Published on
Reading time
10 min read

Are SaaS Companies Profitable? Understanding the financials


In recent years, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has emerged as a popular business model for tech companies.

With the growth of cloud computing and increasing demand for digital solutions, SaaS companies are on the rise. However, the profitability of SaaS companies is a topic of much discussion and debate.

Are they really profitable? Can they sustain their revenue over time? In this article, we delve into the financials of SaaS companies to provide a deeper understanding of their profitability.

In this article, we’ll look at:

  1. SaaS revenue models
  2. Costs of running a SaaS business
  3. Financial statements for determining profitability
  4. Important metrics you should be tracking

Want to increase profits and speed up your product development? Try Ship SaaS today.

Now, join us as we explore the world of SaaS and its financial viability.

Revenue models

Revenue models are a critical aspect of any business, and SaaS companies have evolved their revenue models over the years to meet the changing needs of the market.

From the early days of software products sold as lifetime deals (LTDs) to the more recent introduction of freemium software, trials, and subscriptions, SaaS companies have experimented with various models to find the best options.

In this section, we'll dive into some of the most popular revenue models that exist in the SaaS industry today.

Monthly and annual subscriptions

One of the most common revenue models for SaaS companies is the subscription-based model. This means that customers pay a recurring fee to access the company's software or services for a defined period of time.

The subscription period for SaaS companies can range from monthly to annually, depending on the company's business model and pricing strategy.

Customers can choose to pay monthly or upfront for the entire subscription period, and the revenue from these subscriptions is recognized over the subscription period.


The pay-per-use revenue model charges customers based on how much they use the software or service. This model is often based on specific usage metrics, such as the number of transactions or the amount of data used.

Unlike subscription-based models, pay-per-use revenue is recognized when the customer uses the service, rather than over a defined period of time. This means that revenue can vary substantially depending on how much the customer uses the service.


The freemium model is a popular revenue model in the SaaS industry. This model offers a basic version of the software or service for free, with limited features or functionality.

However, customers are charged for additional premium features or upgrades.

Freemium is an effective way to attract customers and build a user base, while still generating revenue from paying customers. It also allows customers to try the software or service before committing to a paid subscription, which can increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn.

Tiered pricing

The tiered pricing model is another popular revenue model in the SaaS industry. This model offers different pricing tiers with varying levels of functionality or support, allowing customers to choose the level of service that best meets their needs.

By offering multiple tiers, SaaS companies can generate more revenue from customers who need more advanced features, while also providing a cost-effective option for customers who only need basic features.

This can also increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn, as customers have the flexibility to upgrade or downgrade their plan based on their changing needs.

Usage-based pricing

The usage-based pricing model is a revenue model that charges customers based on how much they use the software or service. This can be based on various usage metrics, such as the number of users or devices that access the service.

The (small) difference between pay-per-use and usage-based pricing is that usage-based pricing is based on the total amount of usage (users, teams, devices, etc.), rather than the number of transactions.

Usage-based pricing is an effective way to align pricing with the value that customers receive from the software or service. It can also be beneficial for customers, as they only pay for what they use, and can scale their usage up or down based on their changing needs.

Lifetime deal

The lifetime deal revenue model is less common in the SaaS industry, but it’s still worth exploring.

This model charges customers a one-time fee for a perpetual license to use the software or service, rather than a recurring subscription fee.

While lifetime deals are less common, they’re useful for certain types of enterprise software that require a one-time fee for installation and maintenance.

However, it’s important to note that the revenue generated from lifetime deals is recognized upfront - which can be a disadvantage for companies that rely on recurring revenue to maintain their cash flow.

Costs of running SaaS

Running a successful SaaS business can be lucrative, but it also involves significant costs.

SaaS companies have unique expenses that are different from those of traditional software companies, due to the common subscription-based nature of their business model.

Here are the main costs you’ll need to consider when starting your SaaS business:

Product development

One major cost for SaaS companies is product development.

These companies typically invest heavily in product development to create and maintain their software or services. This includes costs associated with designing, developing, testing, and deploying software, as well as ongoing maintenance and updates to ensure that the software remains up-to-date and bug-free.

Investing in SaaS boilerplate solutions can help to reduce some of these costs.

Customer acquisition

Another significant cost for SaaS companies is customer acquisition.

Unlike traditional software companies, which may sell software through resellers or direct sales, SaaS companies must market their software and services directly to end users.

This involves various marketing and advertising costs, such as paid search, content marketing, social media marketing, and events.

Additionally, SaaS companies often offer free trials to entice potential customers to try their software, which can be costly if a significant percentage of trial users don’t convert to paying customers.

Hosting and infrastructure

SaaS companies also incur costs associated with hosting and infrastructure.

They typically use cloud-based infrastructure to host their software and services, which involves costs for data storage, bandwidth, and server usage.

These costs can vary depending on the size and complexity of the software or service being offered, as well as the number of users and the amount of data being stored.

Customer support

Finally, SaaS companies incur costs associated with customer support and service.

Because SaaS is a subscription-based model, customer satisfaction and retention are key to the success of the business.

This requires ongoing investments in customer support, such as hiring support staff, implementing support software, and providing training to ensure that customer inquiries and issues are resolved in a timely and effective manner.

Financial statements for SaaS

To understand the profitability of a SaaS company, analyzing its financial statements is crucial.

SaaS companies typically report three main financial statements: the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash flow statement.

Income statement

The income statement, also known as the profit and loss statement, shows a company's revenue and expenses over a specific period, typically a quarter or a year.

This statement provides a snapshot of a company's financial performance and is a key indicator of profitability.

SaaS companies need to pay special attention to the revenue recognition policies used to determine when revenue is recognized, as these policies can significantly impact the income statement.

Balance sheet

The balance sheet shows a company's assets, liabilities, and equity at a specific point in time.

This statement provides information on a company's financial health and its ability to pay its debts.

It’s important to analyze the balance sheet to understand a SaaS company's cash and cash equivalents, which can affect the company's ability to invest in growth opportunities.

Cash flow statement

The cash flow statement shows the cash inflows and outflows of a company over a specific period.

This statement provides insight into a company's liquidity and cash flow management, which is especially important for SaaS companies that rely on recurring revenue streams.

Apart from these financial statements, there are several important metrics that SaaS companies should track to understand their financial health and profitability.

These include Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR), Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), and Lifetime Value (LTV).

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Important metrics for SaaS

SaaS companies have unique metrics that are different from those of traditional companies.

These metrics are important to understand the financial health and profitability of a SaaS business.

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR)

MRR is the monthly revenue that a SaaS company generates from its subscription-based services.

This metric is critical for SaaS companies, as it represents the company's recurring revenue stream and helps to predict future revenue. Tracking MRR over time can help to identify trends and growth opportunities.

It’s an essential metric for any SaaS entrepreneur, especially for those in the #IndieMakers and #BuildInPublic communities.

Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

CAC is the cost that a SaaS company incurs to acquire a new customer.

This includes all marketing and sales expenses associated with attracting and converting new customers. Calculating CAC is important for SaaS companies, as it helps to determine the efficiency of the sales and marketing processes.

With the rising costs of online ads and marketing in general, CAC is an important metric that helps to identify what marketing and distribution channels are working, or not working, for the business.

Customer lifetime value (LTV)

LTV is the total amount of revenue that a SaaS company can expect to generate from a single customer throughout its relationship.

This includes both the initial subscription revenue and any additional revenue generated from up-selling or renewals.

Increasing LTV is important for SaaS companies for determining the overall profitability of the customer base and identifying growth opportunities.

Churn rate

The churn rate is the percentage of customers who cancel their subscriptions during a given period.

Churn is a critical metric for SaaS companies, as it directly impacts the company's revenue and growth potential.

Reducing churn is a key focus for most SaaS companies to increase customer lifetime value and improve overall profitability.

Gross margin

Gross margins are the difference between a SaaS company's revenue and the direct costs associated with delivering its services.

This includes costs such as hosting, bandwidth, and customer support.

Understanding gross margins are important for improving efficiencies and increasing profitability.

Are SaaS companies profitable?

In conclusion, SaaS companies have the potential to be highly profitable, but this depends on several factors such as market demand, competition, pricing strategy, and operational efficiency.

The subscription-based nature of the business model provides SaaS companies with a predictable revenue stream, which can be advantageous in terms of financial planning and forecasting.

Additionally, SaaS companies can benefit from economies of scale as they grow their customer base, which can help to reduce costs and improve profitability over time.

Whether or not a SaaS company is profitable depends on a variety of factors, and there is no guarantee of success.

However, by focusing on key metrics such as MRR, CAC, LTV, churn rate, and gross margins - SaaS companies can gain valuable insights into their performance and make informed decisions to optimize growth and profitability.

Use Ship SaaS to speed up your product development, reduce costs, and increase your SaaS company's profitability today.

Want to know how to easily build your SaaS?

Sign up for the Ship SaaS newsletter to get notifiedabout the latest updates and blog posts

We care about the protection of your data. Read our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.