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Are Matchmakers Better At Online Dating Than The Rest of Us?

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Erika Ettin, founder of A Little Nudge, an online dating matchmaking service based in D.C.
Lauren Ober/WAMU
Erika Ettin, founder of A Little Nudge, an online dating matchmaking service based in D.C.

Erika Ettin is excellent at online dating -- if she does say so herself. Her dance card is pretty well booked between now and forever. 

That makes sense, since Ettin makes her living helping other people get dates. The 33-year-old is the matchmaker behind A Little Nudge, a D.C.-based company that guides folks as they navigate this whole online dating thing. Her business began casually.

"My friends started coming to me, well, what are you doing that I'm not doing? So I just started writing their profiles and I thought, I wonder if I can turn this into a business," she says. "And almost three years ago to the day, I quit my job at Fannie Mae and started the business and I couldn't be happier. "

Ettin, a Cornell-trained economist with an MBA from Georgetown, ditched her job at the government-sponsored mortgage giant and struck out as kind of dating intermediary for the digital age. She now helps clients from their twenties to their seventies write better online profiles, select more flattering photos and even reach out to potential dates.

"I'd say most of the people who read the profiles say, Wow, it really sounds like me. And gosh, that's the best compliment I could get," she says.

But why would someone pay a matchmaker when he or she could just get a friend to help out?

"What I add is I meet with every client for an hour. And in that hour, I really get to know you and I really get to know what you're looking for," Ettin says. "And I look at you objectively, whereas you're obviously biased towards yourself. But I'm not. So I want to make sure you're putting your best foot forward, but in a way that makes you really stand out."

Here are some of Ettin's pro tips for online dating:

  1. Be specific. If you like to cook, explain in your profile what you like to cook and perhaps why. If you like to visit museums, which ones?
  2. Use bullet points. People have short attention spans anymore, so try to capture their interest with a couple of specific points about you, in addition to a narrative.
  3. Leave some profile questions blank. If you don't like the prompts that the online dating site gives you, don't fill them out. 
  4. Less is more, in terms of photos. Only use between three to five photos on your profile. That way you lessen the chances that someone won't like one of the photos. 
  5. Crop your friends out. Select photos that show only you, not your friends, your former partners or your neighbor's baby.  
  6. Make your user name stand out. Try to come up with a punchy, clever user name that will capture someone's attention and possibly spark a conversation.
  7. Reach out. If someone's online profile is intriguing, send a message that indicates that your read and enjoyed it.  Don't send generic or stock messages. 
  8. Get to the date. Try not to message or text a lot before meeting up with someone from online. Exchange a couple of e-mails and then go out. 
  9. Mind your Ps and Qs. D.C. is a small city and you could easily run into your date again, so be courteous. Follow-up thank yous via e-mail or text go a long way. 
  10. Have fun. Online dating doesn't have to be serious, or the end all, be all. Use it as a chance to broaden your horizons and meet some interesting people along the way.

"Matchmaker, Matchmaker" by Ella Fitzgerald from Whisper Not

Some sample online dating messages:

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