The Ultimate Guide to an Intentional Online Dating Profile
If you are among those online daters who want to write a profile that expresses you and magnetizes people who share your values and like you the way you are, but you don’t know where to begin, this guide is for you.
I get it—distilling your essence into a text box and 10 or fewer pictures for thousands of people to judge and evaluate on a daily basis can be overwhelming.
That’s why many people throw up an impulsive bathroom, bed, or gym selfie and a sunset picture and leave their profile blank. The person looking at this airport bathroom selfie profile swipes left because…who is this person? Why invest in someone who’s not committed enough to put five minutes of concentrated effort into a profile?
The keys to a good online profile are simple. They are 1) showing, not telling, and 2) keeping it minimal but authentic, conscientious, and intentional.
The creation of an online dating profile, and every initial interaction you take while online dating, is a practice in mindfulness, intentionality, and consideration. The opportunity presented in approaching online dating profile writing is that you get to practice balancing your own needs and self-expression with consideration of how your actions impact another person. Below, I’ll discuss a process for creating good profile copy and content.
One important side note about online profiles and online dating:
As a mindful dating coach, I believe that a good online profile is important as a gateway to meeting people, not as a substitute for getting to know another person. My philosophy is that authenticity will attract the right people, so I do not espouse presenting a modeling shoot of yourself or a depiction of who you want to be, or trying to “catch” everyone’s attention. IMHO, profiles work best when they magnetize quality matches over quantity of matches. I encourage you first and foremost to present yourself accurately and be truthful about who you are and what you are looking for. If this resonates with you, read on!
Here are eight tips for creating an intentional profile:
Tip 1: Be honest and clear about who you are and what you want, and allow people the choice of whether to engage with you as you are.
Honesty is the entire basis of healthy dating and relating. If you have children or are polyamorous, don’t hide these facts because you think people won’t swipe right. Honesty is a sign of character strength, respect, and conscientiousness and is the basis for consent-based dating. So, if you’re rebounding and not looking for anything serious, be honest about it (with yourself, first and foremost, and then with others). If you’re not looking for anything serious or just want sex, a shirtless selfie with no text might work well for you. If, however, you’re looking for a partner, read on.
As Harlan Cohen explains in his book Getting Naked, a universal truth is that some people will reject you based on what you honestly present (or a host of other things you cannot control and will never know about), and you must be strong enough to handle some people not liking the real you if you want to find someone who does like and accept the real you. If you are hiding facts about yourself before you’ve even met someone, what are you going to do in a relationship? You must be able to be honest about who you are and willing to face the fact that some people will not be ready for what you have to offer at every stage of dating.
To be clear, you do not need to display every vulnerable and not-so-pretty detail about yourself right off the bat, as relationships are a dance of unfolding. My recommendation for profile writing is to disclose big-ticket items that you know could be deal breakers for people out of respect to yourself and to your potential dates.
Tip 2: Add at least five flattering pictures, including at least three that are solo, and clearly show your face (one should show your body).
Include five photos minimum, more if the site allows it. Research shows that people with more photos will elicit more messages and engagement. Make sure to have at least three photos of you that are clear and simple and show what you look like, without sunglasses, affect, costume, or fanfare. Your potential dates should not have to spend time deciphering who you are or what you look like. The more complicated it is to decipher who you are, the more likely people are to swipe left.
Include pictures that show your hobbies and personality. If you’re quirky, let that show in a picture. If you’re funny, let that shine through in one of your pictures. If you’re really into your dog or bike racing, include a photo. Don’t go overboard with trying to show your personality, but do allow it to be expressed.
If you don’t have great photos of yourself, don’t be afraid to seek help! Rather than take a gym selfie, which sends the message “I’m more invested in how I look in the mirror than putting effort into a meeting my match,” hire a professional photographer who specializes in online dating profile photos and whose photos match your vibe.
Tip 3: Keep a minimal but clear structure.
Make your profile easy on the eyes with one or two paragraphs that are quick, to the point, and easy to scan and digest. Show interests, values, and passion.
Like with a hit song, it’s okay to have a “hook” in your profile—perhaps a funny quip or a challenge to the reader. Be playful and see the Mad Libs example below for ideas.
I’m a city boy (you in a nutshell) with a cowboy heart (something unique or paradoxical about you) who values honesty, communication, spiritual growth, and good lattes (what do you value? See my blog for a longer values exercise) and is passionate about mountain biking, making the world a better place, and getting off this app (they’re related—what are you passionate about? You can say this in a creative way). For my day job, I oversee the cybersecurity of an entire company (describe your job in a relatable, interesting way).
Tip 4: Add some bait.
With the information overwhelm from looking at thousands of profiles, it’s too easy for a person browsing profiles to give up and swipe left if a profile doesn’t immediately grab their attention. As the author of your profile, open the door, be welcoming, and remove barriers to entry in your profile (you can always filter out people later). Give an easy directive for how you want the other person to engage with you, such as:
- The best way to get to know me is to ask me about my passions.
- Let’s take this offline. Ask me for a walk or a drink!
- Tell me about your deepest travel desires.
Pictures can be used as profile bait as well! Pictures of you engaged in an obscure hobby or activity work well to engage others (FYI, white tiger photos are not considered obscure).
Tip 5: Focus only on the positive, edit out negative statements.
Tip 5 is about flirting—flirting is keeping the energy flowing and in play, rather than shutting a person or a situation down. Negative statements shut down the flow of energy before a person has a chance to engage with you. Furthermore, negative statements make you look bitter and jaded (and not in a cool way). “Negative statements” refers to put-downs, “don’t like” comments, reactive statements about what you don’t want, or hammering a point home way too hard. This includes statements like “swipe left if you like Burning Man,” “dislike drama,” or “if you like xyz, we won’t get along.” Even if the person doesn’t like Burning Man or isn’t dramatic, this type of statement automatically links you with Burning Man or the drama you claim to reject. It makes the person on the other end question if perhaps you might bring drama to a relationship.
Hammering a point home can also make you appear bitter and jaded. For example, one profile for a man based outside of the city where he is dating made three separate references to how women need to meet him in the middle literally and figuratively, on a “two-way, give-and-take street.” Instead of encouraging and inspiring women to meet him in the middle, this makes him sound like he is complaining, he’s assuming the worst in you before you’ve even met, he would like women to put out effort before he does, and perhaps doesn’t know how to handle his boundaries in relationship. Sadly, the rest of his profile and pictures are great, but the bitter barbs about meeting halfway kill budding romantic sprout tendrils before they have a chance to burst through the spring soil.
Instead of writing, “If you lack drive, confidence, and aren’t intelligent, please don’t message me,” try, “I tend to get excited by people who are confident, have big goals, and can make me laugh.” Instead of “If you prefer TV to books, we probably won’t get along,” try “If you’re the type of guy who also loves to read and get geeky sometimes, you may just be my prince charming!” The first one sounds arrogant while the second is playful and lighthearted. Playful and lighthearted usually signals a person can handle themselves in a relationship.
When your energy is open and spacious and you exude optimism, happiness, and excitement, you make yourself approachable and invite people into your life.
Tip 6: Show, don’t tell.
This tip is simple and reiterates some information from Tip 2. If you’re quirky, let that come through in your writing and photo choices. If you’re funny, show your sense of humor through quips in your profile or a photo you find funny. Pay attention to context here—if you find something funny with your lifelong guy friends at a bar, this same joke or comment might make someone you’ve just met scared or uncomfortable if they don’t know you and are meeting you on a first date. Think of this profile as an online blind date with thousands of others out there (a few of whom you may actually really like), and don’t fall prey to that “well they should like me for who I am so I’m going to skip all the steps of the relating dance and put my most aggressive foot forward to test them” trap.
Tip 7: Mix it up a bit.
Diversity is an extremely important and attractive quality to showcase. It signals that a relationship with you won’t eventually turn boring and lifeless.
People who read your profile want to know that life with you will be fun and exciting (to them) going forward. This doesn’t mean you have to exaggerate your interests, but do show your varied interests and personality facets through words and pictures. Express interests, passions, and personality traits so people feel drawn to your profile and have a way to connect with you. Showing who you are is magnetic, and passion is sexy. Your interests don’t need to be daredevil, wild, esoteric, or incredibly unique. Sharing your unique interests will express what you authentically care about—anything from weeding the garden to volunteering to reading a book to bungee jumping will suffice.
Side note: if you don’t have anything you’re passionate about, I would recommend taking a break from online dating to discover something you are passionate about.
Tip 8: Check for mistakes.
That missing apostrophe or the misused “your” may really matter to someone. Enough typos can really only mean two things. Typos either indicate a) you didn’t fully learn the rules of grammar (it’s fine if you didn’t, but if you did, you definitely want that to be clear in your profile), or b) you aren’t really being thoughtful or intentional about writing your profile and possibly this whole dating process.
Now that you have all these tips swirling in your mind, it’s important to check for more than just grammar mistakes. It could also be a phrase that accidentally comes across as desperate or needy, negative energy, or any number of red flags you are accidentally waving in the air.
Always proofread your profile multiple times, and don’t be afraid to get second, third, and even fourth opinions.
That’s it! These tips should get you started with a solid online profile. For additional profile writing help or to outsource some of the work, hire a professional!