Lets walk you through the first 10 levels of your adventuring career and give you tips to maximize profit while doing it.
Once you create a character and find your way out into the wilderness, the first thing on your mind is going to be slicing up monsters. But before you begin your bloody career, you should become acquainted with the "Conquest" system. Why? Because Conquest will be where most of your money comes from for the foreseeable future.
The nations of Vana'diel vie for control of the land - remember that "friendly competition" we mentioned? That's the Conquest system. The world is divided into regions, and the nation whose citizens collectively die the fewest number of times while defeating the most enemies for a week will claim the region (after a tally every Sunday morning). If enough people from all regions die, the area will be claimed by the computer-controlled Beastmen.
Those that participate in Conquest will receive elemental crystals from battles along with experience points, as long as the region is controlled by one of the three nations. These crystals are, in turn, used to power item creation, or "Crafting." As you can imagine, they're in high demand.
In order to participate in Conquest and get crystals, you'll need to have your nations "Signet" cast on you, and for that you'll need to find one of your nation's Conquest reps. The gate leading out of any of the starting cities is flanked by one of these characters: in Bastok, look for people with the initials "I.M." next to their name, San d'Oria "T.K." and in Windurst "W.W." Talking to these Conquest representatives will bring up a menu. Select "Can you cast Signet on me?" The Signet then marks you as a Conquest participant, and will ensure that those sumptuous crystals fill your pockets while you kill monsters. While participating in Conquest, you'll also earn Conquest Points which can be spent on some cool items later on.
One note about crystals and items in general: crystals and many items can be stacked together to save space, but for some reason the game doesn't do this for you automatically. If you find your inventory is full, open it up, "Auto Sort" it and stackable items will be grouped. You can sell single crystals and stacks of crystals, but the latter will definitely make you money a lot faster.
Experience the ... Experience!
For most players, partying with others starts around level 10-12. While there can certainly be benefits to getting together with one or two friends early on, most players choose to solo. Should you decide to partner up with a couple of pals, this info is still good. Just keep in mind that the monster progression will move a bit faster, while your overall experience take will be reduced. Of course, you'll also have to split your items with your partners.
While the recommendations here aren't ironclad, our picks should maximize effort and reward. If you decide to attack anything else, be sure to "Check" it first to make sure it's an Even Match or below.
From loot to gil
The greatest source of money - "gil", as usual in Final Fantasy - is ... other players. To facilitate commerce, Square Enix invented the Auction House, a place for players to list their items and sell them to other players while they do other things - online or offline. Auction houses are located in Bastok Markets, Bastok Mines, South San d'Oria, Port San d'Oria, Windurst Woods and Windurst Walls. They're emblazoned with a gazelle-shaped icon and are always mobbed by virtual capitalists. To use the Auction House, simply target one of the windows and get going.
Before selling any items, select "Bid" from the Auction House menu to see what your items are currently worth. Find the item's category and then the item itself, and look at its price history. Prices of items can fluctuate wildly, so it's usually safest to list the items for the lowest price on the history. The lower your price the faster it will sell, but don't try to sell it for too much less or you'll probably be found out by bargain hunters. Note that many items, such as crystals, can be sold as singles or full stacks, so make sure you're looking at the right entry and set your price. Note that you can only list seven items at a time, so usually it's best to list your most valuable items first.
How do you get your money? After a while, head to one of the Residential Areas in town and enter. Talk to your Moogle and check your Delivery Box to receive your cold, hard cash. Don't worry if you don't know what that crap is yet - you'll be introduced to it soon after you begin your game.
Shopping with style
Usually, the cheapest way to buy gear for your character is the Auction House. Every time you level up, go back and check the Auction House to see what new gear you are now capable of using. The easiest way is to browse the Armor or Weapons categories by level, scroll to the bottom and see which item names are written in yellow letters, indicating that you are able to equip it.
There aren't many worthwhile accessories at these low levels, so focus on good armor and weapons. The exception are mages, who have access to some good rings at level 10 - Black Mages will want to buy rings that boost INT, White Mages will want to buy rings that enhance MND and Red Mages can make good use of either.
Mages will also want to frequently check the Scrolls category of the Auction House. This is where they can buy scrolls from which to learn spells. As with equipment, any usable ones will be indicated with bright yellow letters.
Cashing out in Conquest
Once you've reached level 10, you should have accumulated a fair number of Conquest Points. To see how many you have, open the game's menu, select Region Map, and check the number in the lower right-hand corner.
At level 10, you'll be able to equip the Rank 1 Conquest items from your nation, but that will occur later.
Other useful common items are the Scroll of Instant Warp, which will instantly return you to your Home Point back in town, and the Scroll of Instant Reraise, which will let you rise from the dead once after you've used it. Provided you accrue enough Conquest Points, buying and reselling Rank 1 Conquest gear can be profitable or just save you money on your next purchase.