top of page

Guest Post: Online Dating: How To Sell Yourself

This is the last post of the summer by a good friend I met at Catalyst Con, Stef! Enjoy!

Today’s dating world is all about marketing.  The product?  YOU!

In high school and college, dating seemed so much easier, didn’t it?  You met people in classes and through extracurricular activities.  New people were always coming into your life.  But now, in the “adult” world, how do you meet people?  When you spend 40+ hours per week at work, it becomes more and more difficult to meet new people, especially if you subscribe to the policy of “Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.”  Many people are still “out there,” involved in sports, clubs, and organizations, but what about those that aren’t?  What about those that are too busy or maybe are uncomfortable in social situations?

Online dating has been growing exponentially in popularity over the last several years.  Many advertisements for the major dating sites have focused on people that are too busy to try to meet people in “traditional,” face-to-face ways.  Others advertise advanced algorithms that claim to help you find your “ideal match.”  And more recently, special niche dating sites have been popping up to help people find matches within very specific categories (e.g., ethnicity, religious preference, sexual interests, etc.).

With this technological platform for making connections comes a challenge.  How do you attract attention?  How do you market yourself?

Profile Content

Whether you are currently utilizing an online dating Web site or are just now considering it, it is important that you understand the elements of a crafting a noticeable and attractive profile.

First and foremost, you should ask yourself: “What am I looking for?”  Are you looking for casual sex?  Dating without commitment?  A long-term relationship?  Someone to marry?  Knowing what you want to get out of the Web site and being able to communicate it clearly is essential.  Every dating Web site provides you with the opportunity to express what you want in this regard, whether it be via dropdown menu or an open text box.

Now that you know what you want, you can begin completing your profile.  Typically, a dating Web site will ask you to provide some very basic information:

  1. Sexual orientation

  2. Ethnicity

  3. Height

  4. Body type

  5. Smoking frequency

  6. Drinking frequency

  7. Drug use

  8. Religion

  9. Zodiac sign

  10. Education level

  11. Employment

  12. Income

  13. Existence of children/desire to have children

  14. Pet ownership/preference

  15. Language abilities

Most of these fields are optional, but I recommend answering them all and doing so with complete honesty.

Dating Web sites will also give you text boxes for things like self-summaries, interests, favorite things, etc.  The more information you provide, the better, right?  Well, kind of.  You don’t want to write a novel about yourself; people likely won’t read it.  You should share significant information about yourself, what you like, and what you want in a concise manner.  When I was actively using dating sites, this is what I put in the “About Me” and “My self-summary” sections:

Well, here we go…. My name is Stef. I’m a human female, born & raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I work in the automotive industry, which is why I live in the metro Detroit area.

In my “spare time,” I read books in various genres, but sex, sexuality, & psychology hold a special place in my heart. I am a book reviewer for a newspaper in western Michigan & I have a sex- and sexuality-focused blog as well.

In warmer weather than we’ve been experiencing lately, I enjoy camping, cycling, scuba diving, and landscape photography.

I’m looking for an emotionally mature and intelligent adult male companion. I believe that honesty, open communication, and a sense of humor are very important at any level of relationship, from friendship to marriage. I would like to develop a long-term relationship with someone, but I’m not interested in rushing into anything. I plan to abandon my post in the corporate world within the next couple years in order to move about internationally, so if you’re firmly anchored in Michigan, it’s unlikely that you’re the right guy for me.

Please feel free to contact me, but keep in mind that terms of endearment should be reserved for a later time, should the day come when we have a closer bond. 🙂

Notice that I listed a bit about my background, my specific interests, and what exactly I wanted out of the site.  Try to avoid using vague descriptors like “laid-back” and “easy-going.”  Almost every man that contacted me used those terms in his profile.  My boyfriend (whom I met on a dating site) says that almost every woman he saw on the site said they were interested in “going out with friends, drinking beer, dancing, watching Netflix with my cat.”  Does that sound like what you want?  If it doesn’t, then chances are, it’s not what your potential match wants either.  When you’re trying to attract a mate for whatever purpose, you need to understand that you have a lot of competition.  You need to make your profile stand out above the rest.

Once you have established the content of your profile, I suggest that you review it for these three characteristics:

  1. Verity:  Were you truthful in your representation of yourself?  Were you misleading in any way?  Expose potential matches to the real you right away.  You want them to accept you for who you are, not discover the truth further down the line, when emotions may be involved.

  2. Tone: Did you use positive language?  Do you sound upbeat or like a downer?  Did you complain about “games” or an ex?  Eliminate signs of bitterness; it is not a desirable trait.

  3. Grammar: Make sure you use proper grammar and spelling.  Run it through a spell-checker like Microsoft Word if you’re not confident in your abilities.  Avoid using texting shorthand like “u r” and “luv” instead of the full words; it makes you appear unintelligent.  Show that you’re capable to conversation above the level of a Neanderthal.

One additional suggestion: Somewhere in the midst of your text, insert a “call to action” that will help you determine whether or not someone that contacts you actually read your whole profile.  In mine, I warned people not to use terms of endearment with me.  If someone sent me a message that began with “Hey cutie,” I knew they had not read my profile.  I have seen others say in their profiles: “If you send me a message, put __________ in the subject line.”  This will help you immensely in weeding out people that aren’t taking you seriously.

Visual Aids

Now that we’ve covered the written content of a dating profile, let’s discuss photos.  Much as we often hate to admit it, a person’s photos play a large role in our decision regarding communication.  The importance of physical attraction is no different in online dating than in any other dating form.  Don’t make yourself a mystery; zero photos often means zero contact.  If your profile is devoid of photos, people may assume that you are trying to hide something about your physical appearance.

When selecting photos for your profile, you want to make sure, first of all, that they were taken recently.  Don’t post photos from three years ago.  As a general rule, I recommended using photos that are no more than six months old.  If the site provides a caption section, make sure you identify the timeframe of the photo.

Do your best to select sharp photos that clearly show your face and your full body (clothed!).  If you upload photos that display multiple people, use the caption to identify who you are (e.g., “I’m third from the left”).  Avoid posting photos of you and your ex; potential matches don’t want to see that.  If you can, include photos of you involved in your favorite activities; it reinforces the interests you listed in your content and makes a stronger impression that a series of “selfies.”  Make sure your personality is visible in your photos.

Here are some examples of photos I would use in my dating profiles:

Stef 1

Photo for Newspaper Bio, January 2014

Stef 2

Scuba Diving, September 2013

Stef 3

Dressing for the Halloween Detroit Slow Roll, October 2013

Just this sample of photos gives a pretty good indicator of who I am.  You can clearly see my face in the first example.  In the second, you can see that I really do scuba dive.  In the third, you can see that I have a sense of humor and am okay with looking ridiculous (also, if you look up the Detroit Slow Roll, you’ll see that it relates to my cycling interest).

Your ultimate goal with your dating profile is to represent the essence of who you are and what you want honestly in order to separate yourself from the masses.

For those of you that have participated in online dating, what have been your experiences?  What do you like to see in a profile?  What has worked for you?


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page