The hardest step in your gold-making journey is going to be your first few steps. If you're continually low on cash, can't pay repairs, can't afford enchants and gems, or are just scraping by, you need to invest some time and effort into making gold. Generally speaking, gold-capped is reached through discipline and doing small tasks consistently over time. There are very few "get rich quick" schemes in life and there are very few in the World of Warcraft also. Every gold-making empire is built on doing small tasks consistently over time.
I'll be assuming you're starting from scratch with no gold and no level-capped characters. If you have some character assets to start with, great! You're ahead of the game! But what if you don't? Well, the first step is to create some. Their race and class don't matter at this point. The point is that we need something to work with on our way to gold-cap.
The Bank Alt
One of your characters is going to function as the banker for your gold-making empire. While race and class don't matter a lot, you might consider races/classes that have speed-boosting abilities. Worgen have the racial Darkflight, which grants a running speed boost. Rogues, druids, shaman and mages all have some sort of speed boost. This will help save you some time while you run around the city. It's a minor advantage, however, so don't get too caught up on it.
You'll want to level this character to at least level 5, then head to the capital city for your faction. Horde should ultimately end up in Orgrimmar, Alliance should end up in Stormwind. This will give you access to face-to-face deals with people in the future. There are also some low-level gold-making opportunities in these cities for this character to take advantage of.
The second character is the one you're going to be using to adventure and make money out in the world. This might be an existing character, or it might be a new one. You'll use this character to complete quests, farm materials, level professions and generally be your "main" character. Pick a class and race that you enjoy playing. While there are some advantages for different races with different professions, they aren't so overwhelming that you need to worry about them now.
Your First Steps to Gold Cap
Now begins your journey to the gold-cap. Here are some things you should be doing with each character:
- Your first priority is getting to max level. A mix of dungeons and questing will probably be the fastest, though questing will generally provide you with more gold along the way, which should be useful for you in the future.
- Don't buy upgrades. Nothing is so difficult while leveling that you'll need upgraded gear from the Auction House to overcome it. Questing and dungeon drops provide all the power you need. Don't buy enchants or gems (levels 60+). If your class has a glyph that will help you level faster, buy it if they are reasonably priced. However, you can always come back to this later when you have more gold.
- Buy upgraded bags. Every rule has an exception. The one upgrade you should purchase is bigger bags. Netherweave are a great bang for the buck at around 10 gold on many servers. If you don't have that, there are faction bags available from the capital cities (There are 6 bags in all for each faction, from each of the playable races). These bags are 2 gold once you reach revered, which you should do in no time while questing in their zones.
- Sell everything you get. Back when I was a guest writer for this blog, I wrote an article about how to optimize the gold-making process while leveling. You should read it. Most of that still applies today. One thing that's new since then, however, is Transmogrification (or mogging for short). Mogging allows people to change the look of their armor/weapons while keeping the stats of their high-level gear. So gear for a level 85 character can be made to look like a level 30 player if you wanted to. (Note: Control-Click gear to see what it looks like on your character to evaluate if it's worth selling) There's a big market for this gear, especially:
- Head, Shoulders, Chests, Legs, Hands, Feet, Cloaks and Waist slots. These are the visible pieces of armor.
- Weapons, especially if it has a more unique look to it.
- Anything black. Black boots might be worth 3-4 times as much as green boots with the same model.
- Headpieces that show the face while active.
- Learn a gathering profession. You can learn professions at level 5 from trainers in the capital cities or other locations around the world. I'd suggest mining and skinning, mostly because I find herbalism to be the most difficult to keep up with my level. Farm as you level and you can make some good gold.
- Pick up recipes from vendors as you find them. Generally speaking, if a vendor sells a recipe and it's not bind-on-pickup, you can sell it for a profit on the auction house. Send them to your banker for sale. WoW Confidential has a pretty comprehensive list of what's out there, though the page requires Internet Explorer to see it correctly. You can download the spreadsheet version of the list directly here.
- Scan the Auction House. Get an addon like Auctioneer, Auctionator, or Trade Skill Master (I prefer Trade Skill Master with the automatic updates. Faid at Clockwork Riot has some great videos that go over how to use Trade Skill Master if you've never used it before. Your goal here is to look for good deals on items that are low-priced to purchase and resell for a higher profit. Much of my early gold-making success was built on flipping a small variety of items like low-level gems (Malachite, Citrine, etc.) for profit. The way to tell if something is underpriced is to have good auction data to work from, so scanning the auction house regularly (if you don't use the auto-update feature) is critical.
- Buy Low, Sell Normal. This post from 2009 is still applicable today and goes over the strategies to make this successful. As you look at the markets, you'll start to notice trends and get pretty good at flipping items. Snatch lists are going to be your friend here.
- Systematically sell your drops. Did you read that article I linked earlier? Read the part about using Trade Skill Master again. There's some work involved setting up the initial groups and systems, but once you do, you can re-use it for your next character that you level, and the one after that, and the one after that. You can easily make 10,000 gold on the way from level 1 to level 85 (or 90 in Mists of Pandaria) by just selling your drops. If it's green, blue or purple, chances are it has some value on the auction house.
- Check the capital city for goods to resell. The Gold Queen has a good overview of items and why this works. Again, if it's a recipe, or it has a limited quantity available (it's limited if there is a number in the bottom right corner of the icon), it's worth something on the Auction House. Find out which ones sell well on your server and focus on those things. These aren't big profit makers, but as you get started, they can help get you going quickly.
- Gold-Making 101: The Basics