Becoming a professional Betfair trader is the ultimate dream for many, whether it be football trading, tennis, horses or something else entirely. It's certainly achievable - there are people doing it - but how do you go from frustrated gambler to trading Betfair for a living?
In this post I'll talk about expectations and motivation, what a sports trader does day to day, what you can look forward to as a full-time trader and how to actually get there.
What are your expectations?
I really hope that this doesn't come as a surprise to you, but... you will never be able to buy a few systems, quit your job and then start to pull money out of the betting exchanges the next morning. They are not magical ATMs and it is not possible to find systems which "unlock the secrets of Betfair for five minutes work each week".
If you have searched for something like, "how to make money on Betfair fast" or the "easiest way to make money betting" you're going to need to change your mindset quite considerably before you can even think about sports trading for a living.
After all, the only thing you can do fast on Betfair is blow your bank!
If you are planning to rely on that bank to pay your way through life, you'd better make sure that your number one priority is to protect it.
Another thing... while it is possible to learn the fundamentals, you can only become an experienced trader by trading. Sounds obvious when it's put like that, but you would not believe the amount of people who start trading football and immediately expect to make money.
And how could that even be possible?
Think about it... Betfair is full of very clever and ruthless traders whose sole intention is to take your money. What makes anyone think that they are going to outsmart these other traders as soon as they start trading?
As Kevin Laverick found out - having played and managed football at a good level - sports knowledge doesn't get you very far; it's all about risk/reward, probabilities, discipline, patience and so on.
So... from day one, make sure that your expectations are reasonable and realistic; becoming a professional sports trader is going to take time and hard work.
Find your motivation
Ask yourself... why do you want to trade on Betfair for a living?
If it's because you want to impress your mates down the pub, you're going to struggle to remain motivated when the going gets tough. If you dream of laying on a desert island and logging into Betfair every now and again to top up your bank account, you're living in a fantasy world.
So why is it that you are reading this?
There are lots of emotions which drive our motivations; love and hate perhaps being the strongest. Why do you want to make money on Betfair? What is going to keep you focused and drive you forward?
Here are some examples:
- I love my family and I wish to spend more time with them
- I would love to achieve financial security for me and my family
- I would love the freedom of being able to live and work from almost anywhere
- I hate sitting in traffic on my way to the office
- I hate my job and I can't see a way to make it bearable
- I hate the fact that I'm not in control of my life
What are your motivations?
Focus more on the positives than the negatives; your hopes and dreams rather than fears. Positive emotions are stronger and longer lasting. After all, you will love your family long after you've left the job you hate.
The more motivations you can find, the better. When trading seems difficult - or even impossible - you will refer back to your list, re-focus, clear your head and try again. Without strong motivation, you are far more likely to quit and that doesn't get you anywhere.
What does a sports trader do?
If you think that football traders sit down all day watching football, you're probably going to be disappointed. Apart from watching football socially, I can't remember the last time I watched a game while trading - it's just not necessary.
I do know of some traders who watch football matches and even a few who believe that they can "read a game" but the vast majority can't do that. Of course, everyone is different and if you want to watch matches as you trade, you can absolutely do that.
Football trading is more about maths and probability than it is about football. It will be much more useful for you to know the probability of a first half goal than it will be to know whether Wayne Rooney is playing or not.
Of course, team news can present scalping opportunities but that's another discussion.
In order to make a profit, football traders identify strong opportunities and then find good risk/reward in the markets. That's all there is to it; I show you exactly how easy it is in this case study.
I would say that 90% of my time is spent carrying out research, while the other 10% is spent trading. I analyse upcoming fixtures in order to identify trading angles, test new systems and, of course, I monitor existing systems to ensure that they are still profitable.
It's certainly not a case of building a portfolio of trading systems and then trading for the next 20 years. Betfair markets are constantly evolving and traders must move with them - or fail.
With that in mind, make sure that you allocate a good proportion of your time to system analysis (or subscribe to a service such as Goal Profits which does it for you).
When trading becomes your job
Like any job, trading has good and bad points. Personally, I think that there are far more positives!
Perhaps the best part is being able to work from home. There's no commute and no traffic to worry about; your alarm goes off in the morning, you switch the coffee machine on and get to work.
Bear in mind though that you won't have a boss peering over your shoulder and you will have to motivate yourself. Getting up at 10am and then watching daytime TV for a few hours will make you exactly £0.00 profit.
There are lots of ways to self-motivate in order to get tasks done, but money shouldn't be one of them. If you start to worry about paying bills, you're going to fall into the trap of entering weak trades in order to try and hit targets.
What works for me is making a list of tasks and then doing them in the order that they're written down. If I do the easy stuff first, I'm left with the harder tasks and I'm more likely to procrastinate.
I also find that working overnight helps. As well as keeping track of fixtures in North and South America, I can plough through my to-do list without being bombarded by emails. That might not suit you though, especially if you have a family.
A Betfair trader does not have the security of a salary, does not enjoy holiday pay or sick pay when 'man flu' hits. However, if you're making more money than you were in your old job then you can afford to save more - and you should save as much as you can to build your financial security.
Although you can sit in front of the TV with your laptop on your knees, you will be far more productive if you have a dedicated work space. Shut yourself away, work through your to-do list and then relax in front of the TV once you're done.
There are certainly times when I trade while watching TV, but I will have already done my research on the games and I can hit 'pause' if I need to concentrate for a few minutes.
Explain to your partner that, when Flashscores lets out a cheer for a goal, it's time for you to work. Even if it's just for a few seconds, you need some peace and quiet in order to check trading positions. It really helps when your partner knows what that noise means!
In my early trading days, I manually updated stats spreadsheets every day because no website provided all the trading stats necessary - and I still haven't found a single one which does. There are plenty of free stats websites out there, but they're all aimed at hobby gamblers who sign up to their bookie offers. These sites are of little use to professional traders.
Even tracking a dozen or so leagues during the winter would take a huge amount of time - and that was before I even traded or worked on developing and testing new systems. I would regularly clock up 80+ hours per week in order to get it all done.
Thankfully, the Team Stats software at Goal Profits takes most of that time-consuming admin work away and I simply couldn't trade without it these days. Rather than limited stats over a small number of leagues, I have every number I could ever dream of for 65 leagues worldwide - and no human-error mistakes to spot and correct. Team Stats has been literally life-changing!
I now spend less time researching trades, but I am able to dig into the numbers in much more detail. Doing this has transformed my trading results and given me much more time to develop other trading angles.
Stats are the tools of the trade (no pun intended!) and only the best will ever be good enough.
Jonny has become a full-time trader, thanks to Team Stats and the Goal Profits community. It's no longer a dream for him, or for others who are enjoying their new trading career!
Finally - and this is something which most new traders don't even consider - you must dedicate time to your health. You will be spending a lot of time at your desk rather than walking to work, wandering around the office, unloading a delivery van, or whatever it was that would get your body moving.
Here are some health tips:
- Buy a 'standing desk'
- Take the dog for a walk twice a day
- Sign up for a 5-a-side league
- Run up and down the stairs 3 times every hour
- Go for a run before lunch
- Cycle rather than drive your car
In other words, make sure you move and burn some calories!
And on the subject of calories... watch what you eat. It's very easy to sit at your desk all day and snack, so don't keep a bag of toffees in your top drawer! Just as with trading itself, be disciplined.
Remember... healthy body, healthy mind.
Put a plan together
Ok... so you've decided that you really want to become a pro trader and you have identified strong motivations which are going to be your fuel.
Now, you need a plan. Exactly how are you going to make this happen?
Unless you're crazy, you're not going to quit your job before learning how to trade and proving that you have the experience and discipline to make a long-term profit. So the first stage is to show that you can do it. You might not need to prove it to your partner too, if he or she isn't sure!
It is very difficult to put a time-frame on this part so you're going to have to be flexible. Aim for an absolute minimum of six profitable months in a row - preferably more - in order to prove to yourself (and your partner) that you're ready.
And be honest with yourself... this isn't a bragging contest so be sure to record results properly.
This is the stage at which quitters quit, usually picking out a poor excuse to explain why it's 'not their fault'. "I don't have time" is the most common, followed by "I'm too busy at work". Both of those are absolute rubbish. If you want it enough, you find a way - same as anything in life.
Hardly anyone quits after the 'proof' stage; after this it's just a matter of time.
Once you've proven to yourself that you are disciplined and skilled enough to trade profitably over a good amount of time, decide how you're going to make the transition from 'worker' to 'trader'.
You could, of course, just quit your job and immediately dedicate all of your time to football trading. A handful of Goal Profits members have done that, but it's a very aggressive approach and not something I'd be comfortable with myself.
A better way is to save up until you have enough to cover your bills for the next six months (minimum). There are two big benefits to this method:
- Your trading decisions will not be under pressure from day one
- All the profit you make for the next six months (or more) will strengthen your trading bank
My recommendation is to transition gradually from full-time working to part-time working/trading, then from part-time working/trading to full-time trading. This can be done over many months so that you do not put yourself under pressure.
You may even be able to stay with your current employer and gradually cut hours or, if getting out of that job is one of your motivations, look for something else.
It's likely to be quite a change for you - and your family - when you become a full-time trader.
You will be spending much more time at home and that takes some adjustment. After all, a bit of space tends to be good for relationships. You will also have a completely new routine to settle into; including your new health regime!
You're also going to view money differently. Whereas before it would magically arrive in your bank account every month on payday, that won't be the case any longer. You will be working for every penny you make and that is likely to make you very protective of it!
This one really does take time to adjust to and it's why I recommend going part-time first; it's much easier to make these changes and get used to them before you're 'all in'.
You may even find yourself in the same position as a number of Goal Profits members who have started the transition and stuck at part-time because they enjoy it so much.
They still get out of the house to work - though it's far less stressful - and then they get the enjoyment of trading too. Best of both worlds!
If trading turns out not to be all you dreamed of, then you can always go back to work again... but I bet you don't!
Put your plan into action
Trading isn't easy, otherwise no-one would go to work on a Monday morning. It is more about mindset than it is systems and strategies, and that takes time to develop. There are no shortcuts!
The vast majority who set out to become full-time traders will not succeed. Many will quit because they are too lazy and thought it was all glamour and riches, while others simply don't want it enough.
Most will end up trading part-time - and that's a great place to be. You can earn a significant amount from trading part-time which will pay for a few luxuries in life or help build a retirement fund.
The only certainty is that everyone is different. Decide what you want and GO FOR IT!
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