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Gold Capped: Earning gold for absolute beginners

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aims to show you how to make money on the auction house. Email Basil with your questions, comments, or hate mail!

Aaron wrote in the other day to say:

Despite having played WoW for years I'm a complete gold-making newbie and my characters are all dirt-poor because of it. I decided it was time to start playing the gold-making meta game so I've been reading through issues of your Gold Capped column, and while I've really enjoyed what I've read I'm afraid I'm still at a loss as to where to get started. Obviously I don't have a lot of upfront capital to jump-start my endeavor, either. I was wondering if you've ever written or would consider writing an article for complete, absolute beginners such as myself.

Unless you started the game with rich friends, this is something that everyone has to go through. People getting into earning gold from scratch often don't have any clue where to start, and they often have a bunch of incorrect ideas about what they need to get going.

Is farming worthwhile?

First things first: Farming is an awesome way to make money. I know, about half of my regular readers just stopped reading and are in the process of drafting comments about how I've always told people not to bother with it -- but let me explain. Farming is simple, risk-free income. You spend time farming, and you get valuables that you can sell or use. Cataclysm has been (so far) the best expansion for farmers yet.

There are two keys I want you to bear in mind, though:
  • If you're farming as a source for your other profession, don't calculate your costs as if the farmed goods were free. They cost what you could have sold them for.
  • Assuming you set up your crafting professions properly, there should come a time when you'll make more money per hour off the profit margins of crafting items made from bought mats. This crossover point is where everything else I've written in this column will start to make more sense.
So what to farm? Always popular (if only for the liquidity of the markets) are ore and herbs. I'd avoid skinning unless you have a leatherworker you can't afford to buy mats for, as skinning is pretty hard to make money with. You can farm without a primary profession if you can fish, but the best money per hour fishing is not supposed to compare to the money you'd make with an hour of herbing or mining.

Assuming you have another profession and you're going to use the mats you farm to make items that you can sell, pick the source gathering profession. Mining feeds blacksmithing, engineering, and jewelcrafting. Herbalism feeds inscription and alchemy.

Also, be aware that the Cataclysm level farmers can be hard competitors, and you might find a better return on your time farming Outland or Northrend. Outland herbs, in particular, are quite valuable. You'll almost never have competition for the nodes, and the ink they mill into is used for some 30% of the glyphs in the game. Any time a stack of Outland herbs is cheaper than the Cataclysm herbs needed to make an equivalent amount of Blackfallow Ink to trade in for Ethereal Ink, glyph makers will buy the Outland herbs instead.

Scaling your production

The point of all the above farming is to get enough money that you can afford to set up some profitable auction house-only business, which scales better. Once you've gotten to the point that you can buy raw materials, process them, craft profitable goods, and reinvest that profit into buying more raw materials, your gold per hour should start increasing to much higher levels than you can get when you limit yourself to items you've farmed yourself. Part of this process may involve changing or finishing leveling professions.

Start off with what you have, though. I've written guides to how to profit with every single crafting profession in the game in Cataclysm, and each of those guides will list the major markets you will see most profit being generated in. Contrary to popular belief, most servers don't have every single market 100% satisfied already. The most popular markets will likely be saturated with competition, but if you watch from Tuesday to Tuesday, you'll likely find times every single week when you'd be able to sell goods profitably.

There are also probably a bunch of niche markets that you can make good money in as the only seller. For a period of about 6 months in Wrath of the Lich King, I was the only person prospecting Outland ore and selling the results to leveling jewelcrafters. I made the most weekly profits when I set my margins to about 30%, and I had no serious competition. Sure, I got undercut once in a while, but I never had enough competition that I needed to lower my profits. Nothing lasts forever, though, and eventually someone came in and was willing to work harder and longer for the same money, so I found another more profitable way to spend my crafting time.

Your toolbox

I can't overstate the importance of setting up a good UI. Farming has a completely different toolset I don't pretend to know (more than to direct you to Gatherer), but once you get to the point that you want to start selling goods crafted using purchased mats, you'll need more than the base UI. I'd strongly recommend at least picking up Auctionator.

Other ways to get started

If you are looking for "easy" money, there are a few other things you can do to aside from gathering that can get you a bit of income.
  • Create an alt on your other faction, and move goods back and forth (with a friend), especially faction-specific pets.
  • See if any recipes you can find on vendors will sell on the AH. I used to sell recipes I found in Shattrath quite regularly.
  • See if the price for Dust of Disappearance on the AH is higher than the vendor, and if so, sell it there.
  • Watch the price for a commodity for a little while, and see if you can snag some below market value to resell at market value. I hear this works very well for Northrend enchanting mats.
  • If you can transform one type of good to another type (for example, lesser to greater Celestial Essences), see if you can make a profit by buying one, changing it, and selling the other.

Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped as well as the author's Call to Auction podcast. Do you have questions about selling, reselling and building your financial empire on the auction house? Basil is taking your questions at basil@wowinsider.com.

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