How far are the cargo missions? If its only one jump away, you should have plenty of time, even if you encounter a pirate along the way. Two systems away can be tricky if the warppoints and planets are far from each other in-system.
Knowing where the planets are relative to the warppoint helps a lot too.
1) Check the system map before hand, so you know which jobs are easier to get to.
2) Check the system map (full screen) before you set out after taking the job, and as soon as you enter the destination system.
3) Using the map, figure out exactly which way you need to go. "Pass the left side of the red Primary star, then turn right at the asteroid field. First green planet."
Wandering randomly is no way to run a shipping business
Once you know the maps, and the speed of your ship, you can play things loose and take time to fire on pirates along the way.
Of course, you can always bump the time limits up in Main_Jobs.txt
If shipping just isn't your style, I suggest heading for neutral territory. After warping in to each system, scan for enemy ships. If there are some, find a friendly TCN fleet, and join up with them.
You can train with the elite officers and scavenge the leftovers from enemy ships.
Even if you do get holed, the TCN will probably finish off the enemy before you die, and you can limp along behind them while you repair your ship.
[ October 08, 2003, 18:35: Message edited by: Suicide Junkie ]