A step-by-step guide to the perfect online dating profile.
When I was last dating, it was the mid-nineties, and a different time. The internet still whistled at all of us; builders still whistled at women. And people dating still met at work, through friends and in bars. Twenty-odd years and one divorce later, I’m dating again, this time as a single parent, and things have changed. Although single parents meet in those more traditional spaces, online has colonised dating just as it has everything else in our lives.
To get online dating right, whether you are a single parent or not, you need to know how to create a 5-star dating profile that will reel other singles in. There’s no generic rule for this. But as a single dad with a couple of years’ experience of these sites, I’ve learnt a few tips and tricks to catch the right person’s eye.
Here, then, are some broad-brush rules for creating a 5-star dating profile as a single parent:
The importance of an online dating profile photo
First impressions count. Single parent or not, your primary online photo is the most important part of your overall sale by far. Dating profiles backed up by good images get four times more responses. Use 3-6 photos, including a favourable headshot for your primary photo smiling straight into the camera to create eye contact and connect with the viewer. If you can, have your online dating photos done by a professional photographer. You’ll be glad you made the investment, and I am sure you will find use for them beyond your dating profile. If you don’t want to spend, get someone you know and trust to take your online dating photos. You’ll be more relaxed, and it will show in your facial expression.
Pair relaxed images taken on holiday or soon after with sports and out and about in nature for the full-body shots if possible, with a mix of different hairstyles and clothing. Ladies – a tip from the other sex: Wear make-up, even if you wouldn’t do so normally.
Avoid the Facebook pout and mobile selfies like the plague, and don’t try to be too sexy. When I started online dating as a single parent, I quickly realised that while I wanted to find out early on what someone looked like, yet it was gentle, real features I was looking for rather than a sex goddess or someone twenty years younger. Other single parents I’ve spoken to since agreed: They wanted someone similar to them, trustworthy, who understood their experience and wasn’t going to disappear just as they start to open up again – and not Brangelina.
Of course, you will need to find a person attractive, and will refer back to these images constantly while reading. They complete the overall picture of the person, so to speak. So, use images that make you credible and are not overly posed. Then you’ll achieve a good balance and back-up to your written dating profile.
How to write a 5-star dating profile
Writing a personal introduction (a.k.a. “About me”)
Alongside your photos, getting your personality across in your dating profile is a big one, so avoid twee clichés. Give a snapshot of the real you. Be expressive and sensitive in your introduction, but don’t make it too ‘fortune cookie’. I’ve found being honest about yourself and a little inventive connects well with other single parents. Try outlining in your dating profile, where you’d like the next few years in your life to go, and drop in one or two unexpected, slightly funky ideas, without being so arrogant as to try to define all the rules. Example: As a newly single parent, you’d like to keep ordinary city life as a base while also spending one weekend a month exploring new places? Give your potential date something and someone fun, reliable and outside-the-box to enjoy. Now they’re excited and clicking on ‘Smile’.
“The things that are important to me” section of your dating profile
We all love our children, of course, and whether or not you are looking to date another single parent, you will need and want to get that across in your single parent dating profile. But go beyond saying that alone. A nicely written section here should succeed in drawing a mental picture for the reader of the type of person you are, for example how you’re not easily moved in your decisions but listen to your nearest and dearest, and other endearing sides of your character. Bolt these things onto your continuing love for the family.
Be interesting, but don’t just try to sound perfect. Like travelling to a far-flung place and doing volunteer work once there? Say that. Like reading the paper and staying in bed on Sundays? That’s OK. Can’t live without your country music collection? There will be someone else out there who shares your music taste. If you are quirky, get that across. Writing a 5-star dating profile is not about portraying perfect.
“The things I should do more often”
Self-deprecating often works here, without needy or passive. Using humour in your dating profile is always good, in my experience, and is a nice way to say other things about yourself (“should get to the gym more than twice a week”, “finally write my novel”). Feed them positive details in an unpretentious but interesting way.
“Something I don’t like about myself is…”
People will appreciate your honesty here, of course, but again, use it as a space to demonstrate how you do listen to people, and are aware of your flaws or even the need to change (which many of us find difficult to admit). This plants the seed of a caring, realistic partner who isn’t so arrogant as to think they don’t mess it up sometimes too. Because we all do. It’s all good stuff for the single parent reader, who may have experienced something else in the past.
“I would describe my appearance as…”
This section of your dating profile is a tough one, as we all want to look great, but in reality don’t all look fabulous, unfortunately. Don’t forget they’re probably checking out your photos by now as well, but don’t worry – they are human (and therefore normal-looking) themselves. As mentioned earlier, what’s on the inside – i.e. whether you would be a reliable and faithful partner – is much more important to most single parents I’ve met than hooking up with a model. Couch it in non-arrogant terms – “Not too bad for 51!” – accompanied by a photo of yourself looking decidedly good for 51, and you can’t go far wrong.
“A place I really feel at home in is…”
I’ve found that rather than just writing “on top of a mountain” or “in New York” or similar, a short piece that appeals to all the senses, i.e. “on a terrace with someone special, breathing in and listening to the sea…” tells them you love the beach, give you a chance to include the “actually doable time away from city life” plan described above, and turns people on more. Don’t let yourself get smug or pretentious with the description, however.
“A positive feature of mine…”
A really good single parent dating profile will strike a balance between highlighting your positive features in as interesting a way as possible – “Prefer social situations in which everyone enjoys equal status; fair is cool” – and immature bragging. Describe yourself as a superhero too quickly, and you’ll almost definitely live to regret it. At the same time, don’t go in saying “There’s nothing great about me” either, because first of all it’s not true, and secondly nothing is guaranteed to turn people off quicker than negativity. Wherever possible, use humour and turn of phrase to slip other choice details in your dating profile, especially ones you know will matter to another single parent.
Your dating profile continued: leisure time and sports
As always, be honest, but if possible, try to use humour and give your potential date information. Don’t just say “I play the guitar” for instance; say “I play the guitar and murder Mrs Robinson every evening”. Now they know it and are looking forward to your jamming, but you’ve also made them laugh – two wins for the price of one.
And lastly: What not to say in your dating profile
Finally, one thing I’ve definitely learnt from reading other 5-star dating profiles is, to be positive about your ex at all times. Ideally, don’t mention them, but if the subject does arise, be nice. Chances are, you were both victims of separation or divorce, and now get on as friends. Don’t carry the experience around with you for the rest of your life in a briefcase marked “bitterness”. Rise above it, use words that look to a positive future, and the reader will think more of you for it.
Online dating as a single parent may not be for everyone, but if you want to give it a go, try to create a 5-star dating profile: It is your entry ticket to the world of dating and potentially meeting your soulmate. Don’t forget, there is someone out there for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with looking for your match proactively. Be the one to choose, don’t wait to be chosen!
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Please note that this is a guest post.
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