I’m not sure which patch but HG recently nerfed the inventories of space stations in 3 star systems. These use to contain up to 4000 units (IIRC) of certain resources (oxygen, cobalt, chlorine for example) . This meant that economy crashing (or simply expanding tons of chlorine) was a viable way to make money fast even in survival mode because you could just fill your entire inventory with cobalt or chlorine. Now they max out below 1000.
I think the nerf is a welcome change since it forces the player to be a little more creative in the early game to get over the initial hump. Prior to this nerf, I would almost always follow the same pattern when starting a new file (I start a lot of new files!).
Here are some ways I’ve found to make early game money these days, in no particular order:
trading in commodities (ie: buy in three star systems with one economy type and sell in another 3-star system where the commodity is in high demand).
This works well to get to about 30 million or so. After that point, the inventories of commodities at stations and trading posts too small and your growth becomes very linear.
crashed ships (using the station cartographer). Obviously you’ll want to scrap the ships.
One of the fastest ways to grab your first few millions. These can also net you storage augmentations and nanites from modules. Pretty RNG-dependent as a mangled C-class shuttle is hardly worth the tritium to fuel your pulse drive.
piracy in pirate-controlled systems (using the bounty master guy or just attacking random freighters). You have to sell the goods in a non-pirate system for this to be worth your time.
A recent trip in a new survival save netted me 14 million from one mission. The rewards are surprisingly good. This is definitely one of the most fun new activities in recent patches. You can also get SFMs and other useful drops as well as nanites from pirate modules.
I like to get to around 100-200 million at a minimum as early as possible on the off chance that I run into an S class freighter or something. At that point, I switch to more passive sources of income so that every day I load up the save, money is waiting for me. My personal favourites for long-term incremental gains are
activated indium mines
every time I visit my farm, I buy up the entire stockpile of metal plating from a space station and add more silos. I increase the number of extractors so that silos fill up in 24 hours. Takes a hot second to set up but can net you millions on a daily basis
advanced crafting (stasis device or fusion ignitor)
I find the best way to do this is by farming all the necessary plants on a freighter base. You’ll also want an extractor base for each of the three coloured gasses. If you scale up your infrastructure over time this is the most lucrative activity in the game.
Having 5 or six missions running constantly every time you start up the game will net you a decent passive income as well as some rare loot. Industrial expeditions have the best drops, especially since SFMs are much rarer now
I’m sure I’ve missed some strategies here. Let me know what ways you use to get money in the early/mid-game!