Dating may be on pause, but luckily for matchmakers, love will never go out of business.
Professional cupids are adjusting their priorities and offerings to serve clients during a global pandemic — and they say they are cautiously optimistic that singles will still turn to their expertise to find love connections.
“People want real connections,” said Amy Van Doran, founder of Modern Love Club. “They have time to work through their issues, and hopefully will use this time to level up.”
Matchmaking is a boutique industry — most owners, with the help of a few employees, take on a handful of clients at a time and charge them an eye-popping price. But now, with the economy in free fall, many are trying to figure out flexible rates and pivoting to coaching as a main source of income.
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Maria Avgitidis, founder of Agape Match, works with male professional athletes and Fortune 500 CEOs. Her current rates start at $25,000 and, in one exceptional case, have gone all the way up to $200,000. While 70% of her revenue depends on matchmaking and 30% on coaching — her “Dating Refresh” package typically starts at $10,000 — that might start to change.
She recently started a virtual coaching program for women starting at $350 for five sessions over three weeks, and she also launched a private Facebook group for members to attend events, including a watch party for the new Netflix dating reality show, “Too Hot to Handle.”
“In coaching, we teach compatibility and chemistry, we talk about a roadmap of getting to relationships,” Avgitidis said. “We have a male dating coach who takes [women] on mock dates. We are online dating on their behalf.”
Meredith Golden, who has been dubbed the “Tinder whisperer” by The Cut, is the founder of dating service Spoon Meet Spoon. She flirts for her clients on dating apps, and while she has frozen her most lucrative packages for meeting IRL, she is still offering her “Perfect Profile” ($300) and “Dating Diagnosis” ($600) packages with an option to upgrade later.
“The demand for help with dating has not relented, and singles continue to reach out,” Golden wrote in an email. “Many singles are still swiping and want a strong profile to increase their match rate. I thought that my business would slow down during this time, but it hasn’t.”
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Professional dating experts are also getting plenty of requests for setting up video dates. Van Doran, who was a technological virgin pre-coronavirus, is now a video-dating evangelist. She started her business about 12 years ago, and said she is one of the first matchmakers to cater to female CEOs (she also has a soft spot for artists and socially conscious singles).
“This is a moment where it’s time to evolve or die,” said Van Doran, who is currently down to 10 clients from her usual 16. “I started setting up video dates, and it’s been kind of a revelation. All these busy New Yorkers have time to date now!”
Van Doran even attended her first Zoom wedding in March for clients she introduced, and she has advice for hooking up — remotely. First, set up a “dating pod” outside of where you normally work. “Treat it like a little movie set, decorate it in a way that feels cool. Test it with your friends first on Zoom, make sure it’s a good angle and lighting.”
“I couldn’t do any of this a month ago,” she added, laughing.
While her rates usually start at $15,000, Van Doran said that is simply not realistic anymore. “Just because everyone is so broke, I’m figuring out smaller packages,” she said. “The revenue model is going to look different. My goal is not drowning.”
Julia Bekker, founder of Hunting Maven, said she misses physically scouting for her clients. Usually, “I approach anyone, anywhere, anytime,” she said.
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Her job is to “pick up chicks” for her male clients, who shell out $15,000 to $35,000 for her services. Pre-pandemic, she often found herself at the gym and the subway, Whole Foods and Starbucks.
“I can’t be out doing it anymore, but I still use my personal and professional connections and social media for outreach and recruiting,” she said.
While many of her male clients have hit the pause button on dating, Bekker is still seeing an increase of up to 50% of women who want to become members in her database (which is free). She remains optimistic about her prospects.
“I think my industry is going to grow, because people value love now more than ever,” Bekker said. “They have felt the wrath of being alone.”
Of course, like any reliable rom-com, some matches have happy endings — even in the midst of total disaster.
Avgitidis had been trying to find a romantic partner for one of her clients, a CTO of a big tech company, for four months. But it took another round of searches and a pandemic for the arrow to strike.
She set him up with a New York-based professor on a phone date, and, when that went well, a Zoom date. The lovebirds kept talking, decided not to see anyone else for two weeks, and then shacked up together at the CTO’s place upstate.
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“She checked off everything he wanted, and then she said what she was looking for, and they have the same interests and values,” Avgitidis said. “They have compatible energy — they are both extroverted, they don’t get bored, they’re both very curious. They’re having these long conversations with each other.”
Hopefully the conversation lasts as long as this quarantine.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this article, Maria Avgitidis’s name was misspelled. It is Avgitidis, not Avgatidis.