If you still have a 9 to 5 job, becoming a professional trader in your spare time can be quite a challenge as I know from experience. Pursuing the goal of quitting your day job to become a profitable trader often seems like an unrealistic task for most people but there are certain steps that can help you improve your trading while working 9-5 and finding time for hobbies and your family at the same time.
The problems which keep traders from making the next step are:
- No structure
- Most traders are all over the place, always changing their approach, every trade looks different, they jump from one timeframe to the other, change indicators, chase price and so on
- No vision
- It is very demotivating if your results are all over the place and nothing you try seems to work. System hopping and the “gambling” mentality are often the consequences.
- No accountability
- Trading can be very lonely and if you don’t have people around you that help you grow, trading can become very frustrating. And even if you are in contact with other traders, often it’s not supporting your development as a trader.
My top tips for becoming a professional
Here are our top 13 steps and tips that will help you improve your trading while still working in your regular 9 to 5 job:
1. Find a trading style that suits you
It’s important to have a trading style that fits your personality AND your schedule. The two broad categories and trading styles traders have to choose from are swing-trading and day-trading.
Usually, swing-trading is better suited for traders who have limited time and restricted access to charts throughout the day. As a swing-trader, you do your chart analyses during the weekends and before/after work and you manage and execute your trades when you get back from work. Swing traders also don’t need to observe the markets all day long which can free up even more time.
If you are a Forex trader, you could also fit in a few hours of day-trading in the evenings since you’ll usually always find some active currency markets at any given time – but make sure that you can remain focused after your 8 hours work day.
ForexFactory offers a great tool that helps you understand which markets are active during different times and it also shows how liquidity changes during the day so that you can find the best currency pairs based on your schedule:
Tip 1: Decide whether you want to be a swing trader or a day trader. Audit your weekly schedule and your personality to see which style suits you best. Then, choose the markets and instruments accordingly.
In our premium course, you get access to both a swing trading and a day trading system at the same time.
Take a look here: Our Premium Forex Course
2. Don’t ride the learning curve
This is the cardinal sin of trading; “system-hopping” refers to traders who frequently change their trading method every few weeks or months – or sometimes even days. Those traders usually never see any real improvements in their trading and profitable trading is impossible if you don’t fully commit to making one thing work.
If you always change your approach and don’t follow any rules consistently, all your trades will look different and you cannot analyze and make sense of your data. The only thing that will become obvious is that you lose consistently but you won’t find out what your greatest struggles are (except for a general lack of structure), what you should work on and what already works well.
You need to get a consistent approach and even though your results won’t look great in the beginning, at least you can start making sense of your trade review and slowly work on becoming better.
Tip 2: For the next 12 months, pick one system and make a contract with yourself that you will not change your method again. No matter what.
3. The money is made by waiting – trade your plan
Your weekend should be your most important day of the week. I personally do 80% of all my trading work on the weekends and then I do very little throughout the week. I mostly just follow my trading plans and do a quick trading plan update every 2 days.
As Jesse Livermore nicely put it:
“After spending many years in Wall Street and after making and losing millions of dollars I want to tell you this: It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight!”
Most traders easily over-trade because they don’t have a plan and they don’t fully know what to look for in a chart or a good trade. Become clear about your rules, then you can create trading plans and then it’s just a matter of waiting for the price to come to you. No more chasing and impulsive trade execution!
Tip 3: Price alerts are the ultimate time-saver and the most overlooked trading tool. Use them after you have done your weekend analysis. This means you have to do your weekend preparation as well 😉
4. Active improvement as a trader
I mentioned that you should avoid system-hopping at all costs, but the question that then naturally comes up is: “how do I turn my current (losing) trading method into a winning one?” Here are 2 tips and things you should focus on to improve as a trader:
#1 Identify your biggest problems and take responsibility
Traders often mistakenly believe that their lack of trading success is caused by their trading method which then usually leads to system-hopping. However, failure typically comes down to undisciplined trading, a lack of professionalism and a pure gambling mentality.
Unless you trade 100% automated, YOU are the weakest link in your trading routine.
Thus, the first step for you should be to identify your greatest problems and your most commonly made mistakes. Traders who always try to blame their system avoid taking responsibility and look for excuses instead of doing the work that is necessary.
Tip 4: Over the next weekend, review your past 30/40 trades and see what caused your losses. Then come up with a top 3 list with your most commonly made mistakes.
#2 Process-oriented thinking
Most people act from a goal-oriented mindset where they automatically connect winning trades with good trades and see losses as failures. Such a way of thinking shows an amateur mindset.
The professionals, on the other hand, act from a process-oriented mindset where they look at how well they have executed their trades and how disciplined they perform. Thus, for a process-oriented trader, a loss does not necessarily equal a bad trade if they have done everything they could.
Tip 5: Avoid monetary goals and for the next 2 months, stop looking at your P/L. This will be tough but the impact will be huge.
5. What do you really want out of life?
There is an interesting survey I came across and it shows how people structure their day. The average employed American spends 7:45 hours at work on a regular workday. At the same time, the average American watches 2 hours and 9 minutes TV each day and only invest 25 minutes per day in education.
Also, the average sleep time is at 8 hours and 48 minutes which exceeds the recommended 8 hours per day by almost 1 hour.
When you are working towards becoming a profitable trader, you have to be clear about your priorities and make sure that your actions align with your goals. Are you willing to wake up one hour ahead of schedule every day, stop binge-watching random TV series, skip a night out with friends every now and then and re-invest that time back into your trading? You can easily find 2 hours right there.
Granted, those are tough calls to make and you might say that “you still need to live a little”, but putting in the work now to reap the benefits in a few years will take your life to new heights.
Tip 6: Audit your week and identify time wasters. Then, just eliminate 1 such time-waster and use it to work on your trading.
“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”
― Brian Tracy
6. Don’t focus on the when and the how much
I often get the question of how much you can make and how big your trading account needs to be to live off your trading profits. When I then counter with the question how much those people are currently making, it becomes obvious very fast that they are focusing on the wrong things at the right time and they are not even profitable yet.
Don’t try to run before you can walk!
Especially at the beginning of your trading journey, you should not worry about how big your annual return can be and how much capital you need to save to quit your day job and travel the world.
Focusing on those things will get you off track and keep you from making progress – it can also demotivate you when you see how much work is ahead of you and how far away you are from reaching your goals.
Instead, focus on your current problems and struggles. Then you can start making baby steps and slowly (but surely!) become a better trader without all the distractions.
Tip 7: Focus on the immediate task ahead and work on your current problems. Small improvements over time add up.
7. The dangers of demo trading
There is a place for demo trading, but most people stay on demo too long.
What I have seen in my own trading and from the traders that I helped is that demo trading often lets people adopt negative behavioral patterns that are then very hard to unlearn. When your actions don’t have any real consequences, you are more likely to repeat mistakes and engage in the bad trading behavior. I typically suggest staying on demo for the first 6 – 12 months (max!) until you have a good understanding of the nuts and bolts and then take make the next step towards live trading.
When there are no consequences of your bad behavior, you won’t learn any lessons and, in the worst case, you won’t be able to unlearn your negative patterns later in your live trading.
Tip 9: The pecking order is: Demo > small live account > decent live account > an account where your winners are impactful
And make sure that you learn your lessons from the first trading account(s) you lose!
8. 4 tips for growing a (small) trading account
If you are like most traders, you probably don’t have the capital to start with a trading account that allows you to generate a decent income right away and that’s totally fine. But you have to make sure that you follow the right path.
Here are our top 4 tips that will help you grow your account and enjoy the process:
#1 Patience and expectations
Let’s start with the most important point: having unrealistic expectations very quickly lead to frustration when those expectations aren’t met. Always keep in mind that what you are doing is creating a new life and a new career for you. You have to get away from the get rich quick mentality and accept that this is a long-term play.
Traders want “to trade for a living” but then act like they need to retire next month. Stay patient, learn the basics, manage risk & enjoy.
— Tradeciety – Rolf (@Tradeciety) 2. August 2016
Tip 10: Adopt realistic expectations and avoid monetary goals.
#2 Recognize your true edge as a part-time trader
This is often your greatest advantage over full-time traders. When trading is not your only source of income, you can eliminate a lot of the pressure that often causes traders to make mistakes. Also, when you are not glued to your screen all day long, you are less likely to make bad trading decisions just because you are bored or haven’t taken a trade in a while. Maybe you don’t even have to become a profitable trader and just trade a few hours every day and grow your savings or up your lifestyle?
Tip 11: Understand your motives and become self-aware about how you perform best while achieving your life goals.
#3 Honesty with yourself
The cold, harsh truth is that, in the end, no one cares if you make it as a trader. That’s why it so important to be honest with yourself and with your current situation. Analyze your approach to trading realistically, your level of professionalism and whether you are serious enough about it. The failure rate in trading is somewhere around 99%, but it’s not necessarily that high because trading is so damn hard, but because most don’t give it their full attention and just see it as a quick way out.
Tip 12: Are you serious enough about trading? Be honest with yourself and evaluate your current approach to trading.
Disclaimer: The experience reports and comments shown constitute the personal experiences of our users. These are individual results that do not permit conclusions to be drawn about future developments. In particular, we make no claim that these are typical results that can be achieved by our users on a regular basis. Tradeciety can neither predict nor guarantee the occurrence of certain developments or the achievement of profits nor will it do so.