Friday, April 1, 2011

Leatherworking Can Be Profitable

I met a guy in trade chat the other day, Garahadar, who was looking for someone to Enchant a weapon. His materials, small tip. I think it was Mending but I don't remember now. We struck up a conversation. Seems his situation is very similar to Phuggly's: needs to earn gold and has little working capital now. 

I gave Garahadar some basic tips--quick hits, if you will. Then I offered to construct this post to help him with ideas about how Leatherworking might be an income generator. 

The more I worked on this last night, the more I began to question whether this profession has any serious gold making potential. I decided that Leatherworking can be profitale but the old strategies may not work today.Moreover, the application might be more appropriate for non-Goblins.

Garahadar is actually the alt but his main's name escapes me. I didn't write it down. (Sorry!) He is a two night a week Rogue raider with max Leatherworking and max Skinning as his profs. Total liquid capital right now is under 200g for all toons. Earning gold has become a distraction--he wants to raid (and quest) but finds it expensive for repairs and consumables, let alone Enchants and gear upgrades. He has limited access to other profs--his highest alt is Alchemy at about 210.

Step One: Basics--Building the Foundation

As I mentioned previously (as well as in the Phuggly post), there are some very basic principles that any aspiring goblin should understand.

Goal--Gara has a goal but it wasn't disclosed to me. He said he needs enough to support his weekly raiding habit. I'm guessing two nights per week for consumables and repairs he is looking at 500-650g per week. Raiders out there may be able to fill in the blanks here with a better number.

Gold Earning Mindset--He is on the way here, almost able to check this off the list. One of the things I told him in our brief discussion was to roll an AH toon and plant it in SW. We talked about how to use the mule to make travel more efficient and AH posting faster. Gara actually logged off, rolled his AH toon, put it in SW, and logged back on to say "done--that was easy". 

Otherwise, I would advise him to turn on autoloot and make sure to DE surplus greens and sell other 'vendor fodder' from his dungeon or raid runs. ((more on this later))

Bags--Shouldn't be an issue here. As a raider, I'm sure Gara has sufficient bag space on his main. My suggestion would be to make sure to have at least 16 slot bags on all alts, including his AH mule. Bag space = money.

Skill Assessment--We know he has max LW and Skinning, and that's about it. 

Access to other Profs--Within his guild, Gara needs to identify whether he has access to max Enchanting, Jewelcrafting and Alchemy. If so, and if his guild requires or suggests that guildies help other guildies at no cost, then he is a step ahead. Just set up a protocol for that player helping out--can be as simple as 'I'll mail you stuff once a week (or after each raid, whatever) and if you could DE/Prospect/Mill it and return that would be great'. The goal is to ask for and get help and not become a burden to the other player.

If he doesn't have access to one or more of these via guild then it gets a bit more complicated. Gara will need to find someone in the general population who will perform these functions for him at a reasonable cost. Using strangers for this can be tricky--mail and return usually doesn't work so he will have to be on at the same time as the service provider. Fees can be expensive so work that out before opening the trade window.

Access to these profs are very important for a couple of reasons. Being able to DE the surplus BoE greens and blues from dungeon runs and raids will give him access to raw materials for enchants or for resale. By and large the raw mats will sell more often and at a better return than the item itself. Also, the listing fees for the armor or weapon is usually high--but for enchanting mats it is virtually non-existent. 

Access to JC and Alchemy helps provide mats for gemming gear and making consumables. This cost containment measure will help minimize expenses. He can also use these relationships to help earn gold. If he buys raw materials and has an Alchemist make 10 potions but only uses 4, the other 6 can be re-sold in the AH to help cover his expenses. Or a JC can Prospect ore he purchases in the AH, keeping for personal use the gems he needs and re-selling the surplus raw gems.

Install and Use Addons--This isn't going to be an issue for Gara. He uses Auctioneer already and has Postal and others installed.

Step Two: Business Planning--Building the Framework

When starting out with very limited capital (in this case, around 200g) a player must make sure he minimizes risk. For example, buying 4 stacks of Elementium Ore for 45g each might be a great deal if you can prospect, craft & DE it yourself--and if you have time to let your investment pay off. In general, the burn rate on this ore is 54g per stack--so worst case, you can Prospect it and make gems that vendor for 9g each. At an average of 6 gems per stack, you are guaranteed to earn a small profit. 

In Gara's case I think such a purchase would be too risky. Why? 

Not being sure about the JC access and having 90% of his liquid capital tied up in one transaction could make it impossible for repairs or other necessary purchases. Also, this type of shuffle really scales to the large investor. Buying 100 stacks at 45g each will average out to 6 gems per stack. For 4 stacks it might only be 4.5 or 5 gems per stack. 

The large volume player in this market can wait a week for his DE and gems to sell--earning maybe 6,000g on a 4,500g investment. The smaller investor has little room for long term planning like this.

Don't Make Silly Mistakes

Gara mentioned that he had recently sold an Assassin's Chestplate. With access to some Chaos Orb and high level patterns there is a temptation to earn money in trade by selling Orbs.  Those ads "400g per Orb, LW LFW" may sound like the best way to quickly infuse gold into your purse, but I say resist the temptation.

Also, avoid buying consumables if the materials cost is below the finished product cost. More on that below.

Skinning was recently one of the top gathering professions. Now? The Savage Leather market has just about tanked. This is also a good time to introduce The Undermine Journal.

Research the Marketplace

Selling blindly is sort of like driving blindly. You don't know where you are, can't tell where you are going, and it is only a matter of time until you crash. 

Using Auctioneer and its scan feature is very helpful in knowing what is available right now, and how much those items are relative to their value over time. However, there is no intuitive feature for trending--anticipating where the fluctuations in the marketplace occur. This is helpful in predicting what to sell (or buy) next. 

That's where TUJ comes in. By warehousing the data for all the transactions on the server over time, one can determine what has been selling--and when. The latter is very important in some markets, including Leather. 


TUJ shows that Savage Leather Scraps are going for 20g per stack, Savage Leather is around 42g per stack and Heavy Savage is around 18g each. 

This is what I call "market equilibrium". The cost of each of the components is roughly valued at the expected sale price if combined into the next product up the chain. There is not a distinct income advantage to combining Scraps and selling Leather, or combining Leather and selling Heavy. This condition has resulted from over supply--there are 1,000s of each item listed. 

Using TUJ's market overview feature (the black bar under the date and title, select "consumables" and then "skinning") we see that Arctic Fur and Icy Dragonscale are both selling profitably right now. Unfortunately the Arctic Fur price is below the value of 60 Borean Leather--so flipping Borean for Arctic Fur for resale isn't an option. But farming Borean and trading for Arctic could work, or just selling the Borean itself. 

If farming Borean Leather in NR, might as well farm some Frostweave Cloth too. The humanoid mobs are usually close to the skinnable ones. TUJ market overview (black bar, "enhancements", "tailoring") shows Frostweave selling for 55g/stack and 0 units listed currently. Embersilk on the other hand? 41g/stack and 1,585 units (about 80 stacks) listed. 


There are actually several options for profitable higher end gear, especially PvP gear. TUJ shows decent profits in just about all areas: Armor (Twilight Leg Armor, Scorched Leg Armor); Bags (Mammoth Mining Bag, Pack of Endless Pockets); as well as various Epic Armor, Rare Cloaks and both Leather and Mail PvP items. 

Step Three: Executing the Plan

There seem to be three immediate challenges facing Gara: low working capital, access to other professions and long term vs short term gain. With only a couple hundred gold to work with and guaranteed expenses every week for raids there isn't any surplus left over for "investing".  Sounds a lot like my household, btw. 

Based on what I know and making very few assumptions, I would suggest the following for Gara:

  • Auction House mule--helps reduce travel time and maximize selling opportunities (done);
  • Set a Gold Goal--personally, I would set 5,000g in my bank as the first threshold;
  • Find an Enchanter--probably in his guild, but if not, then look in /trade when needed;
  • Farm Borean Leather and Frostweave in NR--maybe only an hour, maybe two or three, but the yield of Borean and Frostweave should be listed in the AH for some immediate income;
  • Turn on Autoloot--those vendor-able items add up;
  • Run (insert your favorite) Dailies--easy income, building rep, must do;
  • Farm Components for & Craft Twilight Leg Armor and Scorched Leg Armor--since I don't know if his Fishing skill is sufficient, this might entail an investment for Volatile Water and Volatile Fire. The goal should be to craft 3 or 4 of each. Mail to the AH mule and list one or two at a time. This first little inventory will begin to generate some income flow;
  • Craft Mammoth Mining Bag (if Hodir rep is sufficient)--this bag is the best mining bag in the game right now, maybe only a short term niche as rumors are by 4.1 there may be a new bag. If Hodir rep isn't where it needs to be for this pattern then running the quests necessary will help with the above goal of farming Borean and Frostweave. Again, I would make 3-4 and send to my mule--same strategy as above;
  • Epic Armor--this one is tricky. Since I'm not sure what Epic patterns he has access to, I would set as a goal getting enough materials to craft another Assassin's Chestplate and listing it in the AH. Sales activity is slow, but at 13k to 15k each when the sale does happen Gara will have a nice bump in income. 
  • Make an Alchemist Friend--similar to the Enchanting friend above, see if the guild has one you can use. If not, find one via trade. The herb prices have really come down recently--buying the materials and asking an Alchemist to make you a few potions is probably more cost effective than buying them. Of course, if your guild is at the level where it is making raid potions for its members then this becomes a moot issue. An Alchemist would be handy in either case to help with Milling and making inks, or even selling the pigments. TBC and NR inks are selling well.
  • Develop New Professions--as a longer term goal Gara should develop Mining and Herbalism professions. The easiest way to do this is to roll a DK with those two professions. If he already has a DK then I would drop whatever profs his next highest alt has and take Mining and Herbalism. Getting these up to at least 450 as soon as possible should be a priority;
  • Reinvest and Set New Goals--as income is realized and the first goal is reached it is important to reinvest in the business and set a new goal. Otherwise, the long term planning aspect becomes suspect; 
  • Become a Goblin--with all the above under his belt Gara will be on the way to becoming an AH master already. However, devoting time to this pursuit has to be a long term venture if he wants to elicit behavior change that will produce income over time. My suggestion is to utilize the blogging community sites to develop the skills he needs to produce good income for the long haul.
When dealing with cash flow issues there are two primary concerns: income in and expenses out. The strategy I have outlined should help Gara with both sides of this equation. By using an AH toon we make time investment more efficient. We have generated some income via smart farming. We also control expenses by making sure we are getting our required consumables, enchants and gems at the best possible price. This should provide immediate returns for him.

Conclusions: Hope Gara is Happy With The Results

My goal was to provide Gara with some usable tips to enhance his gold earning opportunities today, not tomorrow. Accomplishing his goals with minimal risk is a critical. I also did not want to simply say "Drop LW and pick up another gathering profession". That is too easy to say and too hard to do.

In my opinion, Gara's situation is very similar to that of most players. With only one or two raid toons many players are realizing that the planning they did at the end of WoLK either wasn't sufficient or they have run through the gold stores they had at the time. The repair costs are higher now, dailies don't pay as well and gear & consumables have become even more expensive. 

Recent posts on other sites have lamented that Leatherworking isn't viable for gold earning. This may be true for Goblins who have hit the gold cap or are otherwise serious AH players. For me, I don't spend much time on my LW since I have all the other profs, most of which earn me a much higher return. However, for the average player I just can't subscribe to the belief that LW is worthless.

If someone has a L85 with maxed skills and is having gold issues, I think it is up to us in the blogging community to help them along rather than telling them to scrap their profs and start over with others we consider more profitable. Sometimes I think we may lose sight of our audience--the more casual player--and instead end up posting for the other gold bloggers.

So, a hearty "Thank You" to Garahadar for the inspiration to create this post. I welcome comments from Gara or anyone else, supportive or not. If I missed something please fill in the blanks.


  1. My main is LW/Skinning & I have a post half drafted that may help - I'm hoping to get it finished tomorrow but it will be looking at utilising the lower levels. I don't have TUJ access being on an EU server but Gara should be able to check stuff & see if my ideas will work for him too.

    I also did a post a little while ago low level LW which may tide him over until then :)

  2. Nev, I am negligent in not having replied before now. Thanks for the comment.

    I did read your new post on low level LW, and I liked it a lot. I am pretty sure I commented there but should have done so on my own blog!