Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Finding your first good trades

It can be difficult learning what is good to trade and when to know when you are looking at a really good buy or a really good sales opportunity. This comes with experience, but there is a tool available to help you learn and decide what those good deals are. Its called the Market Window, when you are looking at products, learn to use the detail view of the item. This will show you how much things are going to cost you and how much you can sell them for in the whole region. If an item is being sought or sold, it will show up on the detail. The way to read the detail is to look at the order details, look for the cheapest sell order for the product and make sure the item is NOT in lowsec if you are not comfortable. Now find the most expnsive buy order, also making sure it is not in lowsec. Very often the prices will be very close, but usually there will be enough of a gap to make a profit.

You have to decide whether that gap is big enough to justify making the trip or not. If you can make a deal, travel only 1 jump and profit 5 million dollars, that is probably an amazingly good deal, especially for new traders. If you have to travel through 15 jumps and you only profit 20,000 isk, although yes its a profit, it may not be worth your time. You also want to make sure that your taxes and broker's fees don't turn that 20,000 ISK gross profit into zero net profit. The fastest way to build capital (money), is to find the best deals that create the least amount of work. For instance, in my case, sometimes Jita will have a buy order which FAR exceeds the value of a local buy order for my product, and although I might make 20 millioin ISK more for a single deal, I probably will be forced to travel between 15 and 20 jumps to get to Jita. My frieghter takes nearly 1.5 hours to get to Jita from my area of operation. Then I have to return FROM jita, and that's another 1.5 hours. In that time, I can literally make 4 or 5 trips in my normal routes, and gross profit 40 million ISK each full route.

Was it worth chasing that extra 20 Million ISK? Most definately not, I probably lose between 150-250 million ISK worth of gross profit if I did that. Needless to say I have only made that longer trip two times with my freighter, and its not worth it. I lost money, and I was so bored that I fell asleep at the COMM several times that evening before docking somewhere and getting some shut-eye.

Important Skills for Trade

without this skill you are useless as a trader. You need to train this up to level 4 I think to get access to the more advanced trade skills. Each level grants you 4 more outstanding orders. Level 4 I think is the highest level I recommend until you decide otherwise in your advanced career.

If you have an item in a station other than the one you are currently in, you need Marketting to sell it. Otherwise you have to get into your spaceship, fly to that station so that you may sell that item. Marketting allows you to do that without being forced to fly there.

does the same thing as marketting except it is for buy orders rather than sales. It lets you place a buy order in a distant station. Note: Anyone can by something for sale anywhere in their region without Procurement. Procurement only affects placing a "BUY ORDER" it does not affect buying something that is already for sale.

Day Trading
Like Procurement and Marketing, this skill lets you "adjust" the price of orders without having to be docked at the same station as the order.

Margin Trading
lets you place a buy order even if you don't have the full amount handy. This is useful if say you want to buy 10,000 units of tritanium, but you only have the money for 7,500 units. You can still place the buy order, and while it is slowly being filled you have time to make some more money to cover the purchase. Note: you still need to have the money at the time the buy is executed, otherwise the transaction simply fails, the buy order is cancelled, and you loose your broker's fees for the full transaction. As a larger buyer, I often place many buy orders across several systems and regions knowing that I will not be able to cover all the purchases. I however have guaranteed that I will get my orders filled to whatever I "can" afford regardless of whether business is slower in one area rather than another. The broker's fees are a small fraction of my profits, and I can afford to pay those extra broker's fees as a crude form of insurance that my buys get filled somewhere.

Once you have trade to lvl4, you need to train in Retail, this increases the number of outstanding orders you can manage at once. Increases your number of outstanding orders by 8 for each level.

When you are placing an order at the same station as the order, you can by default choose how far away you want people to be able to fill your order. For instance, if you place an order for 10,000 tritanium and set the range to Region, you will soon discover that you have a few units of tritanium scattered all over the region and you have to go pick them up. Seems like a pain in the neck and it is, but setting range is also quite useful when you only have space for one more order, and you want people in several nearby stations to be able to fill this order. Visibility provides the ability to set this range in exactly the same way but while you are setting up an order from a remote location, just procurement allows you to create remote buy orders, visibility allows you to set the range of remote orders.

Not a "necessary" skill except that it allows you to train for Margin Trading. Accounting has no real short term value, but over time it will save your lots of ISK that would otherwise be eaten as taxes.

Broker Relations
Also not very important, it does not enable an advanced skills, but also over time can save you lots of money. Until you get into really big trades, this skill is too expensive to be worth it. ROI on this skills can be measured in month and even years unless you trade hundreds of millions of ISK per trade.

How to get started in trade

Ok well, some people that I know in game have asked how to get started in trade. Many of these people are veteran pilots who just didn't know how to have successful career in trade. There is no other career in New Eden that has the profitablility that trade offers. No single other career path can approach the profit potential of Trade. Within a few weeks, even an entry level trader can make as much as a veteran miner, pirate or mission runner if they are smart about it.

So how do you get started?

It doesn't matter if you are a new pilot or a veteran player, the basic principles of successful trade are the same. As a new player, your first task is to make some money. Without money, you cannot operate. You can make some starting money by running missions. Your first training missions are a good place to start. You can also mine, or you can even run some trade routes if you have a few ISK to work with. The key is that you develop enough ISK, to own as big a ship as possible. For trade, especially early trade, the biggest ships available will come from the Gallante Federation, however whichever race's spaceship command skills you have chosen to train will do just fine. Although the size of your cargo hold makes a big difference in your profit potential, the way you operate is profoundly more important than the size of your cargo hold. A bigger cargo hold not only allows you to make more money, it also allows you to make bigger mistakes. So other than training your Industrial Spaceship skills, you want to learn how to operate smartly on the market above everything else. Start small, buying things you can afford and selling them for a little bit more than you paid for them. You can even make money on the market without even owning a space ship, however it is much harder early on without having the money to make the market malleable.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Where's the ISK?

After some toying around and paying attention to the mineral markets, I have determined that the cause of my new competition is literally caused by the removal of government subsidized ship markets (aka NPC shuttles). Because of all the speculation and movement in price of minerals, more people are speculating that the value of minerals will increase, and continue to increase.

I on the otherhand am operating normally, buying and selling. I am not sitting on stockpiles any longer than is required to get out to my systems which have minerals waiting for me. My immediate margins may not be astronomical at the moment, but the fact that I continue to operate normally and have many times more trades within a given period of time, I am certain I make making a lot more money than the speculators of similar net worth. Obviously if on has trillions of isk tied up in tritanium, a single sale can net a lot of money which I cannot compete with. At the same time, however, it isn't easy to sell that much tritanium at once unless you have buyers ready. Those people who are sitting on one or a few hundred million units of tritanium are definately behind the ball compared to my income which is rather significant and regular and perhaps most importantly, I can depend on it.

I similarly to Ka Jolo, a low-sec pirate who blogs at http://eve-pirate.blogspot.com/, am a young trader still learning the ropes but doing pretty well in the process. I estimate on my average days that I am still making about forty million ISK an hour of actual work. I do not mean that I make this money while I am offline, though my operation does continue while I am offline because people are selling to me ever few minutes of every day. However, it takes me approximately 1 hour to work a full load of minerals, and I can run at least one load a day, usually 3 or 4 loads. Over the weekends when I can spend more time babysitting the market and running my freighter to and fro between many end points, I can get in 5 or 6 full runs.

This Sunday however was abysmal. I was lucky to get two partial loads all day. Now I don't like to run partial loads, but I had buy orders ready to fail if I don't have the ISK to back them up. I needed to make those runs to make sure my wallet can cover the big trades so I don't loose money to my less deserving competetors. I don't actually loose money, but I do loose the profit.

Three days ago, I set up a public chat channel called "Interstellar Tritanium". It is my corp's public channel, however it is an open channel which I will use to keep in touch with friends I wouldn't otherwise be able to keep, and also as a place for local (meaning within the regions of my reach), miners and mineral traders to chat together in a place where we all have common interests and activities. I have connected with around 10 old friends so far, and made a few more.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Market getting tighter

Because I started mineral trading on the large scale only about 2 weeks ago, I am not really certain about the source of this effect in my area; however, the markets in my regions of operation have been getting a little tougher.

First, although I have been trading around two of these regions for a couple of months, I have not been much of a moving force. I have farmed more miners in the some of these areas by providing local places to sell their minerals for a fair price, but nothing compares to the power of a freighter when it comes to the ability to more minerals to mineral trade hubs.

I believe though I have literally created furtile ground for my own competition. You see traders review the activity of their regions when they place buys and sells. You can tell which systems have active trading even if you don't "log" that activity. You can tell because of pricing and volume. In places where minerals move a lot, and where there is competition, the buy price and the sell price of your product will be very close to one another and the majority of buy orders will tend to be larger.

Let me try to explain how I might have affected this.

In an Industrial Ship, you have the means to place buys and move minerals to the order of 5 to 10 million units in productive mining systems without locking your assets up. Larger orders will get you stuck with tons of minerals that need hauling and no money, anything less and you are running around a aweful lot just to fill the cargo hold of your Industrial Ship. This size of buy orders doesn't draw very much attention in the active systems, because they generally get filled in a couple of hours or less. There is some safety in this. Being a small time buyer means that the big boys aren't worried about you nor your short term competition. Their larger orders will still get filled once your small order is done getting filled. Since most pilots can't baby-sit the market for much more than a couple hours each day, the hit they take is tiny. In productive systems, your order lasts 2 to 4 hours maybe, which literally means you are not interfering with the big boys' trading for at least 20 hours of that day. Ultimately, the big boys don't even register your existence.

In a freighter, you have the means to move greater than 80 million units of minerals in one load. Generally speaking, unless you have gobs of money. You don't want to let eiter your money or your mineral assets go stale. Stale assets do not make you any money, they just sit there going stale and moldy. So you want to size your buy orders just right, in each highly productive system I work in, I place buy orders hovering around this 80 million unit mark. Instead of placing giant buy orders in one system and waiting for it to get filled over a period of days, I place my buy orders so that I will hopefully have at least one or two full freighter fulls of minerals to carry to the mineral trade hubs. Keep in mind that a freighter is an awesome tool because of the size of its hold, but these ships moves very very slowly. It moves a lot slower than even the largest Industrial Ships. Flying around gathering minerals from all across the region and making stops at stations along my routes is a lengthy process. I try to streamline this process so I am going point-to-point without making several stops, and this helps increase my productivity. There is a tradeoff however.

Larger buy orders take much longer to get filled. In a perfect world with zero competition, my buy orders get filled in 4 or 6 or more hours in those same productive systems. Sounds great until you realize that other traders become more aware of my activities. I have more and more often discovered that my buy orders have only been filled incrementally, and when I take a peek at the market, their orders beat mine for price. Of course my miners have no loyalty, especially since they don't even know they are working for me. They sell their mineral to whomever offers the best price. I wouldn't ask them to do otherwise, but now because my buy orders are larger and last longer, I am running into competition with the other big boys, boys who are much much bigger than me.

Now scenario number two. Maybe more traders are excited about stockpiling minerals since the governments are no longer subsidizing fixed price ship sales (most notably shuttles) which essentially has placed a soft cap on the price of the low end minerals. Since traders can no longer buy thousands of these ships and melt them down into their mineral components, there is no longer anything which artificially holds the price of minerals to a limited range. These traders are banking on the value of minerals to skyrocket, even if only in the short term.

Then again, maybe the problem is both. Big traders trying to get their hands on lots of minerals, and my providing a roadblock to overcome in my regions and they having to continually beat my buys to get a hold of as much product as they can and bank it for later. I don't work that way, I continue to operate normally and I don't invest in long term commodities. I buy and I sell and I move and I provide. This is how I operate, but the extra competition is making the margin a little skinnier than it was just a week ago.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A long winded Introduction

I am borne of Noble Gallente stock. Today, I am a successful Mineral Trader, but I wasn't always. Let me give you a not so short introduction of who I am and how I got here.
I graduated from the Center of Advanced Studies about 4 months ago having learned how to mine asteroid belts and how to process that ore into the raw materials used to build nearly every item available to the citizens of New Eden. Being young and innocent, I ended up going to school a second time, to better round out my early education. It seems that many pilots have second and even third helpings of school early on, so I was not discouraged. Thankfully, the tuition is free.

Finally moving on, I began mining in Cistuvaert flying my gifted Velator. Although the school provides the minimum required equipment to begin one's career, I quickly learned that the equipment is shoddy at best and is worth about as much as a snow cone to a polar bear. I earned enough money to upgrade my equipment and finally ship to an Imicus, which although does not enjoy the bonus to mining, it does sport a much larger cargo hold compared to other inexpensive frigates available. I fly back and forth between the belts and the space station hundreds of times, until I could afford an industrial ship. I would jetison a can fill it up just enough to to load the Iteron Mark I, and I would fly back and return with that ship. I found I made a lot more money doing this by reducing the number of trips I had to take to the space station with my load. I however often getting frustrated by how choked the asteroid belt can be with competition, and how quickly the belts can be depleted and how long it remains depleted before another stretch of the asteroid belt moves into range. I moved on into Aidert, which has no space station to call home. However; it has little to no competition, and sports higher quality asteroid belts. I quickly learned though that Rats are rampant. Almost as soon I started collecting a good haul of ore to bring home, I was prevented from continuing my labors as soon as a roving band of rats decided to show up. They never leave on their own and stick around, so once the rats have shown up, an ill equipped new miner has no chance of profiting from this system. I returned to Custuvaert to ply whatever scraps I could find available. I however also quickly learned that your ore can be easily stolen. I also learned the hard way that you don't want to do anything about it.

One day while I was mining in my Imicus, a person initiated a private conversation with me, and offered some advice on how to improve my profits and so forth. He also donated 15 million ISK to help me get along. At this time, 15 Million ISK seemed like a lifetime's worth of income, and I initially declined it but he insisted I keep it. I ended up giving the money to another needy spacefarer whom I don't even remember now.

Let me rewind here a little. When I decided to live the life of a space pilot, I had initially decided that I would go at it alone and to prove my individual mettle against the harsh life of space alone. I wanted to show the universe that you do not need to rely on people who ultimately have the same ability to take as much as give. I had my mind set on succeeding or failing under my own power.

Fastforward - After having developed my friendship with that early benefactor name Valushon, decided to give teamwork a try. He convinced me that there are huge resources and experiences that can only be tapped through teamwork, so I decided that perhaps since he is a good person, that the rest of his crew might also be. I joined Ex Caminus with excitement, and also with the feeling of entering that unknown of living a life that requires you depend on you chosen group of comrades. I was given some instruction on how to improve my learning curve but studying the liberals arts which essentially teaches a person how to study and be an "educated" fellow. Very quickly I doubled my speed of learning most things. This is much better than having to go through school twice just to a better grasp of the simplest things. Ex Caminus provided me access to sources of information to swiftly improve my profitability as a miner, most notably showing me where to find the finest work on mining available, "Halada's Guide to Mining". Let me digress and tell you this is the single most essential guide to succeeding in a mining career. There are some things that force me to disagree with Hilada, but overall there is no better source of information for a miner publically available. If you wish to become a truly successful miner, this is must read manual.

After being in Ex Caminus for a few weeks, and having recruited a majority portion of new membership and bringing them up to speed as young miners. The corporation's CEO decided that although I was also young, I had the drive necessary to successfully lead a team of industrialists. He therefore gave me a huge promotion and made me the Director of Mining for the corporation. I literally was leading the mining division of our corporation flying no more than a cruiser. I quickly trained into a Retreiver, and was a productive force for the corporation. Although the Retreiver isn't the productive monster that a Hulk is, if one is persistent and one develops the right support skills, one can mine as much or more in a retreiver as a hulk pilot can with zero support skills. I therefore trained those support skills before training for a Hulk, because I was increasing my profits and benefiting from them sooner that i would had I simply make that beeline in my education to piloting the massive Hulk.

Pretty quickly after my promotion into D-level management, things started to go sour in the corp for me. I found myself becoming more and more at odds with the rest of management because we didn't agree on some very minor but apparently touchy issues. In the end, I gathered up my things and left the corp, and once again had planned on going it either alone, or running my own show as CEO of my own corporation.

My old division mates and I started a new corp Valence Interstellar Operations under the leadership of Veriasse Valence. Our old corp, Ex Caminus, went to war with us over our sudden departure and liberating our assets. There wasn't much of a fight, and we settled our differences, and moved on.

In the meantime I had been studying to pilot a hulk now, and I had all the support skills necessary to reap maximum profit from its operation once I could fly it. One of my corp mates helped me purchase my hulk loaning me the remainder of the money I would need to buy one. I bought one and man, you can mine a LOT of ore in a hulk when you are trained and equipped properly. However as soon as I earned enough money to pay back this loan, I was so sick of mining, and I only mined at times when I didn't really need to pay attention. A Hulk fitted with cargo expanders has a cargo bay just a few m3 short of a similarly fitted Interon Mark IV, so jetcan mining became a thing of the past. The time it takes to run home and switch ships, and haul ore now exceeds the time it takes to just haul the ore home in your mining vessel and returning to mine some more. Couple that with the fact that it takes approximately 15 minutes to fill a Hulks cargo hold, and mining becomes a passive activity rather than one requiring constant attention. I very quickly became bored of mining, and once I paid off my debts, I looked for other ways to profit.

I looked into trading as a profit source, our CEO wasn't so keen on the idea of sinking our assets into trade, having been convinced that the market place is just as harsh a PvP environment as low-sec pirating, so I decided to try it alone with my own assets. I quickly learned there was an amazing market for minerals when they were hauled to the right place. As a miner, I often hauled my own higher-end minerals to far off stations to maximize my profits, but when it came to Tritanium and Pyrite, it was more profitable to just dump them on a local buyer and continue mining than it was to spend the time hauling many many loads to get a few extra percent profit. I had however been training to pilot an Iteron Mark V, and when I fitted that ship out with Cargo Expanders, I found that I profited about as much or more hauling and trading minerals as I was mining in my hulk. After a few days of hauling, I found that I could afford to rig my ship with Astronautics Rigs (the much more expensive rig equivelent of cargo expanders), and this increased my profitability quite a bit. My Iteron Mark V, fully rigged and outfitted can carry a few m3 shy of 49233.1 m3. A full load carried a good profit, and I was making a pretty good hunk of cash for just a little hauling back and forth between mining outposts and mineral trade centers. I reported my successes back to my corporation who was becoming a bit antsy at my lack of participation in the corporations primary function which is mining. I even sold my hulk so I had more working capital to work with. However we worked out that since I was so successful in trade as an early trader perhaps I should be handing trade and commerce for the corporation, and so this is what I began to do.

I however quickly ran into a problem. There was now a conflict of interest, I was trading for the corp and I was trading for myself. That in an of itself is no issue until you consider that the product was exactly the same, Minerals. This wouldn't be such an issue if there was trust involved, trust that allowed me to ameliorate my trading with the corporation's, however the CEO of the corporation wanted to see the trades occuring directly to and from the corporation's wallet. I was not permitted to take the minerals for trade and transfer the profits in from my own wallet. Here is the problem with that. When setting up sale orders or even dumping minerals on existing buy orders, whose minerals do I sell first? Mine or the corps? If I set up sale's orders for myself, and separate sales orders for the corp, then how do I control which gets filled first? In the end it would have been more useful to pool the minerals together, thereby increasing the volume of our buy and sales orders, however it didn't work out. This coupled with the fact that the CEO of our corporation stopped showing up led me to decide I need to move on to my own as I initially intended all along so many months ago. I donated all my mining equipment to the corp, my crystals and mining modules and such, and I relinquished my roles and when the timer ran out, I left the corp. Three days later the CEO finally noticed my disappearance with an apology for not being around and the teaser that he was planning on leaving the corp to me as CEO because he was no longer interested in being a pilot and planned to return planetside permanantly. As far as I know that corp still exists, and I know that Veriasse is still alive, because send him the occasional message saying hello with an update on my life, but I haven't heard from him since.

A few days after leaving ValOps and having made some friends in The Scope, I had a discussion with veteran pilot about whether there was any consequences to firing upon cannisters. Jetison cannister do not incur the wrath of CONCORD and I believed at the time that this would also be true for secure containers as well. She wanted to bet on it, and I jokingly said I would bet 3 billion ISK on it. I thought that would be an apparent joke, but she seriously considered the bet and she asked if I would pay up if I lost the bet. Of course I told her that I was only joking and don't have a tiny fraction of that, however apparently she DID have that kind of money if she was serious. Anyway, although I had at this time several hundred million isk, i wasn't willing to risk it, I told her so and that I really was only willing to bet 1 million because I was saving up for a freighter and it takes quite a bit of time to build that sort of cash. Anyway, we tested shooting a cannister and I lost. I paid up. However, because I was hoping for and looking for people to loan me the money to get into a freighter and/or loan me theirs while I work on getting my own (including my ex CEO from Ex Caminus whom I have become friendly with again), I decided to give her a try. I told her how I have the skills necessary to pilot one, that I was impatient and didn't want to wait the 2 months it was going to take to afford a freighter and still have enough working capital to use it effectively. Anyway, all said and done a perfect stranger pretty much gave me with no strings attached (meaning she just transfered the cash, no contract) gave me 1 billion ISK. Terms are 50 million a week interest paid until the principle can be returned in one lump sum. So if I have the billion in a month, I have paid 200 million in interest up to then, if it takes 2 months, then 400 million. Anyway the weekly payment is strictly interest.

I realized a little too late that I missed one skill in the requirements, and I still had about 5 more days of training before I could fly the ship, and my interest was already kicked in and I would have to start paying in a week. Instead of continuing to run trade routes with my Iteron, I sunk all my assets into buy orders and bought up as much mineral as I could so that when I finally could get into amy freighter I had something to haul and trade right away. That day came soon enough, I made so much money on that first and second day buying and selling, that I made my first payment and retained a lot of profit in the bargin. As it turns out, when you have the vehicle to carry your goods, you can make a major profit just moving stuff around.

In the less than two weeks that I have been flying my freighter, I have profitted nearly 1 billion ISK. Payment Day is today, and it won't hurt a bit. Once I have 2 billion in my wallet, I will pay back the principle of one billion. Why wait that long? Because you need working capital.
I incorporated my own corp this time. It's called "Interstellar Tritanium Solutions Team", and two of my old corp mates joined me. They are doing other things and it is more of a social arrangement with benefits, they mine and hunt pirates, and I buy their ore from them at fair market value. This means I pay them a good price and they make more money than if they dumped their ore on any generic mineral trader, and more than if they hauled it themselves. In fact, all of my miners and by that I mean any and all miners that operates in my four region of operations, I ensure get a fair deal for their minerals. I do't undercut them knowing they have no choice, I want them to want to sell to me because they get a good deal. I make my money by bringing it to the people who need it.

A miner is who I am, and trade is what I do.