How To Start Online Dating, If You’ve Never Done It Before

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The Beginner’s Guide To Using Online Dating Sites & Apps (Like OKCupid, Match Or Tinder) To Meet Men

Are you ready to find love online? Great!

Online dating sites (like OKCupid, Match and eHarmony) and dating apps (like Tinder and Bumble) are both easy and accessible. But, for the best results, there are strategies that can help you meet people online so you can connect with "the one" faster.

Plus, when you know what to do and what to expect when it comes to dating online, you'll feel more confident and in control of the process.

RELATED: Is Love A Click Away? The Ultimate Guide To Online Dating Sites

Single women take a variety of different approaches to dating on the web. Many write something quickly, post a few pictures they already have, and boom! They start messaging.

Others take more time to carefully craft an online dating profile, have professional photos taken, and then embark on the journey. And there are methods in between, as well.

However, knowing what online dating tips work before you create your profile can definitely makes things a lot easier.

Here are 9 ways to start using online dating sites and apps if you've never done it before.

1. Take great photos.

If you want your profile to get enough attention, you need awesome photos.

So wear an outfit you feel fabulous in and snap a few pics. Something you might wear on a 5th date with a man you're truly excited to see again. A little sex appeal goes a long way to make you feel desirable, and men respond well to that kind of confidence (in pictures and in person, too).

Don't cut people out of your pictures — that's just tacky. And you want to be alone in the photo — other women will distract men from looking at you! And no sunglasses in your photos, unless you have others without them.

You need at least one full body shot when you look your best, a couple of casual shots, and something fun to start a conversation. This can be an action shot from outdoor activities or something silly like goat yoga!

Avoid overly sexy shots so you don’t send the wrong message. Remember: Less is more.

2. Write an entertaining online dating profile.

Knowing how to write an online dating profile that appeals to men can be tricky, but the key is to keep it — about 300 words or less. People have short attention spans, so a long profile will get skipped over.

Avoid listing typical activities women like — such as walking on the beach, going out to eat, or sitting in front of a fire — or naming hobbies and personality traits you don't like.

Instead, focus on what you DO want in a partner, and keep it positive versus talking about who need not apply.

Start with a description of yourself. Think about things you like that interest most men — they often look for commonality (that doesn't usually include the ballet, trying new cuisine, or chick flicks).

Next, describe the qualities you want in a partner and mention what you would like to do together.

To get the most attention, paint a fun picture of your life. Avoid demanding language like "must love dogs" or "couch potatoes need not apply". That works in the movies, but not online or the apps because men want to meet a woman who is easy to get along with. Also, steer clear of long lists of adjectives or activities. They're boring.

Wrap up with the kind of relationship you want. If you want to get married, say so! Let men self-select and opt out to save you time and heartbreak.

3. Choose an online dating site or app that you like.

I'm a fan of using the biggest sites because they offer you the most prospects and choices.

Match is one of the biggest sites, by far. Other larger sites include Zoosk, eHarmony, and the two freebies, PlentyofFish and OkCupid.

Keep in mind that each site has its own quirks. For example, Zoosk might attract a younger user base and be geographically swayed to the West, whereas Match is big everywhere.

For online dating apps, Bumble gives the woman control because you must initiate messaging. Depending on where you live, CoffeeMeetsBagel offers one match a day — but you only get 24 hours to connect or you lose it.

Hinge is big in New York City and other metropolitan areas. And let’s not forget Tinder, which is available around the world.

4. Reach out and respond to messages. 

Once your profile is approved, you can start engaging with men!

Check your inbox daily. In today's world of instant gratification, some people are impatient with online dating and apps so you have 24-hours — at most — to respond.

And just like milk, attraction has a shelf-life. If you have a pile of unanswered messages, forget anything that's over a few days old.

Don't be afraid to reach out and connect with men you find interesting.

Use the site’s search function to look for men who meet your criteria. Or, with online dating apps, swipe until you find some hunky guys you want to meet.

For a first message, pick something from his profile or photos that makes you curious and ask one question. Keep it short, simple, and humorous, if possible. Say something like, "I see you like to camp. Me too. What’s your favorite spot?"

Don't tell him how much you like his profile — that’s obvious since you wrote to him. Or how much you have in common — that's for him to decide.

And don't try to qualify him, find out what he does for work, or how long he's been divorced. When you start grilling him before you meet, he'll lose interest fast.

RELATED: The 11 Best Dating Apps For People Who Still Believe In True Love

5. Talk on the phone, first.

Some people feel this step is unnecessary, but how can you meet someone without hearing his voice and finding out if he seems a bit off? Don't skip this opportunity to do more screening.

Just keep your call short. You don't need more than 15 or 20-minutes to decide if you want to meet a guy or not.

Let's say you're having an amazing conversation. You may be tempted to let it go longer or even have a second or third call before meeting. The problem is, you'll start thinking you know him better than you do, and many women get attached before meeting!

Avoid this at all costs. If you're seeking lasting love, you must remain objective, so you don't get involved with a man who can’t meet your criteria and needs.

To get from messaging to the phone call, sometimes you'll have to take the initiative — this is one of the only times where I think it's OK to say, “Let's have a conversation. Are you free to talk now?”

Also, at the end of the call, if the man doesn't ask you out, but you feel like you connected, you can suggest a meeting. Try, “It was great talking to you. Why don't we have a glass of wine (a beer or cup of coffee) to see if there’s any chemistry?”

The reason this is OK, is because your first meeting is not a real date. In fact, lots of people refer to it as “date zero". It’s just a chemistry check.

If a man wants to see you again ‚ let him initiate from here. Why? That is the only way you can find out if he likes you. His interest will be obvious if asks you out again and how quickly he does it.

6. Enjoy "date zero".

At your first meeting, simply focus on having an enjoyable conversation.

Pay attention to your compatibility. Did you get each other's sense of humor? Did the conversation flow and feel comfortable? Was it fun?

Don't barrage him with pointed questions about why he's still single or try to figure out how much money he makes. This is confrontational and could easily make your date feel defensive.

See if you enjoy his company before you dive into investigating. After all, he’s qualifying you too, and if you aren't fun to be with, there won’t be a second date.

Not sure what you to talk about? That’s easy — the fun stuff! When you discover his passions and how he likes to spend his free time, you'll see a man at his best and the same is true for you.

Great topics include hobbies, sports, exercise, vacation, movies, TV, books, music, food, restaurants, and activities.

7. Keep the date short.

A great date zero is relatively short. An hour to 90 minutes is plenty of time. You may be tempted to let it go on for hours if you feel a connection, but it's not a good idea.

Leave something to learn about each other the next time. This way, he'll be left wanting MORE of you, and you won't say anything you’ll regret because you got too comfortable.

Another good rule of thumb for date zero is to limit your drinks to one or two. Getting tipsy will not make a good first impression, and you only get one chance.

8. Manage your expectations.

The purpose of dating is to meet men and discover if you are compatible. That’s how you know who you want to invest more time with. Stay objective, and expect men to not call again and disappear.

Some men text a lot after a first date (and sometimes before), but don't be fooled. If more than 10 days go by and a man doesn't ask you out, he's not going to and he's not serious about you.

Stop texting and move on because there are plenty of other men out there!

Texting means nothing — and neither does what a man says in person. He might talk about future plans for the two of you and suggest things you might do. Don't be taken in by sweet talk — only his action to spend time with you matters.

That means, if he doesn't set up the date or keep the date, he's not that into you.

9. Leverage the tools of modern dating.

Online dating and online dating apps are the best tools available today to connect with and meet singles.

You can also meet men at upscale restaurant bars, sports bars, singles events, and just about anywhere men go. But the fastest way to start meeting single men is through the web.

Once you learn how to leverage online dating websites and apps to get the best results, you'll be on your way to meeting the man of your dreams.

Write a great online dating profile, make sure your photos are awesome and have fun with the process.

The more you can find ways to enjoy it, the more you'll attract the kind of quality man that matches your heart's desire.

RELATED: Dating Mistakes Women Make On Online Dating Sites That Keep Them Single

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Ronnie Ann Ryan is a Love & Dating Coach. For over 17 years, she has helped smart, successful single gals with hot careers (but a chilly love life) find lasting love. Get her free audio program and discover 12 first date mistakes that ruin your chances for love.