(Excerpt from my book; Mid-Life Joyride. Chapter Four – On The Road Again; Ready To Love)
The start of a new year brings a flurry of resolutions and reflection. One thing many singles consider is renewing their focus on finding a partner. According to a recent Match.com study, the Sunday after New Years boasts the highest traffic for online dating sites and has the most newly created profiles of any other day. With that in mind, I wanted to share my experience and insight on creating a winning and successful online dating profile and offer some tips on crafting that all important first message.
Online Profile 101
The first thing to do is decide what you are looking for or hoping to gain from this experience. Not everyone online is looking to remarry. It is okay if you are one of those, but it is not okay if you are vague or unclear about your intentions. Almost every dating site that I have ever been to has a section that gives you the opportunity to explain what you are looking for. It is very important that you are truthful when you click your response. You will be reaching real people with their own struggles and dreams. It is unfair to lead someone on just because you think he or she is attractive or you are lonely.
Create a catchy username and headline. Be careful about putting personal information in your username. I saw one guy online who just had his cell phone number as his username. I cannot begin to imagine the types of random messages he received with no way of knowing who sent them. Some people use their real first names, but I never have. It was always an extra layer of insulation until I met someone I wanted to talk to. You can use words that describe your life (TryingAgain, SimpleLife), your interests (HikerGirl, SalsaGuy), or nickname. Strive for breezy, light, and somewhat informative.
Do not underestimate the importance of a good opening statement. It doesn’t have to be profound, but should include more than “Looking for Love” or “Are You Lonely Too?” Stay away from negative banter such as, “Are there really any good women left?” or “Deadbeats and losers stay away.” This type of narrative proves you are not ready to open your heart to anyone. It sends a signal to good people to stay away and invites negative people to engage in word battles.
Be creative with your opening statement. I liked a particular one by a guy who is a chef. His headline read, “Let’s cook up something great together!” Another good one read, “My boat, a glass of wine, the sunset, and you.” These people took the time to put a few simple words together that make you envision something fun, relaxing, or exciting. The headline should spark an interest in finding out more about this intriguing person, YOU!
Your Personal Dating Dossier
RULE #1. BE HONEST
Use current pictures. The number one complaint by both men and women is finding out someone used old pictures on his or her profile. This is not the time to pull out your “Throw Back Thursday” photos from Facebook, your college graduation, or any picture really that is over two years old at least! If someone agrees to meet, it is unfair to make them play a dating version of Line Up, where they must scan the room picking out the three people most likely to be you, hoping they walk up to the right one. Also at least one, to be fair, should be a full body (clothed) shot.
This one may be a little harder to figure out when first meeting, but eventually it will come out. People lie about their age for different reasons. Women shave off a few years so they can attract a younger guy. Many guys like the idea of dating an older woman, so they lie in the other direction hoping to get the attention of a more mature woman. I have no problem with age differences if both parties are honest with their age from the beginning. Starting out with a lie decreases your chance of success immeasurably.
CURRENT RELATIONSHIP STATUS
People assume when they go on a dating site that the ones they meet are single and ready to date. I strongly suggest not putting up a profile during a separation. Many things can change in the months leading up to a divorce and it is simply unfair to put another’s heart at risk during this traumatic time of your life. Be honest about your relationship status. You will ruin someone’s trust if after a few dates he or she discovers you are not actually divorced. I have met men with separation as their status, but I did so fully aware it would most likely just be a nice evening out and not lead anywhere. However, if I went out with someone who lied about his divorce being final, I would absolutely not entertain a second date. Not because I didn’t believe he deserved to find happiness again, but because he did not trust me, or himself, enough with the truth.
RULE #2. BE REAL
Let’s go back to those photos for a minute. In addition to being current, you should also use pictures that depict who you really are, at home, at play, and with friends. By at home, I do NOT mean a bathroom selfie. I wish there was an auto-delete for every picture posted that had a sink, shower curtain, or toilet in it. I especially think public bathroom selfies are creepy. Never, for any reason, should you use one of those.
Pictures of vacations and trips you have been on are great. It is also good to include pictures of hobbies and interests. Some women I know hate to see pictures of men holding a fish (real fish, caught while fishing), but I do not have a problem with that if there are other pictures to go along with it. It is simply a depiction of who they are and what they enjoy doing. If you don’t like to fish or want your man to fish, at least you know to swipe left.
I personally am opposed to posting pictures with small children. You have no idea who will view your profile or their intentions. I would never put an image of a child on a dating site. You should also not use a picture where you have cropped out your ex-partner. We are not stupid; we can tell what that is. I would discourage pictures with only inanimate objects in them, like pictures of cars, the horizon, or flowers. If you are in those pictures, fine, but pictures of objects will not really help your cause. It has been proven that pictures showing you laughing generate more responses than any other kind. Every photo does not have to be frame-worthy, but they do need to represent who you really are.
While it is true that the photos and headline are the first enticements, it is in the written profile where the interest is confirmed. There are many theories on what makes a well-written profile. Here are my suggestions.
Your potential dates do not want to read an entire autobiography. Save something for the emails, phone calls, and first dates. A few brief paragraphs about your current situation, interests, and intentions are enough. If you have deal breakers (i.e. smoking), list them. It may not stop everyone, but at least they will know. If you have an interesting story about a picture you posted, share it. The point is to give them a glimpse into how their life would be better with you in it. You want to highlight what you bring to the table
Avoid negativity. Do not self-deprecate or paint yourself in an unflattering light. We all have weaknesses and faults; you do not need to break down every single one of them. If you have a disability or a condition that limits certain activities, it is fair to mention that, but the point of your profile is to highlight the beautiful and wonderful things you bring to the table and what you can offer to that special someone
Do NOT talk about your ex-partner and all the other “wrong” people you have met before. Bad-mouthing someone from your past, or painting all men or all women with a certain trait, is petty, wrong, and unproductive. Every person deserves a clean slate when he or she walks into your life. You cannot make a new potential partner pay for another’s sins. Chiming on about how badly you have been treated before does not make you look attractive, only bitter and scarred.
Do NOT compile a long list of “must have” or “must be able to.” It is good to have standards, but compiling a daunting list of requirements before you even say hello can make potential suitors weary and concerned they will never live up to all the demands. If you have certain deal breakers, you should provide that information, but this is not a shopping spree. If you have a catalog of prerequisites, you will turn people away. Also, leave the prince and princess talk for when you actually have a castle.
Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! Seventy-five percent of everyone who reads your profile will critique the spelling and grammar. We are adults here and should be able to form complete and accurate sentences. I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen profiles or written messages that made me shake my head in disbelief. If you are not sure, use spell check or have a friend read it. They can tell you how it sounds and offer some pointers. I understand it might be awkward to ask, but you are putting a piece of yourself out there for many others to see. The very least you can do is make sure it is the best piece of you.
Your Message to Them
As with your written profile, keep your first messages somewhat brief. You have no idea what is going on with them, to whom they are talking, or even their sincere level of interest. Delving too deeply into what you are looking for and what you have to offer will be wasted if they do not bother to read it or decide for whatever reason they are not interested.
Mention something from their profile that caught your attention; one of their photos or an activity they talked about. Ask a question. It gives them something to answer in their return email. If they have a nice smile, I will usually put that in because it speaks of ease and friendliness. Do not go too far with any remarks on physical traits. That is a slippery slope and can go downhill fast. Do not be critical of anything you have read or point out mistakes, and do not be too pushy in what you expect from them after just one email.
Once you have written your email and are satisfied that it hits the right balance of interest without sounding needy or aggressive, go ahead and send it! Then move on to the next one. I know some people who will only send one email at a time and wait for a response before sending another. They believe that is fair and do not want to have too many conversations going at once. I understand that and do not want you to send dozens of emails at one sitting. I want you to be discerning and particular when you pick someone, but it is perfectly acceptable to send out more than one email. I do not recommend the copy and paste option. For that to work, the email would have to be so generic that it would be recognized as such and the reader will keep moving. Give each person the benefit of a personalized, short email.
Do not send a follow-up email. It looks desperate. Their email works just fine, and if it doesn’t, they will not get your second (or third) one either. Some people check their messages once a day, some once a week. Others put up a profile, meet someone, and never check their messages again. The bottom line is this: if they are interested in you, they will respond. Any reason they choose to not respond is your cue to move on and not look back.
My Hopefuls, I trust this information has been helpful. I truly want each of you to be equipped to create a stunning online profile and attract a person of value. It can be a long and tiring journey at times with many twists and turns; I will not hide that from you, but if you are honest with what you want and sincerely use your time wisely in your search, I believe it is absolutely possible to find a loving and healthy partner. I wish that for you this year, and always!
Hope With Abandon
Come back tomorrow for a look at the other side. What to be on the watch for and how to interpret and respond to their profile/messages.
Visit my website for more inspiration and encouragement.