One of the most important tools in business is to calculate how fast you can break even [every year]. Basically, it means that you have to sell X-number of items before you can start turning a profit. This is different than ROI or ROIC.

This helps you:

  • identify realistic goals
  • clarify target audience
  • set reasonable prices
  • target cost reductions

In a nutshell, the formula is as follows:
break even point

Below, I’ll list examples of fixed costs and variable costs.

Break-Even Example

Let’s imagine that you sell coffee. Your company’s fixed costs (per year), including salaries, is $100,000. The price you sell each coffee is $2.20. The variable costs (i.e., coffee beans, soy milk, paper cups) come out to $0.30 per serving.

Fixed Costs / (Price – Variable Costs) = Number of Units to Break Even

$100,000 / ($2.20 – $0.30) = 52,632 cups

Therefore, you need to sell 52,632 cups per year (roughly 144 cups per day) before you break even. Only after that point is marginal profit. To reduce your break-even point, you can do either or a combination of the following:

Ideally, you combine the aforementioned coupled with increased sales.


For Photographers

One of the attractive traits of being a photographer is low PPE investments — plant (non-existent), property (non-existent), equipment (cameras) — and the margins for service is substantial (for now), unless you earn based on prints.

However, keep in mind that salary is a part of fixed expenses, so your fixed expenses can be as high as your ambition. Don’t forget to add on FUTA / SUTA taxes (for those who operate in the US). If it’s $200,000 per year, then you better start shooting a lot.

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Examples of Fixed Costs

  • Amortization
  • Depreciation
  • Property Tax
  • Lease
  • Salaries
  • Utilities
  • Insurance


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Examples of Variable Costs

  • Raw Material Costs
  • Production Supplies
  • Commissions
  • Credit Card Fees
  • Transportation Costs
  • Billable Staff Hours


Due to the low cost of equipment (cameras, lenses, etc.), you can quickly and easily amortize your expenses. The more you shoot, compensating for depreciation, the quicker it starts making money!

After that, it’s all about increasing customers’ willingness to pay (aka, your prices)!

Your coffee-loving photographer,

Lawrence Chan

P.S. How do you like your coffee? And how often do you have it? Comment below!