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Crafting vs. Gathering

I often see people who are new to the art of making gold in WoW ask the age old question of  "Crafting or Gathering?"  In this post I'm going to attempt to clarify the thought process behind why crafting is a more efficient gold maker than gathering.

Gathering
Maybe the misconception that gathering is a legitimate source of high income comes from all those youtube videos or guides out there that quote "thousands of gold per hour with this awesome spot!" or something similar.  I'd like to believe that no one sees these guides as legitimate sources of information, but the sad truth is that they do.  Hell for all I know Hayden Hawk may actually be the richest player in WoW (he's not).  I think a majority of the misconceptions come from the fact that the average player just does not interact with this gold making sub-community.  We are a niche group of people, but if you have a conversation with any serious gold maker, most likely farming isn't in their vocabulary, unless they're suggesting an activity for you to gain a few thousand startup gold, or perhaps farming at their Sunsong Ranches at Halfhill.  Reason being in the long term, crafting is much more profitable per unit of time invested.

Gathering consists of 3 (maybe 4) professions: Skinning, Mining, Herbalism, and sometimes Fishing.  First of all, if you're really going to insist on having Herbalism and Mining, PLEASE have it be the same toon!!  I so often see people saying they have "Mining/JC" on one toon and "Herbalism/Alch" on another. Every time I see that, it I cringe.  I'm pretty sure a puppy dies when you spread gathering professions on separate characters like that.  You're wasting so much time and efficiency spacing them out like that! Why farm for 1 at a time when you can farm for both at once?  Convenient while leveling, maybe. Terrible at max level.  If you're going to bother having them (and by the end of this post, hopefully you won't) at least put them on the same toon!
You don't want hurt us do you?
Gathering derives it's profits from flying around in circles and collecting nodes (or farming mobs for their skin).  Is it a profitable endeavor?  Yes, surely.  You definitely can make gold using gathering professions, and have no vested risk. That last part is what makes gathering so appealing to players new to the gold making scene, and rightfully so. It gives you a guaranteed increase in gold, with no gold investment needed, sounds great right?  Then why do all serious gold makers utilize crafting professions and item flipping, and not gathering?  Just like in real life, these types of low risk/guaranteed return investments have much lower return rates than their higher "risk" counterparts. The reason I put risk in quotation marks here is because if you're doing it right, there should be no risk whatsoever when you craft. I'm not going to dive into opportunity cost too deeply in this post, but by farming instead of crafting you're essentially losing gold.  Selling yourself short as it were.

Crafting
Crafting consists of 8 core professions: Alchemy, Blacksmithing, Enchanting, Engineering, Inscription, Jewelcrafting, Leatherworking, and Tailoring.  All of these are profitable in their own right, but most have a daily CD that adds to the profitability of these professions, and that's where the benefits start.  A lot of players don't realize that if they just used their cooldowns for even 2 crafting professions daily that they could make all the gold they need for max flying, flasks, and other basic WoW expenses.  These items generally (usually more so during the beginning of a patch/expansion) have the best return rates per time invested.  Also, consider that with the average craft time which is about 3 seconds, and even if you make a measly 10g profit per craft, that amounts to...

 
Eat that crappy YouTube videos!

There is however a catch.  Crafting professions standing by themselves all have limited use.  For example there's some number of gems I can craft that just won't sell within a reasonable time frame.  There's an amount of cloth PvP armor that will sell, and beyond that crafting any more becomes unproductive.  If utilized correctly (crafting the most profitable things first), crafting should follow an exponential pattern in terms of "gold per hour".  "Gold per hour" is a fairly useless metric when thinking about trends in gold making.  I much prefer Profit per week, or Profit per day, but for modeling purposes I'm going to use Gold per Hour (GPH).  GPH for crafting in my examples will be net profit from your action of crafting, and gathering roughly the same.

As far as the crafting goes, you should craft the most lucrative things first, and work your way down.  For farming on the other hand, gold per hour is fairly static.  The only limiting factor is eventually you'll farm so much it becomes valueless, but let's pretend that you're not botting for this example and can make a steady GPH rate during your reasonable farming sessions.  This is what one gathering profession compared to one crafting profession's GPH looks like:


As you can see, having 1 crafting profession is better for a while, but soon you run out of things to produce, while a farmer can keep farming the same mats for the same price.  A staple of good gold makers is Diversity.  Having different markets and venues for profit.  What if we were to compare 2 or more crafting professions to 2 Farming professions?  For simplicity, I'm going to assume you picked the 2 most profitable gathering professions on your server, and can make a steady GPH using them.  Since you can only utilize 2 gathering professions at a time, while you can switch between the most optimal crafting profession during a set time once you've run out of things to craft, the graphs will look something like this:

As you can see, the more crafting professions you have, the higher "gold per hour" you can make by switching between professions and making your most profitable items.  Also keep in mind that although the GPH dips below gathering at a certain point, the average per hour for that whole time will still be way higher for the crafting professions, unless you gather for ridiculous amounts of time (see: Botting).

Summary
What have we learned today?  Gathering professions are a source of profit for sure.  100% profit?  No.  You are investing your time, which you could be putting to better use crafting for even better profit margins!  Using crafting professions you can make more gold in less time.  If you buy your materials properly, there should be no doubt of guaranteed profits, and you will be showered in gold and phat lewts.  If you enjoy flying around in circles and picking up nodes, more power to you, but there are more gold efficient ways you could be spending your time.

Cheers,

Phat Lewts

If you enjoy my blog follow me on twitter, @PhatLewtsGold!

Comments

  1. Hi Phat

    I errr bought Haydens guide as my foothold in gold making - it didn't cost much and the risk of wasting money versus it might just work seemed worth it.

    And at the time I'd yet yo find this site, or Cold's or Jims or Neeve. Now I know better.

    I farm mats as I level, and will still stop for an ore pile from time to time - i have mining and herbing on my main (druid, so can herb without dropping out of flight for - Druids FTW). But my JC & Scribe get mats from the AH most of the time.

    There is one point though - someone has to do the farming - and if everyone takes our advice, our mat costs will rocket (unless we are relying on botters). So let the misguided people keep farming cause without them my stockpiles will dwindle and die.

    Bonesai (now poor, but with a large collection of TCG pets)

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  2. Nice write-up Phat! I've often found myself arguing these points to people like my brother (/sigh). Lately, I've found myself coming to the conclusion that even having herbalism taking up a prof slot is a "waste." I keep mining and use it as a "crafting" prof (thanks Argalin on Stormspire!). This way I can buy ore and smelt bars for other profs, in addition to smelting things like Dark Iron bar and Enchanted Elementium. Personally, herbalism does nothing for me beyond leveling a new toon.

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