What type of raid experience do you want? If you aspire to bleeding-edge play in a guild that knocks out realm and world firsts, expect to put in plenty of time. There's no way around that. High-end progression guilds typically raid more weeknights than not, plus every weekend. Most have strict attendance policies. At the other end of the spectrum, if you merely want to taste what's available in WoW's endgame, you might find that PUG raids satisfy your appetite. There's a whole range of guilds in between those extremes, so don't grab at the first thing that passes by. Decide what you want, first.
How often can you raid? The average guild (if there is such a thing) probably raids three to four times a week for three to four hours at a time (with the longer stretches occurring on weekends). That said, there are plenty of guilds that raid more or that raid less. Be realistic about what you have to offer, because joining a raiding guild should ideally be a fairly long-term commitment. Don't optimistically stretch yourself too thin, or you'll be courting burnout before you've even begun.
What hours are you available? If your play times seem at odds with those of the guilds on your realm, consider transferring to a realm in another time zone that meshes more closely with your schedule.
How much uninterrupted time can you devote? A challenging raid should demand your undivided attention – no interruptions from roommates, children, work, parents, homework ... If this is something you can't guarantee, you should think twice about making a commitment that has ramifications for the nine to 24 other raid members who are relying on you to perform.
Will you play seasonally?
Larger guilds typically have members who are still in school. They're used to holiday lulls (some people are online all the time, while others disappear completely) as well as a certain amount of player turnover at the end of each academic year. If this describes your schedule, be sure to ask how your absence will be handled. Some guilds alter their pace during holidays and slow times. Many will attempt to replace you temporarily, but others may replace you for good. Never assume that your spot is perpetually guaranteed; ask how the guild handles this situation first. What about expectations outside of raids?
Some guilds are large enough, geared enough and progressed enough that newer members are literally showered with unused gear. Other groups, however, may need new members to farm up their own upgrades in PUGs, Heroics and older raid content.
No matter what size your guild is, you'll need time to keep up to date on the guild forums and research any need-to-know strategies before raids. You'll want to stay on top of the latest developments and tactics for your class and spec. You'll probably need to run a few dailies or do some farming to stay even with repair fees and consumable costs.
Your guild's size and focus will dictate some of these non-raid expectations. More social guilds may expect you to be available for grouping and casual runs on non-raid nights. Larger guilds may allow you to slip in and out of raids relatively unnoticed, while smaller, more personal groups may call for a little more face time. The learning curve
As a new raider, expect a learning curve of a month or more when you'll be excitedly obsessing over every last detail of your new pastime. As you become more experienced, things will slow down a little and you'll be able to "compartmentalize" your raiding and integrate it into your usual life. If you're in raiding for the long haul, expect your schedule and interest to fluctuate around your guild's progression (Biff! Bam! The end boss of your current instance!) and game content (Boom! Pow! A content patch! An expansion!).
The takeaway: yes, you can raid with your schedule. Don't grab the first (biggest/most progressed/most well known) guild that comes along. Ask plenty of questions about a potential guild's schedule and what they expect in terms of attendance. There's a fit for everyone, as long as you ask the questions that will help you find it. Good luck and happy raiding!
WoW Rookie walks you through all sort of new-player concerns, from game lingo for the beginner to joining your first guild as a mid-level player and on to what to do when you finally hit level 80. Visit WoW.com's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.