Clients who are unsure what a reasonable fee for translation is will likely look online and find average rates on translators’ platforms such as ProZ.com or Translators’ Café. Unfortunately, these websites have their limitations despite their best efforts and should be taken with a (generous) pinch of salt.
First, these platforms are open to absolutely anyone in the world. Since translation is (sadly) not a regulated profession, members – including paying ones – do not have their credentials checked. This free-for-all admission means that members range from excellent and highly qualified to totally unprofessional and unreliable, including the occasional scammer.
Second, while an average calculator may seem like a handy feature, a world average is meaningless considering the disparities in income and cost of living around the globe, from the lowest rates in Africa or India to the highest in Europe. Besides, not all translators choose to publish their rates because there is more to the value of their work and skills than price: translation is not a commodity; it’s a service. Additionally, amateurs and crooks are prepared to undercut rates to rock-bottom levels because any peanuts they can scrape are good enough for them. Professional translators, on the other hand, strive for a sustainable income and a sustainable industry. As often explained on this blog, to choose a translator – or any professional, for that matter – solely on the basis of cost is rather short-sighted and dangerous.
All in all, these translators’ community sites are considered to be nice-to-haves by the professionals and they do offer some handy tools, such as feedback areas on clients (ProZ’s Blue Board is a common reference for linguists who want to check whether an agency is trustworthy, for example). But if you need a reliable translator, the best place to look is the directories of the institutes that represent us: the CIOL and the ITI. While the translators listed there are not the cheapest on the planet, you can rest assured that they are worth their salt.