When dating sites mix business & pleasure

businesscardfinalPete Langman networks while he flirts…

The key to success in business, or so they say, is building relationships, and the best networkers flirt their way into contact folders, tease out business cards and coquettishly demand direct lines.

I made an interesting connection recently. It began in the usual fashion. First contact. An introductory email. Formal, at first, then gradually, maybe a little furtively, the flirtation began. After a week, perhaps a few days more, we made an appointment. Arriving at the hotel-cum-golf club pretty much simultaneously, we parked, alighted and embraced, perhaps a little stiffly. ‘Shall we?’ she asked-cum-proposed, motioning towards the club house. I nodded and we walked towards the sprawling mess of a pseudo-ski chalet that held within it the bar and the promise of distinctly average coffee and the mystery that is the serving of an ‘americano, black’ with a small pot of milk.

We paused in the lobby, and she spoke, smiling: “I do a lot of business here and we didn’t meet on a dating website.” Whether we simply didn’t fancy each other enough, or whether it was the aura that hung over our meeting place like a fug of perfume, what we talked was business. We quizzed each other on attitudes to work, self-development, newsletter style, and a bunch more exciting stuff. This wasn’t hardcore self-selling, though ironically that’s what a dating website demands, just networking with some low-level sexual frisson. Very low-level. We didn’t discuss each other, what we wanted, our first kiss … all the stuff you’re meant to on a date.

A first date is always an interview. Your CV has passed muster, and it’s time to up the ante. The two parties arrive, jostle for position, and the interrogation begins. It pretty much comes down to the one question: “Tell me why I should hire you.”

Two hours later I had agreed to look at a recent newsletter she’d sent out that hadn’t elicited the desired response, and we’d tentatively arranged a second date: a networking event later that week.

The boundaries are blurring. Sites such as LinkedIn offer ways of hooking up with mutual contacts – they allow for introductions, just like matchmaking couples setting two places at dinner parties for their favourite singletons. By way of contrast, I’ve just been invited to my first speed-networking event and I recently attending a brutal mash-up of X Factor and Blind Date organised by Foyles and literary agents Curtis Brown. At this ‘discovery day’, 150 or so aspiring writers got seven minutes to buttonhole an agent in search of a second date: you know what they say about first impressions.

Dating websites, eanwhile, are turning into networking hubs.
On one site, a profile suggesting that the gentlemen on the site might consider getting professional photographs done represented a photographer. On another, the section You should message me if read “you want to be my publisher”. It’d make a great PR hook. Or a chick lit book.

For my sins, I’ve been ‘online’ for some time now. I’ve met several women. Amongst the ones I got on with (and no, I’m not telling you how well), I count a tiler, painter and a PR whizz, to name but three: second-hand contacts have included a printer and an electrician. In my turn, I have provided copywriting services, re-written reports and job applications (current success with obtaining interviews? 100%), acted as management consultant, dispensed professional advice and acted as facilitator. And I’ve had a lot of fun.

I’m not on dating websites for business, I’m on them for pleasure, but as a freelance writer I always have one ear to the ground. I’m starting to think it’s time to be rather more proactive:
Writer, WLTM commissioning editor.
Now then, where would one of those hang out? Guardian Soulmates? Plenty of Fish? OK Cupid? Match.com … Let’s see …

Pete Langman is a writer who lives on the South Coast. The irony is, he placed this article through someone he met … online. They are now just good friends/lovers/not on speaking terms (hey, I’m not telling you everything).

© Pete Langman 2014

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Charlotte Dingle

Charlotte 'Lottie' Dingle is Biscuit's founding editor. When she's not running freelancing for a diverse bunch of clients ranging from Cosmo to Occupy, she enjoys teaching life drawing, discussing life/the universe/everything with her beloved (but smelly) 22-year-old cat, writing flash fiction for her MA course, getting pretentious tattoos, listening to folk music, creating surrealist art, trying to change the world and drinking red wine. Oh, and My Little Pony. Don't forget My Little Pony. Her favourite biscuits are cream crackers (do they count as biscuits?).

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