Let's be honest. Keeping up a highly productive and successful gold-making business in World of Warcraft can be exhausting. I love to play the Auction House game, but sometimes I can't summon the energy to make my business ridiculously profitable. I have a limited amount of time to play, and the time I do play, I don't want to do repetitive tasks like milling, prospecting or disenchanting. Could I make a lot more gold doing those things consistently? Sure.
But why? I have enough liquid gold, plus a stockpile of materials waiting to be processed and sold, that I can afford to purchase pretty much whatever I want in the game. I recently purchased a valor point bracers for my Death Knight tank. They were "only" 5k, so I grabbed them. For a character I rarely play because I have a better geared Paladin tank.
I restock scrolls and gems when I feel like it (usually once/week). I post on a ridiculously predictable schedule because that's when it's convenient for me. Except when I don't post at all because I don't get around to it. I'm not really doing much in the way of exploring new markets. In short, my business is essentially on auto-pilot.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
But here's the thing: the gold keeps rolling in. I have Trade Skill Master configured to buy the materials I need for my core business whenever they dip below a certain price. A few minutes clicking through and I've purchased some materials. A single click at the mailbox sends those materials to the right characters. I occasionally spend 20 minutes crafting goods to restock my banker, who then clicks a few buttons and TSM does it's thing, posting gems, scrolls and a few other select items.
In total, I spend about 3-5 hours/week on my gold business. 10 minutes most mornings, another 10 in the afternoon, and the rare extended crafting time. With minimal play time, I'm still bringing in 10-15k in liquid gold profits each week, after all my expenses for restocking, buying epics for toons I rarely play and speculating on 4.3 stockpiling.
The Long Tail
All this is made possible by a phenomenon known as the Long Tail. In business, it refers to the initially high sale prices for a short period of time, which is followed by a long tail of smaller sale prices on a consistent basis. The real money is made on the long tail. In Warcraft, the "Long Tail" is essentially time and research. I spent a lot time initially figuring out my core markets and setting up addons, not to mention leveling characters. It was a huge investment, and I wasn't making much more than I do now.
But thanks to the long tail, I'm now able to spend a minimal amount of time to bring in a healthy amount of gold. Is it tops on my server? Definitely not. Is it enough to fund all my in-game activities? Definitely.
So where are you in establishing a long tail? Have you optimized to the point of being able to spend minimal time to make healthy amounts of gold? Or are you still struggling to find a good system that works for you? Spend more time optimizing your core gold-making business to the point of almost mindless auto-piloting, then use the added time in your play schedule to do new things. Explore those new markets. Join a raid. Roll a new toon just for fun.
I consider myself a somewhat casual auctioneer. I can be found via Twitter @Aleithia3. I also like getting email at Aleithia AT jasonthedce DOT com. Send me your questions and I'll try to write about them on the site.