The Snowball Effect
(This post is my submission for Cold’s Gold Factory Blogging Carnival on February 11th.)
The hardest part of any endeavor is usually taking that first step. You may have it in your mind to do something – starting that research paper, beginning an exercise routine, jumping into the dating pool, deciding you want a piece of the AH game – but it is easy to become overwhelmed by all the options and variables available to you at the start. This is especially the case for beginning Auctioneers, as no matter what server or faction you play on, there are hundreds and hundreds of potential markets for you to dabble in and not enough time in the day to participate in all of them. No, seriously, you can’t. So if you want to succeed as a fresh Auctioneer from rags to riches, I recommend using the Snowball Effect, in three stages.
Stage 1: Taking Stock, or I am an Unique Snowflake
Everyone has to start somewhere. So… where are you starting from? Take stock of how much gold you have right now, what characters you have on the server, what items may or may not be in your bank, and any professions you might have (at any level). Do you happen to have any addons installed to assist you? If not, go and download Auctionator right now, and perhaps Auditor if you enjoy tracking the progress of your bottom line. Successful use of addons, especially Auctionator, is what I consider one of the Foundations of gold-making, so if you remain leery of using these tools, just understand you are holding yourself back.
One thing to keep in mind concerning professions, and by extension other characters, is that having more available to you allows access to markets that would otherwise be shut. Can you be highly successful with zero professions and just a level 1 character? Yes, it is possible. Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, of course, as anything a level 1 character could do, you could do faster on a level 85 (and presumably have fun things to spend that gold on). Point being, I always recommend leveling professions to max level if you have not already, even on alts (but especially if they are level 75+ alts as you can hit 525 on them, depending on the profession).
Stage 2: Seed Money, or Getting the Snowball Rolling
You have probably heard that it takes money to make money, which is true, but a bit misleading. The reality is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to at least get more money than you had before. The goal with seed money is to provide a base of capital from which you can start making larger and larger investments. But where do you find the seeds? You find them like anyone finds seeds: by digging for them.
One way to dig for seed money is to actually get down and dirty by doing daily quests. Yes, a gold blogger actually recommending daily quests. Once the snowball starts rolling you won’t need to do any daily quests for the gold itself, but if you are starting from nothing, daily quest rewards allow you to at least start expanding. The other benefit from doing these is that it gets you out in the world killing and looting things, some mobs of which drop items that you could sell: greens, cloth, food, or other materials. If you have not already, start getting into the habit of putting a price tag on all the things that grace your bags; an addon might do it automatically for you, but appraising the true market value of an item is 1 part skill, 1,000,000 parts prior experience.
The other source of seeds is low-hanging fruit. Heard about Enchanting Vellums? Ask a guard in any major city to direct you to the local Enchanting trainer, and the Enchanting Supplies vendor is probably nearby. Buy a few stacks for 10s or less apiece and then toss a stack or two of them (as singles) on the AH, letting Auctionator automatically undercut any that may be already on the AH. If there are none, count your blessings, and list them for 2g apiece. One sale at 2g pays for the entire stack, with any further sales bringing pure profit. You can usually do the same with practically anything from vendors, with limited supply recipes commanding hundreds of times more for the same sort of effort. There are a lot of guides out there to give you ideas about markets, and I talk about some of said markets in my other Foundation article, Finding the Margin.
Stage 3: Being the Avalanche, or All Your Gold Are Belong to Us
Part of the benefit of getting your seed money from low-hanging fruit, such as selling vendor recipes, is it gets you acclimated to making small investments that net large returns. Seed money in hand, you simply redefine what you consider a small investment. Spending 10s on Enchanting Vellums should almost be trivial to you by now… but what about spending 50g per stack of Obsidium Ore? As you should know from here and elsewhere, 50g is below the True Vendor Price of Obsidium if you have a Cata-level Jewelcrafter, so it should not even register as a risk. Should you be dropping 5,000g on a hundred stacks at a time? Maybe not at first, but as each investment you make in any particular market grants a return, your purchasing power increases and allows you to either take on more risk, or at least make more and more low-risk buys.
One of my alts is a max level Scribe who I basically abandoned at the end of Wrath because I no longer wanted to be a part of the Glyph racket. Cataclysm rolls around, and in doing my character audit, I note this toon has around 2000g in its bags. From this starting point, I went to the AH and noted that some farmer has sent Azshara’s Veil and some other Cataclysm herbs down to 60g per stack. What did I do? I bought 30 stacks of herbs at 60g, leaving me with all those herbs and 200g. At a minimum, each stack of herbs would make four Blackfallow Ink, which sell practically instantly at 15g apiece. Of course, each milling attempt has a chance to give you Burning Embers, which then turn into Inferno Ink that go for 150g at the lowest possible end. In effect, I was taking on zero risk for a fairly good shot at 150g profit per stack, or 75g every two stacks. I do not actually advocate selling the Blackfallow Inks themselves, as there are ways to turn each ink into a different good that adds 20g to its value, as I documented in Low-Impact Inscription.
Once everything has been milled, crafted, and listed on the AH, I waited. Did everything sell? Irrelevant. Did you get discouraged when not all of your Enchanting Vellums sold? The only important thing here is that enough things sold that I got my 1800g investment back plus the unsold merchandise. As it happened, most everything sold so I got a lot more than 1800g back, and what did not sell immediately eventually moved after a few more days of listings and uncutting. Now instead of 2000g, my capital has grown to 5000g, which means I can either purchase 80 stacks of herbs next time instead of just 30, or I could jump into other markets… like buying Blackfallow Ink someone else listed for below the cost of Mysterious Fortune Cards and/or Inferno Ink, saving me the 17+ minutes of milling while fostering the next generation of goblins besides.
Epilogue: ???, or Profit
Where is that Scribe alt now?
The only thing that I have that a brand new auctioneer doesn’t is the confidence that comes from experience. Hell, many of the gold blogs I read today did not even exist when I started playing, so in many ways goblins fresh off the boat will have an easier time getting started than I did. The key is to take stock of what you have to work with, start small by collecting seed money and becoming comfortable with the AH, and finally escalating your investments and otherwise being the avalanche. Whether you cash out and buy that Tundra Mammoth once you hit your goal, or reinvest the gold in your alts to get thumbs in more pies is a choice I leave up to you.
Good luck, and most importantly, have fun.