Taking the plunge and entering the crypto space can be daunting. There is no centralized authority to hold your hand, and the rumors and stories circulating around digital currencies can be fear-inducing.
However, with a few straightforward tips, negotiating that first Bitcoin transaction or trade can be a lot less stressful.
1. Do your homework
There is plenty of hype, rumor, success stories and tales of horror when it comes to Bitcoin and other digital currencies. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting into, and don’t risk more money than you could afford to lose.
Bitcoin is an exciting world to be in, but it is one that is complex and confusing if you only enter it on hype. Many people buy expensive cars, not knowing how the engine works, and that is fine because if it breaks there are mechanics and garages. In the cryptocurrency world, it is you against the world, it is decentralized and there is no one to hold your hand.
Pawel Kuskowski, CEO & co-founder of Coinfirm, gave this advice:
"The more you understand, the better off will be."
Don’t simply speculate about the big money there is to be made, actually go out there and learn how Bitcoin and Blockchain work. Lucas Geiger, founder and CEO of Wireline, says:
"This may seem obvious, but I think the first thing is take time to understand the Blockchain. I say this strongly because few people will do this. If you don't have a high-level understanding of how a Blockchain stores secure data (such as coins), then you are investing in the equivalent of tulip bulbs.”
A good place to start is the beginning - with Satoshi Nakamoto's white paper. Crypto fund manager Jacob Eliosoff wrote:
"If you have any technical bent whatsoever, take 10 minutes to leaf through the original 2008 Satoshi white paper. It's only eight pages, legible and an inspiring work of genius!"
The great thing about the cryptocurrency ecosystem though is that there is a lot of material and information out there. Loads of websites and resources are aiming at trying to make the technology easier to understand.
Even more than that, the investment world is also trying to simplify things by making Bitcoin more available to traditional investors. The introduction of things like futures will help people understand how Bitcoin works.
2. Be cautious
In any investment there will be risk, but that risk is somewhat magnified by Bitcoin’s newness and extreme volatility. Eliosoff emphasized:
"This is still an extremely high-risk space. Don't invest money you can't afford to lose!"
It is tempting to be bold and brazen, throwing money at Bitcoin after hearing the success stories, but especially as a first timer, caution is the better part of valor. There is no reason to look to become a millionaire overnight with Bitcoin, and by sinking huge amounts of capital in it from the start, you will be met with more problems than solutions.
Marshall Swatt, a serial entrepreneur, suggested:
"Start small and invest a small portion of your capital."
Additionally, from Tim Enneking, managing director of Crypto Asset Management, advises:
"Don’t chase Bitcoin prices. Decide on a entry point and stick with it. With Bitcoin, you’re almost always right in terms of foreseeable price action – it’s your timing that might be off. So, be patient, and let the Bitcoin price come to you."
There are a number of investing strategies that work really well with Bitcoin, and those that offer the most success are often the most cautious.
Things like ‘Dollar Cost Averaging’ - putting in the same amount of money into an investment at the same time each week or month - is great for Bitcoin as it helps you ride out the lows, as well as the highs.
3. Diversify effectively
Most new digital currency enthusiasts hear first about Bitcoin, but there are thousands of other cryptocurrencies out there, and some have grown much faster than even Bitcoin. Diversification is wise, particularly since many of these “altcoins” perform well when Bitcoin drops. Tech entrepreneur Oliver Isaacs writes:
"Hedge against volatility and don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Much like investing in the stock market or FX, you should diversify your funds as a risk management technique."
Famed stock picker Ronnie Moas is a strong believer in diversification. It is easy to become infatuated with one cryptocurrency, especially Bitcoin, but it is important to hedge your bets.
“Do not put all your Crypto money into Bitcoin,” Moas warns. “You must diversify across at least a dozen of the more than 1,000 names. Focus on names in the top 50.”
4. Keep coins off the exchanges
There is still a lot of hacking and thievery that goes on in the crypto space, and it is important to take precautions. It isn’t too hard to make hackers’ lives difficult. Use the exchanges for just that: exchanging. Once you have bought a currency, move the money off the exchange and into a wallet that only you control, such as a hardware wallet.
A lot of people have been burned on exchange hacks - none more so than the major Mt. Gox one - but even recently, things like BTC-e and the charges against their CEO would have caused many people to lose out on huge amounts of money.
Matthew Unger, founder and CEO of iComply Investor Services Inc. suggested:
"Just like you keep some cash in your wallet, some in your bank account and perhaps the really valuable stuff in a safe, you need to manage digital currencies in the same way."
5. Get ready for a wild ride
Bitcoin is notorious for its volatility, so much so that many traditional investors are terrified of it. A massive drop in Bitcoin’s price does not spell permanent disaster, but it is hard to stay committed when you start heading into the red.
Diversification is a great strategy to help with that, but it takes some thought and effort. Of course, the most famous (and so far, successful) Bitcoin strategy of all is to ‘hodl’ - or hold onto - your investment no matter the market volatility.
You can also buy and forget, as not keeping an eye on the market can help keep you from worrying about the dips and miss the volatility.