After spouting off my daily capital, Black Claw asked me how I did it. Pirating is a harsh profession, and turning out enough isk from ransoms and booty just to balance out losses is a difficult feat not often accomplished. To be an active, successful pirate means having alternative forms of revenue to carry the pilot through the rough times, and is the focus of this post.
Pirates have a difficult time making isk. Poor security status renders high security missions out of the question, as with the most profitable trade routes. A focus on PvP leaves little SP left over for production, not to mention the difficulty of acquiring raw minerals to produce goods in lowsec in the first place. Missioning and running complexes in lowsec tend to yield better rewards than highsec, however pirates run the risk of predation from their fellows when PvEing in lowsec.
To sum things up: most of the basic means to making isk are denied to the typical pirate. However, there are other avenues for easy isk that are still open. For now, I'll not consider use of alt accounts, as all those forms of easy empire isk become once more available.
Your typical lowsec region has several entry points into NPC nullsec. NPC nullsec is perhaps the greatest source of isk for low SP, down on their luck individuals: the typical BS rat in nullsec has a bounty of anywhere from 500k to 900k isk in the poorest of regions, their high meta level loot is valuable, and these rats can be 'chained' to provide back to back spawns of high bounty rats. NPC space typically has a generous amount of stations to base out of, which allow a pirate to JC out to nullsec, spend a day grinding the easy isk, and JC back to their base of operations tens of million isk better off.
To clarify, chaining involves finding a desirable spawn, such as a high bounty battleship spawn. The battleship is destroyed, leaving at least one escort ship in the belt alive. After roughly fifteen minutes, the destroyed ships will respawn, and the high bounty ship can be destroyed again. Typically nullsec ratters will create several chains and work them constantly, providing large sums of isk gain in a short amount of time. It only takes a full T1 fit cruiser to accomplish this sort of operation.
Another bonus to nullsec is the ability to work off security status, and climb back to positive ratings quickly. Every fifteen minutes, the highest bounty belt rat you kill rewards you with a sec status increase. The fastest method of gaining sec status is moving from system to system, killing off battleship spawns in each system. This way multiple sec gains are possible, as the sec gains are counted for each individual system in space.
Research agents, once cultivated, provide a steady stream of isk that are always working for you. Without much effort, perhaps two weeks of training skills and grinding for standing, 2-3m isk a day can be made, without ever having to work again for that isk source.
Cosmic anomalies in both lowsec and nullsec are good ways to grind isk, and are typically safer than belt ratting. Just be aware that pilots can find the pockets you're plundering the same way you did with the onboard scanner, and to be wary of this.
Lastly, engaging in minor trade in lowsec is extremely profitable. Hauling in basic T1 items, ammo and drones and putting them up for sale in the populous lowsec systems can yield profits exceeding 500%. You'd be surprised what a pilot is willing pay to not have to travel a few jumps into high security space and back again. Similarly, placing extremely low buy orders in the same systems for resale provides another avenue into isk.
Hope this helped.
Edit: Mynxee reminds that exploration is very profitable! Check the comments for this post for a brief overview of this probe driven PvE mayhem.