Becoming a day trader

A very interesting job is the day trader one. The requirements are easy to meet, and you don’t have to submit a lengthy and drawn-out CV to become a day trader. What you do need? In fact, having a PC, a dose of common sense, some patience and the perseverance to learn by doing is all you need. But what is day trading? And how can you become a strong and successful day trader?

This extended day trading guide will tell you all you need to know to start your own successful trading activities! Maybe you are the next employee who resigns and who sits back, relaxes and earns an income by trading.

What is day trading?

Day trading is an investment activity whereby you open and close the positions on the same day. By short-term trading, you can profit from small price changes.

This guide will show you in practice how day trading works. You can read and follow these practical guidelines if you want to start day trading soon.

Will you become a day trader?

Can you live the wonderful life of a day trader? Just give yourself a little time and patience before quitting your current job! Various brokers offer demo accounts to try all the ins and outs of day trading free of charge so you can easily test if this way of investing is your way of investing. Upon making profits on a regular basis you can then decide to become a full-time day trader. Time to let your money work instead of working for your money.

If you would like to become a good day trader, it’s important to apply the right techniques. On this page, you will learn everything you need to know to become a good day trader. Let’s first look at the most important day trading strategies which you can apply!

Day trading strategies

There are various day trading strategies which you can apply. It’s important to consider which strategy suits you the best.  

Scalping

Scalping is a day trading strategy whereby positions are held open from a few seconds to a few minutes. Scalpers tend to open tens to hundreds of positions a day to make numerous small profits. Scalping is a labor-intensive technique which is not really recommended for starting investors.

Momentum

The momentum trader is continuously looking for the so-called big moving price changers. Many brokers allow you to easily check which shares have experienced a strong rise or fall. The momentum investor trades in line with the current trend. You sail for example up the crest of a strong price increase wave and a few moments later, before it falls, you leave the wave. This can for example be done by means of a certain resistance level at which the price will not break above.

Momentum day trader

Fading

Fading is a contrarian investment strategy which also aims for strong price moves, but which is not used to go with but to go against the prevailing trend. Prices are sometimes extremely volatile. Negative news can for example be a serious volatility trigger. Panicking people can cause serious price collapses. A smart day trader takes his trading surfboard and jumps at the right moment on the wave back to the top.

Contrarian day trading isn’t completely risk-free. There is always the risk of a further evolving price. Besides there is a risk your stop loss, the moment you make a loss, will not behave as expected when confronted with a very strong move. The very essence of the success of this strategy is to practice first.

<contrai day trading>

Pivot Point day trading

The pivot point day trader is looking for certain support and resistance levels. These levels are referring to price levels, highs and lows, which will normally not be easily broken. This could for example be the lowest and highest price level of the day or typical turning points at which the price movement changes to the other direction. As an investor you can place your order at a certain pivot point.

When a level is broken, you could choose to take a position which goes with the flow and you can set a stop loss right below the resistance level.

pivot resistance

When the price, on the other hand, would move in the opposite direction, you could choose to take a contrarian position and you set the stop loss right above the resistance level.

Pivot resistance not breached

Become the ultimate ‘day trader’ guide

This part of the article will learn you all about day trading and will help you to get off to a flying start when you start trading yourself.  

The start of your business

Becoming a successful day trader, means managing your trading as if you were running a business. People who are quickly opening a random investment without proper planning, will ultimately not belong to the small group of people who earn millions by day trading. No, to become a successful day trader, you need to make a detailed and comprehensive plan.

Specialize

A first crucial step is to formulate a proper plan. A proper plan can nevertheless only be formulated when you have determined your day trading commodity. Day trading can be applied among others to:

Even within these categories there are thousands of securities to choose from. Specialization is therefore the first key to success. When for example you choose to go for shares, you choose a handful of shares which you would like trading in. Make sure the chosen security has a high liquidity (enough people trading it) and a high volatility (a security which frequently moves up and down).

Formulate a long-term plan

No business without a decent business plan. Take your time to define a proper plan. First, your plan should contain your starting capital, the money which you will use for trading. Next step in the process is to set some objectives. Think about a realistic timeframe to achieve your objectives. By setting realistic and clear goals you can evaluate your progress once in a while to ensure you are on the right track.

Choose your broker

Upon determining a long-term objective, you must still choose a broker. A broker is the place to be to start trading your investments. It is of crucial importance to go for a good, reliable and professional broker. Day trading is all about the transaction costs because you will exercise a significant amount of orders. We therefore advise you to open a balance at and buy an account from a broker which doesn’t charge commissions.

Secondly, the speed of the platform is of main importance. Since day trading is typically a short-term trading concept, it’s important to be able to quickly open and close your positions. Reliability is key!  

This broker overview will provide you a clear list of recommended brokers.

Create your own system

Upon founding your day trading business, it is time to think about creating your own system. A good investment system specifies clear rules about different market circumstances. You will know what to do in which situations and you will be able to evaluate which decisions are working well and which decisions are to be avoided moving forward.  

Possible market trends

Each market has 3 possible directions:

  • Rising trend
  • Falling trend
  • Consolidating trend (no clear direction)

A market can also have a low volatility or a high volatility. These market trends should be taken into account when setting up your business plan.

Daytrading trends

Define rules

Next, it is important to define clear rules. When do you open an investment? When do you close the investment again? Think about the tools you use to take your decisions and try to exclude all other information sources. Investments can be opened based on a:

Start testing

A next important phase in becoming a day trader is the testing phase. Testing can be done by printing out graphs and running them against your defined rules. Would your set strategy have resulted into a positive story when applied on these historical scenarios?

Next, you can try out the possibilities by means of a free demo. A demo simulates the real situation giving you a decent idea about the results which you can achieve. Click here  to see where you can open a free demo.

Interpret the results as if you were interpreting a roulette table. If a roulette ball lands ten times in the number 10 slot, you will still consider it to be coincidence. Only long-term results will clearly tell and show you if something works well or not. Therefore, do not be deterred from investing when you are not achieving good results in individual situations. It is important to take a good sample to determine whether your strategy will lead to good results on a long-term basis.

When ready to rumble you can make a small deposit and try your first system with real money. It is important to kick off investing small amounts in low risk investments. Only when your system has proven its value, you start investing large amounts of money.

Some useful day trading tips

Use various timeframes

By using various timeframes, you get a better idea of the bigger picture. A significant short-term move doesn’t automatically mean a significant move from a long-term point of view.  

Keep your system simple

Efficiency works! Don’t look for the most complicated combinations of indicators and rules. The simpler the system, the bigger the chance it works. After all, the chance of making an error significantly reduces. When the system doesn’t work, you of course have to make changes to enhance your results.  

Watch out for important news

Important news can have a serious price impact. Therefore, you need to verify daily if any special announcements will be made about the security which you are trading in. An announcement of the central bank about interest rates can for example have a serious influence on the exchange rate when you are trading Forex.

Being a day trader, it’s important to take this into account. It could be very smart not to trade for a while when such messages are released. After all, the message can create a high volatility and can cause a serious and sudden loss for your open positions.

Day trading stock news

News can have a significant impact on stock exchange prices

Don’t go for frequent winning

When it comes to drinking alcohol, moderation is the key. The same applies to trading. After all, you pay transaction costs for each investment. Don’t start looking actively for investments which more or less suit your strategy needs. Only open positions when they really meet your set rules.

It is also important to shift you attention from the win rate. It’s more important to be profitable than to profit on every separate transaction. After all, 5 times an investment with a 5% profit per investment is much better than 20 times an investment with a 1% profit. This is for sure true when in the latter case you also open multiple loss-making investments.

Evaluate as a scientist

Upon exercising 100 investments based on your system, it is important to evaluate and analyze the results as a real scientist. First check if you have made a profit. When you have not made a profit, it’s important to verify whether you have made mistakes or whether your set rules have not led to profitable results.

You also need to take a good look at whether the profit is mainly thanks to one successful investment. When one trade has led to a very good result, but the other investments did not really do well, then your system is probably not good either. So, pay attention to the bigger picture and check if your defined rules will also lead to good results in the long term.

Next it is important to make some notes. Write down what went well, but especially write down what didn’t go well. It will allow you to determine clear enhancement areas and points in order to increase your profit as a day trader.

Proper risk management

If you would like to become a day trader, proper risk management is of crucial importance. Being a day trader, it is of course impossible to completely avoid risks. What you can do is to manage them properly, just like a CEO manages his company.

Always use a stop loss

It is important to always use a stop loss. A stop loss is the value on which your position is always closed! Before opening a trade, determine the level at which you are making a loss. It’s very important to properly justify the determination of this level. Is there for example a resistance level or turning point at which the price often changes direction?

It is important to respect the stop loss. Don’t move the stop loss during an investment. It is also important to prevent yourself from increasing your position when you are losing money on it. Many traders feel they have to compensate for their losing position. In the end this strategy will only limit the profitability of your trading strategy. Always follow the rules of your system!

Keep an eye on risk and reward

Check with each position whether you can obtain a favorable risk : reward ratio. If you would be confronted with a loss of £/€/$/1 at the stop loss level, you would ideally and minimally like to make a £/€/$2 profit at the take profit level. If you apply this principle, you only need to be right in less than half of the cases in order to achieve a positive investment result.

When you can’t obtain a favorable risk : reward ratio at your day trade, it’s better not to open the position at all. After all, it is not about the number of positions you open, but about the profit that you make with them.

Limit your risk

The major risk for each day trader is to lose your whole balance. After all, without a balance there are no means anymore to keep on trading and you are ‘jobless’. Depending on your system, you can determine how much money you want to maximally risk on one investment and how much you want to risk on all your open positions.  

If you want to play it safe, you risk a maximum of 1% per position. Let’s suppose for example you are trading with a €10.000 balance. In that case you can’t lose more than €100 on the position when the stop loss is hit. If you have an average of 5 open positions, your loss is limited to a maximum of 5% at each moment.

These percentages are among others dependent on your risk willingness. Besides, also the amount of money you use for trading plays a crucial role. People using smaller amounts of money to day trade often choose a higher percentage.

Develop the right day trader mindset

The major problem of almost each day trader is his/her mindset. If it goes wrong, it’s never the market’s fault. Besides, also the system is often not to blame. Most of the times it is a case of simple human error. If you want to become a day trader, it is important to realize that the right psychological mindset is of the utmost importance.

Accept a loss

Being a day trader, it is of crucial importance to accept losses. Stop always trying to be right because day trading won’t allow this mentality. Therefore, focus on the long-term result and treat your losses and profits in the same way.

Don’t be daunted by multiple subsequent unprofitable trades. This doesn’t automatically mean your system isn’t working properly. An unprofitable trade can result from bad luck while a profitable trade can be pure luck. It’s more important to check whether you have taken the right decision. Therefore, reward yourself when you have followed your own system and not when luck is on your side.

Only in the long term it is important to analyze your day trades. When it is continuously and consistently going wrong, it might be wise to change your system.

Control your emotions

Emotions can be the major enemy of each day trader. Emotions like anger and greed can affect your business decisions and result in taking the wrong ones. It is important to keep on taking your decisions based on rational thought and not on emotions. You can read more about how emotions can influence your trades in our article about the influence of emotions on investments.

Remain optimistic, focus on the end game

It is important to remain optimistic at all times. Always visualize the success you want to achieve. Think about your why. Why did you become a day trader? What do you achieve when having a fully functional and well working system which generates a lot of money? Think about these questions and their answers on a daily basis and be buzzed with renewed energy which you can put into day trading.

Do remain realistic though. Set achievable goals and don’t be frustrated when you are not able to reach them directly. Rome wasn’t built in a day either!

You can also reward yourself if you have exercised a series of flawless (so not necessarily profitable) trades. Consider regularly what you have achieved and how you have grown. It will slowly make you the successful and prosperous day trader you have always wanted to be!

Advantages and disadvantages of becoming a day trader

A big pro of living your life as a day trader is the fact you have full control over your own work schedule. No big brother is watching you, no annoying interruptions by colleagues or your supervisor and the full freedom to take your own decisions. When being stressed you just put your work aside for a while and when being eager to work you can continue as long as you want. In fact, your own fantasy is the only available obstacle when living a day trader’s life.

Nevertheless, a day trader’s life also has some weak points. First of all, it’s a quite stressful job. Can you handle your numbers going into the red zone while you know it’s your own money and are you strong enough to end your losses and to continue your profits?

Besides, it’s a pity you miss the charms of a real job; think about the nice relation and chitchatting with your colleagues. Luckily enough there is a wide range of possibilities to maintain and even extend your social life outside of work. Think about joining a sports club or traveling to a beautiful holiday destination.

Everybody can do it… theoretically speaking

Theoretically speaking everybody can become a day trader. After all, day trading is about buying and selling financial securities whereby the only things you need are a computer and two hands with a decent set of fingers. There are always 3 possibilities: buying, selling or doing nothing.

The latter option won’t earn you a lot of money but sometimes it can be the best decision to take. Upon randomly and unsubstantiated buying or selling something you have a 50% chance of being correct. But that’s of course not what a day trader is aiming for and you will have to increase this percentage.

It is important to remember day trading is not an exact science. The prices are continuously moving due to actions executed by various persons whereby these actions cannot always be rationally explained. You are a human actor too playing a limited role in this game of supply and demand.

The reason not everyone is taking a flying trading start, is because not everyone is playing the game according to his or her own rules. In the end, day trading is all about defining your system and systematically following the rules of your system.

Defining your system

To build a successful trading system, you first have to get a few things right. First of all, you need to know exactly what you are going to do: we advise everyone to read our free course investing in CFDs. As soon as you are familiar with all different investment terms and possibilities, you are ready to hit the investment road by creating a free demo account.

When you decide to start trading, it’s important to develop your own plan. It’s all up to you to determine the foundations and specifications of your system. You could for example choose short-term or long-term trading and you can choose between different kind of analyses. In the end it doesn’t really matter how your system fits together; no, in the end it’s all about respecting your system’s rules and learning from your mistakes.

What’s the probability of being successful?

Your probable success rate can be looked at from various angles. When you are just focusing on the bare numbers, it might seem the odds are against you. Research namely has shown that the majority of starting day traders is making a loss and quits the trading business rather quickly. Nevertheless, a group of people, about 10 percent, does make a profit.

Besides, it’s also important to look at the exact numbers. Many traders give day trading a try for the short-term and achieve a small loss. At the same time, there are successful day traders which in the end gain millions of dollars. So, you can certainly achieve good results with day trading, but it is not a get rich quick scheme. Just as with any other job, you have to work hard being a day trader.

Therefore, we keep on repeating to carefully consider if day trading is your cup of tea. Besides the income from day trading, you also have to take into account the so-called opportunity costs. If you were to use the time spent on day trading to perform a normal job, you would also be paid a salary. Therefore, deduct your salary from the income you earn from day trading. This logic will help you to properly determine whether your day trading is successful or not.

The mindset of a trader

You need a certain mindset: let’s call it the day trader’s mindset. With this mindset it is important to go against your nature. We are of course programmed to avoid losses as much as possible and avoiding losses in daily life just feels good. When a car is approaching, your brain will prevent pain by sending signals which will make you stop at the edge of the sidewalk. Unfortunately, these instinctive reactions are all but beneficial for a day trader.

After all, the most common mistake made by traders is still the mistake of keeping losses open for too long and closing down your profits too fast. Losses are kept open for a longer period because traders are still hoping for the price to increase at a later stage. Hope is nevertheless a bad trading strategy. When a similar situation occurs, you need to close the position and it would sometimes even be wise to open a new position in the opposite direction.  

On the other hand, to play it safe many people tend to close their profit as soon as possible. Because imagine what would happen if the price would change again and your profit would vanish into thin air or even worse would become a loss. This is obviously an annoying situation, but as soon as you have made an estimate and you predict a price to increase to a certain level it is important to hold your ground.

In the end, a successful day trader is a day trader whose profits are higher than his/her losses. If respecting this principle, you are even a profitable trader when you are right in only 50% of the cases.

Useful links: start trading directly!