The first thing potential partners see about you is a few lines of text and some photos, so there’s a lot riding on those words and pictures. This reality has spawned a cottage industry of professional online dating consultants who charge for helping you to create the most inviting online persona. We asked Jodi Manfredi of Dynamic Dating Profiles, based in San Diego, to share some of the tips she usually charges $119 for.

The purpose of your profile is to get the reader’s attention. You want to make them laugh or at least smile. At the same time, you want to be brief. Keep your profile answers under 400 words, total.

To make a strong first impression, do more than use a string of adjectives describing yourself, like “I’m funny, I’m generous, I’m loyal.” Instead, describe your best qualities using anecdotes. Did you go to a developing country to build a water system? I’d write something like “You’ll have to ask me about my trip to Haiti.” That indicates there’s an interesting story and invites the reader to hear the rest.

Consider tone. You don’t want your profile to sound like a résumé or to come across as bragging about how wonderful you are. Show that you’re human and humble through a joke, a self-effacing story, or a humorous anecdote.

I never recommend lying about your age. A woman I was working with kept telling me how much integrity she had, and how she once gave back an extra $20 she got at an ATM. Later in the conversation, she said she was 56. I told her she had said she was 52. “Oh, I lied,” she said. I told her we should leave the part about integrity off her profile.

I give a lot of advice on choosing photos. Use recent pictures, something taken within the past 12 months—no older than that. Everyone needs at least one good headshot, close up. You can enlist a professional photographer, but in my opinion, the best photos are taken by loved ones: kids, parents, a friend. Be sure to include a photo where you’re engaged in an activity you enjoy, maybe out with friends, maybe holding a glass of wine.

There are some things to avoid in photos. For example, people like to see your eyes. So try not to include pictures with sunglasses. And be sure to upload one full-body standing shot that shows your body type, so there are no surprises once you meet up in person.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the February 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.