go over and check out that post. And taxes are kind of a huge thing. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but independent contracting and being self employed seem glorious until April 15.

      1. Dan Prepares Taxes

        Hi –

        This is my first time commenting. I prepare taxes professionally and have never heard the April 15th deadline put quite like that, “..April 15, Well, it only lasts one day right?”

        I will be looking for an opportunity to use that one in the office this weekend.

        Thanks for the break,

  19. Tax takes a huge chunk out of the revenue when you’re working for yourself. That’s why it’s so tempting to cheat on Tax. Quitting your job takes a lot of preparation and you’re right about how much less people will make. You have to be ready financially before taking a 90% pay cut.

      1. This is so true Sam! My partner and I are actually looking at putting more effort into our web design business as opposed to building more blogging sites (as many on Yakezie are doing). We just found that our profit-per hour was much higher in that field. The taxes are just killing us right now, but we have been pouring energy into growing our network, we really need to hire someone to guide us through the incorporation process because our marginal tax rates are killing us at the moment.

  20. There’s a right way to do things, and a wrong way. Transaprency about making money telling others how to make money is key. Otherwise, it’s all nonsense.

    Really enjoyed the post on Untemplater.

  21. Good read, thanks. This line of thinking is so pervasive elsewhere as well. I remember reading an article last week on Yahoo’s quarterly results. I’m paraphrasing but the headline said something to the effect of “Yahoo disappoints investors as profits increase despite lower revenues”.

    Granted, I am not popping champagne corks over lower revenues, but disappointed no. Profits are why you are in the game…..

  22. the buy and hold guys


    I totally agree with BOTH of your posts. I work closely with the Real Estate investment industry and a lot of what people say about living off “online income” is often also touted about living off “investment income”. The reality is you CAN do it, but more times than not. Most people have nowhere near what they need annually to do this. Even if they did, doing so would kill the golden goose.

    1. Ahh, the expenses of real estate income is also a killer. I have several rentals and something always comes up. However, after 10 years, things are better now.

      Nothing easy comes easy!

  23. But I want to get rich quick doing nothing! (Except paying that guy $299 to tell me how to do it) Why must you ruin my dreams? And why aren’t you charging $50 for this? Then you could get rich quick by literally doing nothing.

  24. Looking forward to reading that post on Untemplater, I’ll head over there today. I can already say that my initial thoughts are that it’s important for people in general to think critically, and be cautious when others are selling a dream. Logically thinking through all aspects, such as risks, time invested, opportunity costs, etc – can help one make sound decisions. Much moreso than getting caught up in hype and keeping up with the online Jonses, so to speak.

  25. Sunil l Expedited Wealth Building through Entrepreneurship

    great point Sam. I’d like to further add to this…

    you also see/hear netpreneurs boast their profits online without presenting the other side of the equation, which is the time and effort spent online. sure, one can make a living online constantly blogging/writing. but what happens when the author stops producing content?

    what if the income less expenses was divided by the time/effort invested. what is the true ROI? is one better flipping burgers instead? it’s all relative and one must understand the full picture to make prudent decisions/choices.

    there are many models to generate income online, and it helps to understand each holistically and not simply get caught up at the surface level.

    1. It’s scary to calculate the true ROI given the time we spend busting our ass. That said, it’s truly a labor of love and I don’t mind slaving away for the first 5 years of I know it will pay off down the line.

  26. You can get almost everything you need to know about blogging on the internet for free so there is no need to pay for a course. I am curious to see your post at Untemplater so will be headed there next, but you are right that most people selling the dream only want your money.

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