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What Is Day Trading? Complete Guide for Beginners

What Is Day Trading? Complete Guide for Beginners

What Is Day Trading? Complete Guide for Beginners

What Is Day Trading? Complete Guide for Beginners

Day trading has become a buzzword in the world of finance, attracting individuals seeking quick profits within short time frames. But what exactly is day trading, and how does it differ from other trading styles?

This beginner’s guide aims to demystify the concept of day trading, exploring its fundamentals, risks, and potential rewards.

Whether you’re a novice curious about the stock market or someone looking to diversify your investment strategies, this article will provide you with the essential knowledge to understand the fast-paced world of day trading.

What Is Day Trading?

Day trading is a trading strategy where financial instruments like stocks, forex, or commodities are bought and sold within the same trading day. The objective is to capitalise on small price movements to generate quick profits.

Unlike long-term investing, where assets are held for months or years, day traders aim to close all positions by the end of the trading day to avoid overnight market risks. This approach requires a deep understanding of market trends, real-time analysis, and quick decision-making.

Day trading can be profitable but also carries high risks, making it essential for traders to have a well-defined strategy and strong risk management skills.

How Does Day Trading Work?

Day trading works by buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day, aiming to capitalise on short-term price fluctuations.

Here’s how it generally operates:

  1. Market Research: Day traders start by analysing market conditions, news, and charts to identify potential trading opportunities. They often use technical analysis and real-time data feeds to make informed decisions.
  2. Choosing Instruments: Traders select specific stocks, forex pairs, or commodities to trade. The choice often depends on market volatility and liquidity, as these factors can impact the potential for short-term gains.
  3. Entry and Exit Points: Based on their analysis, traders set specific entry and exit points, often using limit orders to automate the process. They also set stop-loss orders to minimise potential losses.
  4. Executing Trades: Once the market reaches the predetermined entry point, the trade is executed. The trader then monitors the position closely, looking for signs that it’s time to exit and take profits or cut losses.
  5. Closing Positions: The goal is to close all positions before the market closes to avoid overnight risks. Profits and losses are tallied at the end of the day.
  6. Risk Management: Effective day traders employ rigorous risk management strategies, risking only a small percentage of their trading capital on a single trade to mitigate potential losses.
  7. Review and Adjust: At the end of the trading day, successful traders review their trades, analyse outcomes, and adjust their strategies for future trading sessions.

Day trading requires quick decision-making, a deep understanding of the markets, and a solid strategy.

It can be lucrative but also carries significant risks, making it important for traders to be well-prepared and disciplined.

What Are the Risks of Day Trading?

Day trading comes with a set of inherent risks that traders should be aware of:

  1. Market Volatility: The markets can be highly unpredictable, with prices fluctuating rapidly within short periods. This volatility can either result in significant profits or substantial losses.
  2. Leverage Risks: Many day traders use leverage to amplify their returns, but this also magnifies potential losses. A small adverse price movement can wipe out the entire trading capital.
  3. Emotional Decision-Making: The fast-paced nature of day trading can lead to impulsive decisions driven by emotions like fear or greed, rather than rational analysis.
  4. Overtrading: The desire to recover from losses or capitalise on perceived opportunities can lead to overtrading, which increases both potential gains and risks.
  5. Transaction Costs: Day trading involves frequent buying and selling, which means transaction costs can accumulate quickly and eat into profits.
  6. Lack of Diversification: Focusing on short-term trades often means less diversification, making the trading portfolio more susceptible to market volatility.
  7. Regulatory Risks: Different markets have specific regulations that traders must adhere to. Failure to comply can result in fines or trading restrictions.
  8. Technology Risks: Day traders rely heavily on trading platforms and real-time data feeds. Any technical glitches or delays can have immediate and detrimental effects on trading.
  9. Skill and Experience: Day trading is not for beginners; it requires a deep understanding of markets, quick decision-making, and a well-tested trading strategy.
  10. Capital Loss: The most significant risk is the loss of trading capital. Unlike long-term investments, the short time frame of day trading means there’s limited opportunity to recover from significant losses.

Understanding these risks is crucial for anyone considering day trading.

Effective risk management strategies, continuous learning, and disciplined trading are essential for mitigating these risks.

How Hard Is Day Trading?

Day trading is often considered one of the most challenging forms of trading, requiring a unique skill set, discipline, and a deep understanding of the markets.

Here’s why it’s considered hard:

  1. Quick Decision-Making: Day trading requires you to make rapid decisions based on real-time data, which can be stressful and mentally taxing.
  2. Technical Proficiency: A strong grasp of technical analysis, chart patterns, and indicators is essential. You’ll also need to be adept at using trading platforms and tools.
  3. Emotional Discipline: The fast-paced nature of day trading can evoke strong emotions like greed and fear, which can lead to impulsive decisions and mistakes.
  4. Constant Monitoring: Day trading demands constant attention to market movements and positions. Even a momentary lapse in focus can result in significant losses.
  5. High Transaction Costs: The frequent buying and selling involved in day trading means that transaction costs can quickly add up, eating into profits or exacerbating losses.
  6. Risk Management: Effective risk management is crucial but challenging. You need to set stop-losses and take-profits accurately and manage your capital wisely.
  7. Regulatory Challenges: Day traders must be aware of various regulations, such as the Pattern Day Trader rule in the U.S., which can impact trading strategies and capital requirements.
  8. Learning Curve: While there are many resources available to learn day trading, real learning often comes from experience, which can be costly in terms of both time and money.
  9. Capital Requirements: Although it’s possible to start with a small amount, successful day trading generally requires a more substantial capital outlay to absorb losses and continue trading.
  10. Competition: The markets are filled with professional traders and algorithms that have significant resources, making the competition fierce.

Despite these challenges, many traders find day trading rewarding, both intellectually and financially. Success in day trading comes from continuous learning, disciplined trading, and a well-thought-out strategy.

Can You Make Money Day Trading UK?

Yes, it is possible to make money day trading in the UK, but it’s important to note that it comes with high risks and challenges.

Successful day traders often have a deep understanding of the markets, a well-defined trading strategy, and rigorous risk management practices.

They also invest time in continuous learning and market analysis. However, the fast-paced nature of day trading means that you can also incur significant losses quickly, especially if you’re not disciplined or if your risk management is lax.

In the UK, day trading is subject to specific regulations and tax implications, so it’s crucial to be aware of these as well. Transaction costs, including spreads and commissions, can also eat into profits, so they need to be carefully considered.

While some traders do make consistent profits through day trading, it’s also common for beginners to lose money initially.

Therefore, if you’re considering day trading in the UK, it’s advisable to start with a demo account to practice without financial risk and to invest only money you can afford to lose.

Can a Beginner Start Day Trading?

Yes, a beginner can start day trading, but it’s essential to approach it with caution and preparation due to the high risks and complexities involved.

Here are some steps a beginner should consider:

  1. Education: Start by learning the basics of trading, market analysis, and risk management. There are numerous online courses, webinars, and articles designed for beginners.
  2. Demo Account: Before trading with real money, practice using a demo account. This will help you understand how trading platforms work and how to execute trades without financial risk.
  3. Choose a Reliable Broker: Opt for a broker that is reputable, regulated, and offers a user-friendly trading platform. Make sure they offer a demo account and educational resources.
  4. Risk Management: Understand the importance of risk management and how to set stop-loss and take-profit orders. Never risk more than you can afford to lose.
  5. Start Small: When you transition to a live account, start with a small amount of capital and low leverage. This will allow you to gain experience without exposing yourself to significant risk.
  6. Develop a Trading Plan: Create a trading strategy that outlines your risk tolerance, profit goals, and evaluation criteria. Stick to this plan rigorously.
  7. Continuous Learning: The markets are dynamic, and continuous education is crucial. Keep up-to-date with market news, trends, and changes in regulations.
  8. Review and Adjust: Regularly review your trades, learn from your mistakes, and adjust your strategies accordingly.

While it’s possible for a beginner to start day trading, the learning curve is steep, and the risks are high. Therefore, thorough preparation, disciplined trading, and ongoing education are crucial for success.

Yes, day trading is legal in the UK and is subject to regulation by financial authorities such as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Traders are required to comply with various rules and regulations concerning trading practices, reporting, and taxation. It’s crucial to choose a broker that is FCA-regulated to ensure a secure and transparent trading environment.

Day traders in the UK are also subject to taxation on their profits. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is applicable to profits made from trading, and the rate depends on your overall income. However, losses can also be offset against future profits for tax purposes.

While day trading is legal, it’s essential to be aware of the regulations and tax implications to ensure you are trading compliantly.

Failure to adhere to legal requirements can result in penalties or legal action. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult with financial advisors or tax professionals to understand your obligations fully.

How Much Money Do You Need to Day Trade UK?

The amount of money you need to start day trading in the UK can vary widely depending on your trading strategy, the assets you intend to trade, and the broker you choose.

However, here are some general guidelines:

  1. Minimum Deposit: Some brokers offer accounts with low minimum deposits, sometimes as low as £100 or even less. These are often suitable for beginners or those looking to practice trading strategies.
  2. Risk Management: A more substantial initial deposit allows for better risk management. Many experienced traders recommend starting with at least £1,000 to £3,000 to diversify trades and mitigate risks effectively.
  3. Leverage: While leverage can enable you to trade larger positions with a smaller deposit, it also increases the risks. Be cautious when using high leverage, especially if you’re a beginner.
  4. Trading Costs: Don’t forget to account for trading costs, including spreads and commissions, which can eat into your capital, especially if you’re making multiple trades per day.
  5. Regulatory Requirements: There are no specific legal minimums for day trading in the UK, unlike in some other jurisdictions like the United States, where the Pattern Day Trader rule requires a minimum of $25,000 in the account.
  6. Emergency Fund: It’s advisable to have an emergency fund separate from your trading capital to cover any unexpected losses or market downturns.

While you can technically start day trading with a small amount, a larger initial investment allows for better risk management and greater flexibility in your trading strategy.

Always trade with money you can afford to lose and consider all costs and risks before you begin.

Do Day Traders Pay Tax UK?

Yes, day traders in the UK are subject to taxation on their trading profits. The specific tax treatment can vary depending on whether you are classified as a ‘trader’ or an ‘investor’ for tax purposes.

Here are the main tax categories:

  1. Capital Gains Tax (CGT): If you are classified as an investor, your profits from trading will be subject to Capital Gains Tax. The rate depends on your overall income and can range from 10% to 20%.
  2. Income Tax: If you are considered a professional trader, your profits may be treated as income rather than capital gains. In this case, you would be subject to income tax, which has varying rates depending on your income level, up to 45%.
  3. Stamp Duty: For stock trading, you may also need to pay Stamp Duty Reserve Tax, which is typically 0.5% of the transaction value.
  4. Losses: Both capital losses and trading losses can be offset against gains for tax purposes, but the rules for doing so can be complex.
  5. Reporting: Regardless of your tax status, you are required to report your trading activities to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) through a self-assessment tax return.
  6. National Insurance: Professional traders may also be liable for National Insurance contributions on their trading profits.

Given the complexity of tax laws and the potential for significant financial implications, it’s advisable to consult with a tax advisor or accountant who is familiar with UK tax regulations related to trading.

Failure to comply with tax obligations can result in penalties and legal action.

Can I Day Trade With 100 Pounds?

Yes, you can day trade with £100, but there are several considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Broker Selection: Ensure you choose a broker that allows for a low minimum deposit. Some brokers offer accounts specifically designed for smaller deposits.
  2. Leverage: With £100, you might be tempted to use leverage to amplify your trading position. While leverage can increase potential profits, it also magnifies potential losses. It’s crucial to use leverage cautiously, especially as a beginner.
  3. Trading Costs: Day trading involves frequent buying and selling, which means transaction costs, such as spreads and commissions, can quickly eat into a small capital. Ensure you’re aware of all associated fees.
  4. Limited Diversification: With £100, your ability to diversify across multiple trades or assets will be limited, which can increase risk.
  5. Risk Management: It’s essential to employ strict risk management strategies. With a smaller amount, a few losses can quickly deplete your capital. Consider setting aside only a percentage of your £100 for each trade.
  6. Educate and Practice: Before committing real money, especially with a limited amount, consider practicing with a demo account to understand market dynamics and refine your strategy.

While it’s possible to start day trading with £100, the limited capital means higher relative risks. It’s essential to approach trading with caution, knowledge, and a well-defined strategy.

How Much Does a Day Trader Make UK?

The earnings of a day trader in the UK can vary widely based on several factors, including experience, skill level, trading strategy, and market conditions.

Here are some points to consider:

  1. Experience Level: Beginners may face a steep learning curve and are more likely to incur losses initially. On the other hand, experienced traders with proven strategies can make consistent profits.
  2. Capital Investment: The amount of money you start with can significantly impact your earning potential. More capital allows for better diversification and risk management.
  3. Market Conditions: Earnings can fluctuate based on market volatility. Some traders thrive in volatile markets, while others prefer more stable conditions.
  4. Trading Strategy: The effectiveness of your trading strategy will directly impact your earnings. Strategies need to be tested and adapted continuously for changing market conditions.
  5. Costs and Fees: Transaction costs, including spreads and commissions, can eat into profits, especially for traders who execute multiple trades per day.
  6. Tax Implications: Profits are subject to taxation, either as capital gains or income, depending on how trading activities are classified by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
  7. Full-time vs. Part-time: Full-time traders who dedicate more time to market analysis, strategy optimisation, and trading are generally expected to earn more than part-time traders.

It’s challenging to provide a specific figure for how much a day trader can make in the UK due to these variables.

Here are some typical salaries of day traders in the UK:

The average salary for a day trader is £79,704 per year in the United Kingdom. The average additional cash compensation for a day trader in the United Kingdom is £22,868, with a range from £7,592 – £68,875.

Some traders make substantial profits, while others struggle to break even or incur losses.

It’s also worth noting that trading involves significant risks, and it’s possible to lose more than your initial investment.

Therefore, it’s crucial to trade responsibly and only with money you can afford to lose.

How Do I Become a Day Trader UK?

Becoming a day trader in the UK involves a series of well-planned steps, starting with education. It’s crucial to learn the basics of trading, market analysis, and risk management through online courses, webinars, and articles.

Once you have a foundational understanding, choose a reputable broker regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure a secure trading environment. Most brokers offer demo accounts, which are invaluable for practicing trading strategies without financial risk.

After gaining confidence and experience with a demo account, you can transition to a live account, starting with a modest amount of capital that you can afford to lose. Develop a comprehensive trading plan that outlines your risk tolerance, trading strategy, and profit goals.

As you start trading, continuously monitor your performance, adapt your strategies based on outcomes, and consider using risk management tools like stop-loss orders. Given that profits from day trading are subject to taxation, it’s advisable to consult a tax advisor to understand your tax obligations fully.

Which Platform Is Best for Day Trading in UK?

The “best” platform for day trading in the UK can vary depending on individual needs, trading style, and experience level. However, some platforms are generally well-regarded for their features, user interface, and reliability.

MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5) are popular choices for both beginners and experienced traders, offering advanced charting tools, a wide range of technical indicators, and automated trading capabilities. Interactive Brokers and eToro are also frequently recommended for their comprehensive trading tools and social trading features, respectively.

It’s crucial to choose a platform that is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to ensure security and compliance with UK laws. Many platforms offer demo accounts, allowing you to test their features before committing real money.

Consider factors like transaction fees, available assets, customer support, and community reviews when making your choice. Regardless of the platform you choose, make sure it aligns with your trading goals, strategy, and risk tolerance.

See also: Best day trading platforms UK

What Are the Costs Associated With Day Trading?

Day trading comes with various costs that can impact your profitability.

Here are some of the primary expenses to consider:

  1. Spreads: The difference between the buying and selling price of an asset is known as the spread, and it’s a cost that traders incur with each trade.
  2. Commissions: Some brokers charge a commission for executing trades. These fees can add up quickly in day trading, where frequent buying and selling are common.
  3. Overnight Fees: Also known as “swap rates,” these are fees charged for holding a position overnight. Day traders usually avoid these by closing positions before the market closes, but they’re still worth noting.
  4. Platform Fees: While many trading platforms are free, some require a subscription or charge fees for premium features.
  5. Data Feeds: Real-time data feeds are crucial for day trading, and some platforms charge extra for this service.
  6. Transaction Costs: Depending on the asset and the broker, there may be additional transaction costs, such as the Securities Transaction Tax for stock trades.
  7. Margin Interest: If you’re trading on margin, you’ll need to pay interest on the borrowed amount, which can be significant if the position is kept open for an extended period.
  8. Hardware and Software: A reliable computer and high-speed internet connection are essential for day trading, and these come with their own costs.
  9. Educational Resources: Books, courses, and other educational materials are often necessary expenses for improving your trading skills.
  10. Tax Implications: Profits from day trading are subject to taxation, which should be factored into your cost calculations.
  11. Miscellaneous Fees: These can include withdrawal fees, inactivity fees, and account maintenance fees, depending on the broker.

Being aware of these costs is crucial for calculating your net profit and loss. Always read the fee structure of your chosen broker carefully and consider how the costs will affect your trading strategy.

What Markets Can I Day Trade In, in the UK?

In the UK, you have access to a wide range of markets for day trading, each with its own set of characteristics, opportunities, and risks.

Here are some of the most commonly traded markets:

  1. Forex Market: The foreign exchange market is one of the most popular for day trading due to its high liquidity and 24-hour trading cycle. You can trade various currency pairs, including major, minor, and exotic pairs. See also: How to trade forex UK.
  2. Stock Market: Trading individual company stocks is another popular option. The London Stock Exchange (LSE) offers a variety of UK-based stocks, and many platforms also provide access to international stock markets.
  3. Indices: You can trade major market indices like the FTSE 100, S&P 500, or the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Indices provide a way to trade on the overall performance of a market sector rather than individual companies.
  4. Commodities: Markets like oil, gold, and agricultural products offer opportunities for day trading. These markets can be influenced by economic indicators, geopolitical events, and supply-demand factors.
  5. Cryptocurrencies: The volatile nature of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum makes them attractive for day trading, although they come with higher risks.
  6. ETFs: Exchange-traded funds allow you to trade on a basket of assets, providing a way to diversify your trades within a single transaction.
  7. Futures and Options: These derivative markets allow you to trade contracts rather than the actual asset. They are complex instruments but offer high leverage and the ability to profit from both rising and falling markets.
  8. Bonds: Though less commonly day-traded due to lower volatility, bonds can still offer opportunities, especially during times of market uncertainty.
  9. CFDs: Contracts for Difference allow you to speculate on the price movements of various assets without owning them. They are popular for their leverage options but come with high risks. See also: How to trade CFDs.

Each market has its own set of rules, trading hours, and factors that influence price movements. It’s crucial to understand these aspects and how they align with your trading strategy and risk tolerance before diving in.

What Day Trading Strategies Are There?

Day trading strategies vary widely, but they all aim to capitalise on short-term market movements.

Here are some popular day trading strategies:

  1. Scalping: This involves making numerous small trades to profit from tiny price movements. Scalping requires quick execution and exit, often within minutes or even seconds.
  2. Momentum Trading: Traders using this strategy look for stocks or other assets that are moving significantly in one direction on high volume and try to jump on board to ride the momentum.
  3. Range Trading: This strategy involves identifying stocks or other assets that are trading in a specific price range and buying at the low end of the range and selling at the high end.
  4. Trend Following: This strategy involves trying to capture gains through the analysis of an asset’s momentum in a particular direction. Traders use various methods like moving averages to determine the trend.
  5. Contrarian Trading: This strategy involves going against the prevailing market trends in anticipation of reversals. It’s a risky strategy and requires a deep understanding of market indicators.
  6. Swing Trading: Though not strictly a day trading strategy, some day traders use swing trading to take advantage of price “swings” in strongly trending stocks.
  7. High-Frequency Trading (HFT): This algorithmic trading strategy uses sophisticated algorithms to execute a large number of orders at extremely high speeds. It’s mostly used by institutional traders.
  8. Market Making: This involves continuously buying and selling on small price fluctuations. Market makers provide liquidity to the market, but the strategy can be risky.
  9. News Trading: This strategy involves trading based on news releases that are expected to affect the price of an asset. It requires quick action and good judgment to trade profitably on news releases.
  10. Price Action Trading: This strategy relies on real-time price movements and chart patterns, without the use of additional indicators, to make trading decisions.
  11. Gapping: Traders using this strategy look for assets that have a price gap from the close of one period to the opening of another and try to profit from the gap “filling.”

Each strategy has its own set of rules, risks, and rewards, and often traders combine elements from different strategies to create their own unique trading approach. It’s crucial to practice any strategy thoroughly in a demo environment before implementing it with real money.

Is Day Trading Really That Profitable?

The profitability of day trading is a subject of much debate and can vary widely from trader to trader.

While some individuals have found significant success and financial gain through day trading, others have incurred substantial losses.

Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Skill Level: Day trading is a skill-intensive endeavor that requires a deep understanding of the markets, quick decision-making, and a well-tested trading strategy. Experienced traders are generally more profitable than beginners.
  2. Capital: The amount of money you start with can significantly impact your earning potential. More capital allows for better diversification and risk management.
  3. Costs: Day trading involves various costs, including spreads, commissions, and possibly subscription fees for advanced trading tools or data feeds. These costs can eat into profits.
  4. Risk Management: Effective risk management is crucial for profitability. One or two bad trades can wipe out gains made from many successful trades.
  5. Market Conditions: Profitability can depend on market volatility and liquidity. Some traders thrive in volatile markets, while others prefer more stable conditions.
  6. Emotional Discipline: The psychological aspect of trading, including the ability to control emotions like fear and greed, plays a significant role in profitability.
  7. Regulatory and Tax Implications: Traders must also consider the impact of regulations and taxes on their earnings.
  8. Time Commitment: Day trading requires a significant time investment for market research, executing trades, and continuous learning.
  9. Leverage: While using leverage can amplify gains, it also increases the risk of significant losses.

It’s worth noting that a substantial percentage of day traders are not profitable, especially among those who are new to trading.

The risks are high, and it requires a disciplined approach, a well-thought-out strategy, and continuous learning to become and stay profitable in day trading.

Day Trading for Beginners – Final Thoughts

Day trading is a high-risk, high-reward financial activity that involves buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day. While it offers the potential for significant profits, it also comes with substantial risks, especially for beginners.

Success in day trading requires a deep understanding of the markets, a well-defined trading strategy, and rigorous risk management practices. It’s crucial to start with a demo account to practice without financial risk and to invest only money you can afford to lose.

Whether you’re drawn to the Forex market, stocks, or other assets, remember that continuous learning, disciplined trading, and a keen understanding of your risk tolerance are your best allies in this fast-paced trading arena.


How much money should a beginner day trader start with?

A beginner day trader should start with an amount they can afford to lose, typically ranging from £500 to £1,000 for adequate diversification and risk management. However, some brokers offer accounts with low minimum deposits, sometimes as low as £100, suitable for practicing trading strategies. It’s crucial to consider trading costs and the need for effective risk management when determining your starting capital.

Is day trading good for beginners?

Day trading is not generally recommended for beginners due to its high-risk nature and the quick decision-making it requires. It involves a significant time commitment and a steep learning curve, and there’s a high likelihood of incurring losses, especially for those who are new to trading. Beginners are often advised to start with longer-term investment strategies and to practice with demo accounts before diving into day trading.

Why do you need 25k to start day trading?

The $25,000 requirement is specific to the United States and is known as the Pattern Day Trader (PDT) rule, enforced by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The rule states that anyone who executes four or more day trades within five business days must maintain a minimum equity balance of $25,000 in their brokerage account. The rule aims to protect inexperienced traders from the high risks associated with day trading.

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