Trade Your Day Job for Day Trading: The Ultimate Guide to Trading for a Living

Last updated June 5, 2023

Ever thought of saying goodbye to your daily grind and hello to the exciting world of day trading for a living? Let’s face it. Sitting in a boring office, doing the same old tasks day in and day out, can be a real drag. But what if there was a way to break free? A way to be your own boss, set your own hours, and maybe, just maybe, earn some serious cash?

Trading might be your ticket to freedom.

Young man trading for a living from home, sitting at a desk with multiple monitors, windows in front of him revealing trees and a rising sun.

But hold up! Before you start dreaming of piles of cash and leisurely days in your pajamas, let's get real. Trading for a living is not a walk in the park. It's a bit like a rollercoaster - thrilling, but also kind of scary.

There's a lot to learn, and there's always the risk that you could lose money. But with the right mindset, plenty of practice, and a dash of bravery, it could be your ticket to a more exciting life.

Day Trading in 2023

Think the world of trading is only for the super tech-savvy or those with a mountain of cash to start? Think again! The game has changed, my friend. With prop trading industry changes and improvements in tech, it's now super easy for almost anyone to get started in a trading career. In some cases, you don't even need to fork out your own cash to get started. And if you do, it might only be a small chunk of change just to prove you're serious about trading.

Here's the scoop:

People often see trading as this big scary thing that's super hard to get into. But listen up, as long as you've got big dreams and the patience of a saint, you can trade for a living, even if you're not rolling in dough. Trading can be your full-time gig, a sweet side hustle, or just a way to bring in some extra cash.

You might think about trading your own money, but keep in mind, this option might have a few hurdles. For instance, if you're a pattern day trader, you gotta have a cool $25,000 in equity. And if you want to rely on trading as your main source of income, you'll probably want to have more than that.

dollar bill on a table, illustrating that you need capital to trade for a living

If this is the extent of your savings, you'll need someone else's capital to trade for a living.

Another path you could take is to work for a prop trading company as a contractor. But heads up, this option won't come with a fancy salary or perks. Instead, you'll get a piece of your trading profits. You may find that being able to trade someone else's capital makes this a great trade-off.

With markets around the world all tied together, there's always a market open for trading, somewhere. So yes, even if you're juggling a full-time job or looking after kiddos at home, you can still trade for income! You just need to find the market and opportunity that's right for you.

But don't get me wrong, trading isn't a piece of cake. It can be pretty tough. There are loads of ways to jump into the market, but whether you sink or swim is all up to you. Depending on the path you take, trading can turn into a full-time job, a part-time gig, or a neat way to bring in some extra bucks.

Ready to Quit Your Job and Start Trading?

People often think that the only folks who trade full-time are the bigwigs with fancy degrees who work for big-shot investment banks. And many believe that to start trading, you need a big fat bank account and tons of free time.

45 year old man in a shirt and loose tie smiling at the camera inside a trading office

Luckily, you don't have to be this guy in a big firm office (unless you want to)

Sure, if you want to work for a big bank or hedge fund, you might need some connections or a standout education. But in this article, we're not talking about those folks. We're talking about you – the everyday person, whether you're a trading whiz or a total newbie. We're here to show you how you can step into the thrilling world of trading and start building your wealth!

Just remember, don't actually quit your day job until you have the financial situation to allow it. Your trading income needs to be consistently enough to replace your regular income, and you need a cushion.

Day Trading Your Own Capital

Keep in mind, day trading your own money might require a hefty chunk of change to kickstart. You see, if you're pegged as a pattern day trader, the SEC forces you to maintain at least $25,000 in your account at all times. Fall below that, and bam! You're out of the day trading game until you beef up your account with more cash or securities.

Lower Cost Markets: More Bang for Your Buck

Wherever you trade, you need to find a market that allows you to take advantage of moves with the amount of capital you have available to you.

Futures Market: Big Moves with Small Bucks

The futures market is a fantastic choice if you're not ready to break the bank. These markets are super accessible, with accounts you can open for as little as a hundred bucks.

You see, futures trading allows you to speculate on the price of a certain asset in the future (thus the name), without needing a mountain of cash upfront. You're basically making a bet on what the price of something like oil, gold, or the Nasdaq 100 will be at a future date. And here's the kicker - because of something called margin, you can control a huge position with just a small amount of money. But remember, as with other forms of leveraged trading, futures trading comes with its own set of risks. So, be sure to do your homework and build a solid trading plan before you dive in!

And get this - Futures markets are open 23 hours a day during weekdays (starts Sunday afternoon in the US), making it a great choice for folks who can't trade during regular market hours.

Forex: A World of Opportunities

You might also want to check out forex, or currency markets. These markets are also accessible, with low account deposit requirements. They also offer leverage, meaning your small investment can control a much larger amount of capital. Forex markets are open 24/7 during weekdays. 

Once again, beware of the risks and the ins and outs of leverage. And with forex, you're trading an OTC market, so you need to be more aware of the spread you pay (difference between buy and ask price) and any spread your broker may add to that.

Proprietary Trading Firms: Trading with a Backer

Does the idea of trading your own capital feel a little daunting for you? You might prefer the opportunity provided by a proprietary trading firm. As a day trader here, you're like a contractor. No fixed salary or fancy perks. It's "eat what you kill" here. You get a share of the profits you earn, ranging from 50-90%. The good news? They provide the capital for you to trade with, and they also help manage the risk.

Working for a firm used to mean working in an office during trading hours, and that still exists. But many firms now let you trade from home. The perks?

  • Some offer training and tech perks, even to those trading at home.
  • You get to join a community of traders sharing fresh trading ideas.
  • You get lower fees, access to capital, and performance monitoring.
  • No commute, no pointless meetings, no boss over your shoulder.
man trading for a living, trading from home in an apartment with a view showing the sunrise coming up over the city

Many firms are looking for people who are self-starters with some education in their previous field. You see, firms can manage a trader's risk, and they can let go of those who aren't showing potential without losing too much.

Pay is usually based on performance, often a percentage of your net profits after fees. Some firms might need you to pass certain licensing exams. Here are the top prop firms that don't require a series 7.

Even if it's not required, passing the Series 7 exam can open up more trading opportunities for you. So, do your homework, find a firm that fits your needs, personality, and circumstances. And remember, some traditional prop firms might require you to put in some of your own capital. The top 7 companies on this prop firm comparison don't require you to put up capital.

Wrapping Up: Your Next Steps

Alright, so you've figured out how you want to trade for a living. Now what? Think about your cash situation and what's realistic for you. If you want to trade with your own capital, you need to choose a broker that offers the markets you're gonna dive into. If you'd rather trade remotely for a prop firm (my choice), choose a prop firm.

Then it's time to put your thinking cap on and draft a detailed trading plan. Remember, this plan is also your business plan because, hey, trading is your business now! You've also got to decide how you're going to work as a trader.

And then, my friend, it's time to take the plunge. It's time to start day trading and make those dreams of trading for a living a reality!

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Daniel Larsen

Daniel created to help new and experienced traders level up. He began trading in 2002, and has spent over a decade trading professionally, for prop firms and clients. When he's not at a computer, you can find him on the ocean, in a canyon, or in the mountains.