Almost universally, men’s online dating user descriptions are terrible. Madeleine Holden recently launched a modest enterprise to help.
A little over a month ago, I launched my latest, semi-serious side hustle: for the princely sum of $25, I will draft men’s Tinder or Bumble bios for them. Soon after I dashed off the tweet that started the venture, my Gmail app began pinging me push notifications, and I opened it to find that sincere requests for help were trickling into my inbox. “I could really use a new take on my dating bio,” read one. “Found your offer on Twitter for men in need of online love bios. Is the same offer valid for ladies?” asked another.
The genesis of the idea went like this: I was working on a freelance writing assignment at the time – a men’s guide to using Bumble – when my editor requested that I screenshot the wittiest and most engaging bios to use as illustrative guides. Swiping left at pace, and staring down the barrel of a rapidly-approaching deadline, I found myself coming up short. The bulk of the bios I encountered were either blank or contained nothing but the user’s height in feet and inches; some were lengthy shopping lists of desired female features; and most of the rest employed tired, samey joke formulas (“✭✭✭✭✭ – my mum”). I found a grand total of three (3) decent efforts and emailed them to my editor, along with the copy and a sheepish apology for my selection (“Sorry, it was slim pickings”). Soon after, I took to Twitter in an attempt to monetise the shortfall, and the rest, as they say, is (very recent) history.
I have a bit of a track record for experiments like these. Almost five years ago, I launched Critique My Dick Pic, an initiative born of roughly the same dynamic: I noticed that straight, cisgender men were doing something badly, and I thought that I could help them do it better. Like Critique My Dick Pic, drafting bios ended up widening beyond the narrow subset of men I originally targeted (I do create bios for women, and anyone else who might need one), but drafting a dating app bio is a more difficult assignment than picking apart a thoughtless nude. For a start, I need to get to know the subject quickly, a task I usually tackle by accessing their social media and entering into a brief back-and-forth about who they are, what they’re looking for and how they’re already presenting themselves, if at all. Then I need to sum up all those elements in a way that avoids the droning, wishlist quality of the worst dating app bios, usually in a fairly short time frame.
Without putting any of my customers on blast or revealing too many trade secrets (lol), there’s a baseline formula that I build from and tweak in most cases, which is roughly as follows:
“I’m [summarise subject in best possible light] looking for [describe dream partner] for [clarify nature of relationship]”, plus an engaging one-liner, pre-emptive date invitation and/or ice-breaker to seal the right-swipe.
Not exactly rocket science, I know, but the framing and tone needs to be carefully honed for each individual and their circumstances, and it’s crucial to hit the sweet spot between frustrating reticence and waffling, emoji-riddled screeds; both of which are common mistakes in the Tinder trenches. A degree of objectivity also goes a long way in this area: regardless of how clever my customers are, they’re always grateful to be able to put this particular task in someone else’s hands, because drafting one’s own dating app bio is pretty much a universally loathed and cringeworthy experience. Distilling your desirability in fewer than 500 characters lands most people somewhere between staring blankly into the fridge and an existential crisis, so it can help to have a neutral third party take the pain out of it.
Which brings me to the part that everyone’s usually most curious about: the money. Am I making money out of doing this? Yes. Is it much more than minimum wage as an hourly rate, factoring in the erratic nature of the work and level of research required? I don’t know, but I’m trailing off distantly and staring into the sun now. However, as The Spinoff’s own Leonie Hayden said to me recently, this is God’s work, and so the money isn’t really the point. And while drafting dating app bios is clearly not the sort of honest-to-goodness God’s work that nurses or union organisers do, it’s a tinkering improvement of (mostly) heterosexual interactions of a kind that has become my accidental forte, and it’s made a fair few people happy so far.
A staggering range of people have approached me – old, young, bisexual, asexual, techies, musicians – but I have to say that none have been especially difficult cases. Some have specific fetishes they’re looking to indulge and others are dipping their toes into the dating scene for the first time since the end of a long relationship, but all of them have been thoughtful, cooperative and eminently dateable. There’s been a tangible sense that we’re both entering into a good-faith project; a brief encounter in which they lay bare the details of their daily lives and most private romantic desires, and I do my best to help them put their best foot forward on their dating app of choice. It’s fascinating to be privy to a wide range of people’s most intimate hopes and vulnerabilities, and humbling to be able to help in whatever small way I can. I’ve certainly done crappier jobs.