I've been reading a lot of different gold making blogs, and the topic of conversation seems to revolve around speculation for Cataclysm. Well, why not? That's what everyone has been waiting on for more than a year, isn't it? As a middle-of-the-road player myself, and by that I mean non-raider, I make a moderate amount of gold on moderate goods. A very zen way to be, i suppose, but it doesn't help my gold purse!
I use a combination of crafting and farming to make a decent amount of gold. i usually have around 1k on the books, which is pretty much enough to buy anything I need, but really have nothing left over if I decide to get prime gems or high end Inscriptions. My best seller ever has been Bolts of Silk cloth, which, while i make about 500% profit on them, I still can only sell a few stacks a week netting me maybe 200g. This, plus the Bag market have made me a modest profit, but not a very sustainable g/h ratio. A friend of mine level from 1-80 in about a month (crikey!) and took Mining and skinning, just sold his wears, and by level 80 had nearly 7k! Granted this is with no negative sums involved, strictly farming profit with no gold loss and no investments to level a profession. But, ultimately did he make more money than I did?
For out-and-out time spent, I would say yes, as he spent ZERO time learning new recipes, constructing materials, selling or disenchanting said materials. He just gathered things as he wandered around, and AH'd them at his earliest convenience, only spending money on bags and bank space. But, for my above example, where I turned my freely collected Silk cloth into Bolts to be sold, I increased my profit margin on that item significantly. Even something as simple as a price gap between Ore and Bars of a particular metal constitutes some level of work on behalf of the farmer, and increasing his income. The key to successful gold-making in a crafting profession is knowing what recipes have value for anyone other than the crafter.
For the longest time, I didn't understand why my Silk Bolts were selling at such an inflated price, I was just cashing in on my 'unique' niche in the market. Then I saw that there were several Leatherworking recipes that used these bolts for leveling. More importantly, I saw the Rich Purple Silk Shirt, the single most valuable shirt in the game, uses 4 of these. This article is valuable because... well, its pretty. Dark Purple is apparently one of the most asthetically pleasing colors in the online gaming community. People are paying out the wazoo for this thing... yet the recipe is extremely rare. I checked the AH, it is selling for 3000 by itself!
What this tells me is while I'm making some money converting cloth into bolts, the real money in crafting is knowing exactly what recipes sell, and why. The 'why' is the tough part, however. I totally get why Netherweave bags are a great seller, they are pretty inexpensive and are plenty big for any starting character. Spending 40g on a new toon to save time going to town and selling? That's a negligible amount for nearly anyone! Alchemy has a few low dollar/high seller items, such as Potions of Free Action, Swiftness, and Lesser Invisibility, which all offer unique effects are are fairly low level crafts with inexpensive materials. (I'll go into more detail of those in a later post). So the question is, would he have made more money by 80 had he taken the time to craft his earnings into usable and sellable materials, taking a bit more time to reach 80 but earning larger profits along the way?
If he had Herbalism/Alchemy, maybe. Otherwise I would say definately no. Blacksmithing/Engineering/JC all take too many different materials, or too high of quantity to not be a drain on resources. Tailoring is self contained, and with the exception of bolts of Silk, there aren't any low level materials that sell until Netherweave bags. Lets not even talk about Enchanting, and Inscription has become prohibitive to level now with much higher requirements to a scribe. (Alchemy takes 2 or 3 herbs for most recipes and a bottle and that's all. Typically in one instance of farming Briarthorn, you have enough to make 2 Swiftness potions!)
While there will be new materials to construct, and a big rush to get to the end and get a 'Server First' and enjoy a monopoly for awhile, for those of us mediocre players who intend just to get in where we fit in, I'm going to recommend pure Farming. There will be tons of new toons (mainly alts) at the start who will gladly buy your mats, and you'll get to the new content quicker if you aren't worrying about crafting. If you aren't worried so much about getting that new gear and just want money to purchase it later, get out your picks and flower baskets and get picking!