If you're trying to decide which professions to put on your character and you are considering their gold making potential, you'll want to avoid engineering and inscription. While they're not terrible if you consider their stat bonuses, they're not ideal for gold making on many realms.
Of course, every realm has its own ecosystem, and as with all advice you'll read from this column, you should check that the assumptions hold for your realm and faction. That said, by far the most common problems I have trouble helping people with are related to these two professions.
I'll start with the one that's going to get me the angry comments first. Inscription has long been touted as a cornerstone of the money making meta game -- heck, it earned my esteemed colleague, Fox, his first million gold on Darkmoon Cards. Before that, we had "glyphsmas" when 4.0 hit and a steady level of demand for glyphs before that. We still have the stupidly profitable fortune card market that lets anyone open a tiny, Blizzard-sanctioned casino. So what's not to like?
First, demand for Darkmoon Trinkets has fallen through the floor. They were good for their ilevel, but that's many tiers past now, and people tend to buy them only on alts. Alt business can be good, but it'll be at a lower rate than when people were selling the good decks for when a 359 trinket was better than what you could get with points.
Next, glyphs. Glyphs are the hardest part of this equation for me. If you are making good money on them, then you can skip the rest of my article. The one market I see consistently camped on more realms than others, though, is glyphs. This might possibly be because gold making as a past time really came into its own in the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King when inscription was brand new. Whatever the reason, I hear more complaints about the difficulty of squeezing profits out of the glyph market than any other.
I know that's not a scientific survey, so if you want to see for yourself and your realm, go to The Undermine Journal's inscription page. To get there, choose your realm, hover over enhancements, then click on inscription. Take, for example, the glyph market of a high-population realm, Mal'ganis (used as the header for this article). Glyphs learned through books and research are holding their prices up in the 50g to 100g range, but the vast majority of the glyphs you can make are going to go for closer to 20g.
If you look at that and see a profitable market, you're not alone. If you're buying virtually unlimited quantities of Whiptail for 30g a stack, 20g a glyph might not seem low. The reward for spending hours milling herbs and crafting glyphs, however, is getting undercut in minutes as soon as you post a batch. There's something about this market that draws the camping crowd, and in my opinion, given the time needed to learn all the glyphs, that makes glyphs a bad money making choice for a new profession.
The relics and off-hands are decent business, as are the above mentioned fortune cards. Inscription isn't a write-off, but it's a lot harder to use it to make a million gold than it was at the beginning of Cataclysm.
Engineering is the other profession I'll pick on today. Of all the crafting professions, this one is pretty well agreed-upon to be the least profitable. While other professions have craftable PvP gear, item or character enhancements, or consumables, engineering has pets, guns, scopes, and maybe choppers. Don't get me wrong, you can absolutely make some money with these, but not enough to feed a family of alts.
The pets are reliable sellers that you may (or may not) have to do an old dungeon for. They sell about as well as other pets, but it's not like raiders have to pick up a pair of them every time they get an upgrade. What they do have to pick up are scopes -- the hunters, at least. That is, in fact, the problem. Blacksmithing, which has no shortage of money making options, makes a belt buckle that gets bought by every single class/spec combo every time they upgrade their belt. Engineers get only hunters' weapon upgrades.
The gear craftable by engineers tends to be ranged weapons that get get purchased mostly by new characters or alts. There's a bag that probably sells to serious fishers, and of course there's the chopper. That chopper is so popular that even though all the non-vendor mats are farmed in Northrend, it's still very easy to find it on the AH. The vendor parts alone start at 12,500g, minus whatever you get as a discount, and prices tend to be between 15k and 20k. It's tempting to get into that market, but the number of people willing to drop even 15k on a mount is small on most realms.
Compared to almost any other crafting profession, Engineering has less money making options, and these options tend to have less demand than their comparisons. Sure, it's possible to make gold, but you have to work harder, and no matter how hard you work, you can saturate the market without much effort.
Maximize your profits with advice from Gold Capped. Want to know the very best ways to earn 10,000 gold? Top gold making strategies for auctioneers? How about how to reach 1 million gold -- or how one player got there and then gave it all away? Fox and Basil are taking your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.