When 46-year-old Greg Sysak re-entered the world of dating three years ago following his divorce, he was overwhelmed by the dozens of online dating sites and apps.
"It is difficult," said Sysak, a single dad of two from New Jersey. "There are so many different platforms. You can spend a lot of time, taking a lot of pictures, sending a lot of messages, doing a lot of swiping. It definitely is a time sink."
Feeling lost, Sysak turned to Connell Barrett, a dating coach, for assistance.
Barrett, founder of Dating Transformation, works with male clients for eight-week stretches in what he refers to as a dating boot camp.
"I'm Yoda and I consider my clients young Luke Skywalkers," Barrett said with a laugh.
Barrett is one of a growing number of dating professionals who help singles overhaul their online dating profiles -- taking and selecting new online profile photos, penning new online dating profiles, even initiating online chats and texts with would-be dates -- in a bid to help their clients find more and better matches.
"Part of my job as a dating coach is to help my clients create dating profiles that sort of swipe a woman out of her swiping hypnosis and say, 'Hey, look at that great guy,'" said Barrett.
The dating industry is a $3 billion empire, according to Marketdata, with an estimated 40 million singles looking for love, or at least dates, online. Tinder reports there are more than a billion swipes recorded on the app every single day.
Barrett said with so much competition, it's hard for singles looking for real connections to break through the noise and stand out.
"With online dating, the secret sauce is to break her from her swiping pattern, because Tinder and Bumble can become like an endless video game," said Barrett.
To help Sysak stand out, Barrett encouraged him to lose the dimly lit photos and impersonal selfies that populated his old dating profiles, and replace them with brighter photos that highlighted his playful personality.
He also encouraged Sysak to rework his biography on dating sites, so that it brought out his personality, quirks, and passions.
"Most men post these very generic dating profiles that say all the same things, like 'I like long walks on the beach' or they post their résumé," said Barrett. "Crack a joke. Put your favorite Beatles quote in there. Something that expresses who you are."
Alyssa Dineen, founder of Style My Profile, is also a dating stylist.
"The quality of your profile determines whether somebody is going to swipe right," said Dineen, who also works as a clothing stylist. "There are so many bad dating profiles out there. I thought I could help."
Today Dineen works with a nationwide client base that ranges in age from 25 to 75.
"I have clients in their 70s who are really into Tinder," she said. "And they're having success."
Dineen said too many singles make the same mistakes when it comes to dating profiles: posting photos that feature them wearing sunglasses. (Dineen says sunglasses in profile photos are a definite "don't"); posting photos in which they're part of a group (Dineen says group photos make would-be daters wonder which one in the photo is you); and posting photos with ex-partners.
And then, she said, there are the ultimate online dating no-no’s: bathroom selfies and the gym selfies.
"It's a big problem, especially with my male clients," Dineen said, referring to the selfies men take of themselves in bathrooms and in the gym. Those, she said, should be avoided at all costs.
Dineen recently helped newly single Tania Brathwaite overhaul her dating profile.
Brathwaite said Dineen's guidance has been a game-changer.
"I've been able to relax in the dating process," Brathwaite said. "I have more dates now that my profile is better. Now it's showing the world the real me."
Finally, for singles uncertain what to say to would-be dates once an initial match has been found, there's dating coach Amy Nobile, founder of the business, Love, Amy. Nobile calls herself a modern-day Cyrano. She pens notes and flirty texts to would-be dates her clients are interested in, actually pretending to *be* her clients. Her goal: to get her online notes to result in a real face-to-face date.
"Yes, I am speaking for them, but it's really innocuous stuff," Nobile said. "Like 'Where'd you go to school?' and 'Do you have pets?' So I'll never say anything that's not true to them. And they can watch me do it. So they're learning, it's ok to be warm, it's ok to be flirty."
Nobile works with her clients in three-month stretches. If they make it to the first date phase, she helps role play with her clients before the date, and, for nervous clients, she accompanies her clients to the date, staking out a position in the bathroom or at the bar, and coaching her clients via checkins and texts throughout the night.
"What I have found in working with my clients is that in this generation we feel disconnected. We've got all these devices that are supposed to connect us but we feel lonelier than ever.
"Love, Amy was born to foster and encourage flirting again."
Sysak said he's uncertain what his romantic future holds, but says, now that he’s working with a dating coach, he feels more optimistic.
"Dating can be tough so it can be helpful to have someone there for you," Sysak said. "It's nice to have a shoulder to lean on. Somebody to say, 'You know what? We're gonna go out there. Here's what we're gonna do.'"