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Costing and Pricing Work Guide

Tools to help you consider the value and expense of your work.

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The way your work is valued, and the costing and pricing strategies used, will depend on the art form you operate in, as well as its location(s) and audience(s). This guide introduces tools that will help you think about the value of your work.


When pricing work, you’re aiming to balance two things. The market value – or the amount your clients or audiences are prepared to pay, and your costs – your outlay, including materials and time. 

Researching the market for similar products or services to yours will help you arrive at market value. You want your price to reflect that value. 

If, once you’ve added up your costs, they come to more than the market value, you’ll need subsidy and investment. Ideally, market value should be greater than costs, giving you a margin to invest in your business.

Costing and Pricing Work

Considering value 

The value of your work is influenced by:

  • Distinctiveness – is it unique, or similar to what’s offered by others?
  • Market price – does it merit a low price or a premium rate?
  • Adoption – how established is your relationship with your audience? How quickly will your work be purchased? What’s its shelf life? 

These factors create the context in which you present your work. That helps your clients, customers and audience to judge its value.

For instance, in an established venue with a knowledgeable audience, the work may be highly valued, considered premium and sold quickly. Elsewhere, however, the same piece may be under-valued and unable to command the price you want.

Think about these factors as part of your market research. They’ll help you explore the range of income streams you can access.

Income streams

Depending on your skills and activities, and the variety of products or services you offer, you may be able to access a number of income streams for your work. 

For instance, you might earn a reliable, frequent income by producing editions, taking on a regular gig, copywriting or delivering workshops. At the same time you could be creating one-off, higher-priced works that will take time to achieve their true value, but will also raise your profile and establish your reputation. 

Their are examples in the downloadable version of this document. They show how to consider the range and value of different income streams by plotting them against distinctiveness and market price

First, the examples place income streams along a distinctiveness axis according to availability, exclusivity, competition and frequency (of production or delivery). 

Then they place them on a market price axis according to customers’ perception of their value, budget, affordability and comparison to current market rates.

Try creating your own graph. Plot your potential income streams. Next plot the position of the venues/agents/spaces you want to distribute and sell through. Consider the prices they charge and the distinctiveness of their offer.  Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your work in the same area as the work they usually present?
  • Which matches your work’s profile best?
  • Which could present your work now and in the future?
  • Which work will you prioritise?
  • How does your decision impact on your cash flow and the investment required in your business?

Exploring the third factor – adoption – might help you answer those questions. Consider how new or established your work’s profile is to the clients and audiences you’re trying to attract. Try splitting clients and audiences into groups of people who seek out new work (innovators, early adopters and early majority) and those who gravitate to more established work (late majority and laggards).

Now think about where these clients and audiences are. List the type of venues, distributors and/or publishers who work with and attract them, and highlight those that fit with your work.

Costing work

The cost of making your work might differ from the amount at which it is valued. A costing exercise will identify that difference, and establish whether you’re likely to break even. 

If the cost of creating the work means you’re making a loss, you need to think about:

  • Presenting it in a different context so it can increase its value. This could mean working with a different audience or market, or adding value to your presentation and reputation.
  • How to make savings in the time or resources used to produce the work.
  • Subsidising the work through other profitable activity and outside investment.

The key elements making up cost are:

  • direct costs – specific to the piece (e.g. materials, hires, delivery and time)
  • overheads – general to the business (e.g. rent, power, phone, insurance)

Direct costs should be easy to allocate to specific work, and are often itemised in an invoice or detailed in a project budget. Overheads are usually allocated as a proportion of your annual running costs, equivalent to the time spent on work. They are often presented within a daily rate.

Costing and Pricing Work Guide

Costing your time and calculating a daily rate

One of the key costs you need to consider is your time. There’s a simple formula for finding a daily rate. Add your annual salary and overheads, then divide by the days you’re available to work each year.

Our Costing Your Time & Daily Rate Calculator will help you find the figures you need. Just fill in the boxes and add the totals. 

When you’re working out days available to work, make an allowance for admin (e.g. invoicing, planning and marketing), so it becomes part of your rate. 

You should aim to spend 25-40% of your time on administration. Any less and no-one will know about your work and you won’t be in control of your paperwork. Any more and it may not be financially viable, unless you have very low overheads. 

If you don’t allocate any time to admin, you’ll be doing all the chores in your own time for no pay. 


Once you’ve worked out all the costs associated with a piece of work, and its value to your clients and customers, you’ll be able to establish a price. Ideally that should equal or exceed your costs.

Pricing structures for each creative industry vary. You’ll need to do sector-relevant market research to find the one best suited to your work. 


The price and the number of sales or fees associated with your work will form your income

It’s common practice to present predicted sales figures and funding along with costs in your budget, so the balance of income and expenditure can be viewed easily. 

These figures can also be entered into a cash flow calculation that shows the impact of outlay and income over time, and establishes a timescale for breaking even.

Disclaimer: We want to keep you in the know, so we offer a wide selection of useful resources. But Cultural Enterprise Office isn’t responsible for the advice and information of external organisations in this document. So if you have any questions, please contact the specific organisation directly. 

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