When does a performer become a ‘Professional’?
Having a professional attitude or approach to a thing is not necessarily what makes it your ‘profession’. When something is your profession, it is implied that this is your main source of earning and what you have specifically dedicated your training to.
Those who perform as a hobby aren’t any less ‘professional’ in their conducxt. It’s just that their bank balance isn’t reliant on the earnings. Those with valued vocations, who conduct themselves in an efficient, respectable manner are often just as likely to be hired as those whose ‘profession’ it is.
This is a complicated issue but it is essentially about being realistic in terms of the many different factors which contribute to professionalism. There are no exact black and white criteria and different professions require different factors.
Overall, we can generally agree that to be a professional anything, there are two key factors involved:
1- Having the specialised knowledge or skill required.
As such, some professions are regulated or standardised in some way (i.e. accountancy, teaching and medicine) which makes it easy for us to identify and accredit professional labels to people. However, some industries (like burlesque, art or writing) are either too niche or defy a set of ‘rules’ to be obviously standardized in a meaningful way.
2- Being able to earn a living from it (and then paying appropriate taxes on those earnings).
To pursue something ‘professionally’ implies pursuit of financial gain and so to be a ‘professional’ you would need to first of all, be in a position to earn a meaningful income i.e. you get enough interest because of your ethic, attitude, reputation etc.
As a result, professionalism in the entertainment industries tends to be judged most heavily on income and personal reputation merits such as attitude and ability.
Amateur and Proud! Being an amateur doesn’t imply a lower standard of work or a poor attitude. Not at all. The difference can simply be down to choice. The word amateur simply means that the person does not (or does not intend to) earn money from their pursuits. After all, Sherlock Holmes (the greatest detective of all time..) classes himself as an Amateur Detective, Mrs Peel (The Avengers) was a ‘talented amateur’ and many of the greatest sportspeople are classed as amateur purely because they do not get paid for the actual playing of their sport, this actually used to be a requirement for the Olympics. An amateur artist may simply indicate the pursuit of a person of leisure and independent wealth, thus the title is in no way indicative of a lower level of talent. In fact, some people rightly use it with a sense of pride.
Being a professional anything doesn’t make a person an expert in any way. In fact often is the case that the amateur enthusiast is the one bagging the 10,000 hours of practice arguably required, to justify a claim to be expert. This is a general criteria which applies to all things, not just burlesque!