Forex prop trading provides an enticing opportunity to traders who do not have big enough capital to trade seriously. Most of those traders are probably beginners who want to try their hand at trading. And, unless they are young people supported by their parents, they are likely to work at nine-to-five or similar regular jobs.
Trading requires time and attention, and that is why for professional Forex traders it is their full-time job. But for someone who is just starting their trading career dropping their regular job to trade full-time can look like a very risky proposition. After all, a regular job provides a stable income. Meanwhile, trading does not provide any guarantees, and you cannot be certain that you will earn enough even to just pay for your food and rent. In fact, a trader with no experience and knowledge of the market is almost guaranteed to lose money. And while failures can provide a valuable learning experience, it is small consolation for someone who has nothing to eat.
The answer to this problem looks simple — keep your regular work to retain a stable wage and trade in your free time to supplement your income and learn how to be a successful trader. But can this work in practice? Can you be a successful trader, and more specifically — can you be a successful trader working with a prop firm, while you spend the majority of your day at your nine-to-five job as well as commuting to and from it? This guide attempts to answer that question.
What type of trader do you want to become?
Before deciding whether you can trade while keeping your full-time job, you should know what type of trader you want to be. There are two trading styles that you should consider in relation to that question:
- Day trader — a trader who tries to catch price moves during the day, buying and selling in one trading session and typically closing their position before the session ends. They are traders who make a large number of trades, with each trade usually earning them a small profit.
- Swing trader — a trader who holds open positions for several days, sometimes weeks, but rarely longer than that. They are somewhere in between a short-term day trader and a long-term investor. Swing traders try to gain a big profit from each trade with a smaller number of trades overall.
Day trading is often very time intensive. Additionally, day trading requires active and volatile markets. And markets are most active during certain times of day when trading sessions in two different parts of the world overlap. In particular, the overlap between the London and New York trading sessions is usually when trading is the most active. All those factors make it difficult to combine day trading with working at a regular job.
Swing trading, on the other hand, is usually more relaxed. It usually requires less time than day trading, and there is no need to trade at a particular time of day, though you may still want to watch important news that can affect markets. The problem is that prop firms often have restrictions on holding positions overnight or over the weekend. That makes such firms ill-suited for swing traders. If you want to be a swing trader, you need to make sure that the rules of your prop firm allow the such style of trading.
Advantages and disadvantages of combining a full-time job with prop trading
Combining prop trading has its own pros that make it easier to combine with a full-time job. But there are also cons to a such combination that can make you think twice before attempting it.
There are several major advantages that Forex prop trading provides:
- Forex trading does not require a strict schedule. Forex is traded 24/5 all around the world. Outside of major holidays, you can be certain that, no matter when you want to trade during the workday, the Forex market will be available. That makes it easier to align your trading schedule with your job's schedule. You can wake up earlier and trade a bit before the job. Or you can trade after your job. Of course, you can do both.
- You can trade just a few hours a day. While Forex trading can be a full-time job in its own way, there are a number of traders who boast a good performance while trading just three-to-five hours per day. That means you can combine part-time trading with work and still potentially be a successful trader.
- Prop trading does not require a big starting capital. While you typically need to pay a fee to start trading with a prop firm, it is usually just a modest sum that you should easily cover if your trading will be successful. And afterward, you do not have to pay anything else, unless you are working with a rare prop firm that requires a monthly payment. And that means you do not have to risk your livelihood to start trading. Combining prop trading with a regular job will allow you to retain the safety of stable income while getting the potential for a good profit from trading.
Of course, it is not all sunshine and roses when combining a full-time job with prop trading. And there are several disadvantages you should consider:
- It can be hard to pass the evaluation when your time and attention are divided between trading and your main job. The vast majority of prop firms require you to pass an evaluation before getting access to their capital. The evaluation can provide a tough challenge even to a seasoned full-time trader. And when you cannot devote all your time and attention to trading, this challenge can become insurmountable. And some prop firms have a requirement of minimum days per week when you have to be active on the market, which makes it even harder to pass the evaluation while working at a regular job at the same time. So, it might make sense to go with a no-evaluation prop firm in this case.
- It can be hard to divide your attention between your job and trading. The fact that the Forex market is open round the clock is not an entirely good thing. This means that there is always a chance for something important to happen while you are not watching. And it can tempt you to constantly check markets or watch the news instead of doing your main job. Obviously, this can negatively affect your productivity, resulting in a worse performance at the job or even your firing. And of course, the opposite can also be true — your job may demand your attention at the time when you would prefer to participate in the market. Yes, you can trade in your free time after the job. But it can be very hard to concentrate and focus on trading when you are tired after a day's work, resulting in less-than-optimal results from your trading.
- Trading can eat up all your free time. Trading just a few hours a day can sound great. If you have the rest of your day for yourself. But if you have just a few hours after your job before going to sleep (and maybe an hour or two if you wake up early), trading can leave you no free time for yourself, your family, friends, hobbies, etc. And that can lead to the next problem.
- Combining trading with a regular job can be stressful and detrimental to your mental health. Trading can be stressful enough. And combining it with a drab or emotionally taxing nine-to-five job can result in immense psychological pressure that few people can withstand in a long run. Of course, how bad it is, depends on your full-time job. If you consider your job to be easy or even enjoyable, then combining it with Forex trading in your free time can feel not that bad. Unfortunately, not many people are lucky to have such jobs. Not to mention, even fewer people will be willing to drop such jobs in exchange for a potentially very stressful career as a prop trader. For the rest, it can be very hard to keep trading while working at their main job for a long time.
- Your job schedule can interfere with your trading schedule. While it is true that you can enter the Forex market at any time during the workday, you still may want to trade at a specific time, and that time may not align well with your regular job. This problem is especially relevant for day traders. Many of them prefer to trade in the morning when markets open in their part of the world as it is then when trading activity is at its highest. But it is also the time when the majority of common jobs start. Even afterward, a day trader may want to keep an eye on markets so as not to miss a particularly good trade. But it can be very hard to do so while also doing your job. While swing traders are freer with their decisions when to trade, they may still want to watch news that can affect markets and open or close positions around important events. But your job may prevent you from doing so.
- The time you spend at work is the time you could use to improve your results in trading. Trading does not consist only of watching charts and placing orders. Successful traders analyze markets, read economic and financial reports, test and try to improve their trading strategies, etc. But working at a job while also watching markets and trying to catch a good time for entering or exiting the market leaves little-to-no time for those important activities. And if you do not have time to improve yourself as a trader, you are unlikely to become a successful trader.
So, is it possible to start prop trading while you are still working on a full-time job?
It is certainly possible to be a trader, at least a swing trader, and work at a regular job at the same time. Is it advisable is a different question.
To some degree, the answer to that question depends on your job. After 2020, many people started to work from home. This definitely makes it easier to combine a regular job with trading. If you have a flexible work schedule, it is even better. Then you are likely will have no problem allocating time for both your work and your trading. But if you are not trading from home and your job takes a lot from you, then it is much harder to advise you to participate in Forex prop trading.
Often, experienced traders say that only young people who do not have their own families yet should consider combining trading with a regular job. That is because such people probably have enough health to withstand the rigors of such a lifestyle and do not have many responsibilities, which allows them to spend their time outside of the job on trading. The problem with such a view is that young people are usually inexperienced in trading. And prop trading is ill-suited for inexperienced traders.
Considering the previous point, you should think about the reasons you want to engage in prop trading. Do you want to try trading to see if it is suitable for you? Or maybe you want to learn trading before dropping your job and starting to trade full-time? Then prop trading is not for you. Prop firms want only the best and consistent traders, not inexperienced newbies who do not know what they are doing. That does not mean you should avoid trading entirely if you are not an experienced and successful trader. It just means that you need to start to learn by trading on a demo account. When you achieve consistently good results, invest a small amount of money into a live account. And only when you achieve consistent results with real money, only then you should consider joining a prop firm.
If, on the other hand, you are already able to achieve consistent profits in trading, then prop trading is a viable option for you. But then the question is: why do you work a nine-to-five job when you are already a profitable trader? Would not it make more sense to just drop your job and start trading full-time, potentially increasing your profits manifold? There can be various reasons why you may want to keep your old job despite being good at trading. For example, you may want to use your wage to buy food and pay your bills and use profits from prop trading to grow your own account so that eventually you will be able to trade on your own with decent returns. In any case, the end goal for you is likely to be dropping your job to start trading full-time.
Tips for traders who want to combine a regular job with trading
So, you have decided to dip your toes into prop trading after all but do not want to drop your job yet? Here are several tips on how to make it easier:
- Set a specific time for trading. You do not have to be glued to your monitor all day to be a successful trader. Set specific trading hours that are convenient to you and do not interfere with your job. That way, you can keep your undivided attention on your trading when necessary and keep your mind clear for the rest of the day.
- Choose one strategy and refine it. As a full-time job will live you little time to experiment with multiple trading strategies, it is a good idea to concentrate on one. But then you should fine-tune it to make sure that it performs as well as possible.
- Set up alerts. Every decent trading platform allows you to set alerts for important events, like a price reaching a certain level. And for those traders who consider fundamentals in their trading, economic calendars allow setting alerts for important events, such as central banks making decisions about interest rates or releases of high-impact macroeconomic reports. This way, you will not be afraid that something important happens without your knowledge.
- Automate your trading — use pending orders and stop-losses. Pending orders allow you to enter the market at the point you want even when you are busy somewhere else and cannot actively trade. And stop-losses help you not worry that you will lose all the money in your account while you are not watching. Often you, as a prop trader, will not have a choice whether to use stop-losses or not as many prop firms have a rule about mandatory stop-losses.
- Automate even more — use robots. The advantage of modern-day trading is that you do not even need to trade yourself. Program a robot to execute your strategy automatically. Or you can even use robots created by other people. That way, you can minimize the time required from you to be involved in the market. Be wary, though, of relying on automated trading too much. You should not expect to be able to earn profits without much effort. Forex trading is neither that easy nor simple. Using other people's robots without understanding what they do or how they work is especially dangerous. Program your own robot or, at the very least, learn how the robot you have downloaded works. And then regularly check how well it performs and try to fine-tune it to try and get even better results. Be aware that some prop firms forbid the usage of robots and expert advisors. Check the rules of your prop firm before downloading or creating a robot.
Combining a regular full-time job with prop trading can be extremely stressful and taxing. While there are ways to ease the pressure this lifestyle puts on a trader, for most people it can be too big of a challenge. And even you are able to trade and keep your job, it should not be your long-term goal. Instead, you should aim at getting enough financial freedom and trading experience to drop your job eventually and start trading full-time.
If you want to share your opinion, observations, and conclusions, or simply ask questions about combining prop trading with a full-time job, feel free to join a discussion on our forum.
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