Online Dating Is So Popular It’s Sparking New Side Gigs. (Yes, They Pay.)
Dating has gone digital.
The budding trend became the undisputed norm as the pandemic pushed most folks indoors and slowed down in-person activities where you might organically meet another single person. (How quaint.)
Throughout the pandemic, the popularity of dating apps like Bumble, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge and Tinder has skyrocketed, according to the New York Times.
And that popularity is only expected to grow, as it’s peak “cuffing season,” the coldest part of the year where singles want to pair up. Each year the season culminates with “Dating Sunday,” the first Sunday of the New Year when activity on dating apps explodes.
“Online dating is the mainstream way to meet and start dating,” said Dawoon Kang, the CEO of Coffee Meets Bagel.
That shift has come swiftly. For many, the anxiety of dating is amplified by the fear of committing a digital faux pas. (We matched! Should I message first or wait for them? It’s been five minutes. OK, I’m just going to go for it. Wait — what should I say?)
Even seasoned online daters are going through a bit of burnout. Throw in scores of new dating apps and new pandemic etiquette, and it can be hard to keep up. To help people navigate the ever-changing world of romance, dating-adjacent jobs — yes, actual jobs — are cropping up.
“Singles are exhausted with today’s swipe-based culture. Some may be looking for guidance, reassurance, or just a standout profile,” Kang said.
4 Dating Jobs Fueled by the Popularity of Apps
Here are four legit ways people are making money in the flourishing world of online dating.
1. Dating Profile Consultants
Move over, Yente from Fiddler on the Roof.
Virtual dating assistants — think of them as modern-day matchmakers — typically start with a pulsecheck on their clients’ dating profiles, making sure their bios and profile pictures are up to par.
“Ten years ago, my profession wouldn’t have even been an option,” Meredith Golden, a professional matchmaker aka the “Tinder Whisperer,” told The Penny Hoarder.
After a career in psychotherapy, Golden started a dating service in 2016 dubbed SpoonMeetSpoon, which offers dating services ranging from a one-time payment of $300 to a subscription service that costs $2,000 per month. For lower-end services, Golden will create or jazz up a dating profile and impart a few conversation starters. For “The Whole Shebang,” she does all the work. Swiping. Messaging. Setting up the date.
This type of work is in demand. Dating can feel like a full-time job, especially when juggling multiple conversations across multiple apps. Within three days of launching her business, Golden received 8,700 hits.
If launching a consulting business of your own sounds a little too high stakes, start smaller by freelancing on websites like Fiverr and Upwork.
Dating app assistance is especially trendy on Fiverr. Freelancers list their services between $5 and $125, offering services like ghostwriting and full-on profile management.
2. Dating Profile Photographers
What good is a dating profile without several high-quality photos? While some people use whatever pictures they have floating around social media, others let the pros work their magic.
It’s similar to using professional headshots for LinkedIn. Singles want to put their best photo forward. Demand for dating-profile photography has driven the success of Hey Saturday and Tinder Photography, two businesses that shoot only dating-profile photos.
Cashing in on that demand requires a bit of leg work, and starting a photography gig is no easy feat. So why limit yourself to dating profile photos? Well, you don’t have to. But in a field as oversaturated as photography, finding a niche can help you stand out from your competition.
Dating apps themselves act as client referrals. What better way to get a sense of who has grainy profile pics than to use the dating apps that match you with people in your area?
Another way to find clients is to sign up to photography networks. Dating-service company Vida Select contracts photographers and stylists across the U.S. to spruce up people’s profiles. Snapr, an on-demand photography marketplace, likewise connects photographers with clients seeking high-quality dating-profile photos.
3. Catfish Private Investigators
Private investigators are nothing new. The profession has been around for nearly two centuries, but online dating culture has created a shift in the work private eyes do.
According to the FTC, online romance scams are on the rise. The practice is referred to as “catfishing,” when someone misrepresents themselves online to earn the trust of someone else, usually in a romantic context.
Instead of tracking down missing persons or nailing insurance fraudsters in traditional cases, private eyes increasingly use their skills to find who exactly is behind a dating profile. Is it really a multimillionaire model who owns a private island in the Carribean? Or is that person catfishing? The International Counterintelligence Service, a private investigation firm founded in 1967, dedicates several pages of its website to highlight how catfish investigations work.
Private eyes may be an age-old job, but they’re not going away any time soon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is expected to grow 8% by 2029 ― much faster than the average profession. And P.I. salaries clock in at just over $50,000.
4. Date-Night Host on Airbnb Experiences
Planning a romantic evening is tough work. Some daters are opting to let others do it for them.
Airbnb Experiences is a ripe platform to attract dating couples with tailor-made date nights. Airbnb launched the Experiences feature in 2016. Trends in date-night listings are newer still.
If you’re not familiar with Experiences, it’s a way to make money by hosting a unique activity. Think guided meditation on the beach or a craft beer pub crawl that showcases your town’s microbrews.
Or your listing could be a curated date-night that features hands-on cooking with local cuisine. Lucia Celi, a chef in San Diego, overtly targets couples and daters with her listing titled “Date Night Cooking Class.” In her Experience, she hosts a two-hour Italian cooking class where couples prepare their own pasta dishes and tiramisu from scratch. She charges $60 per person — 20% of which goes to Airbnb.
Experiences should broadly fit into one of these categories: art and culture, entertainment, food and drink, nature, sports or wellness. Once you’ve got a good idea (that adheres to CDC social-distancing guidelines), submit it to Airbnb for approval.
As online dating continues to popularize, Kang of Coffee Meets Bagel expects dating-related jobs will too.
“A lot of us learn to connect with others behind our phones and can find it hard to build connections in real life… Get[ting] to know each other initially over a digital device can be hard,” she said. “And yes, more singles will be open to getting help.”
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.