Step By Step

1. Choose a Service 2. Set Up an Account 3. Write Your Profile4. Make Contact 5. Respond...Or Don’t 6. The Email Dialogue 7. The Phone Call 8. The Date

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Step 4: Make Contact

So you’ve finished writing your profile. You’ve revised it three times. Your friends have edited it. You’ve run it through a spell check. It’s fresh, funny, and appealing. You run a quick search and find the perfect match. What now?

First, lower your expectations. I mean it, lower them. Now. That perfect match you’ve found probably won’t write you back at all and is unlikely to be a perfect match anyway. No matter how great someone’s profile seems, you have no idea whether there is real potential. They may have lied in their profile. They maybe an asshole or a flake or a nut job. They may be stuck on some former lover or be unsure of their sexuality or live with their mother. You know nothing about them except what they have chosen to write in answer to an online questionnaire.

So do not start imagining engagement rings or chubby babies or whatever it is that constitutes your image of romantic bliss.You’ll drive yourself crazy with people who fail to respond or fail to be who you thought they’d be. All you need to do right now is identify and contact people who might be OK to meet on a date.

[Pedanticaside: I hate using the grammatically incorrect plural pronoun instead of “he”or “she”, but it’s the best way keep my comments gender neutral.]


A personalized message that specifically addresses the contactee’s profile is more likely to get a response. Think about thank you notes: you can tell when you get a generic one. It’s the same way with online dating. A generic message means that you don’t care. It suggests that you’ve sent the same message to hundreds of others. So take a few minutes to actually read the profile of the person you want to contact. Tell them what appeals to you about their profile. Comment on your similarity to them. Make a joke that references something they wrote. You can even riff on their profile a little.


Use them. They will make the person you’re contacting feel good about themselves which will make them feel good about you. But don’t go overboard. “Your profile made me laugh” is acceptable; “I can’t stop thinking about you” is not. Show that you’re interested but not over enthusiastic.


Emphatic YES if you can manage it, but don’t drive yourself crazy by trying to find the perfect joke.


Not too long. Not too short. You want to show interest but not too much interest. Ageneric one line message implies that you don’t really care or didn’t read the profile. It also doesn’t give the person you’re contacting much material towhich to respond if they choose to write back. On the other hand, if you write a novel, you’ll seem like you’re trying too hard. I usually write two or three lines in which I try to either compliment the woman I’m contacting or make a joke that references her profile.

Contact Info

First name only. If you send a phone number, you put pressure on the other person togive you personal information before they’re ready, and you may be perceived as coming on too strong. Plus, you should be cautious yourself and avoid giving away personal information until you feel comfortable with the other person. See Safety Stuff. Some people only write a first initial. I don’t know why. A first name doesn’t give anything away, and initials seem impersonal to me.

[TR: I see phone numbers and personal e-mail addresses in the initial contact as not only presumptuous, but desperate. You don’t even know my name and you’re giving me your phone number? Is that so that I can hear you awkwardly scramble to type in my moniker if I do call while you try to figure out who you’re actually talking to? Not that I would call you.]


Don’t do it. A wink means that you’re cheap, poor, or a mass-mailer. If you have no money, and it’s the only way to get in touch with someone, it’s better than nothing, but a message is always better. A lot of people don’t even look at winks. Even people who do look at winks will feel more favorable toward a personalized message.

[TR: I’ve only responded to one wink, and that was when I first started out. If you wink on pay-per-contactsite you’re basically saying, “I won’t use a credit to contact you, but I’m hoping you’ll use one to contact me.”]

The Numbers Game

In order to help manage your expectations, I advise you never to contact only one person. When you do that, it’s all too easy to pin your hopes on a single profile, and that’s a recipe for e-dating frustration. I try to arrange it so that I’m writing several people at the same time. That way, as some of them inevitably fail to work out, I still have options to keep me optimistic.

It can be hard to manage that, though, because you don’t know how many people will respond to your contacts. Sometimes, no one responds, and I get frustrated. Sometimes, everyone responds, and I have trouble keeping them all straight.

[TR: My friend keeps an Excel spreadsheet that lists who, when, whose turn it is to write, and how long since the last contact.]

Mass Mailing

I’m way too particular about women to use this strategy, and I think it brings down the quality of the e-dating experience, so I don’t support it. But I understand that it can work if numerous responses are your objective. Mass-mailing substitutes quantity for quality. Forget personalization and humor. Mass-mailers try to generate dates simply by contacting a lot of people.

[TR: Unless you’re incredibly crafty with words, the people who receive your mass mailing will be able to tell it’s a mass mailing. So, realize that the people who respond are going to be equally as unselective as you are. You decide if that’s good or bad.]

Women And Men

Should women contact men? Of course. It’s the 21 st century. I’ve been on far more dates with women who have contacted me than with women I’ve contacted. E-dating is equal opportunity. (I do not, however, advise women to be aggressive. Some things haven’t changed, even in the 21 st century.)