In the first few introductory posts that skimmed through my Eve career so far, I eluded to a couple of ways in which I made my money.
I thought I'd write some actual content, rather than just memoires, and I seem to have found myself in the middle class of Eve. I'm not so rich that I buy faction mods for all my PVP ships, and I don't own a Super Carrier or Titan.
I currently sit at around 20b in liquid ISK, with perhaps another 15b in assets. I own two carriers and a Rorqual, as well as about 4m m3 of ships and another 500k m3 of assets spread around various old staging systems. I also have a freighter (Providence, the sexiest one) sat in K-6 Delve which I can no longer get at, and have no expectations of being able to get at, any time soon. If you want to buy it, it's for sale at a good price.
There are a number of ways that one can measure one's wealth. Personally, I use jEveAssets. It's a standalone application which contains an amazing amount of data.
One of the biggest problems when measuring wealth is that it's often spread amongst various accounts or characters. jEveAssets is useful to me as I can either display everything I own, or just what is currently owned by a particular character.
The way in which is measures wealth is by displaying a list of all the items you own, each an individual entry. The entries also include ship fittings and cargo bays, something which is often overlooked when calculated how much dollah you got.
For each entry, the software looks at how much the item would sell for in Jita, and how much the item would sell for if you reprocessed it and sold the minerals separately. It takes the highest value, adds them all up and displays the sum - a fairly good indication of wealth.
Another useful feature is that you can add filters, so you can see what stuff you have in a particular region, or of a particular group, so if I wanted to see how many cynos/liquid ozone I have, and where it is distributed, I can do so. I don't, because it makes me twitch. I like things to be organised.
So, how did I make my money?
The answer to this question is incredibly simple - diversification. This is not a new concept; major businesses in RL do this all the time. Did you know that Samsung, as well as making phones and other consumer electronic equipment, also make ships (real life ones), weapon systems (again, real life ones) and own a theme park?
There are tremendous amounts of ways to make money in Eve, and a lot of them are overlooked or forgotten about. By diversifying, I spread my income streams around, and it means that when CCP, or indeed actual players, change something, it doesn't affect my bottom line too much, and I can adjust fairly easily. I see a lot of players specialise in a particular area, be it incursion running, mining, ratting, exploration, trading, building mods or building capitals. I also see a lot of these players lose out when something in the game play or the meta changes. Was your niche building large trimark armor pumps? Bet you were pretty pissed when CCP introduced the capital sized ones... Did you AFK that ice belt everyday to make your money? Bet you were mad when they stopped being static... Were you an explorer? Got much competition nowadays? You get the point. Specialisation somewhat protects you against these things.
Not only does it protect you, but it also keeps you interested. If I don't want to haul my minerals around today, I'll go do a bit of exploration, or I'll go optimise my PI setup, or I'll do a bit of market trading.
So, here's a quick list and accompanying explanation of the ways in which I make money. I've ordered them in ease of access with the first few having a very low entry level, and the later ones require an investments and fore-planning. There are, or course, a few things that I haven't done, or that I no longer do because I find them un-enjoyable - I've listed them anyway.
PLEX - The in-game item which you buy for real money and sell for just over half a billion. A fantastic way to raise a bit of capital, but obviously costs actual RL money. Not particularly sustainable unless you have megabucks. A large majority of players have alts, and a great way to get some free money when starting an alt is to send yourself a game invite. Then, when you sign up, you get a free PLEX. I did this for all five of my alt characters, and it provided me with my first 3b.
Ratting - Shooting red crosses, either in anomalies or in missions. In missions, you get additional LP which can be turned into ISK. I find this method particularly boring, and yet it is the staple income of a large majority of Eve players and has a pretty low entry threshold. Starting with Level One missions and a frigate, up to Level Five missions with a group of your friends. Most people get to Level Four and stick there, running them with a Faction Battleship or Marauder and spending all their ISK on pimp mods to get a 0.1% DPS increase because ratting is all they know. Anomalies have a bit higher entry level, and are mostly run in 0.0 space. They are random warpable objects and you don't have to spend time reading anything from a Mission Agent. You just warp to them, kill everything and then 20 minutes later, get a payout based on how many things you've killed. There is a difficulty scale, with Sanctums being the hardest of them all - and therefore the most profitable.
Exploration - This is something that has existed for quite some time, but has recently been buffed (or nerfed, depending on how you look at it). You fly around and probe down these sites, you play a minigame and it gives you some random loot from a loot table which is either terrible, or pretty good. The lower the security status of the system, the better the loot is. I haven't done too much of this as its results are incredibly variable. You could spend 3 hours running around hacking things and end up with either a full cargo of shit worth 30m, or in the same time period you could get lucky in your first can and end up with a 700m blueprint.
Trading - Buying low, selling high. One of the most fundamental theories of any economy. The technique only differs in where you buy things, where you sell things and what your profit margin is. The most common trading occurs when people buy items and move them to either a trade hub or mission hub and sell them at a profit, and then buy things in the trade hub and move them to the mission hub, where they are again, sold for a profit. The words "mission hub" are interchangeable with the words "staging system" and "deployment system", and the profits are higher if you're shipping to an area where people are willing to pay a premium for not having to go far to get things. There's a lot of material already written about this method, so I won't add too much more. I don't trade that much, but I do buy most of the things I use from sell orders and then when I'm done with them, put up buy orders from them, which means if my ship doesn't explode after I use it, I make a profit. The entry to the market has a fairly low threshold, you sell the items you loot/salvage/steal and then reinvest the money you make by buying things and selling them. It theoretically scales exponentially. A subset of this is hauling, where a trader wants to skip the actual hauling part of this process and is willing to pay someone else to do it for them. Red/Black Frog are prime examples of this.
Incursions - A slight offshoot of ratting, in that you shoot red crosses. However, incursion rats are actually mean mother fuckers and it takes a co-ordinated group of people with some pretty good ships to kill them. You can't run them solo (unless you have 10 accounts and are pretty good at multi-boxing). You get paid after each site completed, and an additional LP payout if some Russians come and kill the mothership. I've run some low-sec incursions, and probably made about half a bil from it over a period of two or three weeks. The problem is that it's INCREDIBLY repetitive and you actually have to pay attention in order to not die.
Mining - I'm not one of those people who will either advocate or admonish mining. If that's what you want to do, knock yourself out. It isn't something I want to do, so I've never really done it. I hear you can make reasonable money if you do it in a well organised group, but that doing it solo is one of the worst things you can do with your time if you measure time and isk making on the same graph. There is an upper limit to how much SP you can put into mining. It is, however, pretty safe (no matter what the nasty Goblin says) and can be done AFK while you play League of Legends/WoT/the latest FOTM game. It's also an incredibly stable income. The price of minerals varies very little, and is often used as a base measurement in a similar way to USD or GBP in the real world markets.
Ice Mining - When I said I'd never mined, that wasn't totally true. I've mined ice, but only as a necessity of other things I do to make money. And even then, I only mined exactly what I needed, and no more. It's more profitable than normal mining, but since recently, has the added annoyance that the ice now runs out, and once it's gone, won't respawn (in that system) for four hours.
Planetary Interaction - This is one of my major incomes. It's often overlooked as it involves a little maths and a lot of clicking. This is an exaggeration. I will admit, the setup can get a little complex, but once it's done, it's one of the easiest ways to make ISK. It also only takes 2 weeks of training time to get all the skills you'll ever need, and you won't have to invest any more SP once the initial train is over. My PI setup is not designed to make the most amount of raw profit. My setup is designed to make Fuel Blocks for POS, which increases my profits on another of my ISK ventures. I could be making bank with just PI, by turning the shit I pull from planets into the highest tier PI, which is used to build POS mods and POCOs (as well as other Sov structures). It requires a bit of reading to understand how it works, and a small amount of ISK to set up, but once you've invested and set everything up, it's easy. You log in once every 3 days, more some stuff around and click a few buttons and look, you've made 300m per character per month. Another advantage of PI is that it scales with multiple characters incredibly well. I knew a man who ran 17 accounts, each with 3 characters running a vast PI setup. He was making mad, mad bank. One consideration is that it only becomes properly profitable in 0.0 space, and when you or your corp or your alliance owns the POCO through which you transfer you resources. This is going to change in the Rubicon expansion, when HS POCOs will be player owned and won't be a stupidly high tax rate. Want my market tip right now? Start PI now and build yourself some POCOs. Additionally, if you do make the whole chain to P4, it gets rather profitable when a major war breaks out as sov items like SBUs (Sovereignty Blockade Units) are made with PI products and are destroyed on a regular basis. During the Fountain war, the amount of ISK destroyed in POCOs alone was extraordinary.
Moongoo - This comes in two parts. Firstly, you are a reasonable sized corp and have the ability to destroy, place and defend a tower which extracts resources from a moon, which you then sell on the market. This is traditionally how the major Alliances make their bucks. The rarer the moon, the more valuable it is and the more people are going to fight over it. This can be done by individuals, but bear in mind that people can and will come over to your house and blow it up and there isn't much you can do about it. It requires a fairly sizable amount of capital investment (which can easily be lost), and requires a monthly fee in the form of the fuel you use to keep your tower online.
Reactions - The second part of the moongoo thing is to react different moon resources together to make another goo. This goo is then sold on the market and is used as components in Tech 2 modules. This is a complicated way of making ISK, and does require a large investment. The investment does tend to be proportional to the amount of ISK you make from it though. It's slightly safer than mining the moon goo, as you can do these reactions in back water systems on moons that are literally worthless, and it's less likely that the big bad wolf will come and blow it all down. Conversely, the way these setups work optimally, means that it very hard to incorporate actual defences into your POS setups, meaning that if some does want to come kill your tower, there isn't anything you can do to stop them or slow them down. This is how I made the majority of my money. Each reaction needs two or more towers to run optimally. I ran two x two tower setups. Within each setup, one tower mined an R16 product, and the other mined a R4 product, and then the two were mixed (with a little hauling once a week) and produced Fernite Carbide, which made me around 450m a month for each setup (so 900m a month total). I further increased this profit by making my own fuel blocks from PI and ice mining. I imported a few components (the PI that I was not producing and the correct racial isotope) and built them locally. This made by profit go from 450m to 750m per setup and was totally worth my time. The reaction I ran was one of the simplest, and there are some setups that can produce profits of 1.5b per tower per month. It also scales very well. The more towers you have, the more profit you make. There are people out there that have 30-40 towers running. One more downside of this is that it requires quite a lot of logistics in terms of getting things in and out of wherever your towers are, safely.
Scamming - A niche area, but I made a few bil from this so it's worth mentioning. Basically, convince people to hand over their money or assets to you in return for something that doesn't exist. This ranges from the "I'll double your ISK" to the "Buy my super carrier" or "Join CFC". These methods often require a reasonable amount of forethought and time investment but very rarely have any actual ISK investment. One of the biggest risks here is that you get banned because you broke one of CCPs grey area rules. Tip: Never imply someone should buy PLEX in order to give it to you, and never impersonate someone that you are not. You can also count your profit in the amount of tears you've extracted, if you're into that kind of thing.
Services - A lot of my money was gained by doing things for other players. This includes odd jobs such as moving people's ships between deployments for a nominal fee, to setting up a jump freighter service for a corp or alliance where you regularly handle contracts in return for set amounts of isk. I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could be paid for doing things for the Alliance. As well as being paid monthly in return for the responsibility of ensuring the Alliance Logistics ran smoothly and had things where they needed to be when they were needed, I was also paid for the time I spent setting up new staging towers and new mining towers. 300m a pop. This was especially profitable as I had multiple alts that could sit in different systems and do them at the same time. Whilst I've never done it myself, there are also services that I've seen others do such as buying salvage at 95% value - which they then either sell or turn into other things, bespoke ships services where you pay a nominal fee for someone to take care of the whole "buy a ship and fittings from Jita, get it shipped to where I want it and then fit it for me" deal. I'm a lazy person and I often make use of such services. This method of making ISK does require forethought and investment, and whilst it can be very profitable, it can also be very time consuming and stressful as you are mostly dealing with autists a lot of the time.
Industry - Building stuff is an area I've only dabbled in to be honest, I've built fuel blocks, and I once built a rifter, but other than that, I've steered fairly clear. It ranges from the entry level of building ammo, all the way to the complex operation that is building Capitals. Everything in this game, bar a handful of items, is built by players and obviously they wouldn't do it unless there was profit involved. It's an area I want to try to do more of, and I have a character that can do it pretty well and is not needed in my new wormhole adventure, so I might do a bit of this on the side. Fair warning though, I understand it involves a sizeable amount of maths and spreadsheets.
Characters - Good money can be made by buying, training and selling characters. CCP has very strict rules on how characters are bought and sold, so it's actually a fairly safe practice. You buy a character (or start a new one) train it for a specific goal (such as a Supercarrier pilot) and then sell it to someone else for ISK. The market is pretty predictable, but it's very easy to fall into a trap where you buy a character for what you think is a good price, when in fact it is not a good price and no-one wants to buy the character from you. I've never done this myself, firstly as I already have too many characters and I couldn't handle the responsibility of another and secondly as I get very emotionally attached to characters that I own, so don't want to sell them (If you know me, you'll know all my characters have very similar names, which means selling one of them would be like me selling my leg).
This post got much longer than I was expecting.