With a new expansion about to come into existence, budding auctioneers, both new and old, are looking forward to finding new ways to fill their coffers. With thousands of speculations and opinions available through other blogs and podcasts, I found it necessary to write a guide that reminds new readers of some basic principles and auctioneering concepts. Too often do I read a comment of a new auctioneer complaining that the strategies that they've heard about didn't work and that they are not making any gold. This is because they forget some basic principles about making gold.
What a difference a server makes
First and foremost, with all the information, and strategies available on how to make gold, a new auctioneer has to remember the singular most important fact - their information is based on THEIR server AND faction, and may not be profitable on your server/faction. Ignoring this fact is a sure-fire way to failure, as you may decide to follow a strategy that simply is not profitable on your server. For example, on podcasts and blogs I have consistently heard about profits to be made in Jewelcrafting, both epic and rare. On several blogs there was talk about cut gem price being anywhere between 130-200 gold, yet on my server at that very point in time uncut gems were already in the early 90s with cut gem prices being only 5 gold more. My point is that with whatever strategy you choose to follow, you must first do the research on your own server. This can be as simple as researching cost prices of all materials required, and sale prices of the finished product. This should then give you a basic idea of how profitable the item will be, but don't forget to subtract the Auction house cut, if you plan to sell via the Auction House.
Profiteering with Professions
One of the first questions in any new Auctioneers' mind will be which profession is going to be the most profitable? For that we will have to look at what the economy will be like itself, and also what the professions will offer. Because the answer to this question will actually change over time.
At the beginning of the expansion (the first few weeks) Gathering professions will be the most profitable professions in Cataclysm. Why? because the markets will not have established themselves yet. As people are leveling their will be no real requirement for raiding flasks, rare gems, enchants, etc. and on top of that in that time players will try to level up their crafting professions to one day provide these items. This means that their will be a HUGE demand for raw materials and that demand can only be satisfied by gatherers.
After a few weeks, as players begin to max out their crafting professions and people will begin raiding, the consumable markets will slowly establish themselves. This will then be the time the crafting professions become more profitable. Also understand that huge profits can be had at this point in time, as the supply for raid consumables will be very low and exuberant prices can be charge.
Speaking long-term, any crafting profession that allows for the crafting of item enhancements and raid consumables will be very profitable. Raiders will always need new gems and enchants, flasks and raid food, etc. Therefore Jewelcrafting, Alchemy and Enchanting are probably the 3 most profitable crafting professions. Leatherworking, Tailoring and Blacksmithing are more focused on creating gear and therefore will be profitable, but due to a lower demand, perhaps not as profitable as the previous three.
One important strategy to maximising your profits, and this is talked about on many blogs, is to diversify into multiple markets. Don't get holed down into just one market. In todays world trying to dominate just one market is difficult and risky. Try and get into as many markets as you can. For instance, if you have Jewelcrafter and Leatherworker like I do, don't just focus on epic gems (for example). My main had this combination and throughout WotLK, I was competing in the epic gems, rare gems, meta gems, leg armors, Armor kits, BoE and materials (i.e Heavy Borean Leather) markets. it is a simple formula: the more markets you're competing in, the more profit you can potentially make. But again I must stress the importance of doing your research first. Find out which markets are profitable first, and then go for it.
As you will probably be dealing with large quantities of materials, I would also suggest automating certain processes to speed up the auctioneering. In a world where time is money, wasted time is lost profits. A few useful addons can shorten the time that you spend browsing the Auction House, Bidding and posting, and getting your mail. Again there are many addons that are useful for these tasks but I personally will only mention Auctioneer (Which i use for market analysis), AuctionLite (used for mass-purchasing and posting) and BetterInbox (for mass collection of goods from mail box).
Potential profitable markets
Finally for this article, I will list the different markets I will be investigating in Cataclysm. These are the markets that I expect will have some long-term sustainability (i.e constant supply and demand).
Jewelcrafting - Epic gems, rare gems, meta gems (only Cata gems), Prospecting
Engineering - Vanity Pets (Old and new, engineering mounts if applicable)
Leatherworking - Leg Armor, Armor Kits, Upgraded Materials, BoE items, Profession bags
Alchemy - Raid Flasks, Gem Transmutations, Material Transmutations (i.e Titanium and Eternal equivalents)
Enchanting - Major Raid enchants, leveling Enchants
Inscription - Enchanting Vellums, Buff Scrolls, Darkmoon cards
Tailoring - Spellthreads, Bags (new and old), Upgrade materials, BoE Items
Blacksmithing (should i choose to level it up) - Boe Items, Shield Spikes, Belt buckles
Mining - High level Smelting
These should give you an idea of some markets to look into. Again, some of these may prove to be profitable on your server others may not. Only research and time will tell.
Patience is key
My last bit of advice is a reminder to people, that making lots of gold is most likely not going to happen overnight. It will take trial and error to be successful. be prepared for some ventures to fail, this is all part of the auctioneering fun. As a bit of encouragement, I started with approx. 5000g when I got into auctioneering in the middle of the year, and made over 100000g in about 2 months (average auctioneering time about 1 hr per day), all by sticking to the above-mentioned principles and concepts. I spent most of it now (60k on mounts and 60k on BoE items for me and my wife, needless to say my priest was ICC ready the minute he hit 80), but I will take 35k into Cataclysm, which is more than enough to start with.
So go out there and make your fortunes, but please have fun while doing so, you might even learn something about economics on the way.