Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Is it luck or work that drives dating success?

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

You probably know someone who met a significant other on an online dating site. And you may have been jealous of that person who seems so happy with a or Bumble boo.

As Guy Raz always asks his entrepreneurs in the podcast “How I Built This,” I’ll ask the same: Was it luck or hard work that led to their happy coupledom? I’d venture to say a little of both.

Online dating — and dating in general — doesn’t come easily, which many people don’t realize. They think they can just throw a mediocre profile up there and wait. That’s like signing up for a gym membership and never setting foot inside the gym. Or they think they can just take that bathroom selfie, upload it, and have loads of success. Nope.

Most things that are important in life — job searching, adopting a pet, even planning a vacation — require a significant amount of work. So why shouldn’t perhaps the most important decision of your life be the same? I contend that it should.

Here are a few common arguments people have about online dating.

“I have no idea how to write about myself.” Or “I’m boring.”

Even if you write for a living, writing about yourself can be a difficult task. As an exercise, I have all my clients come up an adjective to describe themselves and an anecdote to go with it. (The anecdote is the important part.) As an example, my adjective might be “uninhibited,” and my anecdote is I will occasionally dance through an intersection I’m crossing. Do I get weird looks? Sometimes. Do I care? Not in the slightest. I also ask clients what their friends tease them about, whether they have any hidden talents, and where their happy place is. It turns out we are all pretty interesting after all!

“I don’t have any pictures.”

You know there’s a good smile in there somewhere! Less is more when it comes to pictures. A nice close-up smile goes a long way. In addition, potential dates want to see a full body shot, and one of you doing something interesting. Five is the magic number of photos to post, except on Hinge, which requires six. If you don’t have any, ask a friend to take a few. Or even hire a photographer for an outdoor photo shoot.

“I’m not attracting the people I want to attract.”


Here’s the thing: You can’t base all your online dating success — or lack thereof — on who reaches out to you. You need to reach out to people too. In the end, you don’t know what the person you’re looking to attract is looking for in return, so all you can do is be yourself.

“I don’t know what to say in my messages.”

Just write something short and sweet, taking into account both your personality and something from their profile. Let’s say, for example, you find a profile in which the user mentions that baking. You could send this message:

"You’re a baker, huh? Looking for a taste-tester? I happen to have gotten my skills making too many brownies as a kid!"

A friendly question is the perfect way to spark a conversation.

“All of my conversations seem to fizzle out.”

Line up a date sooner rather than later, before it has a chance to fizzle! Momentum is key.

It doesn’t seem so bad anymore, right? It’s true that dating takes work. And it’s also true that some people are lucky. But my philosophy is that hard work leads to luck, meaning if you put in the work, you’re setting yourself up to get a great outcome.

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC