10 tips for online dating you need to know

DatingSiteGuides / 10 tips for online dating you need to know

Online dating has exploded in popularity in recent years, with millions of singles worldwide turning to dating apps and websites to find potential partners. As a dating coach who has helped countless clients navigate the online dating world, I’ve seen firsthand how rewarding it can be – but also how frustrating and overwhelming it can seem at times. The truth is, online dating requires a unique set of skills and strategies to be successful. But by following a few key tips, you can vastly improve your chances of finding a meaningful connection online.

In this article, I’ll share my top 10 tips for online dating success based on years of experience coaching singles. These aren’t the generic, obvious pointers you’ll find in most online dating articles. Instead, I’ve dug deep to uncover the real secrets to making online dating work for you. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to finding the fulfilling relationship you deserve!

1. Craft a compelling, authentic profile

Your online dating profile is essentially your dating resume. It’s your first (and often only) opportunity to catch a potential match’s attention and make them want to learn more about you. So it’s crucial that your profile showcases the very best of who you are.

The biggest mistake I see people make is writing generic, cliche-ridden profiles that don’t really say anything about them. Profiles like: « I’m a laid-back, fun-loving guy who likes hanging out with friends, going to the gym, and binge watching Netflix. Looking for my partner in crime to go on adventures with! » There’s nothing engaging or memorable about a profile like this.

Instead, focus on what makes you unique. What are your quirks, passions, and most interesting experiences or personality traits? Your goal should be to paint a detailed, compelling picture of who you are and what makes you tick.

Try to incorporate the following elements in your profile:

  • Vivid anecdotes and stories. Instead of just listing interests and traits, illustrate them through short anecdotes. « I’m an avid traveler » becomes « Eating crickets in Cambodia was one of the most memorable experiences of my 3-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. »
  • Humor. Funny profiles get noticed. Find ways to showcase your sense of humor, whether it’s through witty turns of phrase or humorous stories.
  • Vulnerability. Don’t be afraid to get a little vulnerable and share some of your imperfections, insecurities, and lessons learned. This is scary but makes you relatable and real. « I used to be terrified of public speaking but finally conquered my fear last year when I gave a toast at my best friend’s wedding. »
  • Unique formatting. A giant wall of text is hard on the eyes. Use formatting to make your profile easy to scan and put your most important points in bold. Bullet point lists work great too.
  • A clear « call to action ». End your profile with an engaging question or statement that makes it easy for matches to strike up a conversation with you. « Ask me about the time I got lost in the Hong Kong subway for 5 hours! »

Most importantly, ensure every word is 100% authentically you. Don’t say you run marathons if you’ve never jogged a mile in your life. Pretending to be someone you’re not to impress others always backfires in the end, because you can never keep up the façade. Being real is the only path to finding a genuine connection.

Here’s an example of a profile summary that incorporates these elements:

« Dog-obsessed goofball, passionate baker, and recovering 90’s boyband addict. New Yorker by birth but currently chasing the sun in California. Last year I road tripped across the entire US with my rescue pup Marvin – 8000 miles, 14 states, 37 different dog parks. Probably consumed my body weight in gas station beef jerky. Currently teaching myself the guitar, one painfully out-of-tune chord at a time. Let’s swap dog pics and have a kitchen dance party! »

See how much richer and more engaging this is than the generic example above? Aim to infuse your profile with this level of detail, personality, and flair. It takes more work, but the extra effort will pay off in the quality of matches you attract.

2. Choose the right photos

When it comes to online dating, photos are incredibly important. Your main profile pic is the first (and often only) thing potential matches look at when deciding whether to swipe right or move on. No pressure, right?

The biggest mistake people make is using unflattering or downright misleading photos. Blurry, poorly lit selfies or group shots where you’re barely visible won’t cut it. Neither will photos that are years old or obscure your appearance through things like sunglasses and hats. You might think you’re putting your best foot forward, but these types of photos turn most people off.

When choosing your lineup of photos, follow these guidelines:

  • Get a fantastic headshot. For your main photo, you need one fantastic headshot, preferably taken outdoors in natural light. The photo should clearly show your face and eyes. A smile is great but not mandatory if you have a fantastic pensive photo. Get a photographer friend to take hundreds of shots and select the very best one.
  • Showcase your interests. Choose photos that communicate your hobbies and interests. If you’re a runner, include an action shot of you crossing the finish line. If you travel frequently, use a vacation photo in an exotic location.
  • Include a full-body shot. It’s important to have at least one full-body photo so matches can see your physique. Choose a flattering outfit and backdrop. Avoid bathroom selfies at all costs!
  • Pick recent photos. All your photos should be from the last year or two at most. Don’t try to get away with those photos from a decade ago, even if you think you still look the same. It’s deceptive and the person will feel duped when they meet you in person.
  • Avoid these types of photos: Bathroom selfies, gym selfies, car selfies, group photos (unless it’s very obvious who you are), photos with children (unless they’re yours), photos with the opposite sex (people might assume it’s an ex or that you’re unavailable), photos with drugged tigers. Yes, that’s a thing.

Once you’ve selected your all-star lineup of photos, ask a few trusted friends for their honest opinion. Pick friends who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. It’s common to be so close to your own photos that it’s hard to judge them objectively. An outside perspective can help you choose the ones with the most impact.

Remember, photos are your chance to make an amazing first impression. Choose them wisely! The effort you put into your selection will directly impact the number and quality of matches you receive.

3. Send engaging opening messages

So you’ve matched with an attractive stranger – congrats! Now it’s time to strike up a conversation and see if there’s a spark. But if you’ve spent any time on dating apps, you know that crafting that first message can be deceptively difficult. Do you go with something funny? Flirty? A simple « hey, how are you? »

Here’s the thing: there’s no perfect opening message that works every time. Truly engaging opening messages are personalized to the recipient’s profile. They prove you’ve read their bio and looked at their photos, and are initiating a conversation based on what intrigues you about them specifically.

Generic copy-paste messages like « Hey beautiful » or « What’s up? » are a dime a dozen and tend to be ignored. After all, if you couldn’t be bothered to write a couple unique sentences, why would your match want to put in the effort to respond?

There are a few well-tested formulas for opening messages that get responses:

  1. Ask a question about something in their profile. This shows you read their bio and initiates a back-and-forth exchange. « I see you’ve been to 30 countries – that’s amazing! What’s been your favorite destination so far? »
  2. Give a compliment with a follow-up question. Compliments are great, but questions keep the conversation flowing and prove you’re not just looking for an ego boost. « You have a beautiful smile! How’s your week going? »
  3. Make a light-hearted joke or observation. Humor is a great way to break the ice, as long as it’s not crude or insulting. « You’re a Lakers fan but you live in New York? I think we need to talk about this. How could you betray your hometown team? 😉 »

When crafting your opening message, try to incorporate one or more of the following:

  • Their name. Using someone’s name makes the message feel more personal and gets their attention.
  • Details from their bio. Referencing something specific from their profile shows you read it carefully and want to know more.
  • A compliment. Sincere (not sexual) compliments about someone’s appearance or interests make people feel good and more inclined to respond.
  • Humor. Even a cheesy joke can be enough to get a laugh and break the ice.
  • A question. Ending with a question elicits a response and helps keep the conversation going past the first message.

Finally, be sure to keep your opening message relatively short. Aim for a maximum of 2-3 sentences. No one wants to read a novel from a complete stranger, and a long first message can come off as desperate or intense. Your goal should be to pique their interest just enough to initiate a back-and-forth conversation.

Here are some examples of engaging first messages:

  • « Hi Katie! I saw that you’re a professional dog walker – that’s awesome. How did you get into that line of work? I’m a huge dog lover too! »
  • « Your photos from Machu Picchu look unreal! Peru has been on my bucket list forever. Did you hike the Inca Trail? I’d love to hear about your experience! »
  • « An aerospace engineer and an amateur ukulele player? You might be the most interesting person I’ve ever seen on this app! »

Remember, the worst thing you can do is nothing! Perfectionism is the enemy of done. It’s better to send an imperfect first message than to wait endlessly for the right thing to say. Take a chance and see what happens!

4. Move the conversation off the app

Once you’ve exchanged a few messages back and forth and established a rapport, the next step is to move the conversation off the dating app or site. There are a few reasons this is crucial:

  1. Dating apps and sites can glitch or delete your messages, erasing your conversation history. Exchanging numbers or social media info ensures you can stay in touch.
  2. Moving to texting or another messaging platform quickly establishes you as a real person in their life, not just another face in their app.
  3. It shows you’re interested in them enough to take your connection to the next level. If you keep chatting exclusively on the app for weeks, they might assume you’re not serious or are juggling dozens of other matches.

There are a few organic ways to ask for someone’s number or social media info:

  • « I’m really enjoying our conversation! Want to move this to text so it’s easier to stay in touch? »
  • « I’m about to head into the subway so I may lose service. What’s the best way to reach you off the app – text, Facebook, carrier pigeon? »
  • « I know this great hole-in-the-wall coffee shop that I think you’d love based on your tastes. Give me your number and I’ll text you the address! »

In my experience, asking within the first 5-10 messages back and forth is the sweet spot for moving the conversation off the app. That’s usually enough to judge if there’s enough chemistry and interest to merit taking the next step, but not so much that the conversation loses steam from happening exclusively on the app.

If the person is hesitant to give you their number or social media info, don’t push it. Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to online privacy. Respect their choice and just continue getting to know them on the app for now.

5. Suggest a video chat before meeting in person

Once you’ve moved the conversation off the dating app, I always recommend having a video chat before meeting up in person. Why? Video calls are the best way to bridge the gap between messaging and actually meeting face-to-face, while still keeping a safe digital distance.

There are a few key benefits to video chats as a pre-date screening tool:

  • Ensure there’s chemistry. Messaging can only reveal so much about your compatibility with someone. A video chat lets you pick up on important cues like their mannerisms, sense of humor, and conversational style to see if the spark is there.
  • Weed out catfish. Despite efforts by dating apps to verify profiles, catfishing still happens. If someone refuses a video call, that may be a sign that they’re not who they say they are.
  • Make sure you’re on the same page. Video calls allow you to have more substantial conversations than you typically would through messaging. You can discuss your dating goals, deal-breakers, and expectations before meeting up and potentially wasting your time.
  • Take the pressure off. A first date with a near-total stranger is always nerve-wracking. A video call breaks the ice beforehand, so that first meeting feels more like seeing a friend than an awkward blind date.

To suggest a video call, try one of these approaches:

  • « I’m really enjoying our chats and feel like we have a lot in common! Want to hop on a quick FaceTime call this week? I’d love to put a voice to the face 🙂 »
  • « Before we make plans to meet up, would you be up for a video chat first? It’s always nice to see if there’s chemistry before going on an official first date. »
  • « My friends give me a hard time for going on blind dates without video chatting first. Apparently I have terrible catfish radar! What do you say – want to do a quick Skype session before grabbing that drink? »

If they agree to a video chat, treat it like a mini first date. Pick a time when you can both give each other your undivided attention without distractions. Find a quiet spot with good lighting and a clean, uncluttered background (no messy bedrooms!). Have a few conversation starters prepared in case things feel awkward at first.

Don’t try to make the video call a full-blown date that lasts for hours. 15-30 minutes is the ideal length to assess chemistry and compatibility without things feeling forced. At the end of the call, if you felt a connection, suggest meeting up in person and start planning your first official date!

6. Plan a low-pressure first date

When it comes to planning a first date with someone you met online, I always recommend keeping things casual. Opt for activities that are low-pressure and allow you to focus on getting to know each other without too many distractions.

Some great first date ideas include:

  • Grabbing coffee or a quick bite. Meeting for coffee or a light meal takes the pressure off and gives you a natural way to extend or end the date depending on how it’s going.
  • Going for a walk. Pick a scenic location like a park, hiking trail, or city neighborhood and go for a leisurely stroll together. Walking promotes intimate conversation and helps you feel more comfortable around each other.
  • Checking out a local event. Is there a free concert, food festival, or farmer’s market happening in town? Exploring local events together can spark fun banter and give you interesting things to discuss.
  • Visiting a museum or gallery. If you’re both into art or history, a museum or gallery date can be a great way to learn about each other’s interests and perspectives. Plus, the exhibits provide easy conversation starters.

Whatever you choose to do, try to pick an activity that:

  1. Is reasonably short (1-2 hours maximum)
  2. Allows for easy conversation
  3. Isn’t too expensive or high-stakes
  4. Doesn’t require reservations or extensive planning
  5. Gives you an « out » if things aren’t going well

For example, instead of committing to a full dinner at a fancy restaurant, suggest meeting at a casual food hall. That way, if the date isn’t going well, you can easily cut things short after one drink. But if you’re really hitting it off, you can extend the date by grabbing a bite or exploring the other food stalls together.

When suggesting a first date, give a few different options and let your match pick what sounds best to them. This shows you respect their preferences and want them to feel comfortable. You can say something like:

« I was thinking it would be fun to meet up this weekend if you’re free! We could grab coffee at this cute place downtown, take a walk through the park nearby, or check out the new outdoor market that just opened up. Let me know what you’re in the mood for! »

Finally, choose a meeting location that’s convenient for both of you, preferably somewhere public and easy to find. Offer to meet them there directly so no one has to share private information like their home address.

Remember, the first date is all about seeing if there’s an in-person spark and figuring out if you want to keep seeing each other. Keep the stakes and pressure low, and focus on enjoying each other’s company in a casual setting. Save the candlelit dinners and romantic getaways for date #5!

7. Ask the right questions

Congrats, you made it to the first date! Now the real work begins. Just kidding – but only sort of. How you spend that first face-to-face interaction is crucial for determining if there’s long-term potential.

The best way to build a connection and assess compatibility is by asking each other thoughtful, open-ended questions that go beyond small talk. Here are some of my favorites:

  • « What’s something that you’re really passionate about? »
  • « If you could wake up tomorrow with one new skill or talent, what would it be? »
  • « What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? »
  • « If you had an entire day to yourself with no responsibilities, how would you spend it? »
  • « What are you most proud of in your life so far? »
  • « What’s left on your travel bucket list? »
  • « If you knew you only had one year left to live, what would you spend your time doing? »

The key is to ask questions that invite storytelling and require more than a yes/no or one-word answer. You want to prompt your date to share detailed anecdotes and reveal the deeper layers of their personality.

Be sure to share your own stories and answers too! The best dates feel like a balanced back-and-forth, not an interrogation. Express genuine curiosity about your date and follow up with questions that show you were really listening.

That said, there are some topics I recommend steering clear of on a first date:

  • Past relationships. Rehashing romantic histories is a quick way to kill the mood. Keep things focused on the present and future.
  • Controversial subjects. A first date isn’t the time to get into heated debates about sensitive issues like politics or religion, unless you already know you’re on the same page.
  • Your entire life story. Don’t treat the date like a therapy session by unloading all your baggage right away. Touch on the major points of your background and current life, but save the deep details for future dates.
  • Money or material possessions. Bragging about your salary or fancy car is a huge turnoff. Focus on what makes you uniquely you, not what’s in your bank account.
  • Sex. It’s fine to flirt and gauge physical chemistry, but getting too sexually explicit right off the bat can come off as creepy and inappropriate. Let things progress organically.

Another good idea is to have a few funny stories or interesting facts prepared in case there’s ever a lull in the conversation. Did you once spend a month living in a van in New Zealand? Have a scar from a crazy childhood accident? Know how to say « cheers » in 10 different languages? The specific story doesn’t matter, as long as it’s memorable, entertaining, and says something about your personality.

Remember, a first date isn’t about deciding if you want to marry this person. It’s about getting to know them on a deeper level, having fun, and seeing if there’s potential for a second date. So relax, be yourself, and let the conversation flow naturally. The right questions will help you do just that!

8. Watch for red flags

While most first dates are perfectly pleasant, every now and then you’ll encounter someone who throws up a red flag (or three). Spotting these early warning signs can save you a lot of time, energy, and heartache down the road.

Of course, everyone has their own unique deal-breakers, but here are a few universal red flags to watch out for:

  • They only talk about themselves. If your date spends the entire time bragging about their accomplishments or dominating the conversation without asking you any questions, that’s a bad sign. Healthy relationships require equal give and take.
  • They’re glued to their phone. Constant texting or scrolling during your date is disrespectful and shows a lack of interest in connecting with you. If someone can’t set their phone aside for an hour, they may not be emotionally available.
  • They’re rude to waitstaff. How someone treats service workers says a lot about their character. If your date is dismissive, condescending, or just plain rude to the bartender or barista, that’s a glimpse of how they may end up treating you.
  • They get angry or defensive easily. A bit of nervous energy is normal on a first date. But if your date seems easily irritated, shuts down at the first sign of awkwardness, or has a meltdown over a minor inconvenience, that could signal deeper anger issues.
  • They lie about their basic info. If your date shows up looking significantly different than their profile photos or lies about obvious facts like their age or occupation, that’s a major red flag. What else could they be hiding?
  • They push your physical boundaries. Your date should respect your personal space and never pressure you to engage in physical touch you’re not comfortable with. If they get handsy without consent or pout when you refuse to go back to their place, run away fast!

If you notice any of these red flags on a first date, pay attention to your gut reaction. Are you feeling uneasy, turned off, or even a bit scared? Or are you willing to give your date the benefit of the doubt?

Sometimes one red flag isn’t an automatic dealbreaker. Maybe your date just got some bad news that’s distracting them, or they’re extra nervous and coming off strong as a result. In those cases, you might decide to see if things improve on a second date.

But if you notice multiple red flags or just get a really bad vibe from someone, it’s perfectly okay to end the date early or decide not to see them again. You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation. A simple « I’m just not feeling the connection, but thanks for meeting up » is fine.

The most important thing is to always put your safety and well-being first. Never ignore your instincts or force yourself to spend time with someone who makes you uncomfortable just to be polite. There are plenty of other (non-creepy) fish in the sea!

9. Be honest about your interest level

One of the trickiest parts of dating is figuring out how to let someone down gently when you’re not interested. No one likes rejection, and it can be tempting to ghost, breadcrumb, or drag things out just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation.

However, as a dating coach, one of the core values I teach is honesty. Being direct about how you feel, even when it’s difficult, shows respect for the other person’s time and emotions. It also frees both of you up to move on and find a better match.

If you go on a first date with someone and don’t feel a romantic spark, let them know as soon as possible. You can send a text the next day that says something like:

« Hi [Name], thanks again for meeting up yesterday. I enjoyed our conversation, but I just didn’t feel the type of chemistry I’m looking for. I wanted to be up front about that so we’re not wasting each other’s time. I hope you find what you’re looking for! »

If you went on a few dates with someone but your interest is waning, have an honest conversation in person or over the phone. Acknowledge the time you’ve spent together and explain that while you think they’re great, the connection isn’t quite what you’re looking for long-term.

Rejection is never easy to hear, but most people will appreciate your candor. It’s far kinder than stringing someone along or disappearing without a trace.

On the flip side, if you ARE interested in someone after a first date, let them know that too! Send a text thanking them for their time and suggesting specific plans for date #2. For example:

« I had such a blast mini golfing with you last night! We make quite the dream team. What do you say we check out that new escape room downtown next weekend? »

Expressing clear interest after a great first date prevents the other person from second-guessing how you feel and potentially losing momentum. It also sets a flirty, positive tone for your burgeoning relationship.

Generally, a good rule of thumb after a first date is to:

  1. Thank them for their time
  2. Give a clear indication of your interest level (or lack thereof)
  3. Suggest concrete plans for another date if you’re interested

Skip the mind games and be straightforward from the start. In the end, honesty really is the best policy – both for your dating life and your personal growth. Trust me on this one!

10. Stay optimistic and have fun!

My final tip for online dating success is one that I hope you’ll carry with you throughout your entire dating journey. No matter how many dead-end conversations, awkward first dates, or ghosted texts you encounter…stay positive!

I know it’s easier said than done. Online dating can often feel like a never-ending carousel of hope and disappointment. For every amazing match, there are a dozen duds who looked better on paper. It’s natural to get discouraged, burn out, or conclude that maybe you’re better off single forever.

But here’s the thing: online dating DOES work…if you stick with it. I’ve seen it happen over and over again with my clients. The ones who find long-term love aren’t necessarily the most attractive, wealthy, or charming. They’re the ones who show up authentically, communicate directly, and continue to put themselves out there even when it feels hard.

Dating is a skill like any other, and the more you practice it, the easier it will become. You’ll learn how to craft a standout profile, take rejection in stride, and spot red flags from a mile away. You’ll get better at flirting, build your confidence, and discover new sides of yourself in the process.

If you start to feel disheartened, remember that dating is supposed to be fun! It’s an opportunity to meet new people, explore your city, and learn more about what you want in a partner. Don’t put too much pressure on any one match or date. Look at each interaction as a chance to enjoy yourself and enrich your life, regardless of romantic outcome.

And above all else, don’t give up on love. Your person is out there, I promise. It might take some trial and error to find them, but every dead end is one step closer to your destination. Keep swiping, keep smiling, and keep putting your best self out there. I’ll be cheering you on every step of the way!

I hope these tips for online dating success have given you a fresh perspective and a few new tools for your dating toolbox. At the end of the day, there’s no magic formula for finding love online or off. But approaching the process with authenticity, optimism, and an open heart will take you far.

If you’re ever feeling stuck or discouraged in your dating life, return to this article for inspiration and guidance. Bookmark it, print it out, even tape your favorite tips to your bathroom mirror! Whatever keeps you motivated to continue showing up as the amazing catch you are.

Thank you for coming along on this dating journey with me. I wish you all the swipes, first dates, and butterflies your heart desires. Now get out there and find your lobster – I believe in you!

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