Seek high value trades
Follow the market trend
Know when to take profits
Identify maximum loss limits
Be aware of your risk-versus-reward ratio
Follow economic announcements
Be ready for technical glitches
Spend some time away from the screen
As a trader, your objective is to make profits, and not place lots and lots of trades, which would normally just result in your broker getting rich. A fairly obvious but often forgotten rule is to know what sort of set ups are right for your strategy. Spend some time trying to identify your trading goals and resist the urge to buy or sell on a whim just because you feel you should be doing something.
Don’t forget that you are not an investor. If a trade goes wrong, don’t kid yourself that you are going to hang onto it for a bit longer as 'the market will come back' or on the hopes that 'the market is wrong'. We are constantly told that discipline is a big part of trading. This is even truer in the aggressive, shorter-term time zone of the day trader. Don’t let one big loss ruin lots of perfectly good trades.
It can be easy to get carried away when a trade starts going in your favour, with many traders feeling that this is the one that is really going to go to the moon. In the same way that you have a stop loss in mind when you enter a trade, it helps to have an idea of at least where you want to take profits. Don’t let a solid profitable trade turn into a loser.
Day traders are typically looking for smaller moves than those trading on a longer-term time frame. Just because you are trying to identify smaller moves does not mean you should relax your approach to risk management. Know where you are going to get out before you get in, and place a stop-loss order, whenever possible.
This one ties in with knowing where your stop loss and targets are. Someone who is day trading and risking, for example, a £100 loss to make a £50 profit is likely to find out very quickly that this is not a profitable trading strategy. You are probably not going to be as correct as you think you are, so make sure that your potential profits are a realistic multiple of what you are risking. That way, if you are right even slightly less than half the time, you could still make money overall.
Know what major economic announcements are due out and research how these could affect the markets you are watching. For instance, you may have spotted the most reliable chart pattern in the world, but if the US non-farm payrolls are due out in 90 seconds, chances are that the market could act somewhat erratically. Most brokers provide economic calendars these days so there is no excuse for not knowing what is happening in the financial world.
In our constantly-connected world, we can often take for granted that stuff just works. But what are you going to do if you have trades open and your internet connection goes down or your PC decides to self-destruct? Have a phone number ready for your broker at the very least, and potentially the option to connect via alternative means, such as a mobile app.
It can be too easy to be sucked into the hypnotic world of flashing numbers and moving charts. This is a cliché but can mean that you end up not seeing the wood for the trees. Take regular breaks, walk away and come back to the markets with a fresh pair of eyes.
Trading can be stressful enough without putting added mental pressure on yourself. The right trades should not need to be forced and should not involve squinting for hours at a time at a price chart.
Make no mistake, day-trading is not for everyone and is most definitely not the path to easy money. Those who succeed have a passion for the markets and embrace short-term volatility. It should not be a battle, but more about being in tune with intraday swings across the financial markets. This 'going with the flow' approach will be hard to achieve if you are scared, intimidated or constantly on edge with every change in price. It is important that you have confidence in your system, and enjoy the challenge of where next for markets.