Pilots talk about “flight time”: the length of time that they’ve flown planes for. Obviously, the more hours they’ve flown, the more experience they have and then, the higher up the ranks they go.
The same applies for magicians (but unfortunately, without the rankings): the more time a magician performs, the better he or she will be. It’s very rare that you see a magician who performs a lot who isn’t very good and vice versa.
If you’ve never hired a magician before, you may not consider that there are various qualities of magician. Based on this flight time concept, the best way to tell how good a magician really is, I think, is to find out how much they perform. An amateur may only perform for friends and family once a month and therefore, while they’ll charge less than other close-up magicians, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to develop their skills in front of real, paying audiences.
On the other hand, a professional magician with a couple of years experience (or more) will hopefully be performing at least two or three times a week. Add those hours up, times them by 52 weeks and they are likely performing for at least 500 hours per year, on top of the 1000’s of hours practice they do. From the magicians I see, it’s hard for them not to become a great magician with that much performance time!
So while this rule certainly has exceptions, the concept of flight time is a good one to go by. If the magician you’re hiring (hopefully me!) performs a lot (I do!), then there’s a very good chance that they’ll be great (I try my best to be!).