The world has changed pretty quickly. More and more, we’re finding our jobs, our cars, and our homes online – and we’re also finding love. In fact, the online dating industry now reports annual revenues of nearly $1.25 billion. Because it’s such a nascent phenomenon, though, there’s a pretty steep learning curve. Before you reach out to that potentially perfect partner, make sure you go about it the right way. Avoiding any missteps can give you a better chance to initiate contact, land a date and hopefully see it blossom into love. For some of the more common online dating mistakes to avoid, read on.

1. Don’t Post Your Best Photo

People don’t often look like their best photos. If you do, wonderful. If you’re like the rest of us though, you’re only setting yourself up for failure if you post your best one. Instead, post normal, everyday photos of yourself and avoid any pictures where the light catches you perfectly and gives you that (unrealistic) movie star look.

2. Take the Time to Really Read Member Profiles

People put a lot of time and effort into creating their profiles – do yourself a favor and actually read them. If you’re outside someone’s age or location range, don’t make contact. If you’re a pet lover and a profile catches your eye, don’t reach out if that person is allergic to cats. Reading online dating profiles thoroughly may take a bit of time, but in the long run, it’s going to make your search for that perfect someone a lot more efficient.

3. Be Careful What You Say and Who You Say It To

Don’t automatically assume that people on a particular dating website don’t converse with one another. If you’re telling one individual what a party animal you are but you try to come off as a homebody to attract another, you might get caught dead in your tracks.

4. Cast a Broad Net in Your Search

Rather than looking for reasons not to reach out to people, try to find things that do attract you to them. Contact anyone you might share common interests with and see where it goes. If you’ve never been attracted to brunettes, loosen up a bit. If you think you’d never date an avid sports fan, give it a shot. You never know what type of person you might fall for and the content of online profiles is limited by nature, so send messages to some folks the computer may not automatically match you with and you might just surprise yourself.

5. Consider a Paid Membership Over Free Websites

Going with one of the free dating websites like Plenty of Fish might seem like a no-brainer instead of paying for a membership with Match, but generally members of paid websites are more serious about finding a relationship. Your results aren’t guaranteed either way, but you could find yourself wasting a lot of time if you don’t consider shelling out a few bucks for a short-term subscription.

6. Make Your First Message Original

Don’t simply write up a stock introduction and copy and paste it to all candidates. Instead, get an idea of how you want to present yourself and zero in on something in each member’s profile to comment on. If you work in similar industries, mention that. If you have a common hobby, break the ice that way. A lot of members can spot generic messages pretty easily and many won’t respond to them at all. Most importantly, don’t make your first message something as pedestrian as “Hi.” It’s not too hard to come up with a more engaging intro than that.

7. Cut to the Chase as Quickly as Possible

Don’t fall into the trap of endless email conversations or mindless texts that drag on for days. After a few electronic messages, ask to speak on the phone. Have some brief conversations and then request a date. Finding a suitable partner takes time, so it’s important to meet a candidate as quickly as possible to see if there’s a spark.

8. Be Up Front About Your Intentions

If all you’re looking for is a roll in the hay, say so tactfully. If you prefer to be friends first long before any romance, mention that as well. There’s no need to hide your intentions – they’re eventually going to come out.

9. Don’t Stalk Members If You Don’t Receive a Response

If you message someone you think is a perfect match for you, do not obsess if you don’t receive an email in return. Everyone is different and if someone’s just not into you, simply move on to greener pastures.

10. Avoid the Urge to Get Your Hopes Up

It can be very easy to believe you’ve found “the one” based simply on a profile, but avoid the urge to get your hopes up until you meet in person. That’s when the rubber meets the road. Building up high expectations beforehand may just be setting yourself up for failure. Be patient and cautious and take things one step at a time.

11. Be Careful When Divulging Personal Information

Be very careful about any personal information you divulge, especially before you’ve met in person. Identity thieves peruse dating websites, which means it’s important to keep your guard up at all times. Use a separate email address that contains no identifiable personal information until you’ve met and determined that this is a real person with the right intentions.

12. Don’t Go Overboard on a First Date

If you get to the point of a personal meeting, don’t drop a wad of cash on the first date. Instead, keep things low-key and low-cost – there’s nothing wrong with meeting for a walk in the park or grabbing a latte at Starbucks, as cliché as that might sound. If you get into the habit of spending big bucks each and every time you score a date, your budget is going to feel the pinch.

Online dating is convenient, in some cases free, and it’s a great way to meet people if you’re a busy professional – but don’t forget to venture out into the real world, too. Believe it or not, not every single person is a member of an online dating website. Get more sociable at the gym, involve yourself in your community, and get out more often with your friends. That way, you improve your overall chances of finding that special someone.

What mistakes have you made in the course of your online dating activities?

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Featured photo credit: Pretty young woman using mobile phone internetvia Shutterstock

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