What I Learned From Writing Other People's Online Dating Profiles
Most of us online date—but many of us don’t know how to market ourselves. After a while, all the profiles sound the same, full of similar clichés and adjectives. “Looking for a partner in crime,” “Are you my other half?” and, my favorite, “I like candlelit dinners, sunsets and walks on the beach” (yes, people still say that!). If you look at ten random profiles right now, I bet you’ll find the same thing—everyone’s “funny” and “laid-back” and “adventurous.”
I used to have a standard, generic profile, too, with a list of adjectives and facts: fun, outgoing, great speller (looking back, not sure how that applied), and insert-a-bunch-of-other-adjectives here. But when I started writing people’s online dating profiles for e-Cyrano.com, all that changed. What? A service that’s devoted to writing dating profiles? Yes!
Someone could have a Ph.D. in neuroscience yet wouldn’t even get an associate’s degree in “Writing an Online Dating Profile 101.” Many of our clients were successful, personable people (from grad students to physicists) who would make great girlfriends and boyfriends—once they had a dating profile that made them sound unique, one that couldn’t be cut and pasted into someone else’s.
First, I would spend 30-60 minutes talking to the client. By the end of our phone call, I’d pare down what they’d said into an enticing short story while marketing their date-ability in the process. I’d make sure that every sentence focused on what the reader—your future boyfriend or girlfriend—could expect when dating you. The end result would be a profile that read like a good article or book jacket instead of a dating ad, and when someone reached the end of it, they’d want to read more and contact the person. As e-Cyrano’s founder, Evan Marc Katz, likes to say, “It’s simply our job to capture you, like a cameraman taking a photo.”
So, why not revamp your online dating profile? Here are the top things I learned when working with people on theirs—that will work for you, too.
1) Focus on the most important things.
Think of five adjectives that best describe you. Then, figure out and write down what’s most important to you, not everything that’s important to you. Do you like The Smiths, or are you obsessed and make it a point to see every Smiths cover band in your city?
2) Like with any writing, “show don’t tell,” and the more specific, the better. And don’t use adjectives!
Evan is a big believer in “redefining the adjective.” Meaning, if you think you’re “funny” and state that you’re killing it in your stand-up comedy class, you write the funniest messages in birthday cards and you make everyone at work laugh, that’s OK. But the e-Cyrano method would have you choose the best, most concise example of one time you were funny with an ex and put it into present tense: “When you have a bad day, I’ll dress like Homer (your favorite Simpsons character) and do impressions of him until you feel better.”
3) Write 200 words or less.
One engaging paragraph is far better than endless run-on sentences. Every word counts, so you want to make sure every sentence and story is memorable. You don’t have space to waste! Besides, you’ll have plenty of time to share more on your actual date and during the phone calls or emails before the date.
4) Double-check that your profile will be appealing to the opposite sex and test it out—conduct your very own focus group!
Pretend you’re the person who’s reading your profile. Would you want to date you? Is it more intriguing to date someone who says he/she likes “to try new things” or who “once ate jellyfish in China”?
When stumped with coming up for a story for one of your adjectives, like “thoughtful,” just think of the best/most memorable/most unique things you did for exes. If you’re really stuck, you can always ask friends to remind you.
Then, have a few trusted opposite-sex friends read your finished product and get their feedback. Or post your profile online and see what people respond to, then amend it from there.
In no time, all your sentences of stories will mesh together to tell your future partner how they’ll benefit from dating you versus just learning about common interests you may have.
Now, how did writing other people’s profiles help my dating life?
1) I rewrote my online dating profile.
I used to think, I’m a writer, I don’t need to rewrite my own profile! But since my dream partner hadn’t arrived in my Match.com email box yet, I thought it wouldn’t hurt. Plus, how could I not practice what I preached? The more I worked as a profile writer, the more I realized my own profile made me sound like any other adjective-laden person online.
2) I got more—and better—results in my inbox.
When I put up my revised profile, my in-box became flooded with messages. Many guys wrote more than a typical “Hey, what’s up?” email and asked questions about specific things I’d mentioned in my profile, like where to find Chicago-style pizza in L.A.
3) I became a better dater (I think) and more discerning.
My smarter profile attracted smarter guys. If anyone still wrote, “Hey, what’s up?” I knew they probably hadn’t read my profile and sent the same three-word question to everybody. (And, hopefully, no one was answering them.) I also started paying more attention to guys’ profiles and looked for specific examples and stories that demonstrated their character versus just glossing over them. Every Sunday morning, he helps an elderly neighbor grocery shop? Aww. I’d write that guy back.
4) I learned to date outside of my comfort zone.
I used to be strict with my dating parameters about age and would want a guy who was a couple years younger or older. But when I added a few years onto each end—I opened myself up to more dating options. Plus, I think people tend to type in round, even numbers, looking for people 20-30 versus 20-29.
Similarly, I used to not give divorced guys or guys with kids a chance. But since I’m in my thirties, a lot of the guys in my age range are divorced or have kids, and that gives me more choices than just seeing profiles of never-been-married men. Also, many dating coaches say that the fact that a guy was married shows he has the ability to commit. And committing is key for me.
5) I met the guy who became my boyfriend.
A few weeks into online dating, one of those Match.com guys became my boyfriend. He said my profile read differently than other people’s and he asked me several questions referencing things I’d written in it. I’d actually known him socially for years—but his profile was awful. He had typed very little, and what he did type didn’t sound like the version of him that I knew in person. I was about to give him some profile-writing tips when it hit me: if we were both on the site, we were obviously both single. Why give him the tips so they could work on attracting another girl?
He and I met for drinks and ended up dating for over a year. This is just further proof that it’s all about how you market yourself—the right words are everything.