Nature abhors a vaccuum, and the markets of EVE Online abhor them even more. Market gaps occur in null-sec naturally, as game mechanics change or, especially, when territory changes hands. Once all the old producers have fled and the new locals are taking up residence, there will be wide market gaps even amongst the most organized inhabitants. Even if there aren't gaps, new markets will often have uncompetitive prices and thus be ripe for your personal competition. Or, if you're anything like me, you can take steps to ensure that the market remains both uncompetitive and vulnerable to monopoly.
The gist of the idea here is to set up a very large number of sell orders for easily produced items that sell at large markups despite their low production cost. There are many modules that will always have customers, and always sell at above their manufacture cost. By selling a wide spread of critical goods, you can turn a profit even if you have too much competition on a single product.
This business model applies best to null-sec, but if there are sufficient customers in a low-sec system it would work there as well. The idea is less effective in high-security space because there are not barriers to competition, and many people do their shopping at market hubs like Jita. In high-sec you would be selling based on convenience rather than a seller's market, which means the markups would be less.
This article assumes that you as a player are already familiar with how to make items, and how to obtain and research blueprint originals. It also assumes that you are able to assess how much an item costs to manufacture, and won't have too much of a problem meeting your mineral needs. If you are incapable of any of these things, try reading Econ 101 and my article on buying a Drake blueprint, and see if things make more sense to you.`
Where To Set Up
Your base will need be a factory near where you live. That's where you'll be making your goods and selling them. If that's the same station people seem to be setting up in and buying things from, so much the better. If not, you'll need to cart the goods to your market station.
Customers are the most important part of the equation. If there are customers, you will profit. If the solar system is a ghost town, you should move somewhere else.
A Wide Spread
There are a few ways to go about this, but either way you should be focusing on covering as many bases as possible. Staple tech one modules that everybody uses, varieties of ammunition that see use for PVP and killing the local NPCs, and/or all ammunition types if your chosen spot is a mission-running hub.
Below, I go over some of the goods that you should manufacture. It is a good idea not to make too many of them at once, as you never know when some goody goody will show up and list a million of that item at a lamentable reasonable price. So hedge your bets, make a couple weeks' worth of each item, at a time. Make more as they sell out, and keep that turnover rate high.
Make a list of the items in your blueprint collection. Whenever you notice that an item is selling particularly well or poorly, make a note of it. This way you can actually change your production to meet demand, despite selling too many items to micromanage.
My method is as follows: on my list, I always sell modules in stacks of fifty and ammunition in stacks of thirty-thousand. Any time an order sells out, I put a check next to the item on the list. Thus, items with high turnarounds have a lot of checks, and items with low turnaround have few.
If an item has a high turnover rate but is still selling above what it costs for you to make it, it is still worth producing. Selling items with a high velocity of sale and low profit margin can often eclipse items that have a higher markup but slower turnaround.
Staple Tech One Modules
The following modules hardly require any minerals to make at all, but often command a disproportionately high price because they see such common use. They are your bread and butter. I try to explain why they sell so well, to give you a better idea of what to look for when selling items. Even advanced players with lots of skill-points will use these modules, sooner or later.
Note, also, that these modules have so few requirements that unless the market they are in is very robust indeed, you can happily make them with only Production Efficiency IV. Your margins are large enough that PE V is unnecessary.
Warp Core Stabilizer I: Used by anybody that wants to travel and avoid PVP, this module sees constant use, and it takes almost nothing to make.
Salvager I: Most ships that kill NPCs will use these to pick up extra cash. Again, easy to make, and often very overpriced. Similarly, the Analyzer I and Codebreaker I modules are usually in high demand, and producers often forget to market them.
Expanded Cargohold I: Pretty much every player in the game uses these, and the industrials that use them tend to get blown up decently often. Both the tech one and tech two version of this module see a brisk trade, in most areas.
Damage Control I: Essential for less skilled players, in many areas with more elite PVPers these will see less use because the tech two version of the module is so easy to train towards.
Reactor Control Unit I: Used to give ships more power grid and thus, more capability to fit larger weapons, these modules cost almost nothing, yet are often just as useful as their tech two version, and so they sell quite well in areas where players use lots of battleships.
Core Probe Launcher I and Expanded Probe Launcher I: These cost almost nothing to make, yet can command excessively high prices. Any explorer not willing to shell out for the faction version will use these, as will the anomaly-hunters that are becoming increasingly common in null-sec.
There are tons of other tech one modules that are useful, and that people sometimes prefer over the tech two equivalent. Any time you yourself need to use a module, consider whether it would be worth getting the blueprint and selling it.
As you probably know, each NPC race has a damage type that they are most vulnerable to. And, as you probably also know, there are certain ammo types that are favored for PVP. You should determine the optimal ammo types to use against the local NPC race, for each weapon system (Lasers, Hybrids, Projectiles, and Missiles), and make that ammo type for each size. I will discuss some kinds of ammunition that will always sell, below. Note that ammo requires Production Efficiency V in order to be produced at a profitable rate, and will go through considerable amounts of minerals (as opposed to the modules above).
Lasers: Multifrequency, Standard, and Microwave of all sized tend to sell very well, no matter what area of the game you are in. In Angel space, this will probably only be for PVP purposes, as lasers are ineffective against the Angels. Lasers take a lot of expensive minerals like zydrine and megacyte. So much so, that you may find yourself needing to import it from high-sec.
Hybrids: Iron L and M are favored for sniping, and S for making the most of short-ranged frigate guns. Actually, most varieties of hybrid ammunition with a range bonus see some use, and the short-ranged Antimatter is by for the most commonly used, especially Antimatter Charge L.
Projectiles: For PVE, ammo usage varies as wildly as do the damage types involved. Carbonized Lead, EMP, and Phased Plasma all see heavy use in PVP, though all of the ammunition types have their uses now that they have been buffed with the Dominion patch.
Missiles: Missiles are probably the most commonly used weapon type for shooting NPCs. Thus, you will do a brisk trade in Cruise Missiles and Torpedoes of whatever type does the most damage to your local NPCs. In addition to those, Terror Assault Missiles and Scourge Heavy Missiles are used by Drakes because they deal kinetic damage, no matter the local NPC type. Thermal-inflicting missiles of all categories see use in PVP, as this is the generally favored damage type.
With high turnover ammunition, it usually isn't worth fighting an intense price war. Change your prices once a day or whatever you are comfortable with, and don't make any more replacement ammo until you think it will sell.
For situations where, God forbid, someone starts competing with you by selling modules at a very reasonable markup, buy them out to keep the module price as high as possible. If this seems impractical or you don't want to encourage them, just tic that module off your list for a while. Eventually, the price will bounce back to obscene profit ranges.
If your corporation or alliance CEO tries to set some sort of absurd price guidelines, train market skills on a second character, don't tell anybody it's you, and have him continue selling the goods. If your "alt" character can't dock in that station, have him train Daytrading so that he can sell things remotely.
To do this, you will need decent trade and production skills. Production Efficiency V is necessary if you want to do ammunition, which I strongly recommend because of its consistent profitability. In order to keep up supply, you will need Mass Production V and Advanced Mass Production IV, so as to have as many production jobs going at once, as possible.
Additionally, you shall require market skills in order to put up buy and sell orders. Trade IV and Retail IV give you a total 53 orders without taking too long to train. This is more than enough to get your feet wet. If you intend to make real bank you will eventually want to train Wholesale IV for an extra 64 orders.
But I'll Never Get Rich This Way
Sure, you will. I have an alt that only does what I have described in this article, and it pays for the account that its on, and then some. I don't even change the orders or manufacturing very often, I just make big stacks and parcel them onto the market once a week. Sometimes the stacks sell out, sometimes they don't. It isn't much work, and you have plenty of time to do other things that make ISK, too.
The key is to have a really bustling market, and to spread your net wide enough that you don't care about limited amounts of competition with certain items. Even if my particular market was healthy, I would still be earning tons of ISK,
That's all for now. Get out there and get filthy rich.