And so now my Imperial rep grind is done, so I'm doing some trading to upgrade my beloved Clipper. Really not sure what I'll do after I max it out. Python? Love the Clipper so much.
Made the rank of Earl yesterday; I'd guess it took about 12 hours since I made Count, played over the past three days or so.
My strategy for getting it done was to do a trading loop between five systems. I would buy and sell commodities, but also pick up reputation missions that didn't take me out of my way. By putting a High Tech and Agriculture systems in my loop, I was able to turn in a lot of non-lethal weapons and food for reputation; the others were Extraction, Refinery, and Industrial. I also took some time out periodically from the trading to run missions in conflict zones, swapping out some cargo racks for bigger shields then back again. So about 80% of my time trading commodities and completing rep and trade missions, 20% war zones. The key is to increase your rep with four or five systems at a time with factions that are loyal to the Empire only. The hard part is finding a route that is profitable on every single trip. I think the Empire has an advantage here because Imperial Slaves can close that loop in some cases, giving you something worth buying on a system that otherwise wouldn't have anything that sells cheap, and likewise something that is in demand in a system that otherwise wouldn't have anything in high demand that is very profitable. Still sometimes, you end up with a trip that just doesn't make a lot of money; it will never be as profitable as just finding a simple bidirectional trade route that makes over 2k per ton per round trip. I suspect in Federation/Alliance space you might be able to keep things profitable by using a longer range, lower cargo space vessel and grinding rep with systems that sell rares, but it would take longer.
Shortly after I was allied with all of the systems in the loop I became Allied with the Empire, and shortly after that I hit Earl. About the same time I made "Competent" combat rank and "Broker" rank in trading. Here's a link with more strategy and detail about grinding rep. I"ve posted it before, but it seems like someone always gets some use out of it. https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=102810
And some guides to rank:http://www.fenris.co.uk/elite/pilot-military-ranks/http://www.fenris.co.uk/elite/empire-ranks/http://www.fenris.co.uk/elite/federal-ranks/
And for those that want to just do what I did rather than find your own, I traded the following loop:
Piorimudjar, Bauman Terminal [Extraction] (sell Imperial Slaves, Buy palladium)
Bridi, Harawi Vision [High Tech, Refinery] (sell Palladium, Buy Consumer Tech)
Ocairi, Marius Dock [Industrial] (Sell Consumer Tech, buy Imperial Slaves)
And then you can go back to Piorimudjar if you want for a very profitable triangle, but also, after Bridi you can go to Dimor, Aoki Terminal [Agricultural] for food, or go to Tsohochosi, Zenbai Terminal [Refinery/Extraction] for metals like Lithium and industrial materials like superconductors that sometimes are requested in missions ,and then go on to Ocairi.
For the most profit and least rep, just go between Piorimudjar and Ocairi, buying and selling Imperial Slaves and Palladium. Then rinse and repeat with two other systems once you hit allied or so. This is boring IMO though and much slower as far as the reputation gained.
While grinding all that rep I still managed to upgrade my FSD, Power Distributor and weapons.