Perfect your online dating profile

Posted on: 30 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

10 steps that will send you well on your way to creating an irresistible first impression.

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Your online dating profile is your advert, your shop window and your first impression. In cyberspace, no-one can hear your lovely tone of voice or see your seductive eye contact. All they have is your personal ad. In short, it's pretty important.

With half the nation's 15 million single adults looking for love online, you need to stand out from the crowd. These 10 steps will send you well on your way to creating an irresistible first impression.

Step 1: Read profiles that attract you

The first thing to do when you sign up to a dating service is to browse lots of other people's profiles. Pick out a few that catch your eye, and scribble some notes about what they're looking for. These notes will help you get over the writer's block that will (I guarantee it) strike when you start writing your profile.

The notes will also help you attract the kind of person you're looking for. The first law of attraction is that people like people who are like themselves. So if you're drawn to profiles written a dry sense of humour, or which are very chatty, write yours in that style too.

Step 2: Read your competitors' profiles

All good market research involves checking out the competition. This isn't about nicking other people's ideas (though that can help - it's dog eat dog out there), it's about getting a feel for what works and what doesn't.

Step 3: Learn to sell yourself

Every successful company knows that the way to a person's heart is through a great advert, so think like an advertiser.

It sounds simple, and it looks simple - just write a couple of hundred words about your hobbies, your preferences and your character. But it's not simple. It feels weird to list all your good qualities and publish them for the world to see.

If it's any comfort, everyone has the same problem. But confidence attracts, and you have to like yourself before someone else can like you. Writing about your good points can be very therapeutic, especially if it's been years since you've started a new relationship.

Go easy on the self-deprecation. A little can be funny and appealing, but it can easily tip over into self-pity. Be confident about what you have to offer.

Step 4: Be honest

Don't pretend to be someone you're not. After all, the name of the game is to attract someone who's just right for the real you. When you're writing, imagine that you're chatting to someone who wants to know about you. Talk about your life, work, experiences and dreams.

It can be tempting to fib in your profile, but it's ultimately pointless. Taking five years off your age and slapping five inches onto your height may attract people who want what you're describing, but not people who want the real you.

What's more, lies have a habit of being exposed once you meet someone. They'll wonder what else you've been fibbing about.

Step 5: Make them laugh

The best after-dinner speakers combine anecdotes with wit to grab the attention of their audience. If you can do the same, you're onto a winner. People love to laugh and to be around someone who can make great conversation.

You may not be 25 any more, but you can bet you've had many more interesting experiences than the average whipper-snapper. Use this to your advantage. A brief anecdote makes your profile stand out from the crowd - and it immediately gives people something to write to you about.

Step 6: Leave them wanting more

Writing those couple of hundred words is a tough call, so most people don't write enough. "I'm a great person and I like music and fishing" won't cut it. You need to offer enough information about yourself to make people want to get to know you.

However, don't waffle. Everyone likes to get a word in edgeways. If you seem like the sort of person who can't shut up, you won't get many offers.

Take a lead from the ads that catch your eye. The ones you liked were probably longer than 50 words but shorter than the maximum word limit allowed by the site.

Step 7: Know what to keep private

Use your common sense. The internet is not a hotbed of criminality, but it's no place to publish details of who you work for and where you live. Stay as anonymous as you can.

Step 8: Don't mention the...

Certain topics will ring alarm bells in potential suitors. No-nos include mentions of previous relationships (you'll just look like you're not over them), veiled criticisms of the opposite sex (makes you sound bitter), and any weighty opinions on religion or politics.

If you live to spout weighty opinions, and you only want to date someone who shares them, then you might as well mention them. But such topics fare better in the flow on conversation than in a dating profile, where they'll make you look a bit hectoring.

Step 9: Choose your photo with care

Confucius must have had online dating in mind when he said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Don't even think about not including one. No-one will write to you. People see the absence of a photo as suspicious - it must mean that you're married or terribly ugly or on the run from MI5, the CIA or Don Corleone.

Choosing the right photo deserves a whole separate list of tips, but here are the key points. Get a sympathetic friend to take the snap. The most flattering light is gentle natural light from a nearby window. Look at the camera and smile, but don't stare and grin; you want to look approachable and attractive.

If you can post more than one photo, do it. Secondary photos are an opportunity to reveal a bit more about yourself, such as your travels, your pets or the fabulous kitchen that you built out of driftwood.

Step 10: Read it and post it

Give your profile the once-over with the spell-checker, check that it makes sense, and you're done. It's not set in stone once it's published: you can come back and edit it every day if you like. Many people do.

By Jane Hoskyn

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