Jon has been playing "Eve Online" since 2004 and has written about most aspects of the game.
How to Earn ISK in Eve Online
In this article, I will go over the many ways to earn ISK that are available to players in Eve Online. It is written for people that have played the game for a little while and are familiar with some of the terms used in Eve. If you haven't played the game you should check out my overview of Eve Online.
Income streams can be roughly summed up in three categories: Passive, Semi-Passive, and Active Income. They all have their pros and cons, and there really is no single best way to make money—it all depends on your gaming style. For example, if you can play Eve for several hours a day, then incursions might be the best way for you to make money. If your time is limited, then manufacturing and trading might be the best way for you to make money.
- Passive Income comes from an activity that requires little actual gamer input to earn the ISK after the ISK source has been set up. Examples of such are DataCore research, BPO research, and planetary mining.
- Semi-Passive Income is generated by activities that require some amount of player input on a regular basis. Examples of such are mining, manufacturing, and trading.
- Active Income is generated by constant player input. Examples of such are mission running, wormhole plexing, and incursions.
Passive Income Sources
Let's start out with passive income sources. There are income sources everyone should aspire to have as they take very little time to manage and can be a great way to make money with very little effort in the long run.
Planetary interaction (PI for short) is a method in which materials from planets are mined, refined, and combined to form POS modules. The basics of PI are explained in this excellent guide on planetary interaction. Briefly, the skills needed are the following:
- Command Center Upgrades
- Interplanetary Consolidation
- Planetology + Advanced Planetology
- Remote Sensing
If you intend to do PI you should try to get those skills to Level 4. That way you can almost maximize your income while not spending to much time on skill training.
The income from planetary mining varies greatly between highsec, lowsec and nullsec, with nullsec (and wormhole space) having the best income. In highsec, you can expect to earn at least a million ISK a day from each of your planets when you get your skills up a bit. In a good nullsec location, you can expect 4–5 million ISK a day for each planet.
Buying and researching BPO's is a nice passive income source and the best part is that you can get started with minimum science skills. The income will, however, will be better the better your science skills are. The main skills in question are:
- Laboratory operation
- Advanced Laboratory Operation
The possible amount of ISK that you can earn depends heavily on the blueprints being used and the availability of lab slots. However, 30 million ISK a month for each slot in use should be attainable. With advanced laboratory operation at Level 4, you can use 10 slots simultaneously, meaning profits in the region of 300 million ISK a month. You might wonder why I don't just tell you what blueprints to research. The reason is that should I recommend any specific blueprint, everyone that reads this will do the same, thus cutting the profits for that blueprint to near zero. Just do a little research on the market, check contracts for copies or researched BPOs, and see what's being sold and for what profits.
Datacores From Research Agents
This used to be a great way to make money in Eve Online. I used to make 12 million ISK a day myself doing absolutely nothing for a few months—but then the rest of the Eve world caught on, and finally CCP nerfed it with changes to factional warfare. Today, you can get about 100k for each Datacore sold, meaning that 12 million ISK a day became about 500 thousand ISK a day. The time needed to get decent research agents, coupled with the skills needed, makes this something to reach for when you have nothing better to do.
You need a skill called Research Project Management to Level 4 to be able to have five research agents. Also, you need the science skill compatible to the Datacore at the minimum Level 4 to get good research points, the good news here is that the same skill helps you with invention, should you go there.
You also need a standing of 5.0 with a research corp to get access to the best research agents. The Connections skill helps with that. Higher standings and the Negotiation skill also gives you more research points.
If you go for Datacore research at this point, I wish you well. Just don't be upset if the rewards are not exactly what you had in mind.
Semi-Passive Income Sources
This type of income source is ideal for those that cannot spend many hours a day glued to the computer. For many an Eve player, this is how they make money in the game. In this category, we have, mining, manufacturing, invention, and moon mining.
Mining is really easy and can be a useful income source. A max skilled, fully fitted Mackinaw pilot can easily pull in ore for 15–30 million ISK an hour in highsec, depending on Orca support. It used to be much higher in nullsec, however, nowadays it's somewhat leveled out but you can still expect about 40% more income. You can read this guide on ore mining to learn everything there is about ore mining.
The way this can be a semi-passive income source is by mining semi-afk (only advised in highsec). If you use a mackinaw with its large ore hold you can set your ship to mine large asteroids and then take care of other duties for up to 20–30 minutes. You can also do the same with mining ice, however, that is usually not as profitable.
There is a risk though of getting ganked, even in highsec, however, if you fit your mining ship properly the risk is reduced. I have lost a couple of exhumers because I was semi-afk, but that's just the cost of doing business, the ISK I have made while doing laundry is far more than I have lost to suicide ganks.
Almost everything in eve is player made, as such manufacturing has a really important role in the game. Manufacturing can be separated into several fields. There is T1 production, invention and T2 production, POS module production, rig production, and T3 production.
In every case, you have the same basics. You always need a blueprint that details the required materials for a single production cycle and you need a manufacturing slot. That's about were the similarities end. The different types of production need different types of materials and blueprints, T2 production needs blueprints that are invented and often materials from moon mining, T3 production need blueprints that are reverse engineered from wormhole sleeper loot and also materials from wormholes, rigs use salvaged materials and POS modules use materials from planetary interaction.
The best way to start manufacturing is via T1 production so I will go in some detail over that.
The first thing you need is to get the skill Production Efficiency to Level 4, and preferably to Level 5. The reason for that is to ensure maximum profit from your production, as higher skill means fewer materials used.
Next, you need a blueprint. You can buy a blueprint copy (BPC) that has already been researched from contracts or you can invest in an original blueprint (BPO) and get it researched. With research, I mean getting the ME value ( lowers minerals used) and the PE value (reduces time) to at least 8–9 for most BPO's. Having ME at 10 and Production efficiency at 5 means you will have no waste in materials per cycle which increases profitability in the long run.
Before you buy the blueprint you should do some market research. You really don't want to produce something at a loss. You should calculate the cost of production using the price of sell orders. The reason for that is simple. Let's say you have 10.000 tritanium and want to produce shuttles with it. You can sell the tritanium on market via sell orders for 70.000 ISK. Now you need to be able to sell the shuttles for more than 70.000 ISK, otherwise, it's simply better to sell the tritanium in the first place. And this holds true even if you mined the minerals yourself and did not need to buy them.
Now, the main skills besides Production Efficiency are:
- Advanced Mass Production: More manufacturing slots.
- Mass Production: More manufacturing slots.
- Industry: Faster production.
You should try to get these to level 4–5 as soon as possible.
Now if you have found an item you want to produce, you got the materials needed and are in a station with a manufacturing slot the rest is easy, simply right-click the blueprint and select manufacture, enter the number of cycles and press start.
As for profits that really depends on the items being produced and your skills. But if you find the correct items and have the BPO's researched, you should be able to earn about 50–100 million each month from each manufacturing slot you can use. For T2 production or T3 production, this can be considerably higher, but those require more skills and extra logistics.
Invention is the process needed to produce T2 blueprint copies for T2 production. What you need is a racial specific decryptor, Datacores, and a blueprint copy (BPC) to create a T2 BPC. The chance rates for T2 invention are in the range of 20–70%, depending on skills, meta items used, and what's being invented.
There is not much profit from T2 invention alone compared to T2 production, but if you have a nice chain of BPC creation and invention you can make a nice amount of ISK from your research slots.
The same skills as in blueprint research apply with the added skills of racial encryption methods and two science skills depending on the blueprint being used. It's recommended to get those skills at least to Level 4 as the invention chances increase with higher skills, as can be seen with this invention chance calculator.
Trading goods is by far the best way to make money. Every space billionaire in Eve Online has earned their ISK from trading at some point, and the richest people of Eve got there by trading. Having said that, trading is simply not for everyone. You will be going head to head with other players in a competition to get the sales. It can get maddening to have your order undercut in less than five minutes and have that repeating over and over again.
The best way to trade is to find a station that has nice orders with a decent margin, good turnover, and few competitors. There are not many like that left though, in most cases, you have to make do with just two out of three. Set up your buy and sell orders and trade away.
It is absolutely necessary to get your Accounting and Broker Relations skills up to reduce taxation. You also want to get your trade skills up to increase the number of orders you can have running at the same time. Margin trading is also a useful skill to have.
Here are a few helpful Eve Online trading tips and tricks. These are mostly suitable for newer players starting out trading, but might also be useful for more experienced traders.
Moon-mining is the method of creating T2 materials from base materials mined of moons. To mine moons, you need a POS and a moon with some materials in a system with security at 0.3 or below. To see if moons have materials, you need to scan them with moon probes.
There are moons left in the galaxy that can be profitable to mine from but they are few. The best moons have long since been taken by the large alliances in Eve Online as they can earn 10's of billions of ISK each month and are the fuel that runs the alliances.
Despite that, you could have a chance of finding moons that earn about 50 million ISK a month with some work.
Active Income Sources
Active income sources are usually the fastest to make ISK on an hourly basis. They, however, do not earn you a single cent unless you are actively playing the game. The active sources are ratting, mission running, incursions, exploring, and wormhole plexing.
Simply put, ratting is the activity of killing NPC pirates for bounties. The profits from ratting in highsec are very limited. In lowsec, you can get a little ISK. In a good nullsec system, you can expect to earn about 15–20 million an hour. In some cases, you get lucky and find the very rare officer rats, the loot from those can sometimes sell for over a billion ISK.
Mission running is the activity of completing missions for agents that can be found throughout the galaxy. The agents are ranked from Level 1 to 5, with more rewards and harder missions as the agent rank increases. A Level 4 mission runner can easily get 20 million ISK an hour from rewards, loot, and bounties in highsec space.
The trouble with mission running is the storyline missions. While they are often really rewarding and give you important standings with your faction, they also cause you to get negative standings with the enemy faction, if you get to low standings you may experience difficulties entering that factions space later on. Some mission runners counter this by running missions for opposing faction to cancel out the negative standings. Just be careful with the storyline standings.
This is a real money maker. I have never done it myself, but I am told you can earn up to 100 million ISK for a single hours' work. This activity however really demands excellent teamwork and I am also told that to get into a good incursion team can take a long time.
You are also expected to have excellent combat skills and the ability to fly a fully T2 fitted battleship at the least, but nowadays those are a dime a dozen. However, if you can fly a logistics ship and have the skill at Level 5 you have an advantage.
The best way to get into incursions is probably to find a corporation that specializes in doing incursions, there are channels in-game that try to team up people but it can take time to get into incursion fleets through those in addition to the trust issue.
The only reasonable way to make money from wormhole plexing is to join a wormhole corporation. The sleepers are just too hard to solo efficiently, and you run the very real risk of getting killed in the wormhole on your own as it's just like 0.0 space with the added twist of no local chat to warn you of hostiles.
A good wormhole corp can let you earn a lot of ISK, not as much as incursions maybe but close, you might also get the bonus of PI in wormholes which gives great passive ISK and perhaps even the chance to do some T3 production which is really lucrative. You will, however, need to live in the wormhole and that means living out of a POS, which is just not everybody's cup of tea.
Of course, there are dozens of other methods to make money in Eve Online. You can go pirate and demand ransoms or become a bounty hunter and collect bounties on those pirates. You can scam your way into ISK or you can steal from your corporation or alliance. You can even suicide gank in highsec for profit. As a sandbox game, there's really no limit to how you play the game.
The method I write of above are the ones I believe are most used in the game and are generally dependable for ISK if done properly. So start making some ISK now and enjoy the ride that is Eve Online.
© 2014 Jon Sigurdsson
Matthew M. Dean on May 21, 2020:
I make 200+ mil/hr FC'ing Armor Incursions in HQ - https://i.imgur.com/TtAk0lw.png
Tom on February 22, 2020:
Recent update is misleading as this is still very out of date. “Production Efficiency” hasn’t existed as a skill for the better part of a decade.
Srinimf from India on September 27, 2018:
Earning money in different ways explained well.
AndersMT on April 18, 2018:
When blitzing L4 missions and running primarily Anomic Agents/Bases/Teams you will earn between 100-250m/hour depending on how many of the anomics you can do and your efficiency.
For null sec ratting:
Vexor Navy Issue makes around 40-60m/hour and is afkable.
Carrier ratting makes around 90-150m/hour depending on efficiency.
Supercarrier ratting makes around 240-350m/hour depending on efficiency.
Titan ratting makes around 240-300m/hour but requires very few clicks, compared to carrier ratting.
For mining in nullsec a Rorqual will make about the same as a supercarrier, but with very little effort in comparison.
If you do it in a regular carrier you can expect between 90-150m depending on fits, skills and efficiency.
Jon Sigurdsson (author) from Iceland on March 14, 2018:
This is a really old article, I guess I need to update it soon. So how much can you make from these burner / Anomic missions?
T'senei on March 14, 2018:
Info about missions rewards in HS are incorrect.You can make waaay more than 20 mil/hr if you run L4 burner / Anomic team missions which are given by the same L4 agent who provides normal missions.
Jon Sigurdsson (author) from Iceland on January 25, 2018:
You should try it out. It's now free to play with an alpha clone, which is limited, but good enough to get a feel for the game.
Eric Farmer from Rockford Illinois on January 24, 2018:
Very nice guide. I have read about Eve Online often but I have not tried it.
Kamikaze Killjoy on May 28, 2017:
Best method for solo starter player is Anom running. Get a Vexor, t2 hobgobs and Hammer Heads. fit it with a probe launcher (preferably sisters faction for boosts) and Sister Probes (Not combat probes)
A single rep bricked vexor reps any 3/10 site. just stay in hs and you'll make about 200-300 million a day easy.
The highest amount I've made in HS was from a single site called an improved drifter cache. (i'm fuzzy on the name because i haven't played in about a year but it has limited/standard/improved in it's name) which came to just over 1 billion in only a few hours of anom running.
Now keep in mind. you wont always find good stuff in a day (2 hours of anom running) but you'll definitely be able to plex your account by the end of the month every month, and still have some left over to fund your pvp/pve endeavors.
MasterPsycho from Earth on September 07, 2016:
i remember in the past i so wanted to get into Eve online but the amount of time it needed in order to get a good hip was daunting.....very good guide
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 16, 2015:
Nelia on February 16, 2015:
Ah, i see. Well tha'ts not too tricky at all!"