Agent missions at the moment are one of the safest but most boring way to make money. To start you need to climb up from a level 1 agent to a level 2 agent to a level 3 agent. This can take several days. The 3 levels all contain a different difficulty, level 1 is very easy and can with ease be done in frigates, level 2 can be done in frigates but is hard. in level 3 either a battleship or a cruiser and industrial are a must. Of course each level up will give bigger rewards.
An agents effective quality will show the height of its rewards, this can be raised by standing and by certain social skills (so can the standing with the connection skill by the way). I’d say agents are for people that like to watch television while playing and cant find a good belt to mine in, and for people that are starting the game and need their first frigate to cruiser and wish to do this solo. There are 2 different classes of agents, Research and development and regular agents.
Research and development agents will only give out rare blueprints, and are based purely on luck, no matter what you do, it will always be a lottery, I myself have had an agent for nearly 180 days and still nothing, others had 3 blueprints in a row. If you manage to get a blueprint you can make several (im serious) billions selling these items overpriced (but heck you’re nearly the only one with the print…). I’d recommend people get 1 RD agent for the sake of it, but its not a reliable way of making money. Oh yeah, and to increase the amount of Research points (RP) you dont have to do anything, but by doing missions you can sometimes double or triple the daily amount (get 200 instead of 100 once).
Regular agents: They are also based on luck, and the only big profit to be made with them is by selling the basic implants (whom give a +3 to a certain attribute) for 12 – 15 million a pop. If you’re lucky you can get one every 10 missions, I think the average is about 30 missions. but again this is based on pure luck, you can only get implants during important missions, which are pretty rare. You need a level 3 agent with 6.0 standing (at least) to get implants though. So dont expect to start of with them as it requires some work.
The rewards per missions are around 150.000 isk a pop, which is not much so I wouldn’t go for that. There are tech 2 building components to get and sell though. I have no idea how much this can make you extra per hour but it doesnt exceed mining or NPC hunting unless you’re lucky (this is what agents are based on though).
You can direct the type of missions you’ll get a bit by picking the right corporations and the right part of this corp. For example, security in Caldari navy will likely get you fighting missions. However you will still get some gun shipments, so keep that indy ready.
Now here comes the “exploit” bit – It used to be possible to stack say a million minerals and get a mineral agent, cancel the other missions and only pick missions that require the mineral you already have. Just click yes and you’re done, a friend of mine made 150 mil a night in the past with this. Its has been removed in the recent editions of EVE though i’m afraid. However theres still other ways of making more money then designed, what I do for example is have 3 level 3 agent in the same station, so you can complete three missions at a time, where others only complete one.