You’ve got your sweatpants on, ordered enough Thai for two but only for one, and there’s a bottle of open booze somewhere in the room — you must be single on Valentine’s Day. Don’t feel bad; I am too. And I’m probably doing the exact same thing, with one big difference: instead of crying my way through…er, I mean dry-eyed watching a cheesy romcom, I’ve got my computer open, and I’m working overtime.
Such is the life of an online dating profile ghostwriter. Yes, you heard me — I craft other people’s online dating pages for Tinder, OkCupid, OurTime, you name it. From choosing and editing their photos to providing individual advice to completely writing (or rewriting) personalized summaries, through Profile Polish I’ve remade thousands of profiles for people around the world.
From the start of the New Year through March are some of my busiest months, with new clients galore right around the big V-Day. It’s like tax season for accountants — only I work on romantic relationships rather than relationships with the IRS (for good reason). But when you think about it, this spike makes total sense. It’s gray. It’s cold. The dream of summer is a distant twinkle in your eye. And the blanket you’re under is big enough for two.
More from FORTUNE
So online dating — on a site, an app or three, or both — is a no-brainer. It expands your dating pool exponentially, opens you up to new experiences and people, and pretty much the entirety of the single (and some of the not-so-single) population is doing it. The stigma is gone — and don’t listen to anyone who disagrees.
See also: How to Turn an Online Love Match Into a Real Date
But online dating is also hard and takes work. Need proof? When I launched my business two and a half years ago, I had no idea what the response would be like, so I charged $20 for a complete makeover. Today, my clients zip their credit cards to the tune of anywhere around $100 to $500 (though I spill 144 pages of easy, actionable advice in my new book, You Probably Shouldn’t Write That: Tips and Tricks for Creating an Online Dating Profile that Doesn’t Suck for those on a budget).
Worth it? I certainly think so. This is your romantic life that we’re talking about. To be completely corny and completely honest, these sites and apps can help you find the most important person in your life — and they all require some sort of profile (yes, even a series of photos counts). That goal alone, though, can be paralyzing, giving even writers writers’ block and above all making the majority of profiles…let’s just say lacking the personality they so desperately need. And if you’re not getting the response you want, it’s silly to look outward and avoid looking at the quality of your own page — because a better profile yields better results. If you’re boldly going forth with your profile on your own, allow me, the professional ghostwriter, to impart some tried-and-true techniques.
On apps that don’t require much writing
Don’t try to summarize yourself in something the length of a tweet or two. Instead, go for the punchline. Use something that you’re actually interested in and turn it into a tweet length, one-liner, or quick story — think upbeat or even funny. “I sing Bob Dylan in the shower and Robyn in the car” or “I lived in a houseboat for three months…until it sank. (Just kidding, it didn’t sink. I just moved to dry land.)” or even a quote from your favorite TV show (Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation is a personal favorite: “When life gives you lemons, you sell some of your grandma’s jewelry and go clubbing”) says something about you and helps spark conversation. And don’t forget to use photos that show you mid-activity — running, painting, wine tasting, skydiving — they help spark meaningful convos as well.
On profile-centric sites (OkCupid, Match.com, JDate, etc.)
Don’t use adjectives to describe yourself — they’re meaningless. Do use humor. Don’t use too many exclamation points or emoticons!!! J Do feel confident enough to change your profile text and photos often. Don’t talk about things you don’t like. Do mention your work/career. Don’t treat your profile as a biography, and don’t introduce yourself at the beginning or sign at the end. Do be relatable, open-minded, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t fall in love with someone based on their profile. Do send messages. Lots of messages. Don’t make it too long. Do proofread and spellcheck. Seriously. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And have some fun! (Hint: The one-liners discussed above often have a place in these profiles too — and the photo advice stands as well.)
Go into each with an open mind, but know when it’s time to get out. Don’t have expectations, put your phone away, and don’t hype dates to the point of nervousness. Bad dates are good stories (that happen to help you learn something about yourself), and remember: it only takes one good date…
Lisa Hoehn is the founder of Profile Polish, a professional ghostwriting website.