Minimum skills. Prospective pirates want to know what skills are needed to be effective in piracy, and genuinely have a hard time believing that just two are really necessary. (1) High Speed Maneuvering 1 is required, as it lets one use a microwarpdrive (MWD). This module affords a pilot a better chance of being able to dictate range--to fight at a range that is advantageous to him, or perhaps to escape a disadvantageous engagement altogether. (2) Propulsion Jamming 1 allows pilots to fit stasis webifiers (which slow the sub-warp speed of an enemy ship) and warp disrupters and warp scramblers (AKA "warp jammers," these modules prevent the target ship from engaging his warp drive). A webber and jammer are essential tackling gear, preventing the quarry from escaping. The webber also makes it easer for turrets to track their target.
Other skills may serve to enhance a pilot's effectiveness, but they are not required for piracy. Pirates are effective because of their mindset, because they are mentally prepared, because they have a plan, more than because of their skillset or fittings. Having said that, it is certainly recommended that a pirate gain a high level of skill in all subjects that affect the operation of his ship and its modules. Some pirates refuse to fly or fit anything with which they do not have a skill level of at least 4. And indeed, on the minority of occasions when you're facing an equally PvP-capable pilot, you'll be glad for higher skill levels.
What ship? Experienced pirates can do a lot of mischief in just about any known ship, but the "conventional wisdom" recognizes three T1 frigates as superior pirate vessels: the Minmatar Rifter, the Gallente Incursus, and the Amarr Punisher. The Rifter is probably the most feared PvP T1 frigate; the Incursus gets the job done; and while the Punisher suffers in fitting the mid-slots, it can tank like the dickens.
More experienced pilots with no experience in PvP frequently make the mistake of wanting to start their pirate career in a bigger ship. I'd advise against it. Cruisers, battlecruisers, battleships, command ships, recon ships, interceptors, whatever--they're best employed after one has a solid foundational knowledge of lowsec PvP, not before. I guarantee that whatever ship you choose, you'll lose it within a matter of hours. Better to do your initial learning in cheap, disposable ships. If you fly something bigger, the lowsec cutthroats will use their encounters with you to preen themselves on their corp killboards and stroke their e-peens.
Now, start your education. Gather a stable of cheap T1 frigates in lowsec, with all the trimmings. Fit them and insure them. Then go out and hunt. Ignore industrial ships--the haulers tend to jump directly from gate to gate or station; considering the sentry guns, you won't be ganking haulers in your frigate. Focus your search on asteroid belts; if a potential target is not at an asteroid belt, chances are it's at a safespot or doing a mission where you can't find it, or at a POS protected by sentry guns. It's possible your elusive target is at a planet or moon--in which case you should expect a more PvP-savvy opponent. What will you be learning as you engage in lowsec belt piracy?
- Respect for sentry guns. Wait out your criminal timer in space.
- How to use your ship's onboard scanner.
- Which ships you may engage with confidence.
- Which ships you should be wary of, and why.
- Which systems are target-rich.
- Which systems to avoid.
- Tactics and strategy.
Now that you're engaged in a self-guided educational program, it will probably be helpful to learn from the experiences of others. One particularly helpful resource is the Crime and Punishment section of the EVE-online forums; be sure to check out the stickied post at the top with links to pirate guides and resources. Another helpful site is Eve-Pirate.com.
It's possible that in just a couple of weeks, and with less than 4 million skillpoints, you could be a superior PvP pilot--at least in your area of expertise, small-ship belt piracy. Don't join a pirate corp right now; wait until you have at least 5-10 solo kills (document them by posting your killmails at BattleClinic) to demonstrate that you're not a total noob. It may surprise you to know that the majority of pilots in PvP and pirate corporations only get 0-5 kills a week; by developing a learning mindset, being willing to lose cheap ships, and gaining actual solo experience, you'll be on the road to a successful outlaw career.