What’s the difference between being an amateur and being a pro? There are all sorts of definitions. From most permissive to least:
The Olympic Standard: You have been paid for your work, so you’re a pro.
Breaking Through: You got paid pro rates for at least one story.
Stamp of Approval: You’ve sold three stories or a novel to a pro market, thus qualifying for a professional organization (SFWA qualifications; other genres may differ).
Going Strong: You’ve passed the SFWA requirements and even sold a fourth short story, thus disqualifying you for the contests for beginners, including Writers of the Future.
One of the Gang: You start feeling like a professional.
Notice what I did there? Feeling like you belong comes last.
Right now, I’ve had three pro acceptances, and when that third one is published, I will join SFWA. I’ll keep submitting to Writers of the Future until I have a fourth published short in a pro market. But am I a pro?
I’ll accept the label neopro, which basically says “good enough to get published at this level occasionally, but still wet behind the ears.” I’ve got a couple of friends who think I should do panels at cons. Seriously? Who’s going to listen to my advice when there are people who’ve been doing this for years? There’s nothing I can say about writing that they won’t say, and probably more cogently. I’m still learning, and I’ve got a long way to go.
I might have moved up to the big leagues (maybe), but I’m still spending most of my time on the bench . . . which reminds me, I need to get back to writing.