All servers’ market boards are different and unique, but the advice I usually give aspiring crafters and gatherers seeking to make a profit is to be entrepreneurial about the process: Find an under-served market, serve it consistently, keep your eye out for more opportunities, and don’t be afraid to abandon old markets that have outlived their profitability.
Find an underserved market
On any given day on Cactuar, I can open up the market board and find maybe a dozen items that are out of stock or out of high-quality stock. With no current competition, YOU can be the hero that item needs.
Not all items are created equal though – random white lv50 items just aren’t useful to anyone … except maybe people leveling desynth. It’s worth especially looking at what’s used for GC Supply & Provisioning Missions and Levequests – a lot of people will buy off the mb for their turnins rather than crafting it themselves. If people have been buying, that item may show up with 0 available – restock it before the next GC Supply Deadline.
Or, if you have an item that you wish to sell and there are many already on the board, you still can break into it by differentiating your product by offering that item in a different quantity than is available – especially if you can figure out what quantity people might need that item in and sell that number exactly. For instance, I’ve had a lot of success gathering a bunch of Deepeye Tears and selling them in quantities of exactly 4 (since the #1 use of that item is dissolvents). I can charge way more per item than the people selling in stacks of 10-99 and still make a sale because people who need to craft just one or two dissolvents probably don’t want to purchase a stack.
Another way you could differentiate your product would be to offer it in different geographical market than what’s currently available. I’ve made quick sales even in crowded markets by being the only Limsa provider of crafting materials or consumables. I currently pay for 3 retainers above the 2 that come included, and I’ve done well for myself by putting one in each possible market, and a second one in Limsa. Perhaps it’s just my loyalty making me imagine things, but I find that crafting materials especially get swooped up there faster than others. (maybe the proximity of the aetheryte to the market board?)
Serve your market consistently
Once you’ve found a market, make sure to restock your items after they sell, or some other savvy seller might come along and find the same niche you found and stock it with goods. It doesn’t necessarily prevent anyone from competing with you at all, but at least they won’t see that “0” on the mb and think that they’ve found their own opportunity. You can often gather materials for your crafts in bulk and post them up on the market board a few at a time – we don’t want to craft 10 and put all 10 up at once, but maybe craft 5 and put 3 up. Then when your initial 3 sell, you have two more to stick up right away while you gather materials to craft some for the next period. Being defensive in this way and making sure you are represented will go a long way towards keeping other crafters from wising up to the market you have cornered.
Keep your eye out for more opportunities
Once you get into the swing of this restocking of your niche items, you’ll probably be able to find ways to craft that item quickly, or you may no longer need to spend times looking up the ingredients, so you can handle that faster. With extra time on our hands, it’s back to research. Look for new items that have zero available on the market board, or zero available in high-quality, and follow step one and two again to add another market to your portfolio.
Don’t be afraid to abandon old markets that are no longer profitable
If you start getting undercut hard to the point where it’s not worth the time and/or hassle to try to defend your market, don’t be afraid to pull out.
An example from my past – I made millions of gil last year from owning a few of the markets on “Perfect” items required for 2.X ARR relics – Perfect Firewood, Perfect Vellum, Perfect Mortar, and Furnace Ring were the ones I recall selling particularly well. With each sale netting me mid-six digits each in nearly pure profit for months, I owned these markets and had enough in stock and up for sale in retainers in different markets across the world that few people tried to compete. But then, after I went on vacation (without time to craft for a week or so), I started getting undercut significantly and/or replaced on the market board as my stock dwindled. With the market board price on some of these items down to merely 50k or so from the hundreds of thousands I used to earn on them, I liquidated my remaining stock and components and looked for other more profitable opportunities.