The market and overall economic activity is one of EVE Online's strongest features. Each of these reaches a level of complexity and verisimilitude that can hold a lot of allure for the right player. If you are such a player, but worry that you are too new to EVE Online to dip your feet into those chilling waters, this is the guide is for you. This guide covers the initial stages of trading, and some basic premises that inexperienced traders should find interesting.
Most importantly of all, because trading is very lucrative. Secondly, it can practiced contemporaneously with other profit-garnering activities. You can even play the Jita market (the biggest market system in EVE Online) while running missions or mining several systems away, while maintaining your orders with remote trading skills. If that's your bag.
style="font-style: italic;">Don't sell to buy orders or buy from sell orders unless you are in an extraordinary hurry.
Trading can make you incredibly rich by speculating on the right commodities and performing price arbitrage. Even small differences in price can yield enormous riches if you can resell enough of that item.
Trading can allow you to make more ISK from whatever else you have going on. If you mine, manufacture, run missions, or whatever, you can make more ISK from it by playing the market with the proceeds.
Trading can get you modules and ships at below the sell price. It may seem like a no brainer that it is better to use buy orders to obtain goods, rather than sell orders, whenever possible. It may also seem like a no-brainer to use sell orders rather than selling to the (often insultingly low) buy orders for that item. Well, it isn't a no-brainer, because the majority of EVE Online players' market transactions ignore this rule of thumb.
Trade is the life-blood of EVE Online, and the more you are a part of that, the more you will flourish. Gaining an intimate understanding your portion of the market is the key to your success.
Step One: Investment Capital
The primary difficulty for most people getting started is that setting up buy orders or making speculative purchases requires startup capital. The usual way to build up enough scratch is to run missions for a little while. If you are impatient, you can sell a timecard, but for most players it is better to run missions. Not only will running missions give you a better idea of how EVE Online's game mechanics work, they will also give you an idea of what items are useful in missions, dropped by NPCs that are blown up during missions, and give you some idea of where new players are running missions (the better for you to put up insultingly low buy orders for newbies to fill because they don't know any better).
Keep in mind that it really does not take that much ISK to start playing something like the tech one market. You can get modules in Jita for 5k ISK per unit, and sell them in an outlier system like Torrinos for twenty times that amount. Buy orders are always profitable, and setting orders for a few tech one varieties or ammunition won't break even a newbie player's bank. Especially if you make the buy order particular to a single solar system, since many regional buy orders will not try and compete with a buy order in a very limited area.
If you join a decent corporation, someone will probably be willing to give or lend you a small amount ISK to get your business started. Two things to remember, though: nobody will lend ISK to a trial account, and more than in any other MMO that I have player, nobody in EVE Online likes a beggar. On the other hand, as a newer player, even small amounts of ISK can really help you out, and older players are often happy to share their wealth. It's part of what's good about being rich in EVE Online: you can be generous to your friends.
Some people with very ambitious projects and proven track records manage to raise money by asking for investors, but that requires years of building a reputation to accomplish. Not advised for a newbie player, as nobody will have much reason to trust you to use their money responsibly, never mind just running off with it.
Whenever you are going to invest capital in something, be it a blueprint original, a mission-running ship, or whatever, you should ask yourself whether it will pay for itself. If it will not, but it will be fun, fine. But if you are buying something like a ship blueprint that will not pay for itself within a reasonable timeframe, you have to consider whether the long-term investment is really worth it.
Step Two: Experiment With Your Market
Try exploring a couple of different markets at the same time, and capitalizing on price differences between them. The less efficient a market is, the more ISK there is to be made from people that patronize it.
Buy orders are good, especially for items that people don't use or expect to fetch a high price. These items can then be refined into minerals, that can then be sold or used to make a producible item.
style="font-style: italic;">The hardest part of getting into trading isn't the start-up capital. Rather, it's finding your niche.
Buy contracts for contract-only items that can be resold for a hefty profit are a good idea, too, if you can spot a decent item. Because certain items only appear on the contracts market, and using the contracts market is inefficient for managing many contracts at once, it is often a great deal less competitive.
Look at items that are for sale in a solar system that you suspect will make a good market for buying undervalued items, in your market browser. Browse through the items, looking for underpriced modules, or valuable items that might be produced locally but do not have especially high buy order offerings. Look at market graphs to see if a lot of those items are sold, on a daily basis. Eventually, you should start connecting lines.
Step Three: Find Your Niche
When you find a solar system or set of solar systems that seem to be making you a lot of ISK, stay there. When you find something that is remarkably profitable, leverage that as much as possible. It is axiomatic in economics that knowing about a single very profitable thing is better than knowing about many semi-profitable opportunities. Leverage your success. If you think the profitable buy orders (or whatever you've noticed) can be expanded to additional solar systems, repeat the process as much as you can, as long as it doesn't make your life too difficult.
Don't do anything silly like put up region-wide buy orders, or you'll end up spending half your EVE time docking in a station just to get something worth only a few ISK. You want to contain your projects to a very limited area, so as not to waste your time. Find something localized, yet still active and profitable.
Volume Versus Margins
This is a very important rule of thumb in EVE Online: The more an item is traded, the lower its margins have a tendency to be. The rarer and less traded an item is, the larger its margins end up being.
Pretty much every item in EVE Online falls somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. This is a key concept. You can invest in items that are purchased sporadically, making a large profit, or you can invest in items that move in huge stacks at a time.
For my part, I have found that more money is to be made on volume, but this requires a similarly high amount of personal expertise to make sure the price doesn't fluctuate downwards and cause you to lose your shirt.
To use a concrete example, consider the recent tech one mineral price crash. If you had been playing with large amounts of minerals in an attempt to earn money on their general price fluctuations, you could have lost a tremendous amount of ISK if you had not read the Tyrannis patch notes. Similarly, anything made out of those minerals took a nose dive in price, too. Ironically, nothing in EVE Online happens in a vacuum. The moral of the story is to be careful when volume trading.
Go Forth And Nub It Up
Well, there you go. Some general guidelines for getting into trading. You may also find the following Ten Ton Hammer guides on the subject to be useful:
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