How can I be more successful trading options?

We often receive questions about what separates profitable from unprofitable options traders. We’ve noticed that some of our best traders tend to do these things. While not all encompassing, or a guarantee of success, hopefully this provides you an idea of some best practices whether you are just starting out or have been trying to figure out how to be more profitable.

  • Have a long-term view: They only risk a small portion of their capital on any given trade. This prevents a few bad trades from leading to a significant drawdown.
  • Don’t force trades: If they suffer multiple losses in a row, they may ‘walk away’ for a few days and wait until the timing is right.
  • Have a plan: They have a plan for trade entry and trade exit (both for profit taking and loss minimisation). These traders don’t sit on losses waiting for them to turn around.
  • Use call and put spreads vs. single legs: If they are trading directionally, they may use spreads to reduce the cost to enter the trade leading to a lower break-even and higher win rate.
  • Use both directional and non-directional strategies: Instead of only trading when the Nifty/Bank Nifty are trending up or down, they will also use straddles/strangles when the markets are trading sideways. This allows them the opportunity to profit in different market conditions.
  • Keep an eye on volatility: If they are trading directionally, they select strikes that have both good liquidity as well as implied volatility relative to nearby strikes - there is no point in overpaying when it isn’t necessary.
  • Don’t forget the impact of time decay: When traders buy options, the passing of time negatively impacts the value of the option. Options that are closer to expiration are more impacted by time decay than options further away from expiration. Those that trade options over several days tend to avoid current week expiries to reduce time decay.