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How to Start a Dating Service
Everybody wants to find love, but people are busy these days and don’t always have time to get out and meet people. Thankfully, dating apps and websites have emerged in recent years to make match-making easier than ever.
Today, the U.S. dating industry is worth $5.9 billion, and it’s grown by 11.3 percent each year since 2017. The number of American online daters is expected to reach 53.3 million by 2025, making now the perfect time to launch a dating service.
But before you start playing matchmaker, it’s important to learn the ins and outs of developing and starting a business. Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide contains all the insight and info you need to start your successful dating service.
Time to build
Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You
Pros and cons
It’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of starting a dating service before deciding whether to go all in:
- Work From Anywhere – Run your dating service from your laptop
- Rewarding – Help people find the perfect partner!
- Good Money – Dating service profit margins are high
- Member Turnover – Frequent sign ups and cancellations
- Tech-dependent – Revenue can plummet with website or app issues
Dating Services industry trends
Industry size and growth
- Industry size and past growth – The U.S. dating services industry is worth $5.9 billion after growing 11.3 % each of the last five years.https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/market-size/dating-services-united-states/
- Growth forecast – The global online dating industry is expected to grow 6.9 % per year by 2028.https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-online-dating-market
- Number of businesses – In 2022, there were 594 dating services businesses operating in the U.S.https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/dating-services-united-states/
Trends and challenges
Trends in the dating services industry include
- Many dating sites and apps are adding social media features, like interactive trivia games and picture sharing capabilities, to allow users to connect in a more meaningful way.
- Niche dating services — such as Biker Planet and Farmersonly.com — are becoming more popular with singles.
Challenges in the dating services industry include
- The rise of online dating is an opportunity for scammers, which means users have to be careful and has resulted in reduced trust of these services.
- Dating services generally have a high rate of customer turnover. People tend to come and go as they find matches or tire of using the app.
Online dating site and app usage by age range
Here are the percentages of online dating service or app users by age range. (2020)
- 18-29 (8%)
- 33-44 (10%)
- 45-54 (4%)
- 54-64 (4%)
- 65 and up (2%)https://financesonline.com/online-dating-statistics/
How much does it cost to start a dating service?
Starting a dating service costs anywhere from $1,600 to $8,000. How much you spend will depend on the software and marketing budget. To compete with established players like Match.com and eHarmony, it’s important to spend on smart marketing to stand out from the competition.
To learn how to build and grow a successful dating service, websites like Udemy offer affordable online courses.
You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your dating service, including:
- Dating services software
- Logo and branding
|Start-up Costs||Ballpark Range||Average|
|Licenses and permits||$100-$300||$200|
|Marketing and advertising||$1000-$5000||$3500|
|Dating Services Software||$100-$1000||$500|
How much can you earn from a dating service?
Dating service membership usually costs around $35 per month. If you offer coaching sessions or in-person events, you may be able to charge more. Most of your ongoing expenses will be related to marketing and technology, so expect around a 90% profit margin.
In your first year or two, your marketing efforts could generate 150 subscribers. At $35 each every month, this would mean $63,000 in annual revenue and a profit of about $58,000, assuming that 90% margin. As you build a reputation and gain referrals, you’ll likely need to hire staff, lowering your margin to around 75%. But with 300 subscribers you could expect annual revenue of $126,000 and an impressive profit of $94,000.
What barriers to entry are there?
One of the biggest challenges in the dating services industry is competition. Most of the market share is held by large companies, like Bumble, Match.com and Tinder.
Step 2: Hone Your Idea
Now that you know what’s involved in starting a dating service, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market.
Why? Identify an opportunity
Research dating services online and in your area to examine their services, price points, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the local market is missing a dating service for the LGBT community or divorcees.
You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as a dating site specific to your city or for people with a certain interest, such as RVs or with children. This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away.
What? Determine your products or services
When it comes to your dating service’s offerings, you have several options. You could offer all of the below, a combination, or just choose to focus on one.
- Monthly membership to an exclusive app or website
- 1:1 matchmaking coaching
- Hosting in-person mixers or speed dating events
- Online courses to develop dating confidence
How much should you charge for dating services?
The average cost of a monthly membership on today’s popular dating websites and apps is $40. The amount you charge will depend on your offerings and subscriptions and other features. After factoring in technology and marketing costs, you should expect a profit margin of around 90%.
Once you know your costs, you can use this Step By Step profit margin calculator to determine your mark-up and final price points. Remember, the prices you use at launch should be subject to change if warranted by the market.
Who? Identify your target market
Your customers will be singles looking for a partner. This demographic is extremely varied, so it’s important to hone in on a specific niche. Decide on your audience first, as that will drive how you’ll find them. For example, if you’d like to work with older adult daters, chances are they’re on Facebook. Younger daters between the ages of 25 and 35 are more likely to hang out on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
Where? Choose your business premises
In the early stages, you may want to run your business from home to keep costs low. But as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire workers for various roles and may need to rent out an office. You can find commercial space to rent in your area on sites such as Craigslist, Crexi, and Instant Offices.
When choosing a commercial space, you may want to follow these rules of thumb:
- Central location accessible via public transport
- Ventilated and spacious, with good natural light
- Flexible lease that can be extended as your business grows
- Ready-to-use space with no major renovations or repairs needed
Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:
- Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
- Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better
- Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
- Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
- Including keywords, such as “online dating” or “match-maker”, boosts SEO
- Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
- Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
- Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.
Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these.
Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.
Step 4: Create a Business Plan
Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:
- Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
- Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
- Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
- Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
- Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
- Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
- Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
- Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
- Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
- Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.
If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.
Step 5: Register Your Business
Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running.
Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business!
Choose where to register your company
Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you are planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to dating services.
If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state.
Choose your business structure
Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your dating service will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely.
Here are the main options:
- Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
- General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
- C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
- S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have.
Step 6: Register for Taxes
The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN.
Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.
The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online. It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you are completing them correctly.
Step 7: Fund your Business
Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:
- Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
- SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
- Angel investors: Reach out to your entire network in search of people interested in investing in early-stage startups in exchange for a stake. Established angel investors are always looking for good opportunities.
- Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
- Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
- Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.
Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a dating service. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept.
Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits
Starting a dating service requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.
Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits.
You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more.
You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.
This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties. If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.
Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account
Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.
Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your dating service as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.
Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account.
Step 10: Get Business Insurance
Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.
Here are some types of insurance to consider:
- General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
- Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
- Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
- Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
- Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
- Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
- Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
- Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.
Step 11: Prepare to Launch
As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business.
Essential software and tools
Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks.
- Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero.
- If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial.
Some of your business will come from word of mouth or online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness.
Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products:
- Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area.
- Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
- Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Sign Up Now”. This can sharply increase clients and subscribers.
- Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers.
Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:
- Competitions and giveaways – Generate interest by offering prizes for customers who complete a certain action, such as sharing one of your social media posts.
- Sponsor events – You can pay to be a sponsor at events that are relevant to your target market.
- Post a video – Post a video about your dating website. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
- Start a blog – Start a blog and post regularly. Change up your content and share on multiple sites.
- Seek out referrals – Offer incentives to generate customer referrals to new clients.
- Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
- Influencer marketing – Pay people with large social media followings to promote your dating services. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
- Testimonials – Share customer testimonials about how your dating site helped them.
Develop your website
Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google.
You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.
Focus on USPs
Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your dating service meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire.
Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your dating service could be:
- Where busy entrepreneurs go to find the perfect match
- The best dating site for bi-curious singles
- A stress-free way to meet soulmates over 60
You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a dating website, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in the online dating industry for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in dating services. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. You might also consider affiliate marketing as a way to build relationships with potential partners and boost business.
Step 12: Build Your Team
If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a dating service include:
- Software Developer: Build and manage your dating app, troubleshoot issues
- Customer Service Associate: Onboard new members, answer inquiries
- General Manager: Bookkeeping, event planning
- Marketing Lead: Manage social media accounts, business development
At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need.
Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent.
Step 13: Start Making Money!
App dating has skyrocketed over the last decade, and it’s only continuing to grow. People of all ages and interests will always be searching for their better half, which means there’s great opportunity in this market. With your own dating service, you could help people meet their true love while carving out your own piece of the lucrative dating industry pie.
Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to put on your matchmaking hat and create your dream business!
Dating Service FAQs
The typical dating website or app has a monthly membership fee of between $20 and $60. The amount you charge depends on how customized your services are and how many members you have on your platform.
Yes, dating services can be extremely profitable. However, it’s important to spend time differentiating yourself from the competition. Consider focusing on a specific niche market to see the most success.
Your state or local governments may require you to obtain a license to run your dating service. Check with your local municipality for specifics or visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.
No specific certification is required to start a dating service. However, if you are interested in offering dating coaching services, you may consider enrolling in programs offered by the Matchmaking Institute.
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