My observation is that most day traders buy and sell with market orders. This strategy tells your broker or platform to buy when you execute an order as soon as you hit the enter button on your computer and buy immediately at whatever price the market is trading. I want to qualify this before getting too far down the road, I trade in a scalping style and run reasonably tight stops and try to let my winners run. Of course, who does not try to let their winners run? Many people, believe it or not, especially if they are to heavy on the number of contracts they are trading relative to their futures account balance, trade not to lose, as oppose to maximizing their profit potential.
They are fearful, and trade defensively. It's not unusual to see a fearful trader trade the ES contract and bail at one point, even though the market is signaling there is good potential for the trade to continue in the direction of the trade. They just want out before something bad happens. Needless to say, trading in a fearful condition is not an enjoyable experience and makes for a long day.
Let's take a moment and talk a little about a strategy for entering trades. We will assume you have identified a potential trade to the short side and are ready to take that trade. Instead of putting a straight market order in place and buy at whatever the market is trading at when your order is filled, why not set your short entry several ticks above the current market price and let the market come to you? Granted, you run the risk of missing out on the trade if the price dive bombs straight down, but that is a rare occurrence. Even in a trending market, the price tends to bounce around and you are likely to get filled at your buy order above the market price. You just saved yourself a half point. You can look at your Average True Range Indicator to see how the range of the market has been and base your entry, to a certain degree, in a manner within the range. In dead flat markets, though, this may not be such a good strategy. Then again, I am not very excited about trading flat and choppy markets anyway.
Now let's talk a bit about scaling out of a trade. If you have read any of my articles you know that I usually have a specific profit target in mind and a specific stop loss point. In this example I am going to trade 3 contracts and my profit target 15 ticks on the ES Emini contract. On a trade like this one I will generally scale out of the trade. A good trading platform will allow you to set specific strategies for selling at different prices. I use Ninja trader, and I can preset my exit strategy as follows: I am going to sell 2 of the contracts at 10 ticks profit and 1 contract at the 15 tick profit target I had in mind.
You can use any variation of selling strategies you feel comfortable with and most good trading platforms allow up to 3, sometimes 4, separate levels to scale out of your trade. You can preset these strategies and name them in a manner which will allow you to choose which one you are going to use simply by clicking on the strategy you will employ. For example, this strategy on my platform I named 3x10x15. It's my own nomenclature, but I know this means 3 contract with exits at 10 and 15 ticks. I generally exit a larger portion of my contract on the first exit to lock in a nice profit and let the last contract run. I can even move the stop on the single contract if I see a market start a sharp move in the direction I am trading.
One of the maxims I live by is to never let a winning trade become a losing trade, and scaling out of a contract is an excellent way to assure you lock in a nice profit while allowing yourself the latitude to let a contract run. Needless to say. there are an endless number of potential scaled exits you may employ. In my trading, and I cannot fully explain why, I tend to trade an odd number of contracts and lock in the majority of my contracts at the first exit point, then manage the remainder of the contracts as the trade develops.
Entering a trade in the proper fashion and scaling out of the trade is an idea you may wish to employ in your trading, especially if you are trading out of fear. (on the other hand, if you are trading overly fearful, it might be wise to take a break from trading and regroup)
On single contract trades I generally just bracket trade, as no scaling is possible with a single contract. Try buying at the price you want with the method above and scaling out of a trade and see if it doesn't prove to be a profitable strategy for you to employ. It does give you a bit more control of the trade, and incrementally lowers the risk in the trade.