Getting a Job as a Day Trader
Day Trading from home and starting out with a small account isn’t the only option for those that want to day trade…as a career. While it is a viable one, and I do it now, I didn’t start out that way.
In 2005 I had just finished university, and had fallen in love with trading based on a stock market course I took where we traded demo accounts and tried to make as much money as possible during the semester. I did pretty well, and figured trading stocks all day would sure beat making cold calls 12-hours a day or something like that (when I went to business school I originally thought I would be a stock broker. Do they still exist?).
In my initial job search I saw a posting for “Proprietary stock trader.” That caught my attention. I read the job summary and it sounded awesome. At the time I had no idea what a proprietary stock trader was, but learned that it is a trader that trades company money to make a profit. That is it. No clients, no shuffling papers, just show up and buy and sell stocks (and other assets as well–varies by firm) all day to turn the money they give you into more money.
The job ad said things like:
-need fast reflexes
-make extremely quick decisions
-excellent at video games
-interest and skill in online poker
-no experience required, must be willing to learn
Are you kidding me?! Did I drink too much at my goodbye-university-bash? That sounds awesome!
I applied. Went through three interviews and was accepted into a training class. My training was mostly composed of learning how the stock market worked, placing bids and offers…pretty generic stuff. Coming up with ways to profit was left to us, the traders. NOTE: Not all firms are like this; some will provide you with training and strategies that are proven, and you just need to follow their plan.
Me and few guys in my training class–who I am still friends with–met every day after the market closed and pounded out strategy ideas. We all did very well. I was a “prop trader” for 6 years until I decided to branch out and do it on my own. But it was a great experience; I loved every minute of it, and still have a large number of friends who are prop traders today.
If I have tweaked your interest here a few things you should know about getting a job as a day trader.
You don’t need to trade from home with a $100 or $1000 account trying to build it up. There are “prop firms” all over the world that hire people, train them and give them money to trade. If you are good, basically you’ll be provided with as much capital as you can utilize. For some traders, that will be millions. You show up at the office and you trade, typically in a very relaxed environment (no suits).
Some firms will also allow you to trade remotely (don’t go into an office and instead you trade from home) although this is typically reserved for consistently profitable traders with a proven track record.
Of course there is lots of competition and if you aren’t profitable after a certain period (determined by each firm) you’ll be let go. Which means it is up to you to work your ass off, because there is always someone else willing to take your spot.
You don’t need experience as a trader to be hired. Just be willing to learn, and dedicate yourself. If you don’t have a proven track record, don’t call yourself a trader when you submit your resume or go for an interview. Express that you have an interest in the markets, want to learn and want to trade for a living.
So that all sounds pretty good; here are the drawbacks.
Typically you’ll be paid based on performance. No salary, generally. You get a cut of what you make and that is it. Payouts range from 50% to 99% of your profit, although this can be deceiving. Typically high payout firms will charge you higher commissions for trades, while lower payout firms charge less. This isn’t always the case, but the company is going to be making money off you somewhere. Find out where it is.
Becoming consistently profitable can take some time, as many of you who are already trading on your own know. That means you may be trading in the office for months, and not getting a pay cheque. Plan for at least 6 months of not making much at your prop trading job. After that, if you are showing a profit and they are willing to increase your capital it becomes very possible to make a good living as a prop trader. I still know many prop traders; some make US$50,000 and are happy with that, others make US$500,000+. You determine what a “good” living is.
This is not meant to be a how-to on getting a prop trading job. It is just an introduction, so you can run a Google search (for ‘Proprietary trading firms’ in your city) and see what firms are available in your area. Most people don’t know about prop trading firms, but if you want to potentially make trading a career, like I did, it is a viable option. Also, you start out with more capital and have guidance, so you’re likely to make a living at trading quicker than if you try to grow a small account from home.
Prop firms don’t just trade stocks. Nearly every asset is tradable, but it will vary firm. Typically the firm’s website will tell you what they trade and the markets you can access as a trader.
Read through the prop firm’s website as it will answer more of your questions and tell you how to apply.
Trading is still a tough business and most people who attempt prop trading don’t make it. There are no guarantees you’ll make money, but if you are determined, dedicated and willing to put in the work, making a living as a day trader is possible. This is just one more way to do it.
Got questions? Hit me up on Twitter: https://twitter.com/corymitc
Cory Mitchell, CMT