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If you've ever traveled outside the country, you know exchange rates can kill you, but only if the foreign currency is worth more than your home country's currency. For example, if $1 will only buy £0.70, then you're effectively "trading down," assuming costs for goods and services are relatively equal in both countries.
But, you can take advantage of these same exchange rates, and make a profit, if you own a currency trading business. Foreign exchange trading involves buying and selling foreign currency to make money off an international foreign exchange market. Since the value of the world's currencies are constantly changing, the purpose of the business is to time the buying and selling of currencies, trading one against another, so that the company profits from currency swings with minimal losses (called "drawdown").
Who is this business right for?
This business is ideal for individuals who love high-risk businesses. You must be willing to work long hours, be good with numbers, and be willing to learn about and understand various trading algorithms. You should also be passionate about world economies.
What happens during a typical day at a currency trading business?
A currency trading business starts early. Traders start trading currencies as soon as a market opens. The FOREX market technically does not close, since it is global. However, markets in one part of the world do close. It's just that, when they do, another market opens for business. So, currency trading companies can theoretically work 24/7.
The day starts with a basic analysis of the markets, which includes current news stories, trends in the market, and an analysis of the company's own capital and trading positions. Any open positions are checked and any closed positions are accounted for.
The company's trading managers and representatives set their initial buy-in prices and stop-losses. They also check and monitor their margin or leverage. Leverage is often used in currency trading because currency price fluctuations are generally small. Leverage of 50:1 or 100:1 is not uncommon. This means a trader can control or trade $100 for every $1 of the company's own capital.
What is the target market?
If you are running a currency trading business for yourself, you have no customers. If you grow into a broker or market-maker, your customers are other traders and sometimes other brokers.
How does a currency trading business make money?
Currency trading businesses make money from the rise in currencies they invest in. Specifically, traders hope that the price of the currency they just bought will rise relative to the one they just sold. If you are a broker, you charge other traders a fixed or variable spread commission for trading. Some companies act as "pass through" entities for large market-makers, and only charge a fraction of a pip commission so that their traders can pay a thin spread that is only usually offered to very large or institutional investors.
What is the growth potential for a currency trading business?
Growth potential is unlimited. A currency trading company can be as small as one person or it can grow into a broker or market-maker, offering trading services to other people.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful currency trading business?
You will need at least amateur-level knowledge of the currency markets. Working under a successful currency trader helps, but is not mandatory. There are no laws governing who can and cannot trade in the FOREX markets for business purposes. You will need proper licensing, however, if you want to become a broker or market-maker. You will also need cash reserves and a bond to guaranty your customers' funds.
What are the costs involved in opening a currency trading business?
The costs for starting a currency trading business are minimal. All you need is a computer and access to a FOREX trading platform. Expect to pay between $500 and $2,500 for a computer. Higher end computers are sometimes necessary if you plan on doing high volume trading. In this case, your computer costs could exceed $5,000-$10,000.
What are the steps to start a currency trading business?
Once you're ready to start your currency trading business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your currency trading business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your currency trading business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a currency trading business?
Start with small lot sizes and keep sufficient cash reserves. Most traders only trade with 5%-10% of their total tradeable capital. They employ leverage to make significant gains.
How to promote & market a currency trading business
If you are promoting your services to other brokers, the best way to advertise is through FOREX forums, newsletters, and alternative investing websites and newsletters. You can also buy pay-per-click advertisements and run solo ads. The important thing to remember is FOREX and currency trading is an alternative investment for many people. So, advertise in places where your target market is likely to be hanging out.
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How to keep customers coming back
Attracting and keeping customers is simple. This is a very competitive industry, so keep your spreads lower than your competition. Constantly check market rate spreads as they change periodically.
How and when to build a team
Build a team only if you want to become a broker or market-maker in the industry. You will need a small team of professionals who are also skilled in currency trading, customer service, and web design. You should build out your team when you have enough money to do so. Most currency trading companies start small, as professional traders. Consider doing the same.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a forex trading business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
FOREX trading businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
Informed Consent Agreement
It is recommended to provide clients with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability and encourage transparency.
How much can you charge customers?
If you are brokering for other traders, you can charge between 0 and 4 pips per trade. Since this is a very competitive industry, if you charge higher than the average for brokers, make sure you offer value-added services for traders.
What are the ongoing expenses for a currency trading business?
Ongoing expenses for a currency trading business include a fast internet connection and computer maintenance, including regular software upgrades. Even with these costs, you should pay no more than $1,000 per year. If you are a broker, your costs may exceed several thousand dollars per month in server costs, software maintenance and upgrades, and servicing traders who use your platform.
How much profit can a currency trading business make?
If you are trading currencies, your revenues can fluctuate depending on market conditions, but generally a trader will earn between $50,000 and $150,000 per year, gross. This means a company employing 5 traders can expect to gross up to $750,000 per year. However, very successful traders can earn much more.
A broker or market maker may earn between $500,000 and $10 million or more per year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Create a platform that other traders want to use. This market is driven by low trading costs and fast execution service. These are the two areas you should spend most of your time improving. This business also has a reputation among some traders for shady broker practices. Being transparent with your customers and explaining your trading practices, avoiding slippage in your buy and sell orders, and not using markup to boost profits, are all things that will keep your customers coming back to you and thus increase long-term profits for your company.