10 Day Trading Tips and How to Get Started

Day trading involves buying and selling financial instruments at least once within the same day. If played correctly, taking advantage of small price moves can be a lucrative game. Yet, it can be dangerous for beginners and anyone else who doesn’t have a well-thought-out strategy.

Not all brokers are suited for the high volume day trading generates. Meanwhile, some fit perfectly with day traders. Check out our list of the best brokers for day trading that accommodate individuals who would like to day trade.

The online brokers on our list, Interactive Brokers and Webull, have professional or advanced versions of their platforms with real-time streaming quotes, charting tools, and the ability to enter and modify complex orders in quick succession.

Below, we’ll take a look at 10 day trading strategies for beginners. Then, we’ll consider when to buy and sell, basic charts and patterns, and how to limit losses.

Key Takeaways

  • Day trading is only profitable in the long run when traders take it seriously and do their research.
  • Day traders must be diligent, focused, objective, and unemotional in their work.
  • Interactive Brokers and Webull are two recommended online brokers for day traders.
  • Day traders often look at liquidity, volatility, and volume when deciding what stocks to buy.
  • Some tools that day traders use to pinpoint buying points include candlestick chart patterns, trend lines and triangles, and volume.

1. Knowledge Is Power

In addition to knowledge of procedures, day traders need to keep up with the latest stock market news and events that affect stocks. This included the Federal Reserve System’s interest rate plans, leading indicator announcements, and other economic, business, and financial news.

So, do your homework. Make a wish list of stocks you’d like to trade. Be informed about the selected companies, their stocks, and general markets. Scan business news and bookmark reliable online news outlets.

2. Set Aside Funds

Assess and commit to the amount of capital you’re willing to risk on each trade. Many successful day traders risk less than 1% to 2% of their accounts per trade. If you have a $40,000 trading account and are willing to risk 0.5% of your capital on each trade, your maximum loss per trade is $200 (0.5% x $40,000). Moreover, only trade with suitable online brokers and trading platforms.

Earmark funds you can trade with and are prepared to lose.

3. Set Aside Time

Day trading requires your time and attention. In fact, you’ll need to give up most of your day. Don’t consider it if you have limited time to spare.

Day trading requires a trader to track the markets and spot opportunities that can arise at any time during trading hours. Being aware and moving quickly are key.

4. Start Small

As a beginner, focus on a maximum of one to two stocks during a session. Tracking and finding prospects is easier with just a few stocks. It’s now common to trade fractional shares. That lets you specify smaller dollar amounts that you wish to invest.

This means that if Amazon.com (AMZN) shares are trading at $170, many brokers will now let you buy a fractional share for as low as $5.

5. Avoid Penny Stocks

You’re probably looking for deals and low prices but stay away from penny stocks. These stocks are often illiquid and the chances of hitting the jackpot with them are often bleak.

Many stocks trading under $5 a share become delisted from major stock exchanges and are only tradable over-the-counter (OTC). Unless you see a real opportunity and have done your research, steer clear of these. Finding real undervalued stocks can be demanding.

6. Time Those Trades

Many orders placed by investors and traders begin to execute as soon as the markets open in the morning, contributing to price volatility. A seasoned player may be able to recognize patterns at the open and time orders to make profits. For beginners, it may be better to read the market without making any moves for the first 15 to 20 minutes.

The middle hours are usually less volatile. Then, the movement begins to pick up again toward the closing bell. Though rush hours offer opportunities, it’s safer for beginners to avoid them at first.

7. Cut Losses With Limit Orders

Decide what type of orders you’ll use to enter and exit trades. Will you use market orders or limit orders? A market order is executed at the best price available, with no price guarantee. It’s useful when you want to enter or exit the market and don’t care about getting filled at a specific price.

A limit order guarantees the price but not the execution. Limit orders can help you trade more precisely and confidently because you set the price at which your order should be executed. A limit order can cut your loss on reversals. However, if the market doesn’t reach your price, your order won’t be filled and you’ll maintain your position.

More sophisticated and experienced day traders may also employ options strategies to hedge their positions.

8. Be Realistic About Profits

A strategy doesn’t need to succeed all the time to be profitable. Traders can be successful by only profiting from 50% to 60% of their trades. However, they need to profit more on their winners than they lose on their losers. Ensure the financial risk on each trade is limited to a specific percentage of your account and that entry and exit methods are clearly defined.

9. Reflect on Investment Behavior

For day traders, frequent reflection on investment behavior is crucial. It helps them identify patterns, learn from past mistakes, and fine-tune their strategies. This fosters continuous learning and adapting to ever-changing market conditions. In addition, it encourages discipline and emotional control, which are key to successful trading.

10. Stick to the Plan

Successful traders have to move fast, but they don’t have to think fast. Why? Because they’ve developed a trading strategy in advance, along with the discipline to stick to it. It is important to follow your formula closely rather than try to chase profits. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and make you abandon your strategy. Bear in mind a mantra of day traders: plan your trade and trade your plan.

Investopedia / Madelyn Goodnight

How To Start Day Trading

Getting underway in day trading involves putting your financial resources together, setting up with a broker who can handle day trading volume, and engaging in self-education and strategic planning. Here’s how to start in five steps:

Step 1: Educate yourself. Before you start trading, it’s crucial to understand the trading principles and specific strategies used in day trading. Read books, take courses, and study financial markets. The major topic to study is technical analysis, which should include reading up on trading psychology and (this is a must) risk management.

Step 2: Develop your trading plan. Outline your investment goals, risk tolerance, and specific trading strategies you’ve picked up from Step 1. Your plan should specify your entry and exit criteria, how much capital you are willing to risk on each trade, and your overall risk management strategy. Before investing real money, put your plan into practice with a real-time trading simulator. This helps you get familiarized with market behavior and the trading platform without financial risk.

Step 3: Choose a trading platform and fund your account. You’ll want a reputable broker that caters to day traders and has low transaction fees, quick order execution, and a reliable trading platform. Once you’re ready, fund your account. It’s advisable to begin with a relatively small amount in your trading account and only put in money you can afford to lose.

Step 4: Begin trading with small positions. This reduces the risks of losing all your money on one or a series of bad trades while you’re still learning. As you do so, continuously review your trades and check them against your learning resources to adjust your strategy. Day trading requires constantly adapting to changing situations.

Step 5: Maintain discipline. Adjusting to changing circumstances does not mean shifting your stop-loss and stop-limit settings or other trading criteria as you take on more risk. Successful day trading relies very much on discipline and emotional control. Stick to your trading plan; don’t let emotions drive your decisions. That’s the way to quick ruin.

What Makes Day Trading Difficult?

Day trading takes a lot of practice and know-how, and several factors can make it challenging.

First, know that you’re competing against professionals whose careers revolve around trading. These people have access to the best technology and connections in the industry, which means they’re set up to succeed. Jumping on the bandwagon usually means more profits for them.

Next, understand that Uncle Sam will want a cut of your profits, no matter how slim. You’ll have to pay taxes on any short-term gains—investments you hold for one year or less—at the marginal rate. The upside is that your losses will offset any gains.

Also, as a beginning day trader, you may be prone to emotional and psychological biases that affect your trading—for instance, when your capital is involved and you’re losing money on a trade. Experienced, skilled professional traders with deep pockets can usually surmount these challenges.

Day Traders Lose

An early popularizer of day trading, Toby Crabel, is also credited with a classic day trading strategy, the opening range breakout. Crabel has had some influence on technical analysis, and he often suggested that day traders are social psychologists with a computer program.

Deciding What and When to Buy

What To Buy

Day traders try to make money by exploiting minute price movements in individual assets (stocks, currencies, futures, and options). They usually leverage large amounts of capital to do so. In deciding what to buy—a stock, say—a typical day trader looks for three things:

  1. Liquidity. A security with this allows you to buy and sell it easily and, hopefully, at a reasonable price. Liquidity is an advantage with tight spreads, or the difference between the bid and ask price of a stock, and for low slippage, or the difference between the expected price of a trade and the actual price.
  2. Volatility. This measures the daily price range—the range in which a day trader operates. More volatility means greater potential for profit or loss.
  3. Trading volume measures the number of times a stock is bought and sold in a given period. It’s commonly known as the average daily trading volume. High volume indicates a lot of interest in a stock. An increase in a stock’s volume is often a harbinger of a price jump, either up or down.

When To Buy

Once you know the stocks (or other assets) you want to trade, you need to identify entry points for your trades. Tools that can help you do this include:

  • Real-time news services: News moves stocks, so it’s important to subscribe to services that alert you when potentially market-moving news breaks.
  • ECN/Level 2 quotes: Electronic communication networks (ECNs) are computer-based systems that display the best available bid and ask quotes from market participants and then automatically match and execute orders. Level 2 is a subscription-based service that provides real-time access to the Nasdaq order book, which has price quotes from market makers in every Nasdaq-listed and OTC Bulletin Board security. Together, they can give you a sense of orders executed in real-time.
  • Intraday candlestick charts: Candlesticks provide a raw analysis of price action. More on these later.

Define and write down the specific conditions under which you’ll enter a position. For instance, buying during an uptrend isn’t specific enough. Instead, put down something more specific and testable: buy when the price breaks above the upper trendline of a triangle pattern, where the triangle is preceded by an uptrend (at least one higher swing high and higher swing low before the triangle formed) on the two-minute chart in the first two hours of the trading day.

Once you have specific entry rules, scan more charts to see if your conditions are generated each day. For instance, determine whether a candlestick chart pattern signals price moves in the direction you anticipate. If so, you have a potential entry point for a strategy.

Next, you’ll need to determine how to exit your trades.

Deciding When To Sell

There are several ways to exit a winning position, including trailing stops and profit targets. Profit targets are the most common exit method. They refer to taking a profit at a predetermined price level. Here are some common profit target strategies:

Strategy Description
Scalping Scalping is one of the most popular strategies. It involves selling almost immediately after a trade becomes profitable. The price target is whatever figure means that you’ll make money on the trade.
Fading Fading involves shorting stocks after rapid moves upward. This is based on the assumption that (1) they are overbought, (2) early buyers are ready to take profits, and, (3) existing buyers may be scared away. Although risky, this strategy can be extremely rewarding. Here, the price target is when buyers begin stepping in again.
Daily Pivots This strategy involves profiting from a stock’s daily volatility. You attempt to buy at the low of the day and sell at the high of the day. Here, the price target is simply at the next sign of a reversal.
Momentum This strategy usually involves trading on news releases or finding strong trending moves supported by high volume. One type of momentum trader will buy on news releases and ride a trend until it exhibits signs of reversal. Another type will fade the price surge. Here, the price target is when volume begins to decrease.

Often, you will want to sell an asset when there is decreased interest in the stock as indicated by the ECN/Level 2 and volume. The profit target should also allow for more money to be made on winning trades than is lost on losing trades. If your stop loss is $0.05 away from your entry price, your target should be more than $0.05 away.

Just as with your entry point, define exactly how you will exit your trades before you enter them. The exit criteria must be specific enough to be repeatable and testable.

Day Trading Charts and Patterns

Here are three common tools day traders use to help them determine opportune buying points:

  • Price charts using depictions such as candlesticks. Also, various chart patterns, including engulfing candles, dojis, and many others.
  • Other technical analysis, including trend lines and various indicators such as the relative strength index, moving average convergence divergence, and many others.
  • Volume

There are many candlestick setups a day trader can look for to find an entry point. If followed correctly, the doji reversal pattern (highlighted in yellow in the chart below) is one of the most reliable.

Image by Julie Bang © Investopedia 2019

Also, look for signs that confirm the pattern:

  • A volume spike on the doji candle or the candles immediately following it, which can indicate that traders are supporting the price at this level
  • Prior support at this price level, such as the prior low of day or high of day Level 2 activity, which will show all the open orders and order sizes

If you use these three confirmation steps, you may determine whether the doji is signaling an actual turnaround and a potential entry point.

Chart patterns also provide profit targets for exits. For example, the height of a triangle at the widest part is added to the breakout point of the triangle (for an upside breakout), providing a price at which to take profits.

How to Limit Losses When Day Trading 

Stop-Loss Orders

It’s important to define exactly how you’ll limit your trade risk. A stop-loss order is designed to limit losses on a position in a security. For long positions, a stop-loss can be placed below a recent low and for short positions, above a recent high. It can also be based on volatility.

For example, if a stock price is moving about $0.05 a minute, then you might place a stop-loss order $0.15 away from your entry to give the price some space to fluctuate before it moves in your anticipated direction.

For a triangle pattern, a stop-loss order can be placed $0.02 below a recent swing low if buying a breakout, or $0.02 below the pattern.

You could also set two stop-loss orders:

  1. Place an actual stop-loss order at a price level that suits your risk tolerance. This level represents the most money that you can stand to lose.
  2. Set a mental stop-loss order at the point where your entry criteria would be violated. If the trade takes an unexpected turn, you’ll immediately exit your position.

However you decide to exit your trades, the exit criteria must be specific enough to be testable and repeatable.

Set a Financial Loss Limit

It’s smart to set a maximum loss per day that you can afford. Whenever you hit this point, exit your trade and take the rest of the day off. Stick to your plan. After all, tomorrow is another (trading) day.

Test Your Strategy

You’ve defined how you enter trades and where you’ll place a stop-loss order. Now, you can assess whether the potential strategy fits within your risk limit. If the strategy exposes you to too much risk, you need to alter it in some way to reduce the risk.

If the strategy is within your risk limit, then testing begins. Manually go through historical charts to find entry points that match yours. Note whether your stop-loss order or price target would have been hit. Paper trade in this way for at least 50 to 100 trades. Determine whether the strategy would have been profitable and if the results meet your expectations.

If your strategy works, proceed to trading in a demo account in real time. If you take profits over the course of two months or more in a simulated environment, proceed with day trading with real capital. If the strategy isn’t profitable, start over.

Finally, keep in mind that if you trade on margin, you can be far more vulnerable to sudden price movements. Trading on margin means borrowing your investment funds from a brokerage firm. It requires you to add funds to your account at the end of the day if your trade goes against you. Therefore, using stop-loss orders is crucial when day trading on margin.

Day Trading Strategies for Beginners

Now that you know some of the ins and outs of day trading, let’s review some of the key techniques new day traders can use.

When you’ve mastered these techniques, developed your own trading styles, and determined your end goals, you can use a series of strategies to help you in your quest for profits.

Although some of these techniques were mentioned above, they are worth going into again:

  • Following the trend: Anyone who follows the trend will buy when prices are rising or short sell when they drop. This is done on the assumption that prices that have been rising or falling steadily will continue to do so.
  • Contrarian investing: This strategy assumes a rise in prices will reverse and drop. The contrarian buys during a fall or short sells during a rise, with the express expectation that the trend will change.
  • Scalping: This is a style by which a speculator exploits small price gaps created by the bid-ask spread. This technique normally involves entering and exiting a position quickly—within minutes or even seconds.
  • Trading the news: Investors using this strategy will buy when good news is announced or short sell when there’s bad news. This can lead to greater volatility, which can lead to higher profits or losses.

Why Is It Difficult to Make Money Consistently From Day Trading?

Doing so requires combining many skills and attributes—knowledge, experience, discipline, mental fortitude, and trading acumen.

It’s not always easy for beginners to carry out basic strategies like cutting losses or letting profits run. What’s more, it’s difficult to stick to one’s trading discipline in the face of challenges such as market volatility or significant losses.

Finally, day trading means going against millions of market participants, including trading pros who have access to cutting-edge technology, a wealth of experience and expertise, and very deep pockets. That’s no easy task when everyone is trying to exploit inefficiencies in the markets.

Should a Day Trading Position Be Held Overnight?

A day trader may wish to hold a trading position overnight either to reduce losses on a poor trade or to increase profits on a winning trade. Generally, this is not a good idea if the trader simply wants to avoid booking a loss on a bad trade.

Risks involved in holding a day trading position overnight may include having to meet margin requirements, additional borrowing costs, and the potential impact of negative news. The risk involved in holding a position overnight could outweigh the possibility of a favorable outcome.

How Much do Day Traders Make?

Day traders’ earnings vary widely based on experience, skill level, trading strategy, and market conditions. Some may earn a substantial income, while others may not be as successful. It’s important to note that day trading involves significant risk and is not suitable for everyone.

Is Day Trading Worth it?

This largely depends on individual circumstances, risk tolerance, and expertise. While it can offer significant profits and flexibility for some, it’s high-risk, time-consuming, and not suitable for everyone. It’s estimated that a majority of day traders don’t profit, indicating the need for careful consideration and preparation.

How Much Money Do I Need To Start Day Trading Stocks?

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) pattern day trader rule requires a $25,000 minimum balance if you want to make four or more day trades within a five-business day span. Beyond that, consider transaction costs (commissions, fees) that will eat into your profits and the need for a financial cushion to handle potential losses—the FINRA rule is meant to be a minimum. It’s prudent to have significantly more capital to trade effectively and, frankly, reduce the psychological pressure of trading with money you can’t afford to lose. Day trading is highly risky, and most individual traders don’t achieve success. It should be approached with the understanding that it takes significant skill and a high tolerance for risk. Day trading is not the path to quick or easy profits.

The Bottom Line

Day trading is difficult to master. It requires time, skill, and discipline. Many who try it lose money, but the strategies and techniques described above may help you create a potentially profitable strategy.

Day traders, both institutional and individual, play an important role in the marketplace by keeping the markets efficient and liquid. With enough experience, skill-building, and consistent performance evaluation, you may be able to beat the odds and improve your chances of trading profitably.

Originally Appeared Here

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer