Building a trading plan

How to make a trading plan, and then put it into action

Build your skills with our free course

Find out more
Replay Video

What is a trading plan?

A trading plan is a comprehensive blueprint for your trading activity. Your trading plan can include anything you would find useful, but it should always cover:

  • Motivation
  • Time commitment
  • Trading goals
  • Attitude to risk
  • Available capital
  • Risk management rules
  • Markets to trade
  • Strategies
  • Record keeping

Your trading plan should be unique to you – though you could use a friend’s plan as inspiration, remember that the level of risk they are willing to accept could be vastly different to yours.

Why do you need a trading plan? 

In the heat of the moment, making objective decisions about your trades can be difficult, leaving you at the mercy of emotion and gut feeling. A trading plan helps you make logical decisions, even when the stakes are high, by defining the parameters of your ideal trade – including desired profit and acceptable loss – as well as your overall trading strategy.

How to make a trading plan

Here are a five simple steps to follow when creating a trading plan:

1.  Define your goals

Write down what you want to achieve from your trading. If possible, break it down into daily, weekly and monthly targets.

2.  Assess your market knowledge

Be honest about your expertise. Which asset classes, regions and markets do you really know? Focus on the areas you understand, and start filling in any gaps in your knowledge.

This is very important as the markets you intend to trade will inform your trading plan. For example, a forex trading plan may be very different to a stock trading plan, as market opening hours, volatility and position/contract sizes vary.

3.  Decide your acceptable risk

How much of your total capital are you willing to risk on a single trade? And, if you have multiple positions, how much are you willing to risk overall? Most novice traders start off with lower risk, but deciding your own risk limit is important.

4.  Set your risk-reward ratio

It also helps to decide what potential reward you need from your accepted level of risk. Traders often like to use a risk-reward ratio of 1:2 or higher, which means your possible profit on each trade is at least double your potential loss.

5.  Start a trading diary

Keeping notes of all your trades from each day and the rationale behind your decisions is a great way of finding out what is working, and what isn’t. Make sure to review which strategies have helped you to achieve your goals.

Done your trading plan? Log in now to get started.

Build your skills with our free course

Learn how to create an effective trading plan – and discover ways to manage your risk – with IG Academy’s online course. 

You might be interested in...

Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 79% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading spread bets and CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how spread bets and CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. Spread bets and CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.