1 DEFINE GOALS AND TRADING STYLE
Before you set out on any journey, it is imperative to have some idea of your destination and how you will get there. Consequently, it is imperative to have clear goals in mind, then ensure your trading method is capable of achieving these goals. Each trading style has a different risk profile, which requires a certain attitude and approach to trade successfully.
For example, if you cannot stomach going to sleep with an open position in the market, then you might consider day trading. On the other hand, if you have funds you think will benefit from the appreciation of a trade over a period of some months, you may be more of a position trader. Just be sure your personality fits the style of trading you undertake. A personality mismatch will lead to stress and certain losses.
2 THE BROKER AND TRADING PLATFORM
Choosing a reputable broker is of paramount importance, and spending time researching the differences between brokers will be very helpful. You must know each broker's policies and how they go about making a market. For example, trading in the over-the-counter market or spot market is different from trading the exchange-driven markets.
Also, make sure your broker's trading platform is suitable for the analysis you want to do. For example, if you like to trade off Fibonacci numbers, be sure the broker's platform can draw Fibonacci lines. A good broker with a poor platform, or a good platform with a poor broker, can be a problem. Make sure you get the best of both.
3 A CONSISTENT METHODOLOGY
Before you enter any market as a trader, you need to know how you will make decisions to execute your trades. You must understand what information you will need to make the appropriate decision on entering or exiting a trade. Some traders choose to monitor the economy's underlying fundamentals and charts to determine the best time to execute the trade. Others use only technical analysis.
Whichever methodology you choose, be consistent and be sure your methodology is adaptive. Your system should keep up with the changing dynamics of a market.
4 DETERMINE ENTRY AND EXIT POINTS
Many traders get confused by conflicting information that occurs when looking at charts in different timeframes. What shows up as a buying opportunity on a weekly chart could show up as a sell signal on an intraday chart.
Therefore, if you are taking your basic trading direction from a weekly chart and using a daily chart to time entry, be sure to synchronize the two. In other words, if the weekly chart is giving you a buy signal, wait until the daily chart also confirms a buy signal. Keep your timing in sync.
5 CALCULATE YOUR EXPECTANCY
Expectancy is the formula you use to determine how reliable your system is. You should go back in time and measure all your trades that were winners versus losers, then determine how profitable your winning trades were versus how much your losing trades lost.
Take a look at your last ten trades. If you haven't made actual trades yet, go back on your chart to where your system would have indicated that you should enter and exit a trade. Determine if you would have made a profit or a loss. Write these results down.
Although there are a few ways to calculate the percentage profit earned to gauge a successful trading plan, there is no guarantee that you'll earn that amount each day you trade since market conditions can change. However, here's an example of how to calculate expectancy:
6. STOP-LOSS ORDERS
Risk can be mitigated through stop-loss orders, which exit the position at a specific exchange rate. Stop-loss orders are an essential forex risk management tool since they can help traders cap their risk per trade, preventing significant losses.
Using the example above, imagine the trader had a very wide stop-loss order for each trade, meaning they were willing to risk losing $1,200 per trade but still made $600 per winning trade. One loss could wipe out two winning trades. If the trader experienced a series of losses due to being stopped out from adverse market moves, a far higher and unrealistic winning percentage would be needed to make up for the losses.
Although it's important to have a winning trading strategy on a percentage basis, managing risk and the potential losses are also critical so that they don't wipe out your brokerage account.
7 FOCUS AND SMALL LOSSES
Once you have funded your account, the most important thing to remember is your money is at risk. Therefore, your money should not be needed for regular living expenses. Think of your trading money like vacation money. Once the vacation is over, your money is spent. Have the same attitude toward trading. This will psychologically prepare you to accept small losses, which is key to managing your risk. By focusing on your trades and accepting small losses rather than constantly counting your equity, you will be much more successful.
8 POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOPS
A positive feedback loop is created as a result of a well-executed trade in accordance with your plan. When you plan a trade and execute it well, you form a positive feedback pattern. Success breeds success, which in turn breeds confidence, especially if the trade is profitable. Even if you take a small loss but do so in accordance with a planned trade, then you will be building a positive feedback loop.
9 PERFORM WEEKEND ANALYSIS
On the weekend, when the markets are closed, study weekly charts to look for patterns or news that could affect your trade. Perhaps a pattern is making a double top, and the pundits and the news are suggesting a market reversal. This is a kind of reflexivity where the pattern could be prompting the pundits, who then reinforce the pattern. In the cool light of objectivity, you will make your best plans. Wait for your setups and learn to be patient.
10 KEEP A PRINTED RECORD
A printed record is a great learning tool. Print out a chart and list all the reasons for the trade, including the fundamentals that sway your decisions. Mark the chart with your entry and your exit points. Make any relevant comments on the chart, including emotional reasons for taking action. Did you panic? Were you too greedy? Were you full of anxiety? It is only when you can objectify your trades that you will develop the mental control and discipline to execute according to your system instead of your habits or emotions.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The steps above will lead you to a structured approach to trading and should help you become a more refined trader. Trading is an art, and the only way to become increasingly proficient is through consistent and disciplined practice.