Personally, I'm tired of articles about how to make gold in Wow. There are plenty of people who have sites dedicated to it, and plenty of people who see the gold on their account as their own personal mini-game. I look at gold in Wow like this: it is a resource to acquire things that you would want. If you have more gold than you need, you've wasted time. Now, far be it for me to tell people how to waste time in the game. I'm trying for 12-16 level 60+ characters, that might seem like an utter waste of time to some. Anyways, the point of this post is not to instruct you how to make money in the game, there are many people around who can do that way better than me. It is more to look at the Wow economy in comparison to the real world economy.
Now, the Wow economy is EXTREMELY basic. There are no loans, there is only one centralized currency, so it mostly gets rid of any Arbitrage. Arbitrage is a more advanced economic concept I don't really want to deal with but basically it is profitting due to a difference in two related markets. Doesn't exist in Wow, not an issue. Wow has boiled it's economy down to the most basic level, you make money by producing goods, providing a service, or engaging in commerce. Making money in Wow is so basic, it can be boiled down into two variables: risk and time.
Gathering and crafting are the two ways that you can produce goods in Wow. Picking flowers, mining for ore, prospecting ore into gems, making potions, etc, all are producing goods. Enchantment has switched from a service only to a profession that can produce goods with the introduction of scribe produced scrolls that can hold enchantments.
Gathering professions are going to be pure profit, but come as somewhat of a pain. Lets be honest, the resources that you are attempting to gather are finite. In some cases, it is impossible to predict exactly where the resources in question will spawn, and there is a high degree of competition (I'm looking at you Titanium). With gathering professions there is no risk (you can't lose money when something is free to you), but they can be quite time intensive.
Crafting is another means to producing goods. This can either be done in the form of crafting from gathered components, which is pure profit, but limits the crafter to that which they can gather themselves, or through purchasing components, in which the crafter assumes the risk that the crafted item will be less profitable than the sum of the parts. Crafting can be quite risky, and there is also a considerable amount of time in leveling and producing goods.
Providing a service:
When the old guy with the question mark over his head says "go kill 10 rats", and you accept, you are providing a service. When a lower level character says "I will pay you 10g to run me through the stockades", you are providing a service. Enchanters selling enchants are generally providing a service, unless they are putting the enchantments on scrolls, then it is a good. Services, as with gathering only present a time sink. However, unlike gathering, the rate at which one makes gold this way is fairly stable, unless blizzard makes changes.
Engaging in commerce:
Commerce is the act of buying low and selling high. There are a variety of tools useful for this in Wow, one of the most well known being Auctioneer. Now, engaging in commerce can be quite a time sink and involve a large amount of risk. I have a friend who does a fair amount of posting on the auction house and says it takes him hours to get everything properly listed. Obviously if things don't sell, you're out the auction house deposit (which is a concern with anything you're listing on the auction house, in general).
I'm not attempting to say which way is best for making gold. As I work in the financial services industry, I'm not particularly interested in playing the auction house. Gathering is a necessary evil and something I can do while questing. Leveling is my main way of both advancing my characters and generating income, which I supplement with some Jewelcrafting done by my pally. I'm also not rich by any means in game terms. Sure, it would be nice to have 40-50k to get epic flyers for some alts and be able to buy mats to craft whatever I want. However, to me, it just isnt worth the time expenditure to get there.
Mid Afternoon Quickie
2 years ago