4 Tips For Writing an Online Dating Profile (That Actually Work)

How our Marketing Manager, Kelly, found love via the Internet.
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As many of you already know, I met Geoffrey in 2008, long before apps like Tinder/Bumble/Raya were even an idea. Beyond swiping on girlfriend's apps for fun when we're out to drinks, I have very little personal expertise when it comes to online dating, but I know countless couples who met online, like our Marketing Manager Kelly and her boyfriend Alfie. I asked her to share her tips for writing a profile, below—enjoy! xEmily

I started online dating in 2012. Back then, online dating was relatively new for twenty-somethings: Tinder had just been released, Bumble and Hinge were still a few years away, and most online dating was still done via a website, like Match.com. I joined the ranks of photos and profiles because, at the time, it felt like my only option. I was 23-years-old and had recently moved from Denver to L.A. after graduating from college, not knowing a single person who lived here. It was a huge risk that left me very lonely for the next three years; trying desperately to make friends, do well at work, and date some nice guys, all while feeling the financial pressure that many people in their early twenties know all too well.

Flash forward to today: I’m now 29, almost finished with a Master’s degree (trying to hang in there until December!), and live with my boyfriend, Alfonso (Alfie) and our adorable rescue dog, Alexa. When Alfie and I met last December on the app Hinge (I was 28 and he was 32), we'd both been online dating for years, but couldn't find that one person we wanted to build a lasting relationship with—until we landed on each other's profiles. As soon as I saw his profile, I immediately knew we would get along, and later learned he felt the same way when he saw mine (funnily enough, our first date was terrible, but our second was magical—but that may be a story for another post...).

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Before meeting Alfie, I had plenty of time to experiment with different versions of “The Perfect Online Dating Profile”, reading plenty of books and online how-to articles along the way. I wanted to find a real match, not a casual fling, and in the early days, I mostly used OkCupid to write novels about myself online, trying desperately to pack my entire personality into an eight-paragraph, pre-determined questionnaire. However, it wasn’t until I stopped trying so hard to “craft” an online version of myself that I finally figured out the version that actually worked. Using Bumble, Hinge, Match, and OkCupid as my apps of choice, I finally found my match by selecting my photos much more carefully, keeping it short and sweet, being honest with myself, and saying yes to first dates more often (17 in a three-month period). The following tips may not work for everyone (I really don’t think there’s a “magical formula” for online dating success), but they worked for me—and maybe they will work for you too:

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Over the years, I noticed that many of my friends (and dates) shared a common sentiment when it came to the profile photos of people they had gone on dates with—they looked really different in person than they did online. I think it’s tempting to present the “best” or “aspirational” version of ourselves online; or, in many cases, the heavily edited version that may or may not look like us in real life. Many people are very visual, so when an online date shows up at a restaurant looking different than we were expecting, it’s distracting! To this day, my best friend Karli’s fiance (who she met on Tinder) jokes that Karli “catfished” him because she showed up to their first date with bright blonde hair, while her profile photos showed her as a brunette. Obviously it worked out for them, but I kid you not, I’ve heard this story at least 10 times over the past three years.

A selfie that appeared on my earlier profiles (to be clear: this photo did not attract the right kind of person...) 

A selfie that appeared on my earlier profiles (to be clear: this photo did not attract the right kind of person...) 

Bottom line, I think taking a “come as you are” approach to your profile photos is absolutely key to online dating success. For me, I definitely included a few selfies in the early years, but I’m not a person who takes selfies on a regular basis (especially as I get older), so those photos didn’t accurately represent me. When I met Alfie, I'd gotten rid of them for good, which felt much more authentic to who I am IRL.

The profile photo (the one that shows up first) I had when I met Alfie

The profile photo (the one that shows up first) I had when I met Alfie

DO use accurate pictures of yourself based on what you look like today. If your hair is currently blonde, make sure it’s blonde in all of your profile photos. If you don’t typically wear a lot of makeup, mirror that in your online photos too. Use photos of what you actually look like, and ask your friends for their opinion if you need help. It’s all about managing people’s expectations. If you look how he or she is expecting you to look, your date is more likely to go well because they’ll be focused on you and your awesome personality, rather than something silly like the fact that your hair is a different color than it was online.

DO show a variety of photos. Use at least one full-body photo (preferably standing), one close-up of your face (preferably not a selfie…), one with your friends, and one doing an activity you love. These photos are absolutely essential, and for the rest, use photos that give little hints about who you are and what you like to do. My favorite picture of Alfie was with his friend’s adorable baby strapped to his chest while he was drinking a beer—that was the photo I showed all my friends when they asked who I was dating, because HELLO! Yes, please!! (And yes, we now spend a lot of time at the brewery where the picture was taken, and he does genuinely love and want kids, so points for accuracy!)

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DO smile!! Smiles are always nice and communicate that you’re friendly and open to meeting new people (unless you’re not really a smiley person, then don’t do it!)

DON’T use photos that show you doing a cool thing that you did once and never plan to do again. Many people may disagree with me here (I remember seeing so many photos of guys with elephants or tigers for some reason), but if you went surfing and thought it was terrifying, don’t use the cute photo of you with the surfboard if you’re not a beach dweller! It’s misleading and may excite someone who is ideally looking for someone to surf with or spend a lot of time at the beach with. I sunburn really easily and get migraines from too much sun exposure, so I didn’t include any beach photos on my profile, even though I live in L.A. and had several to choose from. And guess what? Alfie and I live 1.5 miles from the beach and still have never “gone to the beach” (we’re definitely “beach adjacent” people—find us outside under an umbrella at a beachside bar!).

DON’T use photos where your ex is cut out, or with a member of the opposite sex. (If he’s your brother, STATE THAT IN THE CAPTION!). Hopefully this one doesn’t need explaining!

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Finding your future husband/wife/partner is definitely serious business, but online dating shouldn’t be. So many men and women use their precious profile space to explain that they’re only looking for something serious, their career means everything, and all the reasons you shouldn't contact them. Sure, you could use your tiny paragraph to explain all the intricacies of your Myers-Briggs personality type (ENFJ!), OR you could take a breath, drink a glass of wine, and just relax.

Online dating is only awful if you take it too seriously (I’ve been a repeat offender of this over the years, so I definitely know what it’s like to feel stressed/sad/burnt out from it!). I’ll be candid here: Alfie didn’t want to meet me because I’m an ambitious career-woman looking for a 50/50 partner to have kids and a dog with (though these are reasons he loves me now!); he wanted to meet me because I like school (he does too), I’m playfully competitive, love soccer, and have a similar sense of humor to him. These are the things I wrote about in my profile (i.e. “I will destroy you in Pictionary”, “I’m a Ravenclaw”, and “At a party, you’ll find me in the kitchen with the wine and Brie”). I saved the more serious stuff for our first handful of dates, once we'd met in person.

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DO have fun with it. Dating is exciting, and if you’re doing it with the intention of finding a forever person, remember that every first date you have has the potential to be your last. HOW EXCITING IS THAT?!

DO keep it light. We know how important your career is, and that you’re not looking for a hookup (preach, sister!), but that information tells someone almost nothing about your personality. Save the really important stuff for (a little) later.

DON’T qualify why you’re online dating. Maybe it wasn’t a few years ago, but online dating is completely “normal” now, and I would even describe it as incredibly efficient. More marriages in 2017 were between people who met online (19%) than those who met through friends (17%) or during college (15%)! Don’t “explain” that you’re just online dating because you’re busy or shy. Online dating can work for anyone.

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A few years ago, I read an article that listed the “best” adjectives women should use to describe themselves on an online dating profile, according to statistical data. While many of them did make sense for me (ambitious, thoughtful, hard-working), many of them really didn’t (spontaneous, sweet, outgoing). I think it’s very tempting to describe ourselves based on what we think people are looking for—“spontaneous” and “obsessed with travel” being two of the biggest descriptors I saw over and over again in my many years of online dating. I went a different direction with my Hinge profile, writing: “You should contact me if these emojis resonate with you”, followed by a slew of emojis that describe me in picture-form (laughing cat, soccer ball, thumbs-up, donut, huge smile, coffee, pizza, stack of books). Among all the emojis I listed, Alfie spotted the soccer ball and was instantly intrigued, as he also played soccer growing up. Our third and fourth dates both involved soccer, and I think we both agree that these dates ending up being what sealed the deal for both of us.

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Looking at it from another angle, I had also included the calendar emoji to subtly communicate that I am not, in fact, a very spontaneous person. Rather, I enjoy using a calendar and (usually) sticking to those plans, and I’m very good at logistics and staying organized. I remember a very attractive someone commenting once to ask what the calendar emoji meant, and I told him that I was “one of those planner types who is always on time”. I was a little hurt when I never heard from him again, but then I realized—that’s something he would find out anyway in the real world, and clearly he’s not into it! Being honest with myself about who I am was key to finding the right fit. You don’t have to advertise that you steal the covers and can be painfully shy at parties, but taking care not to describe yourself in ways that aren’t accurate just because you think that’s what people want to hear is super important!

DO ask your friends for help. What do your friends love the most about you? How would they describe you?

DO use humor, if that makes sense for you. You have such a short time to capture someone’s attention, and saying something humorous or memorable can help you stand out to the right person.

DON’T describe yourself with “buzzwords” that aren’t completely accurate. If you’re not sure, skip it. These words may include: spontaneous, funny, passionate, active, sweet, fun, outgoing, etc. Stick to just the ones that describe you EXTREMELY well, without question.

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When I told him I was writing this article, Alfie said that the one thing I did that made me really stand out to him was messaging him first. On Hinge (unlike other apps), you don’t simply swipe right or left. Instead, you have to “like” something on a person’s profile, which is either a photo or an answer to one of three questions. When you “like” something, you also have the option to send a comment. Many women don’t send comments, and would rather wait for men to make the first move (side note: Bumble’s entire purpose is to help fix this issue!). In addition to “liking”, I sent Alfie a comment on an amusing photo of him in the middle of two couples with an empty space next to him (now lovingly referred to as “THE photo”). I said something along the lines of: “Lol I can totally relate to this, I’m like the 17th wheel in my group of friends.” He messaged me back almost immediately, and the rest is history.

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DO send a message first! Ladies, if you’re interested, let him or her know. I started the conversation with maybe 5% of the men I “swiped right” on, but Alfie was one of them. My good friend Megan, who just married someone she met on OkCupid, also messaged her husband first. If you look at someone’s profile and think it would be a shame if they didn’t ever message you, don’t wait! Get in there!

DON’T just say “hey”. You don’t need to write a love poem, but something a little more interesting than “hey” is always appreciated, not to mention more memorable.

DON’T feel bad, or be afraid to try again, if you don’t get a response. You have absolutely no idea what’s going on in a person’s real life. Many people don’t delete their apps until several weeks or months after they start a new relationship, so their account is just sitting there “dormant," but you don’t know that! And if someone just isn’t interested in meeting you, that's okay too! There are seven billion people in the world, and you’re not going to be a good fit for most of them. Embrace it! You’re unique, and you should want to be with someone who thinks you’re interesting, unique, and awesome. Don’t waste your time worrying about the people who just aren’t right for you.

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What has worked for you while online dating? Share in the comments below!