How to write an online dating profile
by Sam Shane
Writing an online dating profile is the most daunting part of online dating; but there’s little else so critical to your success. Since it is such a challenge, it’s no surpise that many profiles are clearly given very little thought – either by being incredibly short, non-descript, or downright cliché.
It’s no wonder why so many profiles begin to the tune of “it’s so hard to write about yourself,” but understanding yourself well enough to create a profile that represents you well is a healthy process. With a little guidance, your online dating profile can stand out from the millions of others to present the interesting you. A well-written profile will not only ensure that you receive responses when you make first contact; but will attract and motivate potential matches into contacting you – making your online dating experience easier, more enjoyable, and more successful.
Think about the conversation
The first thing to keep in mind is that an online dating relationship, leading up until your first date, is really like a conversation. To have a good conversation with someone, you need to be talking about something that both of you have knowledge of, and interest in. Your online dating profile is the start of this conversation, and you can feed this conversation by using conversation nuggets, or specific pieces of information that can be used to start a conversation. For example “do you know of any good Thai places?” is more specific – and more likely to start a conversation – than “I really like to go to restaurants.”
Before you start writing, hopefully you have picked some great photos – including at least one clear photo of your face, with a great, genuine smile, and at least three supporting photos, full of conversation nuggets. These are a part of the conversation, too.
Some general writing advice
Your goals for this online dating profile are going to be to represent yourself well – and honestly, but also to compell and entertain your potential match to the point that they really want more. So:
- Be funny and playful: joke around when you can, and have no shame in using emoticons. They can work wonders. As has been supported by research, laughing – in the form of “haha” can get you more responses.
- Be positive: you only have this short moment with your potential match for them to associate good feelings with you. So steer clear of any negativity. Don’t bother saying things like “no drama please,” “no cheaters,” etc. Concentrate on the things you do want, not the things you don’t.
- Be specific: remember, use conversation nuggets to be specific as possible about the interests you have and the things you do.
- Avoid clichés: just look around, and you’ll see a pattern: “love to laugh,” “laid-back,” “up for anything.” It’s so boring, you’ll want to poke your own eyes out. Don’t let your potential match feel this way about your profile.
The first thing potential matches will see on your online dating profile – if your chosen site uses them – is your headline. At the very least, avoid being cliché here. At best, be clever: “he who laughs, lasts,” it could try to elicit action “Click here for PUPPIES!”, it could be an overall life philosophy: “if you are too busy to laugh, you are too busy.” Notice that while “I love to laugh” is cliché, two of these great headlines are actually about laughing. Sometimes clichés are a good clue that you’re onto something, but it really helps to be original.
One final thing to keep in mind when you are writing an online dating headline is to be careful about how the site shortens your headline when in search results. Search for some profiles, and observe how the site cuts the headlines off in the search view. “Prepare to be blown away,” could wind up being “prepare to be blown,” making a bad dating headline even worse.
The about me section
Most online dating sites – such as match.com or okcupid – have a free-form “about me” section. Ideally, this section should be about 4-6 paragraphs long, consisting of a “hook,” a “personal philosophy,” an “ideal match philosophy,” and finally, a “call-to-action.”
The Profile Hook
You should start this section off right away. Like the one-line hook, this is something that really pulls the reader in, and gets them to continue to read the profile. Maybe it’s the start of a story “It’s been an unlikely life for a boy from Montana,” maybe it’s a rhetorical question “did you ever notice the best restaurants are hidden away, without a flashing sign – maybe people are like that?” Whatever it is, you need to not only convince that person it’s worth the effort to read the rest of your profile, you want them to be excited to do so, and then want to take the next step. Whatever option you’ve chosen, make it last one paragraph.
I avoid calling this a “personal description,” more to jump-start your brain a little bit. Many people, when asked to describe themselves, wind up going into a very predictable list: “I’m laid-back, I like to hang out with friends,” etc.. But you know there’s more to you than that. This is probably why you are online dating in the first place: you are emotionally and intellectually complex enough that you need a bigger sea to fish. Get to the core of that, and describe it for 2-3 paragraphs. It could be something like: “I’m always curious about something new, because I feel a sense of urgency to experience all this world has to offer. So, lately I’ve been taking lots of classes: salsa, improv, ceramics…” Talk about your philosophy behind living life, and the things that you do that fit within that. It it much more exciting than a laundry list of things you “love” to do.
Ideal Match Philosphy
If you got the hang of your personal philosophy, you probably have an idea of what this is. Talk about the fundamentals behind your ideal match in – and this is very important – the most positive language possible. The goal behind this is to write something that is general enough that your match feels as if you are talking about them – yet specific enough that you are really attracting the person you want to. “You are made happy by the simple things in life: a bike ride on a sunny day, or petting a cute puppy you pass on the street. You carry yourself with quiet grace, solid confidence, and a bright smile.” Write flatteringly about your match for 1-2 paragraphs.
The Call to Action
This is where you get your match to take the conversation to the next step. It sounds simplistic. It may even sound stupid; but – in marketing research – telling people what to do next has been proven over and over again to work. This is why a web banner that says “click here” will absolutely get clicked more times than one that does not. Some of you may be saying to yourself “well, my match is smarter than that.” One: no they aren’t, and even if you think you are, if your behavior was tracked, we’d probably learn otherwise; and two: at least you can finesse it.
There is a hairline difference between your match deciding to take the conversation to the next step, and deciding not to. So, getting them to take that action could significantly alter the course of both of your lives. Guys, get the girls to use whatever ice-breaker feature is on the site, so “I’m usually attracted to shy girls, but just this once – give me a wink!” would do great. Girls, I know you don’t like getting things like winks, so something like “I’m friendly, so don’t be afraid – send me a message!” would be a good call-to-action.
These are sections that ask you about specific aspects of your life, such as match.com’s “favorite hot spots,” “last read,” and “for fun.” You shouldn’t have much trouble thinking of content for these sections, but you can greatly improve the performance of your profile if you follow these guidelines:
- Be specific: remember, use conversation nuggets.
- Use active language: “I hit a Warrior II in yoga class,” is more interesting and dynamic than “I like to go to yoga class.”
- Ask for input: this is like putting a one-line hook right in your profile. “I’m new to the area, know of any good Thai joints?,” “thinking about trying a Dave Sedaris novel, which should I start with?” You’ll get messages from time to time on these things, and otherwise, it keeps your profile more interesting.
Try, try again
This template of sorts that I provide of course isn’t the only way to write an online dating profile; but if you’re stuck, or new to online dating, this is a great way to start. You might find that you really enjoy the process of trying to describe yourself in a couple hundred words. There are so many decisions to be made on what to include, and what to leave out. You may even try – as I have - writing your entire profile about your match, rather than yourself (this works very well).
Whatever you do, have fun. If you’re having fun writing your online dating profile, your matches will have fun reading it, and you’ll have much more success.