By their very nature, most achievements either directly or indirectly cost you gold or are at least associated with some extremely unpleasant trips to the Auction House. We had a small discussion on just this point last week. But there are always exceptions, and there's a set of achievements in the game that will earn you a healthy nest egg if you care to go looking for them.
From my perspective, stuff like Got My Mind On My Money doesn't count, as it's just a reflection of how much gold you're looting in the game and not in itself a means of earning income. I'm after the stuff from which you almost can't help but make gold.
Concerning general achievements: Perhaps not surprisingly (given the overrepresentation of general achievements in last week's The OverAchiever: Got 100,000+ gold handy?), you're going to have a tough time finding a way to make money here. Most general achievements either cost you something (e.g., Into the Wild Blue Yonder) or are otherwise divorced from the game's financial side (e.g., Friend or Fowl?). I actually can't find a single achievement here that doesn't meet one of those two conditions. Look elsewhere, folks. You will not be making money from the general achievements slot.
Almost every quest in the game awards gold, so by definition, it's impossible not to make money while you're working on quest achievements. The Bread Winner and Justly Rewarded are implicit acknowledgments of this. You will definitely get the former while working on Loremaster and 3,000 Quests Completed, but I don't know off hand if this'll extend to the 30,000 gold required for Justly Rewarded. Because daily quest rewards count toward each, I wouldn't depend on it.
- The Loremaster This is WoW's grand slam, but be prepared to work for it. For Alliance, there are now 3,428 quests between you and Loremaster; for Horde, there are 3,348. The average player doing Loremaster will probably spend anywhere between one to three months on it, depending on how many quests they did leveling up.
- 3,000 Quests Completed Assuming you're starting from zero, you will get 3,000 Quests Completed (and thus the Seeker title) fairly late during your Loremaster grind. However, this is a little more forgiving that Loremaster, because holiday and dungeon quests also count. You know the candy buckets during Hallow's End, the elders during the Lunar Festival, and the fires during the Midsummer Fire Festival? Those all count, so be sure to pay attention to the holidays. However, you can't cheese Seeker with dailies -- those'll only count the first time you do them.
As an aside, it is very rare for me to see a player with the Loremaster or Seeker title wipe, or otherwise cause major problems in, a group. Take from that what you will.
By contrast, exploring rewards experience (to non-level capped characters, that is) rather than gold, so you won't find much here to enrich your bank account. However, there are two exceptions.
- Bloody Rare and Frostbitten Let's be frank -- these are terrible ways to make money efficiently. But as long as you're working on them, it seems dumb not to acknowledge that the Outland and Northrend rare mobs will net you some extra cash. This is far more true of the Northrend mobs, who each drop an Abandoned Adventurer's Satchel containing Frostweave, sometimes crystallized elements like Crystallized Air, and gold, but even the Outland mobs drop rares that can sold on the Auction House or disenchanted.
As an FYI, Vyragosa in the Storm Peaks shares a spawn with the Time-Lost Proto Drake, so if you kill her, the next spawn may be the valuable bronze drake. The Time-Lost is not the subject of any achievement ... just endless, hollow-eyed nightmares. (Question: Why isn't the Time-Lost Proto Drake an achievement?)
Oh, and go download NPCScan and NPCScan Overlay or SilverDragon. These are mods that will alert you whenever a rare mob is in range. Not only will they make your life so much easier while doing both achievements, but they'll also help if you're working on Scourer of the Eternal Sands in Uldum. The Mysterious Camel Figurines you'll be hunting also count as rare spawns.
Player vs. player achievements
Gold that you earn from PvP achievements is usually going to be indirectly earned. However, I'm pretty sure that indirectly earned money is still considered legal tender.
- 250,000 Honorable Kills Consider this a catch-all category for all the honorable kill achievements. So how does killin' folk make you money? It nets you honor, and honor buys stuff. In addition to PvP gear, you can buy things from each faction's honor trade goods vendor (Edlan Halsing for the Alliance or Rogoc for the Horde), including Maelstrom Crystals and a Satchel of Freshly-Picked Herbs. Be advised that the honor and justice trade good vendors are really just intended to give you a way to bleed off excess honor or justice points at the 4,000 cap, so the rate of exchange is (shall we say) punishing. But 250,000 honorable kills will have bought you quite a lot by the end. Curiously, it's easier to make money with honor than conquest points, as you can't buy anything that's not BoP with conquest.
- Grizzled Veteran (Alliance)/Grizzled Veteran (Horde) Pretty much the same deal as the quest-related achievements above. They won't reward as much as the average PvE quest, but they also reward honor.
- Just Another Day in Tol Barad (Alliance)/Just Another Day in Tol Barad (Horde) As above.
Dungeon achievements are another odd duck. When they give rewards other than points, they tend to be mounts or titles. While soloing older content will give you a nice chunk of change and often enchant materials or BoEs, you won't see any achievement points from these beyond the first time you complete a dungeon/raid.
- Looking For Multitudes Dungeon running is actually pretty lucrative, assuming your groups aren't all wipe-fests. As with Bloody Rare and Frostbitten, it's not the most efficient way to make money (I believe that honor belongs to the jewelcrafters and scribes among us charging prices on the Auction House that would make a robber baron blush), but someone who really enjoys 5-mans will see a decent income from them. Obviously this is more true of the players who benefit from the Satchel of Exotic Mysteries, and these tend to be tanks and healers. Naturally, there's an element of luck involved. You might keep opening these bags to find nothing but a chunk of cash and a raw Dream Emerald. Or you might keep opening them and finding cross-faction Argent Tournament pets and Hyacinth Macaws. Screw you.
Professions themselves can make you a lot of money, but their achievements tend to be rewarded for the acts that do anything but. However, there are a few exceptions.
- A Bunch of Lunch (Alliance)/A Bunch of Lunch (Horde) As with its cousins elsewhere, quest-related cooking achievements can't help but earn you money while you're doing them.
- Kickin' It Up a Notch As above.
- Our Daily Bread (Alliance)/Our Daily Bread (Horde) As above.
- 1,000 Fish Fishing can be a surprisingly lucrative profession as long as you're going after the fish that everybody needs but doesn't want to spend the time getting. In particular, the three types of fish required for the Seafood Magnifique recipe -- the Highland Guppy, Lavascale Catfish, and Fathom Eel -- tend to sell extremely well. The Catfish is particularly notable for being a fish that doesn't have any pools available; it can only ever be caught from open water, and its drop rate is at best around 30%. Does that make it a real pain to fish up in quantity? You bet your life. And what happens to the cost of something when its supply is not as reliable as we would like? Come now, children. Surely you pay attention to the commodities market on occasion.
- Gone Fishin' (Alliance)/Gone Fishin' (Horde) Quests make money, ipso facto achievements concerned with quests make money, yadda yadda.
- Old Man Barlowned As above.
- Diggerest Some of the archaeology gray items vendor for as much as 200 gold, and if you've been spending month after month slaving away in Kalimdor in the forlorn and possibly futile hopes of nabbing a Crawling Claw, you will see lots of Imprint of a Kraken Tentacle and Chest of Tiny Glass Animals pop up rather than the tol'vir dig sites you so desperately want, but that's OK because you're getting stuff that makes you money, and I'm lying through my teeth and will never get that stupid pet, oh God someone please send help.
There are a lot of reputation grinds that will net you gold, but rather than list them all here, I'm going to cheat and go with an umbrella achievement.
- 50 Exalted Reputations Given the relative ease of farming faction rep via dungeons for home (e.g., Darnassus, Bilgewater Cartel), Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm factions, I would argue that reputation achievements are slightly less lucrative than they used to be. Time was when you had to quest your brains out and then (when necessary) do cloth turn-ins for home factions, or run specific dungeons for Burning Crusade rep (actually, you still have to do this). However, grinds like Brood of Nozdormu and Hydraxian Waterlords will see you stomping old raids for fun and profit -- a lot of profit.
Most of the ways to make money with holidays revolve around selling things to other players and not really achievements themselves (e.g., Lovely Charm Bracelets for Love Is In the Air, Small Eggs during Winter Veil for the Gingerbread Cookie recipe, and selling wand charges to other players -- you capitalist, you -- for The Masquerade during Hallow's End). It was once possible to make an absurd amount of money off the Elders of the Lunar Festival and the fires during the Midsummer Fire Festival, but Blizzard has since drastically nerfed the gold awarded for these. So there are definitely ways to make money during the WoW holidays, but in general they're tangential to the achievement system rather than being the direct result.
Feats of strength are generally non-starters for goldmaking purposes as the vast majority of them are no longer attainable (and don't even reward points when they are). However, you might actually make some money doing Insane in the Membrane -- or at least, you used to. Freeing Knot Thimblejack in Dire Maul over and over again sometimes netted you rare leatherworking and tailoring recipes like Pattern: Hide of the Wild. However, the quest to free Knot has been removed from the game, as have all of the recipes he gave. Ouch.
Darkmoon Faire reputation is now significantly easier, as doing all the Darkmoon quests and dailies each month will net you 10,000+ rep and the gold you'll get from the quests.
Enjoy working on achievements? The Overachiever is here to help! Count on us for advice on patch 4.3 achievements, our guide to Mountain O' Mounts, and a good, hard look at what's wrong with archaeology and how Blizzard could fix it.