Secondly, choose a dating agency
First piece of advice: if it's free, it's generally free for a reason! Either because the service is a way of attracting traffic to a site (eg a radio station or newspaper) or because it's an advertising-based model (where the site-owner generates revenue by selling space on the site or selling your contact details to third party advertisers). And if it's free, anyone can join - and anyone will!
It's worth coming up with a list of criteria you want from a dating site. Some offer more sophisticated matching than others, based on psychometric techniques often used in recruitment and off-line agencies. Some are niche-based, so you can meet people with similar interests or backgrounds. Some are targeted at (or have a level of membership exclusively for) professionals.
The difficulty with choosing the dating site for you is getting past the fact that you more or less have to sign up to see what they're like. Though there are review sites which will give you a feel for what to expect, eg: www.best4sure.co.uk. A few dating sites are members of the ABIA (see below) and there are several benefits to choosing one of these, namely:
- You know how it works before you sign up.
- You know the pricing before you sign up.
- ABIA members abide by the ABIA's code of practice, your guarantee of being treated fairly.
Choosing an offline agency is easier for two main reasons:
- Most are members of the Association of British Introduction Agencies (ABIA) and the ABIA site tells you most of what you need to know about each agency before joining up. Agencies that are members of the ABIA comply with a code of conduct and you can therefore feel safe in the knowledge that you will be treated fairly.
- Unlike online agencies, all off-line agencies will be very happy to talk to you and meet you before you sign up - that's the way they work. So you can find out as much as you need to about how each agency works.
It's wise to work out your criteria before you begin searching, as the ways offline agencies work can vary. Many also offer services beyond straightforward introductions. Some, like Introduction Agency and Singles Club RSVP (for example), offer Singles Events - giving you two ways of meeting people. Some will advertise on your behalf. Some offer headhunting services. Some (again like RSVP Dating Agency) offer services like dating coaching and dating workshops. The ABIA website offers comprehensive information on what's on offer from each agency. See also our advice pages on image coaching and personal coaching.
One other point to keep in mind with off-line agencies is geography. Not every agency can have members in every corner of the UK - the same applies to online sites, too - and most will specialise in an area where they have a reasonable number of members. If you are in London, you will have plenty of agencies to choose from; if you live elsewhere in the UK, your choice will be more limited.