You'll get very little done in Elite Dangerous without a decent wedge of cash in your pocket, and there are plenty of ways to go about increasing your pile of credits. While it's true that some professions and endeavours bring better rates of pay than others, it's still worth familiarising yourself with all of them, as you may be able to do a few together at the same time. It's always worth knowing how to expose yourself to bonus credit-making opportunities.
Finding profitable missions
The easiest way to get started with making money in Elite Dangerous is to head into a station, open up the Bulletin Board, and see if there are any jobs you can take on in exchange for a little extra cash. Take a look through the mission section of this guide for more details.
Make money from exploration
Exploration is sadly not quite as profitable as we were hoping for in Elite Dangerous, but there are some decent credits to be made if you can't resist the siren-song of deep space. There are two stages to exploration in the game. First of all, you discover the very broad details of a system, such as the planets, stars, and asteroid fields within it. Next, you actually scan the individual elements in finer detail.
To get started with the basics of this profession, fit your ship with a Discovery Scanner, then use the maps in-game. Ideally, you want to find systems with elements that are marked as Unknown. Once you reach the system, activate your Discovery Scanner (see our UI introduction for more details) in order to log details of all the celestial bodies within approximately 500LS of your current location. Have a mooch around the system and perform multiple scans if you're in a particularly large area of space. Once you've done this, you'll see items marked as Unknown in your left-hand cockpit panel.
Next, approach each Unknown celestial body and you'll see a message in the bottom left-hand of your HUD that says 'Scanning'. When the scan's finished, you'll log the details of the object. Note that you don't have to activate your scanner in order for this process to begin, and how close you need to be to initiate the scan depends on the mass of the object in question. You'll get a feel for this with practise.
To sell your data, head to a station far enough away, and select Universal Cartographics from the Station Services section of the interface. You can then select the individual bits of exploration data that you wish to sell, but you must be at least 20 or more lightyears from where you collected the data in order to claim your cash.
A final note on this introduction to Exploration. If you're going to make this profession a core part of your Elite Dangerous experience, it's essential that you get a Fuel Scoop fitted to your ship, so that you can refuel your vessel on the go.
How to make money as a Bounty Hunter
Bounty Hunting is a great way of earning cash, and there's nothing stopping you from getting started using just the very primitive ship you begin the game with. When you're bored of shuttling goods around the universe, slap a Kill Warrant Scanner on your ship, make your way to any populated system, and then head towards the Nav Beacon that you see marked in your left-hand Navigation cockpit panel. To be certain of avoiding any unwanted attention from the authorities, use your Galaxy and System maps to locate a system that's designated as Anarchy.
Once there, target a ship and use your Kill Warrant Scanner on it. Now cycle through the left-hand cockpit UI to get to Contacts. If your target has a Bounty on it, you'll see it marked here. In Anarchy systems, you can kill these ships without interference from the police, so finish off your prey, then hand the bounty in by heading to a system associated with the faction that issued the bounty. You can use your map to find out where to hand these in. Once at a station, select Contacts from Station Services, then Local Security Office.
A final tip. In your starting ship you should be able to take down Cobras and smaller vessels with a little practise. Don't bite off anything bigger than this for now though.
Trading for profit
You can't have an Elite game without trading at the core. In its purest form, you want to find goods for sale at a low price in X system, and take them to Y where they're in profitable demand. Take a look through our trading tips section which goes into things in more depth.
How to mine asteroids and get rich slow
You won't get rich quick by mining asteroids in Elite Dangerous, but it is a nice change of pace when you're bored of fighting and shipping. First things first, you'll need to equip your ship with a Refinery, as well as a mining laser or two. It's also worth expanding your cargo capacity if you can as well.
Once you're equipped, use the System Map to find a belt marked as having Major Reserves. When you're out in space, head to that asteroid belt and then get close to the rock you want to mine. You'll know you're close enough to the rock when your mining lasers make a noticeable dent on its surface - you have to get much nearer than instinct suggests.
After a bit of lasering you'll see white objects appear on your radar, each one of which represents a little chunk of ore. To pick each one up, you need to launch your Cargo Scoop using the Home key by default, then approach the chunk very slowly indeed. The scoop interface to the left of your radar scanner consists of a box with a white outline. As you get closer to the ore, the representation of the ore gets bigger and bigger within that box. The objective is to keep that ore within the boundaries at all times, until you get the message that you've successfully gobbled it up. Take it very, very slowly - with a little practise you should grab each rock first time, every time.
The next part of our guide explains how to participate in Elite's illegal activities.
Stuck on something else? The rest of our Elite Dangerous guide can be found via the index page.