Your Trading Environment

We’ve all seen the ads – “trade from anywhere, all you need is an internet connection and twenty minutes a day”. I’ve fallen for them too and it’s no surprise, the idea of making extra income in a small timeframe and in a highly portable fashion is very appealing, sadly though, it’s horseshit.

I’m as guilty as the next person of cosying up to the idea that trading part time goes hand in hand with being able to trade whilst they make your Iced Ginger Latte in Starbucks and it’s taken me a long time and many iterations of trading set ups to realise it just ain’t so.

Whilst the Starbucks analogy is admittedly a bit extreme selling trading (usually Forex) to the masses as an iPad’able venture is a big industry now and whilst I’m sure there are a number of people who have been able to make it work, I’m not and I don’t believe most people are.

Trading profitably I think is an endeavour where most things are stacked against you. Having a decent internet connection with a decent data feed are however among the things that you can quite easily change in order to even the deck somewhat. Straight brokers and a regulated transparent market such as the Futures Market are other means to achieving a more favourable hand too.

Another ways of helping yourself out before you even look at a trading screen (only one I might add) is ensuring you have a dedicated space set aside for trading. I’ve had a number of trading set ups and again I am just as guilty as the next person of lusting after multiple screens and a crazy trading desk to subconsciously help make me feel the part even though I knew deep down they are not required. Thankfully I never had the cash to waste on them but the point is that I’ve tried many different ways of physically sitting down to trade.

I’ve used mirroring software on a big 27″ Mac for trading and my Macbook Air to look at news, I’ve tried running everything from the 11″ Macbook Air (disaster by the way), I’ve tried unpacking it all onto the kitchen table each day, I’ve tried trading from the sofa and embarrassingly I’ve tried trading from bed in my PJ’s at 5am trying to catch Pre London in the Forex Markets – no surprises that lead to me falling asleep to the subtle glow of my laptop screen with zero successful trades! I now have a very simple set up though I’m pleased to say.

The point I’m driving at is that it’s absolutely fine to try out different environments for trading, it’s natural and it will of course help you find something you are comfortable with. I’ve given up trying to make other computers work for trading, particularly Mac’s. You can get the software to work sure, but the whole experience ends up being poor because you are essentially compromising what you’ve bought that system for by trying to jerry rig it to work well for trading.

What do I do now? I use an old Thinkpad which has been beefed up with RAM and a decent processor to run Ninja Trader and Jigsaw Trading Tools. I have a Lenovo USB screen which I use for looking at news feeds, a Bluetooth Mouse and that’s it. My laptop does nothing else. Sometimes I’ll use my iPhone for music. At home I have a desk that has nothing on it except my Thinkpad and a coaster for a cup of Tea. The wireless in my house is pants so I have extended cables to make sure I can Ethernet my Thinkpad to the wall. It’s not sexy but it works and I’m the happiest with it by far compared to all the other convoluted and “better looking” set ups I’ve used.

My advice is simple. Get somewhere in the house or office dedicated to trading and use only this place if you can. Get a dedicated platform thats up to the job, hardwire the internet connect and don’t have any other software on the machine which might distract you. If you do have to travel a lot fine, just make sure the connection is up to the job otherwise I’d be inclined to say leave the Laptop closed. Above all – find yourself a comfortable set up that is going to help you get in the right head space for trading. I like my area simple and solitary. It’s helped so much.

Whatever you choose just don’t get sucked into thinking that trading from your iPhone on a wifi hotspot is a good idea, in my experience it doesn’t end well! I remember once being in the passenger seat of a car on the way to a simulator trip gloating to a friend I’d made £10 in the last 15 minutes and that our visions of owning our own aircraft were sure to be realised! After the brief before walking into the sim I checked the trade, it was at break even, sadly the wifi in the sim building wasn’t great and the connection had dropped. Obviously my work took priority so I put the phone away and heading into the sim. What happened two hours later as I came out of the box, you guessed it I was down £30! Thankfully not huge sums but it still hurt the ego a bit, made for a entertaining journey home as I was ribbed by my mate and taught me a good lesson.

Another case in point was a recent trip to Norway. I love Norway but that’s an aside – I was there for work and had a day off so thought I’d do a bit of trading. The wifi in the hotel was good, but not good enough unfortunately. I did think about trading but I’m pleased to say decided against it. Instead I watched some videos in a training course I’ve been doing and drank coffee. I ended the day learning a few new things and feeling much better I’m sure than if I’d have forced myself to be in the markets. I’m pleased that I saw the risk of a stressful day’s trading due to poor environment was too great for the reward of being able to tell myself I’d traded that day.

Trading part time and around the other commitments of life is a commendable challenge but just because we are amateurs doesn’t mean we can’t approach things with the attitude and in an environment akin to a professional. Help yourself out and get yourself a simple space with a simple set up, it really doesn’t have to be expensive and despite what the ads say it doesn’t have to be the sexiest set up in the world either.

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Thinkpad, Coffee and some study material!

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