How to start an online dating business: 5 simple steps

In the age of internet dating and match up apps, finding someone love can now help you find success...

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Recent figures from the office of national statistics show that 51% of people in England and Wales are single. Combine this with an online dating industry that, according to Mintel, will be worth £165m by 2019 and you could have a perfect business match.

However, you won’t be alone. The dating market is becoming increasingly crowded. Thanks to market-leader Tinder – and new entrants like Dragon-backed Double – a whole host of dating apps have sprung up and the industry is undergoing a drastic shift from the more traditional monthly paid subscription sites to freemium apps.

With a busy market you’ll need a clear USP and a realistic revenue model. Plus, due to the obvious sensitive nature of dating, huge emphasis must be placed on a professional, secure and transparent product. But, if you’ve think you’ve got an idea that could take the modern dating world by storm, there’s still plenty of opportunities to set up a successful online dating site. Read our five simple steps to start your love affair with online dating now.

1. Find a niche market

One of the most important elements in any successful business is identifying your target market. With an array of established market leaders, it’s incredibly important that you offer a unique service that sets you apart from competitors. Setting up a site for specific tastes or fetishes is a good way of establishing a target audience and finding a gap in the market.

For example, Tastebuds matches users on their music tastes while Uniform Singles is tailored for people who work in the military or emergency services. Think about what characteristics or tastes you could hone in on. Obviously, it’s essential you carry out market research so that you make sure your perfect niche hasn’t already been done. A simple google search or even word-on-the-street vox pop can be very useful.

2. Create a welcoming environment

Regardless of the dating preferences of your site’s visitors, it’s important to remember its members are all human beings with feelings and emotions. While no doubt people’s profiles will show them in a confident light, many might be nervous first-time users or people hurt from previous bad experiences.

Create a welcoming, user-friendly environment that makes online dating a fun experience. Allow people to express themselves and don’t judge. Word-of-mouth will be crucial for attracting members so it’s important to create an app or site that people will want to encourage their friends to join.

3. Understand the importance of software

While all you physically need is a computer, understanding software and website building (or working with someone who does) is paramount to the success of the business.

In truth, the construction of the website or app will probably require support from an experienced web builder and you may also need to outsource core functions such as e-commerce, instant messaging, moderation and spam detection. An amateur looking site will not attract many users and may also instil a sense of distrust among potential members.

4. Don’t expect everyone to pay

If you’re planning to charge a monthly subscription, it’s worth offering a free trial for the first few users. Otherwise, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, because no-one will want to use the site if there aren’t people on there (but it will be difficult to attract paid users initially). Throughout your website’s lifespan, it’s also important to roll out limited time offers and discounts to grow your membership base. For example, members of match.com receive a month’s free membership if they haven’t “found love” within six months while new subscribers to dating direct receive three days’ unlimited membership for free. Furthermore, with website design fees being quite expensive and the potential of high traffic early on quite low, you will probably have to wait quite a while for a significant return on your investment.

Naturally, the amount you’ll be able to charge will depend on the demographic of your target audience. For example, if your site is your older professionals you may be able to charge a higher fee than one targeted towards a younger age.

As mentioned above, you may also need to consider a freemium model as reports show that only 15% of people pay for online dating services currently. If you do give access to your app or site for free – you’ll need to think about other ways to make money. If users don’t need to pay to join, what add-ons or extras might they be enticed to pay for? Or is there affiliate partnerships or advertising revenue you can go after?

5. Join the trade association

While not compulsory, it would be advantageous to join the Association of British Introduction Agencies (ABIA). It can help provide you with support and advice and your membership will give your clients confidence. To be a member of the ABIA you need to adhere to a strict code of practice. The code details what is expected of both client and agency (in terms of data handling, advertising and complaints) so everyone is fully informed from the beginning.

For a more detailed guide on how to start an online dating business click here.

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