|This guide should not be used to suggest any cheats or exploits for making money. All methods must be 100% legitimate.|
There are many ways to create a virtual business in Skyrim and make a lot of gold. Players just starting out should refer here. The objective of this guide is to make significant amounts of gold using methods that are not immediately obvious.
 Basic Principles
- Use Fortify Barter equipment and potions to get the best prices for your goods. See Stacking Fortify Barter Bonuses for more details.
- Fortify Speechcraft equipment also improves prices, and is much cheaper to obtain.
- The Speech skill tree has several perks that can help maximize your profit:
- Haggling improves prices.
- Merchant allows you to sell any item to any kind of merchant.
- Investor and Master Trader increase the amount of gold merchants have available to buy items from you.
- For those who do not generally focus on the Speech skill tree, it is still possible to invest in merchants through judicious use of the Black Book Waking DreamsDB, which allows you to reset a skill perk tree for the price of one Dragon soul. Resetting the Speech perk tree does not affect investments you may have previously made with merchants.
- You might want to take pity on a beggar, because for one coin you get The Gift of Charity, which gives +10 Speechcraft for 3600 seconds (1 hour).
- Praying at a shrine of Dibella or Zenithar will improve your speech or barter, respectively.
- When looting enemies or dungeons, take items that weigh little and have a high value so you can maximize the amount of loot you can carry back. Gems and jewelry are ideal. Also, always loot items that weigh nothing and have any value at all, such as arrows, even if you do not use them.
- Look here for tips on how to increase your Speech skill: Speech skill increases.
 No Crafting Skills Required
- Quick Explanation: Run repeatable jobs for the good of the Thieves Guild.
- Detailed Explanation:
- Relatively full of variety.
- Usually enjoyable for stealth-oriented player characters.
- Only two brief quests need to be completed first.
- Provides trophies in the guild hall.
- Doesn't rely on vendors.
- Can provide increases to skills.
- You are allowed to have multiple jobs at once, and they may be in the same city.
- Homes and shops may have other valuables for you to steal and fence to make some extra cash.
- Completing 5 jobs and one special quest in a major hold capital other than Riften (see Under New Management) will add a new vendor to the Ragged Flagon, and if the capital is Markarth or Windhelm, give you a Guild fence in that capital as well. It will also allow you to bribe guards in that hold to ignore your crimes. You do not need to become Guildmaster to get these benefits.
- Not nearly as quick at generating money as Alchemy or Enchanting.
- Failing a job can result in expensive bounties.
- Quick Explanation: Fulfill contracts kills on a small group of constantly respawning generic NPCs for large amounts of money.
- Detailed Explanation:
- A large amount of money rewarded for little effort and time spent.
- Potentially provides increased stealth skills, especially Sneak.
- Can quickly be completed and restarted for a leveled amount of gold each time, which is shown to yield more than Thieves Guild radiant quests.
- Completing the Dark Brotherhood main questline (a prerequisite for these contracts) gives a one-time reward of 20,000 gold.
- If the player has no intention of completing the quest, for whatever reason, it should be noted that the reward is paid by the contract before the kill is to be made. Technically, the player could simply receive the reward and leave the target unharmed. However, the quest cannot be quit or removed without making the kill, and new contracts (and further payment) can't be taken without completing the current one.
- The player can get unlimited black souls for enchanting through these quests.
- Difficult to maintain no bounty with low Sneak skill.
- Requires the completion of the Dark Brotherhood's Main Quests, which can be lengthy and tedious as well as incur large bounties.
Quick Explanation: Once you've married and have moved into a house, your spouse will start a store. The store will collect 100 septims a day.
- Costs little to no money.
- Requires no active participation, that meaning you can earn money this way while doing other activities.
- All of the benefits of marriage.
- The store will hold on to your money until you collect it, so you don't have to collect every day.
- Marriage is permanent; you can't divorce, and can't remarry if your spouse dies.
Quick Explanation: Kill dragons, and loot their scales and bones for money.
- Dragons drop several bones and scales, worth several hundred gold each.
- Dragons also drop loot such as weapons and armor, which can be sold.
- Dragons can net you 700-1200 gold per kill.
- Dragon lairs usually have additional loot, which can also be sold.
- Killing dragons for a bounty will net an additional reward from the local jarl.
- In the wilderness, dragons are uncommon.
- Dragon bones and scales are quite heavy, so make sure you've stored or sold any other excess loot you might be carrying (or just have your follower hold your nonessential gear for you).
 Crafting Required
When crafting potions, enchanting items, and improving items, your skill level has an impact on the strength of the final item and thus its value, so use potions and apparel that fortify the appropriate skill for maximum profit.
You do not need to have crafting skills at 100 in order to make money in Skyrim; just use the best potions and enchantments that you can in order to maximize profit as much as possible.
The player who has crafting skills at 100 and all relevant perks, may increase their skill level to the maximum limit by utilizing the following tips:
- Create some Fortify Enchanting potions.
- Drink Fortify Enchanting potions in order to create stronger Fortify Alchemy clothes.
- Wear stronger Fortify Alchemy clothes in order to create stronger Fortify Enchanting potions.
- Repeat the steps above (stronger potions to create stronger enchantments to create stronger potions, and so on) until Fortify Alchemy clothes (head, neck, ring, hands) are maxed out at 29% each.
- Wear maxed out (29%) Fortify Alchemy clothes in order to create the most powerful Fortify Enchantment potions possible. At this point, Alchemy and Enchanting can not go higher.
- Finally, for Smithing, use your newly maxed out Enchanting potions and Alchemy clothes to create Fortify Smithing clothes and potions. Note that there are no potions to fortify Alchemy and there are no enchantments to fortify enchanting, but Smithing may benefit from both.
When the process is complete, you should have Fortify Alchemy and Fortify Smithing enchanted clothing items = 29% each, Fortify Enchanting potions = 32%, and Fortify Smithing potions = 130%. This can be improved further with vampirism and the Necromage perk.
With the Enchanting +10 bonus provided by Ahzidal's Boots of Waterwalking, it is possible to increase the above numbers even further. With four Relics of Ahzidal equipped (including the Boots of Waterwalking), the Enchanting/Alchemy loop can be repeated once more with more powerful enchantments/potions, and can result in 31% Fortify Smithing/Alchemy gear, 38% Fortify Enchanting potions, and 153% Fortify Smithing potions. Note that this is only possible with Dragonborn, as a Fortify Enchanting bonus from wearable items otherwise doesn't exist.
Quick Explanation: Buy ingredients, make potions, and sell them.
- Visit an alchemy merchant and purchase ingredients.
- Before you leave the merchant's store, use the alchemy table there to make the most expensive potions you can.
- Sell the potions right away, recovering the gold you paid for the ingredients in addition to the merchant's gold.
- Alchemy is the most effective method to gain wealth quickly in Skyrim.
- Ingredient costs are low, unlike the other methods that require the purchase of expensive materials.
- Sell values are very high. Depending on perks and gear, the more expensive potions can reach over 5000 gold each.
- Alchemy tables are conveniently located within alchemical shops.
- Potions are very light weight, allowing the player to carry more. Thus, the travel involved in storing and retrieving items is effectively eliminated.
- Merchants are very common and easy to find.
- If The Ragged Flagon has been fully upgraded, then this is the ideal place to perform this.
- Actually converting a large stockpile of potions into two hundred thousand gold is very tedious.
- Requires some gold and a little bit of Alchemy skill to start easily turning a profit.
- There are over twenty-thousand valid ingredient combinations; using them efficiently takes some experience. With the additional ingredients from the Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn official plug-ins, this number jumps to over thirty-thousand possible combinations.
- It is recommended that you use an app of some kind (web, phone, tablet, etc) to calculate the optimal sell list from your inventory.
- On Buying Ingredients
- Don't bother searching the wild for ingredients. Much more gold can be made in much less time, so just buy the ingredients.
- Unlock the Merchant perk (requires Speech 50). This means that you will unlock many ingredients that only become available from the alchemist vendor after you have that perk. For example, Bear Claws are not offered for sale by any vendor until you have that perk. Having this perk means there will be more ingredients to buy from each vendor. It also means that you will be able to sell the potions you make to any vendor, not just alchemical merchants.
- At sufficiently high skill levels and with Alchemy-boosting gear, players should simply buy the entire ingredient stock of the merchant. They can then run the merchant back down to zero gold with just 2-3 potions.
- Drinking a potion of barter before buying and selling can earn you more gold than the potion costs. There is also gear that can boost barter.
- Saving, forcing a merchant into combat, and loading the save will reset a merchant's inventory.
- With Hearthfire, you can buy a plot of land for 5,000 gold, which comes with enough materials to build a garden with 11 plots of fertile soil. Each plot lets you plant one of a subset of alchemical plants, and then harvest 3-5 samples of each every few days. This is a much more reliable way of obtaining rare and valuable alchemy effects than buying from shops, and can pay for itself quickly. Once you've got a steady income going, you can build a greenhouse with 18 more plots, and Windstad Manor also offers a fish hatchery for farming fish. See here for a list of ingredients which can be planted.
- On Making Potions
- The value of the potion is determined by four factors:
- The type of the effect(s) of the potion. These effects are worth more than others: Paralysis, Damage Magicka Regen, Invisibility, Slow, Fortify Carry Weight
- The number of the effect(s) of the potion. Potions with 3 or 4 effects are worth more than potions with a single effect.
- The strength of the effect(s) of the potion. Use Alchemy perks and Alchemy enchantments to increase the strength (and dramatically increase the sell value) of the potions.
- The type of ingredients used: Certain ingredients have a greater impact on the resulting value of the potion. Most notably, Giant's Toe when used to Fortify Health adds significantly to the value of the potion, Salmon Roe when used for waterbreathing, and Boar Tusk when used to fortify health or stamina. Always buy Giant's Toe, Salmon Roe, or Boar Tusks whenever you can.
- Investing in a set of Fortify Alchemy equipment can significantly increase the value of your potions.
- The value of the potion is determined by four factors:
- On not wasting ingredients
- If you're content to know that you are making some money, then just remember that the game previews the value of the potion before it is created, keep in mind the four factors mentioned above, and do the best that you can.
- With a very high Alchemy skill and barter, it is much faster to just rapidly churn out two-ingredient potions than to waste time picking out ideal recipes.
- Otherwise, to squeeze every septim from your available ingredients, refer to this list of apps to find an app that calculates recipes for you. Phone apps work well since you don't have to close the game or can stay near your console.
 Improving Loot Method
- One might come across miscellaneous pieces of weapons and armor that they do not intend to use, and wish to sell them. Stop at the blacksmith and buy whatever ingots or leather is needed to improve the loot. This should increase the value of the item by more than the cost of the materials.
- Items required to improve loot are available from blacksmiths, who will then buy the improved items.
- Blacksmiths have more money (1000) than general merchants (750), and are far more common in the world: Whiterun alone has three of them.
- A reasonable Smithing level is required, or the value you add will not be enough to outweigh the cost of the materials used for tempering.
- It is possible, however, to use a combination of potions and enchanted armor to improve loot. (Smithing, Alchemy, and Enchanting can be used together, for maximum income.)
- A reasonable Smithing level is required, or the value you add will not be enough to outweigh the cost of the materials used for tempering.
- The value added by tempering is proportional to the base value of the item. Therefore, if you have multiple items that could be improved with the same material, improving the ones with the highest base value will give you the most profit.
 Enchanting Method
- Learn any enchantments you want to apply by disenchanting an item you already have with that effect. The three most valuable weapon enchantments are, in order, Banish (available at level 22), Paralyze, and Absorb Health, so try to find weapons with those effects. Turn Undead is a good choice at the start of the game if the better enchantments are not available. One guaranteed high value enchantment is found on the Steel Battleaxe of Fiery Souls located in Ironbind Barrow. The most valuable enchantment that can be applied to jewelry, foot slot items and hands slot items is Fortify Sneak, the most valuable enchantment that can be applied to head slot items is Fortify Archery and the most valuable enchantment that can be applied to chest slot items is Fortify Destruction.
- Obtain a stock of unenchanted items and an equal number of filled Soul Gems.
- Since the value of the enchantment is not affected by the base price of the weapon, and because of the way commerce works in the game, it is best to obtain the cheapest unenchanted item possible. Using the Smithing skill, it is easy to craft a large quantity of Iron Daggers to enchant, as the materials are inexpensive and readily available from Blacksmiths and General Goods Merchants throughout the world. Also, Leather Armor can be easily crafted from common pelts looted from animals.
- Enchant the weapons at any Arcane Enchanter. Use the most valuable enchantments you know.
- Sell the resulting items to merchants.
- Combines well with Smithing and Tempering to get the most value out of each item.
- Makes good use out of unenchanted weapons found in loot as well.
- Enchanting skills increase relatively quickly.
- Many players end up doing this to maximize their skills anyway.
- Soul gems are in limited supply with vendors, and expensive to someone just starting out.
- Most magic weapons are randomized, so it may be difficult to find weapons with the desired enchantments to learn.
- The value of created enchantments actually goes down as your Enchanting skill increases, so profitability decreases over time.
- Still not quite as fast to make a profit as Alchemy.
- The value increase added depends only on Enchanting factors such as type of Soul Gem and Enchantment and the player's Enchanting skill, so it doesn't matter if you use an Iron Dagger or a Daedric Warhammer.
- If you don't have enough weapons, buy the cheapest ones you can from Merchants (usually an Iron Dagger) or the materials to craft weapons cheaply. Most Blacksmiths carry enough material for dozens of such weapons.
- If you're smithing weapons and/or jewelry to sell, this is a great way to increase the value even more.
- Enchanting in bulk requires vast quantities of filled soul gems. Purchasing filled soul gems and using them is profitable, but it's much more cost-effective to buy the gems empty and fill them yourself.
- There is a set progression of value increases for weapon enchantments. An enchantment made with a Grand or Black Soul Gem is worth 330 gold more than the same enchantment made with a Petty Soul Gem. Since this is less than the price difference between the filled gems, using the weakest gem available is more efficient in most cases. Also, note that muffle and waterbreathing enchantments have a fixed enchantment level and are worth the same regardless of what level of soul gem is used with them, so may in some cases be worth more than other enchantments if you're using petty soul gems when they would not be if you were using larger soul gems.
- Enchanting an item will not cause it to lose stolen status. If you enchant such an item, it can only be sold to a fence. Non-stolen items enchanted with stolen soul gems may be sold to honest merchants.
Quick Explanation: Buy Iron Ores, transmute them to silver and then gold. Smelt them into gold bars and Smith them into Gold Rings. Optionally, enchant the rings. At the end, sell them.
- Buy or mine Iron Ore.
- Transmute the ore into one of higher value using the Transmute spell.
- After the transmutation process, the player should then smelt the Gold Ores into Gold Ingots.
- At any Blacksmith's Forge, convert the Gold Ingots into Gold Rings.
- (Optional): Enchant the rings.
- Sell the rings.
- Iron Ore is one of the cheapest materials in the game and creating jewelry requires no perks, making the spellbook the only real barrier to this method.
- Jewelry is lightweight, which makes it easy to transport and sell elsewhere when one merchant runs out of gold.
- May be hard to consistently find large quantities of Iron Ore for transmutation. Merchants usually have only a few pieces at a time, and mines may have large quantities but take a long time to respawn.
- Ores and jewelry may be useful for the player to simply keep instead.
- Requires a fairly rare spell (but can be easily acquired in Halted Stream Camp).
- If you do not have a high magicka or have a low skill in alteration, but also have enough enchanting it might be worth it to enchant a couple pieces of gear with fortify alteration. With enough skill in enchanting this can make alteration spells free to cast which will make the transmute process go by much quicker.
- If you have gemstones, smithing the gold ingots together with gems greatly increases the value of the jewelry.
- If you have a fairly large supply of gemstones (this can happen especially if you have done a lot of mining), you may require more silver ingots in order to use up your gemstones and produce the most valuable jewelry possible. Even one silver garnet ring is worth more than two gold rings (without gemstones). However, because of the way the Transmute spell works, it is difficult to produce large amounts of silver ore: if you have one iron ore and one silver ore, the spell transmutes the silver into gold before transmuting the iron into silver. In order to make silver ingots, the easiest way is to stand next to an unowned container, and each time you create a silver ore, place it into the container before casting the spell again. Then empty the container before going to the smelter.
 Dwemer Junk Method
- Clear out Dwarven ruins in search of scrap metal pieces. Dwarven ruins are indicated on a map by this symbol:
- Not everything "Dwemer" can be melted down. Generally, if the item name starts with the word "Dwemer", leave it. The only things to keep are:
- Once the player has obtained the Dwemer metal pieces, they should then smelt them into Dwarven Metal Ingots.
- Crafting Dwarven armor and weapons from the ingots can then net a great deal of profit, but comes at the cost of two perks, which unlike gold are an irreplaceable loss unless you planned on taking them anyway.
- The soul gems retrieved from the ruins while doing this are valuable and weigh little.
- Make more profitable use of Dwarven Metal junk.
- Increases Smithing skill.
- Requires two perks to be able to forge Dwarven armor and weapons.
- Finding the ruins and scrap metal pieces can prove to be time-consuming.
- Dwemer metal is relatively heavy compared to ores, especially Solid Dwemer Metal, which weighs 25 and grants 5 ingots when smelted. Therefore, the amount of Dwemer junk you can carry is very limited.
- When choosing which scraps to take in order to get the most ingots to scraps, take Bent Dwemer Scrap Metal, Large Dwemer Plate Metal, and Small Dwemer Plate Metal. These all have 2 pounds to 3 ingots, as opposed to the 20 to 3, 15 to 2, and 25 to 5 for the other scraps.
- Remember that followers can be ordered to pick up items from chests or lying around that exceed their carry weight limit, these items will simply be tagged as stolen. In the case of Dwemer metal you intend to smelt this is irrelevant, since the smelting process returns ingots which can be sold. This is a useful way around the exceptional weight costs of Dwemer scrap.
- It is also useful to select The Steed Standing Stone while using this method, since any armor you're wearing becomes weightless and your total carry weight is increased by 100 pounds. Fortify carry weight potions may also be used to increase the amount of junk you can haul. Note that while potions will frequently expire before you get back to a city to smith your Dwemer junk, you can fast travel back - as long as you're not overencumbered at the moment you fast travel, the journey will be completed. Horses also allow you to fast travel while overencumbered, even if you are on a horse you do not own.
 Stacking Fortify Barter Bonuses
Fortify Barter bonuses are available via potions, items, and altars, and they stack. They do not increase the Speechcraft skill but directly improve the prices you get when buying or selling items. Even in the early game it is simple to get 20% better prices, and in the late game 80% better prices is achievable. Consistent application of these bonuses will have a major effect on wealth.
- Shrines to Zenithar give a 10% bonus to prices for 28800 seconds (8 real-time hours). There is a shrine to Zenithar just outside Riften and one in the Temple of the Divines in Solitude. Periodic use of these shrines can maintain the blessing indefinitely.
- On the Shrine to Zenithar outside Riften there is a free Amulet of Zenithar which gives 10% better prices. This can be obtained at the beginning of the game (there is Frostbite Spider guarding the shrine but it seldom respawns). Thus even a starting character can get 20% bonus to prices.
- Necklaces are the only barter-improving items that can be enchanted or disenchanted.
- Amulets of Zenithar can not be disenchanted but other necklaces can. They are most likely to be found at Radiant Raiment in Solitude but can appear in any general store. Unless your enchantment skill is very high the ones you buy are better than the ones you can make.
- Other barter-raising apparel is listed on the Fortify Barter page.
- One of the easiest way to get these items is to do some of the Thieves Guild quests. Doing two of the main quests will give you a hood with 10% better prices and two more will allow you to improve it to 15%.
- Two quests for Glover Mallory in the Dragonborn expansion will get you a hood with 25% better prices.
- Potions of Fortify Barter are relatively easy to make and 8%+ improvements to prices. They are expensive to buy, however, so purchased potions are best saved for major purchases or sales.
- Speechcraft bonuses such as the Quest All Beggars Have give a small but noticeable bonus to prices. There is a beggar in every major city within easy reach of the shops.
 Loot Boosting Bonuses
The quantity of desirable loot found throughout the game can be increased by certain passive bonuses.
- Imperial Luck is a racial bonus that increases the amount of gold found in most places. The bonus is small but because it is always active, it adds up to considerable amounts for an Imperial character that is played a lot.
- Treasure Hunter is a perk in the Lockpicking skill tree that adds a chance for special loot. Although the bonus is considerable, it requires a lot of perk points to activate.
- Prowler's Profit is the reward effect for the Thieves Guild sidequest No Stone Unturned. It adds a very large number of gems to lootable containers. Not only do the gems have a very favorable weight-to-value ratio, but are also useful for leveling Smithing by making it possible to create expensive rings and amulets. No Stone Unturned is not a quick quest to complete, but if made an early game priority, can be very rewarding.
Try every method to see what works best for your play style. In terms of profit, inventory space, cost of ingredients, time required, and so on, there is no more efficient way to make money than Alchemy. Each single potion weighs 0.5, can cost as little as 20-30 septims to make, and even without perks can sell for more gold than the merchant has available. No other method can yield so much gold in so little time spent collecting the needed parts. Alchemy only requires that the player buy the available ingredients from an alchemist merchant and immediately craft the potions to sell back to the merchant for quick profit. Additionally, with the Merchant Perk, a player can carry these low-weight, high-value potions to any other merchant to be used in exchange for any item offered, or to just empty the merchant of gold.
One achievement is directly related to making money:
- Golden Touch (30 points/Silver) — Have 100,000 gold
- To obtain this achievement, you need only to have 100,000 gold in your inventory, regardless of whether the gold is legitimately obtained or stolen.