How do I create a great online dating profile?

Crafting a great profile is key to a successful online dating experience. Your profile is essentially your chance at a first impression, as it's a snapshot of what you're about and what you're looking for in a partner. It can be difficult to sum this all up in a few short paragraphs, but by following some of the basic guidelines listed below, you can create an online dating profile that's a positive and accurate reflection of who you are.

Be Yourself

This one should be obvious, but people are often tempted to fudge certain details like their age in an effort to make themselves appear more attractive to others, or to widen their pool of prospects. The problem with this is that those who you do attract are interested in the person they see on their screen, and not the real you. That's why it's important your profile is an accurate representation of who you are. Otherwise, you'll just be wasting everyone's time, including your own.

Don't Forget the Basics

Start by adding your first name, age, occupation, and whether or not you have children. This is basic information people want to know before they decide to communicate with you, so it's good to put it out there right away. Doing this helps you weed out bad matches. For example, if you have children, including this information in your profile will likely prevent those who absolutely don't want children from contacting you in the first place. However, these are just basic facts; they don't really get to the heart of who you are as a person, so don't put too much of a focus on them in your profile.

Fill Everything Out Thoroughly

Add more than just a few sentences in the "About Me" section. Fill out all of the sections and be complete. Write a couple paragraphs to describe yourself and answer any additional questions with a few sentences. Leaving whole sections blank or giving short, generic answers gives others the impression that you don't care about trying to meet someone, which may deter them from trying to get to know you. On the other hand, you don't want to bombard people with information by writing an essay for each answer, either. Make sure you answer each question, but keep things simple.

Know What You Want

On your online dating profile, it's a good idea to explain what you're looking for in a partner. You don't need to be overly specific. In fact, it's probably a good idea not to be; just offer a general idea. For example, are you interested in a serious, long-term relationship, or do you just want a date for Friday night? This information is important to include if you want to attract people who are of a similar frame of mind. You can also outline the general characteristics you'd like in a partner, but stay open. A long and detailed checklist might be a little too much and you could scare off potential matches.

Use a Conversational Tone

You want to give people a sense of what you're really like, so don't be afraid to use a more conversational tone. Make the person reading your profile feel like they're actually talking to you instead of just reading a block of text. This helps you stand out from the crowd because it gives a better sense of your personality than just the words alone.

Sound Interested

Writing "My friends put me up to this" on your online dating profile is almost like saying "I really don't want to be here." It's not going to attract very many responses. To make online dating worth your while, sound like you really want to meet someone. You don't want to appear doubtful about whether online dating will really work out for you. Stay positive.

Avoid Cliches

Try to avoid cliches like "I enjoy traveling, fine dining, and watching movies" whenever possible. They don't tell prospective matches much about you, so they're not doing you any favors. If you do choose to include them, the next best thing you can do is to be specific. Where do you want to travel? What types of cuisine do you enjoy the most? What's your favorite movie? Such details tell a person much more about you than a generic cliche and helps attract people with similar interests.

Add Photos

Sometimes, photos can tell the story of who you are better than words can. When looking for photos to put on your online dating profile, include a good mix. Have some of you and your family, some with friends, and some that show off your hobbies. Avoid taking a picture of yourself in the mirror. While that may serve the basic function of showing people what you look like, it doesn't do much more than that. When you include other pictures, you let people know what you're all about and they may even serve as conversation starters.

Make sure you use recent photos. This goes back to the "Be yourself" point. You want to make sure the people you're talking to are really interested in you, not a 10-years-younger version of you. It may be tempting but, ultimately, it's not a good idea to include a picture that falsely portrays how you currently look. You don't want to invest your time and energy into getting to know someone only to have them find out you deceived them about your appearance.

Check Spelling and Grammar

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you proofread! A profile filled with punctuation and spelling mistakes isn't going to impress anyone, so take the time to read everything over carefully before you post it. Remember, this profile is the first impression people have of you, so you want to make it a good one.

Should I be worried about my safety if I try online dating?

You're bound to give out some personal information on an online dating site but, if you're smart about it, doing so shouldn't pose any serious threats to your safety. Keep certain information, like your address and telephone number, private and don't meet face-to-face until you know the person better. It's also not a bad idea to create a separate email address to solely use for your online dating account, which helps keep your personal information safe.

Almost all online dating websites have some measures in place to help you communicate safely when you're first getting to know someone. Usually, you can send emails and instant message your potential matches. It's always a good idea to talk to someone through the dating site at first but, as you get to know each other better, you'll probably want to move toward more personal forms of communication. Some of the best dating sites, like Match.com, also helps safeguard your identity at this stage. Match.com offers matchPhone, which lets you talk or text other people without revealing your actual phone number. This helps you get to know the person while alleviating any of your safety concerns.

Something to be on the lookout for when you're on an online dating site is scammers who try to steal your money or personal information. These individuals employ a variety of tactics, including claiming they live out of the country or saying they're in love with you. They may also urge you to take your communication off of the dating site quickly and refuse to meet with you in person. At some point down the line, they may tell you about some "emergency" that has come up and ask you for money. This is a scam. You should never wire money to an individual you've met online because, once you do, you'll never get it back and the person you thought you knew will disappear.

Adding someone on a social network like Facebook may help verify that they are who they say they are. If someone doesn't have any social networking accounts at all, this could be a red flag, although there are people who simply choose not to partake in social media. However, you should also be aware that it's not that difficult to make a fake Facebook profile, so don't rely too heavily on this. You should also make sure that you are not revealing a bunch of personal information on your social networking profile before adding someone you've met online.

If all goes well, you may want to take the next step and meet in person. Take extra precautions the first few times until you're more comfortable with the person. Below are some general guidelines you should follow for the first few in-person meetings:

  • Tell a friend or family member where you're going and check in with them.
  • Meet at a public place.
  • Drive yourself; don't allow your date to pick you up.
  • Stick to nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Keep your personal belongings with you at all times.
  • Keep a cell phone with you and call a friend if you need anything.
  • If you're traveling to another city, stay in a hotel, not at the person's home.
  • Above all, trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, leave.

What are the different types of online dating sites I can choose from?

There are a lot of standard sites out there with a huge pool of users spanning all ages and backgrounds. These are the sites that many people gravitate toward. However, there are also dating sites geared toward specific age groups, religions, and people that share a specific interest. In some cases, one of these niche dating sites might be a better choice since they offer a larger dating pool of people that have the specific qualities you're looking for.

Faith-Based Online Dating Websites

If you're most interested in finding a partner that shares the same faith, there are dating sites out there for every religion. The best of these sites offer many of the same features as traditional online dating sites, including search tools and filters and powerful communication and matching features. If you've tried traditional online dating without success, turning to a faith-based dating site may be a smart move because they likely have a larger pool of potential matches that share your beliefs. This enables you to focus on other traits you value in a partner.

Age-Based Online Dating Websites

Many age-based dating sites are directed at seniors, though there are other target age ranges as well. Like traditional dating websites, there is a good amount of searching and communication features on these sites to help you narrow down your potential matches and find that special someone.

Free Online Dating Websites

Unlike most dating websites that charge a monthly fee for membership, free dating sites are available at no cost, without any catches. You create a profile, search for other users, and send messages to them without any restrictions. While the price is obviously a huge bonus, there are also some disadvantages to these sites. Because you're not paying for membership, there is a larger pool of people who are less inclined to take it seriously and do not fill out their profiles completely, resulting in a less-than-ideal searching experience for those who are seriously interested. It's important to look at the pros and cons of free online sites before deciding to choose one over a paid site.

Interest-Based Dating Websites

There are dating sites out there for virtually every hobby or activity, such as fitness, cooking, and spending time in the outdoors. However, these dating sites may not be the best choice for everyone because they're typically not as popular as more traditional dating sites, so they have smaller dating pools to choose from. With that said, if it's really important to you that your partner shares a particular interest with you, choosing one of these specialty dating sites could be a good way to go.

Mobile Dating Websites

Many traditional online dating sites now offer their services on a mobile platform to help people stay connected to their accounts wherever they go, but there are also some sites that are strictly available on mobile devices, like Tinder. On Tindr, you can view photos and read through the basic information of members' profiles nearby, and contact them if you're interested. If they're interested in you too, Tinder opens up messaging features between you. This type of dating could be for you if you lack the time for traditional online dating, or are more interested in app based dating services through your smart device.

What are the pros and cons of paying to use an online dating site?

With so many free online dating sites out there, you may be wondering if it's worth it to pay for sites that offer similar services. The answer to that question is going to depend on how serious you are about finding a potential partner but, for most people, it's probably worth spending a few dollars each month. Still, if you're unsure which is the better fit for you, it's a good idea to learn a little more about the pros and cons of paying for online dating.

Pros

The biggest advantage of paying for an online dating membership is the higher-quality dating pool. On free dating sites, there's a higher chance of meeting people who aren't as serious about finding a relationship. While it's inevitable to run into deception on every dating site, most people who pay for online dating are interested in finding a long-term relationship, are actively seeking out potential matches, and have invested considerable time and money to be on the site. In this way, you have a better chance of connecting with like-minded individuals.

Another reason to choose a paid online dating site is they typically offer more features to assist you in finding potential matches. Powerful search tools help you narrow down your choices so you find the people that have the interests or qualities you're looking for in a partner. If you don't have time to sort through large numbers of profiles, many sites also have personality and compatibility tests that do some of the work for you. Communication is often easier and more secure on these sites as well. For example, Match.com provides matchPhone, which lets you talk to other paid members on the phone without revealing your real phone number. They also offer events in several major cities if you want to get out and meet people in person. You'll have a hard time finding these options with a free dating site.

If you're still not sure about whether or not you should pay for online dating, it helps to know that many offer money-back guarantees. Some sites allow you to join for free, though you're usually limited in how much you can communicate with others on the site. Still, this is a good way to be sure that the paid online dating site is right for you before you make the commitment.

Cons

The most obvious disadvantage of paying to use an online dating site is it can get expensive. However, you can save a little by paying for several months or a year in advance. Many of these sites also run promotions from time to time, including free weekends. You should note, though, that cancellation is often not prorated, so if you pay in advance, you won't get that money back.

Also, just because you're paying for online dating doesn't mean you're guaranteed to succeed. It can be extremely frustrating if you're paying for a service and not see results, but keep in mind that you run that risk on any dating site, free or paid. If you're actively searching and reaching out to other members on the site, though, your chances of meeting a potential partner should increase dramatically.

Where should I start if I'm new to online dating?

If you're new to online dating, the first thing you need to do is choose which online dating site you're going to use. With so many different dating sites out there, it can be a little overwhelming, so focus on what's most important to you and you should be able to find a site that gives you the best possible chance of success.

Decide What You're Looking For

You need to think about what you want not just in a partner but in a dating site. This is important because different sites have different strengths and they each attract a slightly different group of people. Ask yourself questions like, "Am I looking for a serious, committed relationship or something more casual?" and "Do I want access to a large and varied dating pool or do I prefer one that is more focused on a particular trait?" There are several dating sites out there that are centered around religion, age, or certain hobbies or lifestyles, which could be a better option for some than more traditional dating sites.

Figure Out Your Budget

You also have to choose between free and paid dating sites, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Free online dating may be preferable if your budget is tight. However, paid online dating has the advantage of a higher-quality dating pool, among other things. Deciding the type of relationship you're looking for and whether or not you choose to go with a specialty online dating site or a more traditional version helps you determine whether paying for an online dating subscription is really necessary.

Do Your Research

Once you've thought about what you're looking for and whether you're willing to pay, your next move is to do your research. Read through reviews of the best online dating sites and see what tools they offer to help you narrow down your list of potential matches. If you like to take a hands-on approach, powerful search tools will be a necessity. If you're lacking the time or motivation to search through large amounts of profiles, it might be better to look for a site that has compatibility and personality testing to help you find matches. Even paid sites often have some free tools, so you can sign up and test them out to see which you like best.

Take your time with this step, especially if you plan to choose a paid online dating site. Remember, the key to getting the most out of your online dating experience is to find the site that fits your needs the best, so this isn't a decision you want to make lightly.