The two alts I made last year are twinked to the max: Heirloom items, the best gear and consumable money can buy, and in some extreme cases I even had expensive enchantments on very low level gear. There is a certain fun to be had when playing a completely overpowered low level character. But for Tobold the tauren shaman, my new alt in the <Single Abstract Noun> blogging community guild, I wanted to try something different. I could have transferred heirloom items and gold from a different server, or taken some gold from the guild bank, but instead I decided to try how I could do without outside help, just a poor low level character on his own, armed with nothing but the economic knowledge gained in years of playing World of Warcraft.
Now Argent Dawn (EU) is an old server, with a very mature economy. For example I checked the auction house for low level green items, and found somebody selling level 7 green maces for 27 gold apiece. And he had 8 of them for sale, which given that this mace is a drop and not crafted made me wonder how he got those. Meanwhile my shaman was counting the copper pieces to pay for his training, so there was obviously a huge gap between his wealth and the wealth of the average player.
Now while that is obviously bad when you want to *buy* something from the auction house, you can use that huge gap to your advantage when *selling* to the auction house. You just need to find something which you can farm at low level, and which is in demand by people who have lots of gold. So once I reached level 5, and saved up the about 2 silver I needed for training professions and buying tools, I went to Orgrimmar and learned mining and skinning. Now skinning is not necessarily the most profitable gathering skill, so herbalism would have been an alternative. But herb prices only take off at slightly higher levels, the Peacebloom and Silverleaf you can gather at level 5 don't sell for much. And having both mining and herbalism isn't optimal, because you can have your mini map radar search set to only either the one or the other.
So I spent a rather fun evening traveling through Durotar and mining copper. Part of the fun was that this isn't all that safe at level 5, with monsters in that zone up to level 10. But I didn't want to just stay in the safest part, because there I would have been limited by the respawn rate of the copper nodes, and going to places that aren't safe is a lot more exciting. At the end of the evening I was level 7, and had put several stacks of copper on the auction house, plus rough stone, light leather, and some other stuff I found on mobs. On pricing I saw that stacks of copper went as high as 8 gold, but there was some copper sold for much lower, and I decided that for the start selling my copper fast was more important than selling is high. I turned part of the copper ore into copper bars, and undercut the cheapest offer by 5 silver per unit. This morning I had 10 copper pieces in my purse and 10 gold pieces in my mailbox, so I kind of skipped the silver pieces phase of the economy. :)
Now my training cost problem is definitively solved, but even 10 gold isn't all that much when you actually want to buy something from the auction house. I did find a level 7 mace and a level 7 shield that were reasonable priced, and this evening I'll look for the NPC vendor selling level 5 (?) leather armor in Razor Hill. I also visited the weapon masters to learn all weapon types a shaman can handle (the Lunar Festival helps to teleport to other cities), bought some 10-slot bags, and some low level consumables like healing potions. So I'm down to 4 gold, but that is still plenty, and I'm much better equipped.
So where do I go from here? I will continue this evening to mine more copper, wait for the prices to go up a bit during the weekend, and make some more gold that way. But a bit further on I would rather drop mining, and learn leatherworking instead, to make my own armor. That might be less profitable than mining, but I didn't do much leatherworking with previous characters, so I think that could be more fun. Which means I need another source of income, and I have an idea I'll try out this weekend: Fishing.
Once upon a time, years ago, I joined a freshly opened server and made a human priest there. That turned out to be not a brilliant idea, because I already had an undead priest, who grew to become my "raiding main", and so I abandoned the human priest at level 60, where he still is. But at the time I was facing a similar problem, the priest having no money at all when I made him, only that he was playing in a fresh economy. Everybody was low level, and there was nobody paying several gold pieces for a stack of copper ore. So at the time I came up with a different get-rich-quick scheme: At level 10 you can get your fishing skill high enough to successfully catch fish in much higher level zones, e.g. the level 40ish Stranglethorn. Stranglethorn has a long coast, and while some of that coast is populated by 40ish mobs which kill a level 10 character very quickly, other stretches of the coast are empty. With some careful searching of the coast you can find pools of wreckage, from which you can fish crates containing items that are designed for level 40ish characters: Trade materials like silk cloth, and even the occasional green item. Now in a mature economy a level 40ish green item is worth several gold, and so are the trade mats. So the plan for this weekend is to level up to 10, get my fishing skill to the max for that level, swim from Durotar to Ratchet, take the boat to Stranglethorn, and start fishing there.
As an added incentive, I can join the Stranglethorn fishing contest on Sunday afternoon. No, there is no chance to win that one at level 10, unless I'm the only participant. But throughout the duration of the contest I can fish the Tastyfish (spelling?) for the contest, and then sell them for 20 silver apiece to the goblin NPC organizing the event in Booty Bay. That's 4 gold for a stack of fish, not bad for a level 10 character.
In summary, being poor in a mature economy is an opportunity. Some work, some creativity, and one can earn several gold pieces per hour even at very low levels. And as prices for training or white gear from NPC vendors are fixed and designed to be paid with the few coppers you can make from looting low level monsters, having a handful of gold pieces is already more than sufficient to pay for everything you really need at those low levels. You just need to not waste too much of your wealth on overpriced twink items on the auction house, because there you are competing directly with players who have thousands of gold.