7 Ways to Improve Your Existing Trading Strategy

January 13th, 2010

Let’s say your trading is going pretty well – you’re trading a good strategy that you’re making consistent profits from and you’re comfortable with. Good traders never rest on their laurels, so you’re ready to take the next step. The existing strategy you trade never consumes all your buying power, so you’ve got some capacity for an additional strategy.

So what’s your next step? Research a completely new trading strategy, right? Not yet, I say. If you are already trading a profitable strategy, many times there are ways to improve, adapt, or add on to it to make more profits – sometimes a lot more. So before investing a lot of time in developing a completely new strategy which can be a long and arduous process, first look at the strategy you already trade.

This has a couple of obvious advantages – you’re already intimately familiar with how your system works and you already have a mountain of real, live trading data to test with which is always more valuable than pure backtesting with is 100% theoretical.

Here are some ways to look at your existing system to try to improve it:

  1. Use a Profit Target – Look for ways to add a target order or modify an existing one. Targets are great for a lot of strategies because they lock in profit and they free up capital sooner.
  2. Adjust Your Stops – Most traders use stops that are too tight. Look at your existing strategy and see if you can make more money by using a larger or smaller stop distance.
  3. Find More Opportunities – If you’ve already got a profitable strategy, it often pays to relax your filter rules to generate more entry signals. Even if you end up with a strategy that is slightly less profitable per trade, the increased opportunities could be well worth it.
  4. Look For Fewer, More Profitable Opportunities – This is the opposite of the previous item. It might make sense to trade fewer but more profitable opportunities by tightening your entry criteria a bit. Often times you’ll find that you can make the same amount of money with fewer trades (and therefore less risk). This can free up valuable buying power to allocate to other strategies.
  5. Automate your Strategy or Part of It – How are you spending your time when you trade your strategy? Are there aspects of that routine that could be streamlined or eliminated? Perhaps the strategy could be completely automated. Maybe the strategy can be modified slightly to be automated.
  6. Look For Cheaper Commissions – If you’re trading big enough, this could save thousands of dollars a month. Changing brokers can be a pain, so make sure the pay off is going to be worth it before going through the hassle of moving money, learning a new platform, etc.
  7. Backtest Losing Trades in the Opposite Direction – Let’s say you’re trading a long strategy and 40% of those trades end up stopping out. What would happen if you took those trades that stopped out and traded them short? Think about it – the trades that stop out have invalidated your long “thesis” with your original strategy. Maybe there’s an edge on the short side with those trades.

Have you found any of these to be fruitful in your own trading? Which was most valuable? Any other approach that you’ve found helpful?

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