I do read the posts in the Brave Newbies subreddit, even though I feel a little strange posting in it as a non-member. It’s a great place to find out what different kinds of players thinks about. A comment made about my How to Fly a Dramiel post suggested that seeding markets and making isk in null is a lot harder than I make it out to be.
I know I’m not space-rich. For that reason, I’ve never considered writing a “how I made my isk” article. But, the topic was raised, and I wanted to go through how I made my isk, if only to show that it’s very possible to be comfortable, even without being ground-breaking or particularly smart. If I can do it, anyone can.
I started playing in 2009. I remember being confused about how anyone actually traveled anywhere. I panicked when I warped to a belt and my capacitor was down to almost 50% – I barely had enough to get back to the station (I know, right?)! I learned enough of the basics to run missions, feeling a bit of pride the day I broke 100 mil, but single-player Eve wasn’t very engaging to me and I left after a few months.
I came back two years later and joined a null-sec jack-of-all-trades corp. I was buying PLEX to sell for about 400 mil each, which was enough to pay for what ended up being a lot of losses. I wasn’t really a big fan of paying for in-game currency (I’m still not), so I didn’t really accrue assets through PLEX. I turned to anomalies to make money. Many of my corp- and alliance-mates talked about how anomalies, and particularly Forsaken Hubs, were the way to go, so I started running them in a Drake.
I would grind enough isk to afford a new ship, which I’d take out PvPing and promptly lose. While my isk wasn’t increasing, I had made the switch from losing PvE ships to low-sec gate camps (back when I didn’t realize what I was doing or where I was going) to losing PvP ships in fair fights. I was learning PvP, and I was enjoying myself.
I realized I had to find a full-time PvP corp if I wanted to improve my combat flying. I excluded all the groups who had regularly attacked my former alliance – I didn’t want to immediately turn around and attack my friends. That’s when I found Razor. At the time, my net worth was about 1.5 billion isk.
At the time, Razor held only five systems in Pure Blind. While they were part of the CFC, this was long before the CFC was fat and happy with all its beautiful Guristas ratting space. I loved the PvP, and ran anoms to pay for my losses. My wallet increased to about 3 billion isk.
However, within a few short months, the CFC swept across the northern portion of the map, conquering Branch, Vale, and Fade, then eventually sealing off the net and taking Tribute. Razor recovered the Tenal they lost about six months before I joined.
Very soon after, I learned a new term: cosmic signatures. Cosmic signatures are where – up until a few months ago – the money in null-sec is. I trained Valeria to have max Tengu skills and perfect scanning, and would scan with her while Talvorian was PvPing in fleets. Valeria was able to make isk very quickly in signatures. As time went on, I maxed her training, but that only gained me the ability to perma-run her tank and reduce the time to run a site. Because running sigs has a lot of down-time as you scan, shortening the time to run a single site didn’t really increase the income. In fact, most of my sig running happened before my Tengu character was fully trained.
This is when I started plexing my accounts regularly. Running sigs was so profitable that I was clearing 2-3 billion per month after buying 2 PLEX. I was spending only a very little time actually ratting, and the rest of the time I was cloaked up with probes out. If I found a target during PvP, I could idle my scanner without any risk. Early on I took some PvE losses as I forgot I jumped her through a gate with rats on the other side (scanning ships) or an occasional base Tengu was killed, but the isk was coming in hand-over-fist.
This is when I started trying to diversify my isk-making. I didn’t want to have to rat anymore if I could avoid it. Once you have about 5-6 billion liquid isk, the options start to open up considerably. I started stocking our staging systems with some small-volume, high-value goods. Players are always happy to pay to not have to haul their own goods from Jita. Implants, in particular, resulted in good business. They were small, allowing me to use my Tengu (nullified, cloaked, and nano’d) to move them, though their individual sell value was very high. Acceptable markups for alliance mates still more than made them worth the trip, and no carrier or jump freighter was needed.
I found a Cadmium moon a few months before the moon goo prices first dropped, and abandoned it when it wasn’t worth the effort tor run it anymore. That was a big mistake, given the current price of Caesarium Cadmide. I found a few more in 0.4 systems, but being USTZ, I missed the big rush when CCP officially opened them up, and was left with a few poorly producing Platinum moons, most of which I abandoned recently. As far as costs, setting up the moon generally takes about a month’s worth of profit (most of which you get back if your moon isn’t destroyed). I also had to “pay” by pausing training on my main characters to briefly skill up two other characters (as well as start a new corp). I’d say I’ve made a couple billion off that, all tolled.
I also got into the habit of selling PvP characters. Every so often, I’d decide I wanted to join a low-sec group with a PvP character, for both legitimate small-gang PvP and scamming purposes, but as soon as I was in, I’d lose interest. You can really only give your attention to one corp at a time when you play 2-3 hours. Besides, after talking with the players in the other corp, I couldn’t bring myself to scam them. I’m weak like that.
So, I’d end up with very good, under-priced character buys, which I’d skill up a little to round out their rough edges and then re-sell them, usually for 5-6 bil profits. Through a series of three buy/sell cycles, I turned 4 billion isk into 21 billion isk. Not a bad way to earn a living.
I also keep my eyes open for any firesales from alliance mates when a corp or player leaves the alliance or when we re-deploy. I can usually pick up a few T2s or T3s fully fitted for 50% or 75% of their value. Mind you, if I make someone in the alliance an offer, it’ll be reasonably priced. But I’m not above taking advantage of someone else’s ridiculously low price point!
But the most important factor I’ve found in accruing isk is in making sure I only have assets I intend to use. Talvorian has ships staged in three systems: a low-sec roaming staging, the Tenal capital, and our deployment staging system. Sure, I have a variety of ships at each, but I regularly review them to make sure I’m both willing to undock and familiar with how to fly it. If something doesn’t meet that criteria, I sell it in Jita.
Much like in poker, the thing that differentiates a winning player from a losing player isn’t how much they win when they win, but rather how much they lose when they lose. Every time you go out in a ship, know who you want to shoot and how you’re going to fly it; don’t undock if your goal is to lose your ship. Those losses add up. Don’t actually fly drunk (I know, it’s called a drunk roam, but that’s just a name…). And never join a true welp fleet – if the goal is to die, you’ll likely achieve that goal, and over time that’ll make your wallet drop considerably.
And that’s honestly the only aspect of my income and expenditure that I think is genuinely difficult to reproduce. Repercussus has an awesome logistics system in place to supply roaming ships, and Razor puts all of the fleet doctrine ships on contract for easy resupplying. I can easily stay well-stocked with ships without having to keep a lot of supplies myself.
But other than that, the tactics I used to accrue my meager wealth can be reproduced by anyone. Access to null-sec isn’t really that hard to come by – even Guristas space is easy to reach through PBLRD. My initial isk from buying a couple plex and mission running is hardly ground-breaking, and the second-tier options – finding a very low-grade moon, supplying local markets with high-value, high-demand items, and buying and selling characters, isn’t skill-based at all (granted, you need to train a couple skills to start a corp and anchor a POS, but the CEO of my moon mining corp has less than the 900,000 sp provided by an Alpha clone). And all this was done enjoying the game for 2-3 hours a day at most.
The one trick I’d say definitively, though, is that it’s much easier to PLEX two accounts than it is to PLEX one. The first can do all the things needed to keep you in a good, PvP alliance, while a character on the other account can handle collecting all that isk for the first character to blow through. It seems counter-intuitive, but it really is true. Without Valeria’s account, Talvorian wouldn’t be flying capitals today, or have the isk to sell characters or stock markets.
And that’s how you get to 50 billion playing casually. It really takes the edge off, so much that you won’t get upset at losing your Brutix Navy Issue trying to get to the Revenant event. Well, not as upset, anyways. (Well done, Marmite. You picked a beautiful spot to camp!)