Tips to Make Money
First, you make money through citizens, so expand your city quickly and continue to do so as the resources to add/improve houses come in. Of course, with a higher populace comes a bigger strain on the production lines for your goods. I suggest having four schnapps distilleries and four framework knitters very early on so you can have a big city of peasants and workers to raise your income.
Second, and arguably more important, Sir Archibald Blake sells steel beams. He doesn’t sell them at the very beginning of the campaign, but he does sell them by the time the campaign instructs you to begin constructing your iron mines. 8 Steel beams, 20(?)wood planks, and $2,500 are all you’ll need to settle new islands. Buying steel beams from Sir Archibald Blake is much cheaper and faster than the cost of building/maintaining a steel beam production line.
Once you’ve settled and developed an island or two, your income should be considerably higher and affording your own steel beam/weapons production line should be much more manageable.
Super money tip: people like alcohol and they will pay ALOT when you supply it to them. Early on schnapps is an okay money maker, but is quite expensive on the workforce side.
Beer is a massive economy boost, I’d advise going for it after you’ve supplied sausages+bread+soap to your workers because it is quite expensive on the maintenance, but makes a looooot of money, especially going in Artisans. It takes a lot of space too, so you’d probably want to produce wheat/hops on a separate island and ship it in your main city where you should have enough workers for the malt and beer itself, or just have your own workers on island #2 to do it locally and ship it to Ditchwater.
With the beer income, you’ll be able to set up the weapons production for the quest (side tip: you can build it just to validate the quest and pause production so that you’re not spending the workforce and upkeep costs).