The most daunting part about online dating (aside from, you know, talking to new people) is putting together a profile—yet it’s the one of the most important. This awkward personal resume is the first thing people see, and can mean the difference between a date and an unreturned message. Here’s how to craft a profile that will help you stand out without feeling awkward.
First: Get Comfortable With Yourself
Not all dating sites are the same. No matter what service you use (or if you’re meeting people online) you’re still working towards the same goal: meeting someone you find attractive. While you’re making your own profile, try to keep in mind that there’s a real person behind theirs. They want to meet someone they like, too. That means that the best thing you can do for yourself is be someone worth dating. Then show it.
This is the part that trips up a lot of people because putting yourself on a dating site can feel inherently vulnerable. It feels a bit unnatural to list every positive aspect of yourself, and if you have any insecurities (which everyone does), it’s easy for them to show up in your profile. However, the nature of dating assumes that you have something valuable to offer a potential partner. You think there’s a good reason for someone to date you, right? Well, highlight that!
This doesn’t mean bragging about how awesome you are, or being condescending to people who don’t recognize your obvious greatness. It means combing your hair or putting on a nice shirt before you take a picture. It means filling your profile with things that make you unique and interesting, rather than listing the “demands” you have for a mate. It means putting in some effort. Think of it like going out for a job interview: you want to put your best face forward. Don’t lie, but don’t half-ass it either.
How to Write a Better Self-Description
Describing yourself is hard, and when you’re presenting yourself to potential dates, you’ll probably feel particularly vulnerable. Insecurities may start surfacing and it’s tempting to get discouraged. However, this is your time to shine. Your profile is all about you, which means you get to talk about what you like, what you love, and what you want. The more your profile highlights what’s great about you, the better. You don’t necessarily want to brag, but if you struggle with expressing yourself confidently (like in a job interview), this is perfect practice.
It’s perfectly normal to suffer from the “What do I put here?” problem. Blank boxes make everyone nervous. If you’re not sure what to talk about, here are some key areas to cover:
- Your personality: Are you artistic or analytical? Are you an outdoorsy type, or do you prefer indoor activities? Be sure to give some hints about what you’re like as a person. You don’t have to put down a list of attributes (in fact, showing is better than telling), but put some personality traits in your profile that give visitors an idea of what they’re working with.
- Your hobbies: Your unique hobbies or interests can be a huge eye-catcher for a visitor. Everyone likes curling up on the couch watching Netflix. Not everyone has an extensive collection of homemade foam costume swords, or builds kickass robot arms in their spare time. Even if you have typical hobbies, describe what you enjoy about them.
- Your career or ambitions: Ambition can be an attractive trait, no matter who you are. While it may be uncouth to brag about how much money you make, it’s okay to talk up what you’re doing with your life. Are you an aspiring author in the middle of your first novel? Mention that! Even if you’re an accountant looking to settle down and buy a home, showing where you’re going in life will help attract the sort of people who mesh with you.
- What you’re looking for in a partner: This shouldn’t be the bulk of your profile (as we’ll get to in a bit), but if you have certain requirements, it’s okay to mention them. Do you have kids from a previous relationship and need someone who’s okay with that? Say so. Do you want a romantic relationship, but aren’t into sex? Bring it up! You probably shouldn’t describe your dream partner (everyone wants someone who’s funny, attractive, and has their life together, that’s not news), but feel free to mention the non-negotiables.
None of these areas are absolutely required, but they should help give you something to start writing about. Remember, the important thing here is to put your best foot forward. You don’t want to lie on your profile, but you also don’t need to list every personality fault right off the bat. As you’re writing your descriptions, try to keep this in mind. Here are a few key tips to make your profile attractive:
- Be positive and avoid unsolicited criticism: Complaining hardly sets the stage for a romantic endeavor. Focus on the positive traits about you or hobbies you enjoy. Avoid saying overly critical things like “I hate people who start drama” or “If you’re not a nobel-prize winning astronaut, don’t bother.” Dating is hard for everyone, but you can get a leg up by keeping a positive outlook.
- Maintain a 70/30 split between what you’re like and what you want:People are visiting your profile to read about you, not what you think theyshould be. As the Daily Beast points out, researchers consistently found that the best profiles would devote 70% of their text to things about yourself, with no more than 30% being about what you want out of life or your partner. Don’t be afraid to be confident about what you want, but also don’t assume that life (or the dating site) owes you anything.
- Don’t put yourself down. Ever: A little self-deprecating humor can be funny at times, but your profile isn’t the place to load up on why you’re crap at life. Unless you’re Louis CK, you’re not going to come off as charmingly cynical—you’ll just sound like you hate yourself. This doesn’t give someone else a good reason to spend time and effort meeting you.
Depending on the service you use, you may need to tailor your answers to fit certain questions, which can be more helpful than one giant self-summary box. No matter which site you use, though, the best profile will talk a bit about your personality, your hobbies, your job, and what you want out of life. You don’t have to go too in-depth or answer hard questions before they’re asked of you, but give your visitors something intriguing.
How to Choose Your Photos
Your picture is one of the first things people will see when visiting your profile, and in a lot of cases could be the difference between a closer look and a proverbial swipe to the left. Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to catch someone’s eye. You don’t have to hire a photographer to take your pictures or anything crazy like that, though—but don’t turn your camera on yourself in the bathroom once and call it a day, either. Here are a few things to consider:
- Have a variety of photos: Most services allow you to upload several different photographs of yourself. “Different” doesn’t mean the same picture from three slightly different angles. It also doesn’t mean the exact same angle on three different days. Vary it up a bit. Use one picture of you with your dog, and one picture of you hiking your favorite nearby trail (or whatever it is you like to do). People are trying to get a feel for who you are, so give them something to work with.
- Include both a face and body shot: Everyone wishes that they could be judged solely by their winning personality, but most of those same people still want to date someone they find physically attractive. That’s just how dating works. Including at least one picture that shows what you look like from the neck down is a common courtesy online.
- Make sure your main picture is just you: You may really like that picture of you and your best friend, but people visiting your profile don’t know which one is you. You can (and should!) include pictures of yourself with other people, but not in the main profile picture. That’s the first thing everyone will see, so it should be just you.
Of course, these tips cover basic online etiquette and courtesy. Some rules have exceptions—for example, OkCupid found that profiles without face shots can still be successful if there’s some other interesting hook—but the main goal is to attract someone to your profile. Keep that in mind as you take your shots. If you have a particular activity you enjoy, or an angle that makes you look good, highlight that.
Explore the Site’s Special Features
Online dating has become common enough that there are tons of sites catering to all kinds of niches or preferences. Part of finding success is making sure you’re on the best site for your needs, so check out our guide to picking the right one for you. Once you’ve found the one you like, be sure to check out all the special features that service offers.
Many sites offer extra things you can do like answering questionnaires, taking quizzes, rating other users, or just adding information to optional boxes—and doing these things can put you in front of more users. OkCupid and Zoosk both offer a series of questions that will improve your match quality. Answering these questions will put you in front of more (or better) potential matches.
On OkCupid, there’s also a feed of activity on your homepage that shows you what’s new on the site. Editing your profile in any way—even something as simple as rephrasing a sentence—can put you in the feed and attract more visitors. Tinder recently added Instagram integration, which allows people to see your Instagram feed in addition to your profile—yet another way to catch someone’s eye.
You can also use tools that are designed for finding other people to improve your own visibility. For example, Lifehacker’s Editor-in-Chief Whitson Gordon recommends using OkCupid’s QuickMatch feature. While this is designed to show you matches you might not otherwise see, it also puts you in front of more people. It will put you in front of the people you like in QuickMatch, A-list users will get direct notifications that you’re interested in, and OkCupid’s algorithms tend to put prolific users in more search results. Zoosk has a similar feature called the Carousel that allows you to quickly say whether you’re interested in a match. Again, the more you use this, the more Zoosk will show your profile to other people.
Every site is different, but most have a variety of tools that you can use to improve your profile and get more matches. The more you’re using a site, the more likely they are to show you to newer people or better matches. If there’s a button you haven’t clicked on or a feature you haven’t used, give it a shot.