One of the first, and most important things you will want to do is choose an online dating service. Pressure from advertisements will lead you to the more popular, national sites, although these sites may not be the best choice for you. Think hard about what you are trying to accomplish - a date, serious relationship, marriage, a family? Some sites are better at meeting your needs than others, so do some research.
After you have chosen which site you will be signing up with, you will be prompted, in most cases, to create a profile. Your profile is extremely important, and should not be overlooked or quickly slapped together. Think of your profile as an outfit you would pick out for a special occasion. You will want your outfit to reflect both your personality and the occasion. The same attention to detail should go into your profile.
You will need to decide what to put in your profile, and what to leave out. Some of the basics should be left in, including sex, age/birthdate, hometown, etc., However, choosing to put more personal information in your profile will depend on how open you are as a person. How much information do you want people to know about you? Do you want to tell them everything before they contact you? Do you want to leave out some details so you can tell them on a more personal level? These questions will need to be addressed before you create your profile.
Your profile picture, or avatar, will be the next thing you put in your profile. You should choose the most flattering picture possible, without going overboard (avoid Photoshop). And NEVER PUT A PICTURE THAT IS NOT YOU as your profile picture. First of all this is just wrong, it's false advertising. If you get involved with someone and decide it is time to meet, what then?
After you have created your profile, you are almost ready to mingle! Test the waters by getting to know the dating service you are using. Explore all of the features the service has, and then determine which features are the best to use. It is important to know exactly what each feature provides, so you can use it to your full advantage. Most online dating sites host a general information forum, or a help line to answer any questions you may have during your membership. If you have any questions about a feature on the site, you should contact the site administrators, who are always happy to assist you.
After you have created your profile, and are aware with all the features the site offers, you are ready to start marketing yourself to other people. I know "marketing" may sound like a harsh term, but really, that is what you are doing. One thing you can do to optimize your marketing efforts is to update your personal information. Let's say that you recently got a new puppy, or you went on a crazy diet and lost 20 pounds in two weeks, or you just learned that your best friend is getting married and you will be traveling to Barbados for the wedding. All new developments in your life should be considered noteworthy and eligible for profile inclusion.
Now comes the fun part, you found somebody! What do you do? When you find somebody you deem worthy of spending time with,you should get to know that person as much as you can. Get to know their background, interests, hobbies, family, favorite color, favorite Tom Cruise movie, pretty much everything you would learn from somebody in the real world, you can learn in the virtual world.
After you have found somebody worth dating, it is time to meet that person. This process may take three days, it may take three years, it really depends on how comfortable you are in your relationship. Make sure that you are both ready to take this step, as it will be the biggest step in your relationship thus far. Let's say you meet this person, and fall deeply in love with them the first time you see each other - then your quest for finding love online is over. However, let's say you decide to meet, and find out that the whole time you were talking online this person lied to you about their appearance - you decide to keep looking online, and the process starts all over again.