Updated Wed, May 26, 2010 by Cyrak
It's important to pick the right profession for your playstyle, and more importantly your style of gold making. You have a variety of choices, but it's important to understand that not all of your options are equal. This is a guide to steer you towards the stellar gold making professions and away from the duds.There are two types of professions: gathering professions, and production professions. Gathering professions are the tradeskills that allow you to pick up natural resources from around the World of Warcraft whereas production professions manufacture those raw materials into useful items. Because of their virtually nonexistent overhead costs gathering professions are usually a better option for the newest players, and can often be very potent in combination with a production profession that utilizes the materials offered by your gathering profession. We'll go into greater detail on these synergies later on.
Herbalism: Herbs are used in potions, flasks, and elixirs -- things all players use on a daily basis. These resources are very common and exist in huge numbers in zones like Scholazar Basin. This is probably the most lucrative gathering profession.
Mining: The ores gleaned from mining are smelted into metal bars used to craft plate armor or Engineering supplies, the raw ores can be prospected by Jewelcrafters for rare gems. While only a shadow of its former self, mining is still a viable way to make gold, particularly if combined with the Jewelcrafting skill. Mining is the second most lucrative gathering profession.
Skinning: Taking the hides of animals you kill is convenient, but sadly not particularly profitable. The resources from skinning are typically used for leather crafting and at this point in the game too few people are using crafted gear (and the gear they do craft isn't very expensive to make) to create a vibrant market for this trade. Skinning is not recommended for gold making purposes.
Alchemy: Make potions, flasks, and transmute rare gems. Alchemy can be profitable, but has suffered since 3.3.3 when flask and gem prices plummeted. Alchemy is only recommended for players that love to use it (or love Mixology's 2 hour flasks).
Blacksmithing: One of the most expensive professions to level, you can spend thousands of gold leveling Blacksmithing to 450 only to find that there is no market for your services other than weapon chains and belt buckles, no thanks! As there won't be any new crafted armor recipes this expansion Blacksmithing is a poor choice for a production profession.
Enchanting: The only profession that doubles as a gathering and production profession. Enchanters can offer their services in trade chat for tips and better yet, can enchant 'scrolls' that can be sold on the auction house. Massively profitable profession that also comes with utility and prestige, you can't go wrong with this one.
Engineering: The most fun profession, hands down. Also the least profitable, next!
Inscription: Arguably the most lucrative profession of all, new recipes can be learned via Books of Glyph Mastery which sell for a pittance on the auction house. The raw materials to produce a glyph cost roughly 2 gold and they are frequently marked up to anywhere between 40 and 70 gold (and people pay it, believe it or not). Inscription is extremely cheap to level and has the highest cost to benefit ratio of any profession by an astronomical margin. This is a highly recommended profession.
Jewelcrafting: The jewel of the professions (I'm sorry, I had to). Jewelcrafting is extremely expensive to level, terribly expensive and slow to gain new recipes in, and has by far the highest overhead of any profession. That said, Jewelcrafting also has the highest profit margin per sale of any viable profession. JC has the added benefit of having the best passive bonuses of any profession for PvE and PvP, so this is one to be considered.
Leatherworking: Profitable, but sadly not as profitable as Jewelcrafting, Enchanting, or Inscription. Leatherworking allows players to create leather armor as well as a variety of powerful enchantments and drums. This isn't the greatest profession for making gold but it's also far from the worst.
Tailoring: Tailoring offers the ability to create powerful cloth armor and some miscellaneous enchantments similar to leatherworking. It also grants players the ability to turn all that pesky cloth lying around into additional gold. Tailoring, like leatherworking, is not terribly profitable. However, it synergizes very well with enchanting, so it is worth a look for players that choose to go that route.
So, we're at the end of the beginners' section. To recap, consider your playstyle and resources then pick a path that is suitable for you. You're going to need epic flying which costs roughly 7000g all in, you are also going to need at least one viable gold making profession. Until you have these things you're going to need to hit those daily quests to fuel your gold needs.
In subsequent editions we're going to show you how to best use your time on daily quests and how to turn a little bit of time into a lot of gold via professions. Until then, get started on the basics, because everyone has to start somewhere!