I've been seeing a number of questions in the forum from members who are taking on paying gigs but obviously lack considerable technical skill and working experience. Just for my own curiosity, I dug around to find information on a reasonable time-frame for going from hobbyist to professional. The miniscule amount of info I found wasn't practical or all that informative for that matter. (Before I go on, any of you who write articles for VM, I'd seriously appreciate you not lifting my post topic for an article and not giving me any credit. It happened once before and I let it go. I won't if it happens again.)
So when should you go pro? Good question with no set answer. In the immediate I'd say what's non-negotiable are; Skillsets, Resourcefulness, Experience and a willingness to maintain a consistent standard of quality in your work (otherwise known as 'Professionalism'.) You might add Creativity, but I've seen lots of pro work that didn't scratch the paint on any sense of creativity, but it got the job done.
Skillsets are the technical skills you bring which is what the client/customer is paying for. They may think they're paying for just the final product (i.e. DVD, Blu-Ray, etc.) What they are actually laying down their cash for is the skills you've acquired in video production to produce their project. Your basic skills should include; camerawork, production planning, editing, audio acquisition, basic compositing, basic music arrangement, basic graphic design and still image gathering.
Now, you need not be expert in all the above (few people are when they first go pro), but you'll need to be strong in a few particularly camerawork, and planning. Those two skills will be the 'bread your butter' will lay upon. If you are weak with those, you should either pull in someone who is strong in those areas or hold off until you get a better grasp.
Resourcefulness is the ability to find what you need when you need it and get the job finished at a level satisfactory to the client. You'll never finish a project that meets all your expectations. There will always be some element you see that could have been improved upon. However, long as the client is pleased and pay for services rendered then you can consider the project successful. Getting to that point when you're starting out is an uphill climb because you almost always have limited resources.
Being resourceful means being able to find suitable substitutes for gear needed, finding talent at the last minute, making adjustments to equipment on-set when things go awry or keeping the crew and talent focused when conditions change for the worst. Being resourceful is a skill that takes time and experience.
Experience is having prior knowledge of a process/procedure you wish to perform in order to do it confidently. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut for gaining experience. Repetition and expanding one's knowledge are the only combination for possession of true experience. So that means, you'll have to get out there and plan shoots, go on location/into studio settings to successfully get your footage and clean audio. You'll then have to do reasonable turnarounds in post-production and crank out final products in timely a timely manner. No doubt your question is; 'well if I'm doing all that, why can't I get paid for it?'
The answer is; yes you can, but do so as a hobbyist. Do small projects for friends and family first. Then move up to your church/temple/mosque for somewhat larger projects. After you get a few of those under your belt, then try your hand locally with video for small organizations intended for the internet. Initially, charge nominal fees (to at least cover your travel, food and consumable expenses.) Once you have a good body of work behind you, then seriously consider if you have what you need to work professionally.
Freelancing will be your initial route. You won't have all the burdens of a business, but many of the responsibilities. Once you get a grip on the day-to-day responsibilities of working as a professional at the freelance level, then you can seriously look at starting a business. Starting a biz is a whole other animal, but at least you'll have the Skillset, Resourcefulness, Experience and Professionalism behind you to back up your endeavor.
So don't be in a rush. Yes, there is money to be made in this industry. But unless your terribly lucky, you'll have to take one step at a time before you can make a living with video production. A journey of a thousand miles does start with a single step, but don't end it too soon by trying to 'run' before you get that whole 'walking' thing down pat....