That all changed about a year ago. I was a final year student and came across a platform called eToro which blew open the doors and allowed me to start trading online.
Sound easy enough?
Well, actually it’s not all that straight-forward. It’s important for you to know that I have been on quite a learning curve. Whilst I’ve been enjoying the whole experience, I’ve also made some rookie mistakes.
For total beginners the eToro platform and the concept of trading itself can be a little daunting at first. So with the benefit of hindsight and my own personal trading experience on eToro, I wanted to put together a comprehensive no-nonsense guide to help others get the best results as quickly as possible. And here it is…
What is eToro?
eToro would describe themselves as an accessible trading platform that incorporates a social element into investing. I’d describe them as Facebook for trading. They first went live in 2006, and are now the world’s largest investment network with a community of 4.5 million users.
The platform and the wider phenomenon of social investing have been widely covered by mainstream media, including a recent BBC documentary called Traders: Millions by the Minute.
The most unique feature of eToro is probably ‘CopyTrader‘. This allows you to sort through other users and plainly see their trading history, including how much they have made or lost over any given period. If you find someone you like the look of, you can allocate some funds to automatically copy their trades.
Another big plus is the ‘Popular investors‘ program. This rewards users based on how many copiers they have in the form of monthly commission. The program also incentivises responsible trading, and we’ll discuss this in more depth towards the end of the guide.
So with the social and copying features, you’ll certainly learn a great deal relatively quickly! Most of the need-to-knows you’ll pick up by reading this guide or playing with a demo account.
Take it easy at the start and make sure you know what you’re doing before investing larger amounts of money. Trading on eToro can be very profitable but it’s important to note that, whenever you’re dealing with the markets, you can lose money too (“your capital is at risk”)!
Create your investing account
Sign up for eToro.com
No lengthy paperwork here, it’s free and really very straightforward! Simply enter your details and choose a username. They ask for a phone number to protect your account’s security.
You’ve now opened up the world of real-time trading, but to actually make trades you’ll be prompted to complete your profile ?
Disclaimer: eToro is a multi-asset platform which offers CFD and non-CFD products.
66% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading ‘CFDs’ with this provider. You should consider whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
This content is intended for information and educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendation.
CFDs are a type of leveraged product that we do not recommend in this guide, we are concentrating on buying and holding actual stocks you own.
This is an important step to protect your account and tailor the eToro platform to your needs.
The first part covers basic personal information (you don’t need to enter an ‘Identification Number’ if you’re unsure).
Next there are a couple of trading experience questions. It’s not a test so don’t worry too much about the answers, just try and be honest.
Click ‘Continue to deposit’ (or ‘Deposit funds’ at the bottom left).
The minimum you can deposit is $200, which is perfect for getting started.
Note: eToro’s main currency is $USD but you can deposit in £GBP and other major currencies. It will be converted to $USD in your account.
Familiarising yourself with the platform
I’ll just give you a very quick overview of the main sections of eToro for now. We’ll delve more into each one later as I explain how to browse and trade in detail.
Organise the people and markets you’re interested in copying or investing in. You can create multiple lists, such as ‘promising stocks’ or ‘people to copy’.
The nerve centre of your investment journey. View all your open trades with live tickers and values, and monitor your performance.
This is just like your News Feed on Facebook, where you can see everything the traders you follow have been doing and saying recently.
The place to research and trade in the markets available to you: stocks (eg. Apple), currencies (eg. GBP/USD), commodities (eg. gold) and indices (eg. UK100) and ETFs.
The heart of the community. Search through other traders who you may want to copy or follow. There are loads of useful filters to help narrow down to the results you want, such as markets and performance.
Now that you’re a part of the community and have explored the site a little, I’m going to share the 3 main ways to invest on eToro with you.
Copying other good traders (Copy People)
This is the simplest way to invest on eToro (read Liam’s story). When you copy someone, every trade they execute is simultaneously opened in your account too and then closed when they close it.
It’s all proportional to what % of your total account’s funds you choose to allocate to them (more on this later), but ultimately you will achieve the same rate of return as they do.
Finding reliable traders to copy on eToro isn’t always as straightforward as it might appear. You need to know what to look for and what to stay clear of (more on this later on). Allow me to help you master the art of copy trading…
Avoid the most common mistakes!
Let me point out the numero uno mistake beginners make right away: being a sheep. When you venture into the ‘ Copy People’ section looking for a trader to copy it’s intuitive to sort by ‘most copied’ and blindly copy the top results. You’d think that the most copied people have lots of copiers for a reason, right? The wisdom of the crowd perhaps.
But the reality is that most people on eToro are complete beginners and don’t really know what they are doing. If a few people copy a trader for the wrong reasons, that trader can quickly ‘go viral’ with exponentially more copiers following suit without thinking for themselves. Let me give you an example.
Even though this trader has extremely poor performance (he would have lost 98% of your money over the last five months if you’d copied him), he still has close to 2,000 people copying him! Bizarrely this happens quite a lot on eToro, so I’ll be explaining the process I follow when copy trading.
Having warned against consistently under-performing traders, the other big pitfall beginners fall into is over-trading. It’s incredibly tempting to keep checking how much you’ve made or lost every few hours, but emotions will cloud your better judgement and lead to tinkering.
No trader will EVER profit every single week or month, so I highly recommend you take a medium/long-term approach. This requires patience and discipline, but you’re more likely to see better gains over time.
Finding the best traders to copy
First off click on ‘Copy People’ on the eToro sidebar.
You can either simply scroll down the page to see promising and trending popular investors…
…or you can use the advanced search feature. Everything in blue you can change to meet the criteria you’re seeking in potential traders to copy.
Hit ‘GO!’ for a list of matching traders, ordered by the number of copiers they have. To further drill down use the filters at the top.
5 attributes EVERY trader you copy should have:
- Really demonstrate their market knowledge and experience on their profile feed
- Have low weekly and daily drawdowns (basically how much they’ve been ‘down’ over a given period). Anything more than 10% should be a red flag
- Don’t have ridiculous returns. I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but if you see someone with 1,000%+ returns in a very short period of time, realise that this is unsustainable luck and can only be achieved by being reckless
- Don’t have a 100% win rate. It’s perfectly normal to close some trades in the red, this is a sign of discipline and experience. Beginners chase their losses, proper traders know when to cut loose
- Are communicative. You want to copy someone who can help you learn and is willing to share their trading methodology. If they don’t reply to your messages they either don’t care (likely to trade carelessly too) or they don’t know how to answer because they don’t have a clue what they’re doing!
Viewing a trader’s past performance
I’ll now walk you through assessing an individual trader before outlining the exact steps to copy a trader, so you can understand what to look for and how the process works.
By clicking on the ‘stats’ tab in a trader’s profile you can access some very useful information to help determine whether they are worth copying or not.
There are two other key things to look at here. The risk score indicates how risky a trader is and the max drawdown shows the maximum a trader has ‘been down’ in a single week during this period. Same idea for daily and yearly.
It’s interesting to compare current risk to past months to see how their strategy has evolved. Anything green shows a very safe, low-risk low-return attitude. The spectrum then moves through yellow, orange, red and black where the risk is highest.
I personally steer clear of anyone with more than a seven, but it can be good to have a mix of traders with different styles.
How to copy a trader
Copying itself is simple. Once you’ve found a trader who you feel is reliable, simply open their profile and click on the blue ‘Copy’ button.
You’ll then be prompted to enter an amount with which to copy that trader, and you’ll see some useful information appears.
Let’s say you copy a trader with $200, then “Avg. copied trade size” leads us to how the copying actually works in real dollar terms. In the example above, each trade you copy would be (on average) $2.72. Proportionally this is just 2.72% of the total ($5.44 out of the $200) of your total investment in them. In this case, it’s a good sign as it shows a cautious and safe investment style.
You can also set a “stop loss”, which is a means of protecting against heavy losses, set at 40% by default. If the person you are copying loses 40% of your investment, your account automatically stops copying them. You can set this level to whatever you want, depending on how much risk you’re prepared to take. Personally I keep the number closer to 25%.
Monitoring your performance
Clicking on ‘Portfolio’ takes you to your open trades.
This is the actual trading area and your nerve-centre. Here you can monitor all of your current open positions and close them, and also access a record of your trading history.
All of your copied traders (and in fact any of your own investments) will be listed in your Portfolio. You can see your overall return on the investment in a trader, and also click on the person to see what positions they (and you) currently have open, and how these are performing individually. Usefully you’re able to close individual copied trades without uncopying a trader altogether.
It’s worth noting that you can also just ‘follow’ traders (without copying or investing in them) so their updates show up in your Watchlist and News Feed, as with Twitter. It’s a good way to gauge whether you think they’re worth copying and tune into useful information.
Trading well yourself
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with the eToro platform and (hopefully) had some success copying other people, you can start thinking about placing your own trades.
You need to think a bit harder and do your research. Any shortcomings are squarely on you now!
Focusing your energies on the stock markets gets you used to the platform and the whole process of opening and closing positions without too much pressure. You probably have a fair amount of existing consumer knowledge here too.
Which stocks should you choose?
Well, that’s up to you, partner. I cannot offer specific investment advice. All I will say is that it pays dividends to do your homework, read the news frequently and listen to earning announcements. Only invest in stocks or companies that you believe are in a strong and healthy position to resist market shocks, and ultimately have room to grow.
If you’re really serious, you might also want to read up on the price/earnings ratio to identify undervalued/overpriced stock.
What I can do though is take you through the steps of placing a trade on eToro.
How to buy stocks and shares
Click on ‘Trade Markets’, then ‘Stocks’, then ‘Industry’. Choose an industry, for example ‘Consumer goods’.
You will then be presented with a list of all consumer goods stocks tradable on eToro, along with their respective prices and change over the past day.
Let’s pretend we want to buy some Apple stock, say $50 worth. Click on ‘AAPL’ (this is the ticker used for Apple on the stock exchange) and you will first see the ‘Feed’. This displays all the latest news and insightful discussions surrounding the Apple share price and the company’s activity in general.
Click ‘Chart’ to display a chart showing the company’s stock prices over the last year. You’re able to change the period shown by zooming in and out.
If you want to invest in Apple (on the basis that you believe the share price will rise over the medium/long term), click on ‘Trade’ in the top right corner.
The minimum amount to trade is $50. Below this you can set the amounts at which you automatically want to close the trade, for both loss and profit.
Finally, take note of the “Leverage” figure. The number refers to how much you can multiply your gains (and losses) by. The higher the number equals higher risk.
X1 is essentially buying the real stock. If you traded at X2, any price movement is magnified by 2 (doubles). Usually it’s automatically on X5, so for beginners I’d suggest clicking on the number and reducing it to X1.
When you’re ready click ‘Set Order’.
That’s it! You’re now invested $50 in Apple ?
Monitoring your performance
Click ‘Portfolio’ to see your open positions.
If you click on the Apple stock, you can see more info. In my case below, I bought $400 worth in September, and it shows I’m currently up 3.94% on this trade, which translates to +$15.75. This is the amount I would profit if I decided to sell these stocks (close my position) right now by clicking on the ‘Close’ button (red X).
As I warned earlier, do not fall into the trap of checking the real-time performance of your trades every hour! This just leads to over-trading which again, is very costly.
I’ve had to develop the discipline to let the markets take their course, and be confident that over the longer term the value of my portfolio will rise (which it has). It’s a strategy that has served me well and means I don’t make rash spontaneous decisions just because a company released some ‘bad’ news and the market overreacted in the short-term.
Only once you really feel like you know what you’re doing on eToro (ie. been actively trading for a few months) should you even consider trading indices, currencies (forex) and commodities. There is much more risk involved in these markets compared to stocks, so I’m only going to briefly cover these to the extent that you know what you’re doing.