Creating Your Online Dating Profile
Welcome to the mysterious and often misleading world of online
dating. First step: your profile.
Most dating sites give you a way to to describe yourself: name,
pictures, and text describing who you are, what you do, and who
you’re looking to meet. Creating an effective — attractive —
profile is essential. Without that, no one writes and no one calls.
You want to meet someone, right?
Let’s assume your goal is to find someone you can really connect
to, rather than use online dating as a real-time multiplayer game
where you never meet anyone, okay? Some people never want to meet in
the flesh. Let’s say you’re the type that does.
Online dating is marketing and sales. You’re making a pitch for a
product –you. So how you construct your profile has everything to do
with your target audience — your dating pool.
But this is the good kind of marketing, where you’re
looking for a match that actually works, where the buyer does truly
want what you’re selling, not the kind where you push something on
them they can’t use.
No, you’re not a product, but your profile is a pitch. It
says “hey, how about me?” You want to present your best
side, but honestly and thoughtfully, so that if someone does step
forward, they’re coming closer to who you are, not who you aren’t.
What do they want?
So who are the fish in your dating pool? Take a look at the
profiles of people you’re interested in possibly dating and start to
think about how they think. Rather than consider whether you like or
would date that person, ask yourself:
- What do they care about? What are they talking about? Things?
- Take a good look at the photos. What are the photos telling
you? You don’t want to mimic or copy that, because not everyone is
looking for themselves, but consider at the quality and underlying
themes of those photos. Yours should match or compliment theirs in
- Read between the lines. What are they not saying? If you look
at 10 profiles you like and you notice that no one mentions
children, you might fit in better by also not mentioning children,
or you could choose instead to stand out, depending on your
- Listen for tone behind the words. What’s the communication
rhythm of the writer? What would that sort of person be looking for?
Can you find something like that in your own words?
Your profile isn’t you, but it’s a window onto you for the
people you’re hoping to attract. You are a range of abilities,
qualities, and issues. Some days are going to be better than others
— for all of us. You don’t need to be deceptive to show yourself in
the best possible light, just optimistic. Think about what you have
that your dating pool might want to hear about. Not mom, not dad, not
friends, but the people you want to date. What do they want? What
part of you reflects the sorts of interests they’re likely to have,
both practical and emotional?
Let’s talk about your photos
Have at least one photo. If the site allows more and you’re
serious about attracting people, have three. Show off your best
features. No photos? Get some! Have a friend help.
It should go without saying, but use photos of you. Yes,
some people just take photos from magazines and models, and think
that somehow this will get them a real date. It won’t.
Current photos are considered a good idea. Unless you look like
you did 10 years ago, get something recent.
Got something to hide?
People without photos get contacted rarely if at all because
visitors often — often correctly — assume they have something to
hide. I’ve been contacted by far more cheating spouses without pics
than celebrities hoping to be judged on their personality rather than
their name, so if someone isn’t showing a photo of themselves,
chances are good they’re hiding something that won’t be any fun for
you to find out about later.
If you have a really good reason not to show your face on your
profile you need to explain it in up front. I’ve been contacted by
doctors and high-profile professionals who wanted to keep their
dating life private and separate from their professional life, who
offered me both a clear explanation and private photos in email. That
can work. But have a good reason and be forthright about it.
Most people will decide about you based on your photo in a
fraction of a second and then read your profile only if they’re still
interested. It may not be fair, but it’s common, so your pictures
should at least not be a stumbling block to your target audience.
That winning photo set
Ideally you should have three or more photos. The first three
- A flattering face shot. Whether you’re going for sultry,
intelligent, or happy, show yourself as engaged and interested.
Avoid bored, disgusted, pained, or apathetic expressions.
- You, standing or in motion. Show enough of you that the
viewer can get a sense of your body type. Perhaps you tossing a
frisbee, riding a bike, sailing, standing on a mountain, climbing a
statue — something to show that you like getting out and doing
things, that you don’t just sit home all day and type at dating
sites. One of my favorites was a fellow standing in a yoga pose on
one foot on a beach piling, silhouetted against the setting sun. His
figure, activity, stillness, balance, and beach — all that!
- Animals and/or other people. If you can, work in a shot that
includes animals or people (get their permission –the people, not
the animals). This shows that you get along well with others. If
you’re looking for someone who values social connections, family,
animals, or children, this is especially important.
Show off your best features. Maybe you’ve got great legs, or you
juggle. Maybe you’ve got wonderful hair, or everyone says your ears
are just darling. If you’ve got a good figure, show it off, but think
it through — if you show yourself scantily clad you’re saying
something – be sure that’s what you want to say. If you’re not sure
what your pictures are saying, ask someone you trust for a candid
The written portion of your “pitch”
The written part of your profile can matter a lot. I’ve hooked
many a fish on something I’ve written, and been similarly hooked. How
you write about yourself matters to the extent that it matters to
whoever you’re looking for. So ask yourself: what would they want to
know about you? What sort of tone do you want to set?
Keep it short as possible, but no shorter. You have to give a real
sense of who you are and where you’re coming from, but you don’t need
to say everything and you shouldn’t try. If you blather in real life
and you’re trying to make a profile that’s ruthlessly honest, go
ahead and blather in writing, too. But if you can’t make it funny or
engaging, you’re going to loose people.
Remember that when it comes to words online, people skim more than
read, so short paragraphs are far better than big blocks of text.
Say what matters to you. If you don’t care about movies, don’t
struggle to write about the ones you like and the ones you don’t.
Write about what is important to you, write about what you’re hoping
Be a bit of a mirror: If you want someone kind, have a kind tone.
If you want someone smart, be smart in your profile.
Describe not prescribe
Little is more off-putting than to read a profile that tells me
what and how I have to be to qualify for someone’s ideal date. I’ve
seen profiles that specified my necessary waist measurements, formal
education and in-person behavior. I didn’t write them.
If your profile is prescriptive and demanding you’ll attract — at
best — a small, subservient audience. If you’re looking for a more
genuine and complicated person, talk about you and who you are, and
let the audience self-select. Don’t you want someone who thinks
you’re cool the way you are?
If you find that you’re getting too many responses, you can say a
bit more about who you’re looking for to weed out some. But still:
be aware of your tone. Sometimes it’s better to say “I like guys
who are sweet and listen well” than to say “You’d better be
sweet! And listen!”
Call to Action
End your profile with an invitation to contact you. Okcupid.com makes
this easy with the final section “you should contact me if…”
and lets you fill that in. Finish by telling your reader that you’d
really like to hear from them.