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I would suggest you only buy into a one month membership with any new dating service you join. If you decide you like it, then extend your membership. If you don't like service, you've cut your loses, and avoided hassles of requesting a refund, or canceling billing.
Tight Budget Dating Tip: Most free dating sites have low activity, and member activity is what makes personals and dating sites tick.
Solution: Join 3, 4 or more free dating sites. If you find that their combined activity serves your needs... you're good to go. If not, you'll have gained a good familiarity with online dating, and a better understanding of what you want, when and if you decide to plunk down some bucks for a paid membership.
Telling Your Pool-Side Story
Now write your story (aka: member profile). No great detail, just write like you're writing to man or woman you seek.
Write a little about you. State one or more of your unique qualities. Write a little about person you're seeking.
You'll save some time if you write and save all your profile data to a text editor or word processor file. Then, you can COPY and PASTE it to proper area of your online dating profile.
As things change, and as you grow, you will want to update and modify your profile statements.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
You will generally get 3 to 10 times better response with a posted photo than without. People don't generally dwell too long on profiles with no photos... so take hint.
If you don't have a digital camera, web cam or scanner, take a few photos and a diskette to your local OfficeDepot, Staple or office supply store. They should be able to scan you photos to diskette. Then you can easily add one or more to your dating site profile. You could also ask friends and relatives who own a digital camera or scanner.
Digital cameras, web cams, and scanners are very inexpensive these days. Check eBay for some of best deals.
Stay Focused and On-Track
You may want to start a journal, (on paper, or in a text file) to log your "love search" progress. Make notes of URL links of sites you liked, new member specials, monthly fees, member benefits and services, restrictions, etc.
When I first started, I also wrote out a statement describing what I wanted to accomplish by joining a dating site. You may want to do same. These statements, and a journal will help keep you focused and organized. Organized endeavors always yield greater results than haphazard approaches.
This is actually part of title of an upcoming article, but I mention it here to stress use of common sense, safety and caution when dealing with ANY dating situation - on or offline.
Now... jump in your skivvies and take dive!
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C Raymond Merrick, owner of Dating Secrets at: http://dating.niche-links.com/ Visit and discover some of the best dating tips, information, free and fun dating and personals resources available.