How to Short Crypto: A Beginner’s Guide to Shorting Bitcoin

Short trading is a strategy that allows advanced traders to make a profit by exploiting the difference in price of a single asset and betting against its price movements. Its high-risk, high-reward nature attracts a lot of crypto traders, leaving many wondering whether it’s possible to short-trade crypto. In this article, I will talk about everything you need to know if you’re contemplating how to short Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

What Is Shorting? Short Selling Explained

Short-selling is a trading practice that lets you benefit from a drop in an asset’s price. To put it simply, you sell an asset you don’t own and then buy it back later. It goes like this:

  1. You borrow an asset.
  2. You sell it.
  3. You repurchase it when the price drops.

Can You Short Crypto?

Yes, you can short sell crypto. It is done by borrowing the cryptocurrency from someone else, selling it at the current market price, and hoping to buy it back at a lower price later to repay the loan and pocket the difference as profit.

How to short Bitcoin

What’s the difference between long- and short-selling Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? Shorting in crypto means the same thing it does in traditional trading: you sell Bitcoin you don’t own and buy it back later at a lower price.

Imagine a scenario in which you think that the Bitcoin price is going to drop soon, either because you’ve done your own research or have read somebody else’s (remember to never blindly follow other people’s financial advice!). To profit from this knowledge, you borrow 1 BTC from an exchange and sell it for $60,000. A week later, just as you predicted, Bitcoin drops to $40,000 — and you promptly buy back that 1 BTC you borrowed, thus getting $20,000 of profit.

How to Short Sell Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to short sell crypto.

1. Understand the Basics of Short Selling

Short selling is a trading strategy where an investor borrows a crypto asset, sells it at the current price, and then buys it back later at a lower price to return it to the lender. The difference between the selling price and the buying price is the profit.

2. Choose a Reliable Crypto Exchange

Select a crypto exchange that supports short selling. Some popular exchanges offering this feature include:

  • Binance
  • BitMEX
  • Kraken
  • Bybit

Ensure that the exchange, apart from having robust security measures and a user-friendly interface, also offers various trading pairs.

3. Create and Verify Your Account

Sign up for an account on your chosen crypto exchange. Verification typically comprises:

  • Providing personal identification documents
  • Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA)
  • Completing KYC (Know Your Customer) procedures

4. Fund Your Account

Deposit funds into your exchange account. Most exchanges accept deposits in fiat currencies (e.g., USD and EUR) and cryptocurrencies (e.g., BTC and ETH).

5. Understand Trading Strategies

Develop a solid trading strategy for short selling. Some common strategies include:

  • Technical Analysis: Analyze historical price data and chart patterns to predict future price movements.
  • Fundamental Analysis: Evaluate the intrinsic value of a crypto asset based on news, developments, and market sentiment.
  • Scalping: Make small profits from minor price movements over short periods.
  • Swing Trading: Capitalize on price swings within a day or over several days.
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6. Use Technical Analysis Tools

Familiarize yourself with technical analysis tools and indicators, such as:

  • Moving Averages (MA)
  • Relative Strength Index (RSI)
  • Bollinger Bands
  • MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence)

These tools help identify trends and potential reversal points.

7. Open a Short Position

To short sell a crypto asset, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to the Futures or Margin Trading Section: Depending on the exchange, short selling is usually found there.
  2. Select the Crypto Asset: Choose the cryptocurrency you want to short.
  3. Choose Your Leverage: Leverage allows you to borrow funds to increase your position size. Be cautious, as higher leverage increases risk.
  4. Set the Order Type: Market order (immediate execution) or limit order (set a specific price).
  5. Enter the Trade: Confirm the details and execute the trade.

8. Monitor Your Position

Keep a close eye on your short position. Use stop-loss and take-profit orders to manage risk and lock in profits. The volatile nature of the crypto market can lead to rapid price movements.

9. Close Your Short Position

To close your short position:

  1. Buy Back the Crypto Asset: Purchase the same amount of the crypto asset you initially sold.
  2. Return the Borrowed Asset: Repay the borrowed funds along with any interest or fees.

10. Advanced Trading Strategies

For more experienced traders, consider advanced strategies like:

  • Hedging: Use options contracts to mitigate potential losses.
  • Algorithmic Trading: Employ automated trading bots to execute trades based on pre-set criteria.
  • Pair Trading: Short one crypto asset while simultaneously going long on another to capitalize on relative price movements.

11. Stay Informed

Keep up with the latest news and developments in the crypto market. Join crypto forums, follow reputable news sources, and participate in trading communities to stay updated.

Top 5 Ways to Short Sell Crypto

Margin Trading

One of the easiest ways to short Bitcoin, margin trading allows you to use leverage, meaning you can borrow more money from the exchange than you have deposited in your account. While this opens up doors for higher profits, it is naturally riskier, too — your position may close sooner than you expected if you’re engaging in leveraged shorting.

Binary Options Trading

Binary options trading allows you to bet on “yes or no” scenarios. This financial product provides buyers with the option but not the obligation to complete the deal. You basically bet on whether an asset’s price will go up or down. To short sell crypto using this method, purchase put options.

Binary options trading offers great flexibility and higher-than-usual leverage. We would advise against engaging in it unless you’re an expert trader.

Futures Market

Just like other assets, Bitcoin has a futures market. In a futures trade, you essentially agree to buy an asset — in our case, BTC — on the condition that it will be sold later at a predetermined price. This agreement is called a futures contract. 

What is a futures contract? Definition
Futures Contracts

However, it is also possible to sell futures contracts. In that case, unlike when buying them, you will be able to benefit from the asset’s price dropping. 

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Read more about the Bitcoin futures market here.

Short-Selling Bitcoin Assets

If you have enough of your own funds, you can also short sell Bitcoin directly. All you need to do is sell BTC when the price is high and then buy back when it’s low. This method of short selling Bitcoin is relatively beginner-friendly: you don’t need to learn how to use trading platforms to apply it. It is also much less risky since you can’t lose more than you own. On the other hand, it is less profitable. As always, the higher the risk, the higher the reward.

Prediction Markets

Prediction markets are somewhat similar to sports betting agencies. Such platforms haven’t been around in the crypto industry for a long time, yet they present a good way to short Bitcoin. They allow you to make a wager on a specific outcome, such as “Bitcoin is going to fall by 10% next week.” If somebody takes you up on the bet, you can make quite a hefty profit.

Should You Short Sell Bitcoin?

Short selling BTC and other cryptocurrencies can be a good way to make a profit, but it comes with some caveats.

To determine if short selling Bitcoin is the right investment strategy for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Do You Understand Futures Trading?

Futures trading is a common method for short selling in the cryptocurrency markets. It involves agreements to buy or sell Bitcoin at a predetermined price at a future date. Do you understand how futures contracts work and the implications of these agreements?

Can You Handle Price Volatility?

Cryptocurrency exchanges often experience high volatility, meaning the price of Bitcoin can fluctuate dramatically within short periods. Are you prepared to handle the psychological and financial stress of these rapid changes in price?

Have You Developed a Risk Management Strategy?

A solid risk management strategy is essential when short selling. This includes setting stop-loss and take-profit orders to manage potential losses and secure profits. Do you have a clear plan in place to manage your risks?

Are You Familiar with Different Types of Contracts?

In addition to futures contracts, contracts for difference (CFDs) are another tool for short selling. CFDs allow you to speculate on the price difference of Bitcoin without owning the actual asset. Do you understand the differences between these contracts and how to use them effectively?

Do You Know How to Incorporate Technical Analysis?

Technical analysis tools such as moving averages, RSI, and MACD are crucial for predicting market movements. Are you skilled in using these tools to make informed trading decisions?

Are You Comfortable with Leverage?

Leverage allows you to increase your position size by borrowing funds, but it also increases your risk. Many cryptocurrency exchanges offer high leverage options for short selling. Are you aware of the risks involved and confident in using leverage responsibly?

Do You Stay Informed About the Crypto Market?

Staying updated with the latest news and developments in the crypto market is vital. Market sentiment can significantly impact Bitcoin prices. Are you committed to continuously monitoring market news and trends?

Have You Considered the Spot Market?

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The spot market involves buying and selling Bitcoin for immediate delivery. While short selling typically is about futures or CFDs, understanding the spot market can provide additional insights. Are you familiar with how the spot market works and influences futures prices?

Are You Prepared for the Costs?

Short selling incurs costs such as borrowing fees and interest, particularly when using leverage. Have you calculated these costs and factored them into your investment strategy?

Do You Have Experience as a Crypto Trader?

Experience in trading cryptocurrencies can significantly enhance your ability to make profitable short selling decisions. Do you have enough experience and knowledge of the crypto markets to confidently execute short trades?

Do You Understand the Regulatory Environment?

Regulations surrounding cryptocurrency trading vary by country and can impact your ability to short sell. Are you aware of the regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction and how they might affect your trading activities?

FAQ: How to Short Crypto

What is the difference between futures contracts and options contracts?

Futures Contracts: Agreements to buy or sell a crypto asset at a predetermined price at a specific future date. They are commonly used for short selling in the crypto market.

Options Contracts: These give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a crypto asset at a specified price before a certain date. Options can be used for hedging or speculating on price movements.

What is the best crypto trading platform?

The best crypto trading platform for short selling typically offers comprehensive tools, robust security, and user-friendly interfaces. Binance and Kraken are often recommended due to their extensive features, including margin trading accounts and support for Bitcoin futures trading. These platforms also provide advanced risk management strategies to help traders navigate the volatile price movements of underlying assets like Bitcoin.

Is there a Bitcoin short ETF?

Yes, there are Bitcoin short ETFs available that allow investors to profit from a decline in Bitcoin’s price without directly engaging in margin trading or futures trading. These ETFs use various financial instruments, including Bitcoin futures, to achieve their investment goals. They provide a convenient way for traders to short Bitcoin while employing professional risk management strategies.

What is the best way to short sell Bitcoin?

One of the best ways to short sell Bitcoin involves using Bitcoin futures trading on reputable cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance or Kraken. This method allows traders to speculate on Bitcoin’s price movement and profit from a decline in the underlying asset’s value. Opening a margin trading account and employing solid risk management strategies are crucial to mitigate the inherent risks of short selling.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this article are not financial or investing advice. The information provided in this article is the author’s opinion only and should not be considered as offering trading or investing recommendations. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability and accuracy of this information. The cryptocurrency market suffers from high volatility and occasional arbitrary movements. Any investor, trader, or regular crypto users should research multiple viewpoints and be familiar with all local regulations before committing to an investment.

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