Good routes: different places drop gold at varying amounts, and offer a different selection of Rare Materials
Good area knowledge: As you get to know the precise spawn location of every potential loot and mob for a given area, your performance there will significantly improve. Especially if your recruits are somewhat lacking
I don’t think you should feel the need to dedicate yourself to farming before lvl 15 at the earliest. I started researching it when I was around lvl 17 myself, and it had been pretty easy to upgrade my main bots just doing the story, contracts & arena.
You can cancel and reroll contracts that don’t fit. It can’t be worth your time if you don’t have the Mayoral Membership that allows you to skip ads though, and even then I don’t do it anymore because it’s very tedious.
Route Navigation & Recruit Micro-Managment
In most routes, you want to make sure your recruits can deal with the mobs that guard loot or block your way, while the rest is only optional. This may require some micro-management, usually by not deploying all 3 of them right from the start but keeping them to where they’re the most needed.
Use the Bombardment gadget (lvl2) on large groups to help your recruits win fights easier and save up health (thx @birdsound#0152)
Tank the energy canons so it doesn’t hurt your recruits instead.
Be very careful for them around mines.
Still, if you have such contracts, pick and chose a route that will allow you to complete it.
At the early stages of the game, you will be both limited in your route options, and probably not have that great Recruits. You can still use these techniques, and will have to make up for your Recruits shortcomings with some extra micro-management and running to dodge mobs. Those you can’t run, fight many at once.
The loss of gold/min will be made up for by the opportunity to train any bot you want to improve.
Invisibility is a huge help, just as much as the third recruit.
You will always be looking for gold, but when you also need specifically some other materials it might be worth it to run an alternative route to have a chance to drop it. At 475 gold/rare drop, and ~1 drop/3runs (7min30), it represents about 63 extra gold/min. Even just Sparky Wires make it worth it to have Wild Bots in your route, even if that decreases your gold earnings. It’s all about compromise.
Here are my best routes for Resources I deem “Farmable”: