To start with, little money will come from your own planets directly. Things can be done to increase planetary income temporarily such as giving foreign consumer goods to your planets.
Foreign goods are the core backbone of “beginner level income” or quick cash; they will also provide other benefits such as increased production rates as your populace becomes more content with you. The further the distance of both the source and destination, the better the benefits are. Getting goods from your own planets spread out across the galaxy will initially give better benefits than the planets near them. As a planet receives goods from the same source, the demand will drop and benefits will become less until it eventually gives no benefits at all; demand will slowly return over time.
Any player may deliver goods to any planet, even ones they do not own. When goods are given to another players planet, they will gain the production benefits and the deliverer will be paid (not from the receivers funds). While the payment is normally higher for delivering to your own planets, that payout occurs over a long period of time instead of immediately.
There are a few caveats that come with foreign goods. Like all cargo, units carrying goods will be unable to utilize FTL which will leave them at the mercy of various raiding parties; the payout and benefits of goods are the exact same no matter who delivers it. The second caveat is that goods must be purchased with funds from the fleet picking them up. This again means the loss of FTL when picking up the goods. If a player isn’t willing to travel far or is raided on their way, they may come out at a loss.
As a quick aside, players will be able to set up supply depots at their planets which allow passing fleets to resupply from that planets stock at a set fee decided by the owner.
Foreign goods are a non-contractual interaction; once you buy them, they are yours. Work orders, on the other hand, expect the player to perform a specific task or series of tasks. These tasks can be something as simple as producing a product, picking up and delivering products or crafting augmentations to as complex as escorting a fleet and ensuring damage taken by the fleet is within a predefined limit.
Work orders’ payout can become available after each task is completed or after full completion of the work order; this is definable by the creator of the work order. The full payout is taken from the creator and held until the work order expires, is completed or fails. All work orders come with a fee that the player accepting must pay.
Work orders may be set to automatically accept or require manual acceptance from a list of applicants. All players have a work order history detailing the types of tasks completed and their success/failure rates. When a player creates a work order, they can choose to restrict who may apply based on past history; no other information is given so you may end up hiring a player you are at war with. The restrictions can be as generic or specific as the creator wants and may have more than one restriction. Here are some examples:
101 > completed work orders
< 12% work order failure
< 13 augmentation work order failures
0 delivery work order failures
The work order creator may offer a tip based on certain actions such as escorting a fleet which takes no damage or delivering a product prior to a certain date.
Players who fulfill work orders by themselves are known as Freelancers. Players have the option to create a Syndicate which contains many players but has a single history, can accept work orders, and can divide up tasks between members. Players apply to syndicates with their past syndicate/freelance history. Syndicates do not have a member limit such as alliances and a player may belong to up to 3 syndicates; however, there is no chat to help facilitate coordination. The higher tiered members of syndicates may post rules or other messages visible to all members, view member history and may offer a task to one or more members, or post tasks directly to a syndicate exclusive offer board.
Members may receive a weekly salary, a weekly salary only if participating that week, paid on completion of a task, or any of the above mixed with a commission. Excess funds may be given out by the leader to members or used to level up the syndicate.
Work orders may be posted publicly to all, or given directly to a freelancer or syndicate.