From Match to Hinge, there are countless dating sites and apps that cater to singles.
But many people, quite simply, don’t know what they’re doing.
That’s where online dating coaches have stepped in.
“The reality is that most people are doing everything wrong,” Scott Valdez said, founder of Virtual Dating Assistants. “People in general on dating sites need a lot of help.”
Singles post mirror selfies as profile pics. They overuse adjectives instead of anecdotes. Or they simply don’t put in the time and effort necessary to get results.
Valdez, 30, was an active Match.com and Plenty of Fish user himself. At first, he struggled to get responses.
“It took a lot of patience to figure out what people responded to,” Valdez said, who was working for a startup in Atlanta at the time.
But as work picked up (“I was working 60+ hours a week,” he said), he had less time to date online.
“I found a writer on Craigslist and paid him to send my messages for me,” Valdez said. “I had him do the icebreaker messages. When I saw he was doing a good job, I’d have him handle the back and forth. We had a lot of success.”
Soon, friends and family were begging to use his assistant too. So in 2009, he launched Virtual Dating Assistants.
The business, which has mostly male clients, offers profile writing for $200 or monthly messaging packages where ViDA takes over your communication, which runs about $23 an hour.
Tinder packages run a bit more, $25 to $30 per hour, due to the more intensive nature.
“Tinder is more invasive, you have to be on it all day,” Valdez said.
The average customer spends $2,000 and usually meets someone within three and half months, Valdez said, who added that it usually takes 12 first dates to meet someone.
Valdez has 35 employees — both part- and full-time — 15 of whom are writers. T
he business operates virtually, and Valdez splits his time between Colombia and Atlanta, so there’s little overhead.
This year, Valdez estimates the company will rake in $1 million in revenue.
Writer Lisa Hoehn also became an online dating coach after working to optimize her own dating experience.
Unlike Valdez, who concentrates on the back-and-forth communication, Hoehn typically assists with profile writing.
When she started Profile Polish in August 2013, she initially charged $20 per profile, but prices crept up along with the demand.
Now, she offers three packages, which range from $48 for a “Tinder special” with photo insight and editing help, to a $98 profile analysis, to $198 for the “whole shebang.” (She said prices will go up slightly next month).
“I try to get to the core of who they are,” Hoehn said, a former journalist who is writing a dating self-help book due out next year.
“People say, ‘I’m smart, I’m outgoing.’ Not only is this unoriginal and boring, but you’re not physically there to back it up,” Hoehn said, who is based in Queens, N.Y. “The words ring hollow. They’re too vague. Rather than saying, “I love food,” talk about the time you ate a five-course meal and finished every morsel.”
Hoehn declined to comment on Profile Polish’s revenue but said the business is growing rapidly and has a “backlog of clients waiting for help.”
The popularity of online dating even has some traditional dating coaches — who typically take on high-profile clients — moving into the online market.
LiveDatingAdvice.com launched this month with $250,000 in funding from the founding team, friends and family.
The founders — dating coaches Hunt Ethridge, Antonia Geno and Israel Irensteing — plan to make dating assistants virtually accessible to the masses.
Their certified dating advisers will help with everything from messaging to profile advice to general dating tips.
It’s offering its services on pre-sale now for $49 a month, which will give clients live advice, daily access to a trained dating adviser (roughly ten minutes a day), and a free profile review. (Service will begin in the next few months.)
The founders say they’ve already seen “a lot” of interest from major online dating sites that want to integrate their offerings.
“Traditionally, dating coaching was considered a luxury of sorts,” Geno said. “[Dating online] is becoming one of the primary ways to meet people. People need to know how to navigate it.”
By Sara Ashley O’Brien for CNN