An amateur magician is anyone who has a minimum amount of talent, skill and knowledge when it comes to performing magic tricks. He or she may be anyone who knows one magic trick or at least three magic tricks.
But basically, a more technical definition of an amateur magician is anyone who does not in any way practice magic as their trade, even if he or she knows four, five, six or more than a number of magic tricks. This is regardless of how good, better or excellent he or she may be in performing flourishes, sleight of hand or optical illusions.
However, there are those amateur magicians who try their very best to expand their current knowledge as well as repertoire and still practice magic as their primary source of income. People who do this are usually called hedge magicians. This is in order to differentiate them from authentic professional magicians who make practicing and performing magic as a trade and make an actual living doing so.
Meanwhile a professional magician is anyone who has a little bit more knowledge and talent compared to an amateur magician. These professional magicians know sufficient magic that makes it enough for them to use it as their primary source of trade and income, as well as not using magic to assist them in a trade other than magic.
So technically, even if a barber performs his job using magic and no matter how many tricks he or she knows and is capable of, that barber is still not considered as a professional magician because his primary trade is cutting hairs and not necessarily being a magician.
Another way to differentiate a professional magician from an amateur is by the way he or she does flourishes.
According to the Online Encylopedia of Magic, a flourish is any sleight that is performed for the purpose of entertaining an audience and does not in any way contain any moves that are hidden. Most sleights that are performed are done so in order to deceive a captive audience and to do something that can not be detected. Meanwhile, a flourish is any trick that is done to draw the audience’s attention away from where an actual sleight is simultaneously being performed.
There are some magicians who consider the performance of a flourish as simply a finger exercise and not really actual pieces of performance. But those magicians who do put in and include flourishes in their act are considered by some of their fellow magicians as a seriously skilled performer.
If a performance consists of a card trick wherein the cards are spread out on the table and when a performer does a pressure card fan, the image that that performer projects is one of professionalism and experience. But a performer of magic who simply holds the cards and then spreads them slightly, may then be considered more as an amateur. Although this may or may not be true or this may not be considered as a hard fact, this is the perception and the impression that a performing magician usually gives to an audience.
Flourishes are done not just as a form of show-off to the audience, a flourish is also done for the purpose of presenting just how a performer is truly dedicated to the magic act. It also shows the degree of professionalism one has for the performance.
When a flourish is done, it makes it easier to know the difference between a magic trick performed by an expert magician and your friendly neighborhood Jim who is doing a card trick.
A skilled performer comes off as a natural and will ultimately receive more credit for his or her performance as well as recognition, not to mention that good old respect for the skills he or she has.
When a spectator is looking at a magic trick where the occasional flourish is done, that performer is also seen as more than a magician but a person who is passionate at what he or she is doing. It is therefore so much easier to hire a magician who has more skills and experience than one who needs to practice his or her craft more.