A common problem that many futures traders run into is that they start trading, make some decent profits, then all of the sudden they encounter what seems to be an endless stream of losses. Eventually they end up losing their profits and eating away at their trading capital as they struggle to try and figure out what they are doing wrong. To be successful at trading futures, you must know what the common pitfalls are and what you can do to profit in the different futures markets. Here are the most common mistakes of futures traders and what you need to do to be a good futures trader. (For a background in futures trading, be sure to check out our Futures Fundamentals Tutorial

Tutorial:
Futures Trading 101.)

Common Futures Trading Mistakes
All successful futures traders have a system in place that will help them make better trades and effectively keep losses to a minimum. These strategies have been developed over time by the traders themselves or in combination with other trading systems. You can improve your odds of success by avoiding the common mistakes that many make when their new strategy is starting to work for them. These include:

  1. Not Sticking With Your System
    Just when a trading strategy is starting to show promise, many traders will deviate or abandon the system that they are using. This change means that you will not be able to unemotionally evaluate the market, leading to incorrect analyses and ultimately, losses. Instead, when you start to see signs of a change in trend taking place, you should be prepared to adapt your strategy to the changing conditions. This gives you the flexibility to make consistent profits in any type of market. (Learn more about systems, in our Trading Systems Tutorial.)

  2. Not Protecting Yourself
    Futures trading (like all trading) does involve a certain degree of risk, so it is important to protect yourself. There are a few ways to do this, such as using a sell or buy stops to limit your losses to a comfortable level, or by using heading strategies like buying puts. This will keep your losses to a minimum while maximizing your profits. (To learn more, read The Stop-Loss Order - Make Sure You Use It.)

  3. Not Staying Focused
    To trade successfully, your undivided attention is required to be able to read and evaluate the markets effectively. Sometimes distractions are unavoidable, but you always want to have as few distractions as possible when you are trading. This will help you to focus properly, thus increasing your odds of more profitable trades.

  4. Not Being Open to New Ideas
    The markets are always changing. No matter how great you think you are as a trader, there's always a new idea that can help you improve your trading results. Too often, traders get caught up in thinking that they already know enough and they aren't willing to learn anything new. As the market conditions change, this type of trader is left behind with nothing to show but losses. However, if you remain open to new ideas, you will be able to change with the markets - and profit consistently, no matter what they do.

How To Be a Better Futures Trader
A good futures trader is someone who can profit in any type of market condition. Traders come from many different backgrounds and lifestyles, but most good futures traders are:

  1. Independent Thinkers
    Great futures traders think for themselves. They follow what is happening with world-related events, the markets and other factors to make their trading decisions. In times of collapsing prices, they avoid panic and seek out paths to profit by using bearish strategies. Conversely, they do not get caught up in greed when others are feeling like prices will continue to rise with no inevitable correction. Avoiding this kind of crowd mentality allows the best futures traders to position themselves and profit at the right time. (Check out World's Greatest Investors to learn more.)

  2. Strong Analysts
    To be a good futures trader, you must understand technical and fundamental analysis. The more you are able to apply your understanding, the better you will be at spotting trading opportunities. To do this you want to learn as much as you can about all the different forms of analysis. This will help you gain the knowledge and the experience necessary to make better trades. While this may seem like an enormous task, in reality it's not. It can be done during your leisure time by reading different books, magazines, visiting futures-related websites, watching the news and by paper (practice) trading. (Read our related article Blending Technical And Fundamental Analysis to learn more about doing this.)

  3. Active Learners
    To continue learning new ways of trading, consider going to seminars or other events where you can interact with other traders and learn to accept and use new ideas. This allows you to learn from other traders' mistakes, meaning that your odds of having more successful trades increase.

  4. Handy with the Tools of Their Trade
    When you are trading futures information is key. You want to make sure that you have the ability to place trades 24 hours a day, have real time quotes, software to help you analyze the markets quickly and be able to receive fast executions. With these tools you will be able to react quickly to the changing market conditions.

The Bottom Line
Being a good futures trader means staying informed. Inform yourself about different forms of analysis, different strategies and learn from the mistakes of others. Trust in your well-researched strategy and your diligence will pay off. By following these simple tenets, you are increasing your odds of seeing more profits and fewer losses in these challenging yet rewarding markets. (For additional tips on become a great trader, read our related article Patience Is A Trader's Virtue.)

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