Programming · Startup Funding

How to start a dating site with little programming experience?

Steven Heron Ideas person, successful content marketer, Clickbank vendor

May 28th, 2017

I have prior success in online marketing and sales such that I'm able to live permanently in the Philippines and other countries from my online income alone. I've identified a few niche dating sites that I know could turn a profit, however I lack the programming experience to write a custom CMS.

Considering most successful dating sites employ custom CMS's that range from $10k-200k USD in development costs, how could someone new to this field who has a great idea get started? I'm not looking for white label solutions, but to create a true startup such as POF. I have enough experience from prior projects to know how to outcompete most other sites.

Sheldon Poon Technical Director, Drive Marketing

May 28th, 2017

If you don't currently have the skills yourself, you generally have two options: pay someone; or learn programming. Generally speaking, there are no shortcuts.

In my experience, most people asking this question are looking for a programmer to "partner up with" where the programmer puts in all of the up-front time investment and the marketing guy helps monetize the idea. From what I've seen, in my 15 years in tech and programming, this never works.

Programming always takes more time than everyone thinks to get all of the features in place to bring a project to life. "Feature creep" becomes a huge issue since the "business guy" doesn't understand the technical challenges. Many times, the programmer is someone with less experience who is willing to take a chance and doesn't have the knowledge to create a flexible and scalable architecture.

Eventually, everyone gets fed up after it's clear that it will take hundreds of hours of programming work just to create a proof-of-concept, and people start dropping out.

Good, experienced developers are expensive and difficult to come by. I'm sure that you have a lot of experience in marketing existing products, but building something from the ground up takes a different skillset that takes time and / or money to acquire.

My personal advice, learn some basic programming skills to get an idea of the complexity of what you want to build. Have a clear, list of features that you think you need to bring a product to market. Plan out all UI/UX elements and have a very specific sitemap and procedure map. Then, once you have all this information, decide if you want to build it yourself (continue learning) or pay a developer.

ahmed tolban engeneering on data science ,php, mysql, html ,operational research ,marketing ,management, tec

May 28th, 2017

this so interesting i have so many ideas i just need someone who has enough experience on selling and marketing

Dejan Dejanov A curious soul

May 29th, 2017

Hi Steve,

I kind of agree with Sheldon that partnering with random programmers will rarely work. Good programmers rarely take on big projects without a certain paycheck.

My advise - make sure you want to go forward with the project and once you do find a capable technical partner and pay him to do some advising and work. Not a person - a company!

There are many great companies out there which you could refer to for help. I am participating in a small development company (which was a startup itself not long ago) and know first hand how freelance developers behave and how many perks you could get from a company if you find a good one.

Small development companies in locations like Bulgaria, Poland, and some of the south American countries will be very flexible, and will charge a very reasonable rate. For most of them you will be a significant client and will receive the 5start treatment.

Their founders being entrepreneurs themselves will understand the way you think. We for example have a lot of experience rolling out the minimum viable portion of the product and testing, which we have done with other start ups. Wireframes, UX/UI, design - a company has seen many projects and from many different angles and will give you expertise for free as long as they are developing your product.

Look for partners who have worked with other startups and preferably in the industry you are targeting.

The only caveat - you need to find people who know what they are doing and whom you like. Do not settle on this. Look for awards, projects for big companies, past employers of the developers etc... and if you don't like the people personally, don't settle,

Best of luck!


Lam Tran CEO

August 5th, 2017

You should prepare requirements or functional specifications included wireframe/mockup for your expected site with from high level then elaborate into more detail level if needed (the best is to user story level as recommend in Agile/Scrum). You might learn from similar sites/competitors during doing this step.

After that, you could looking for software development outsourcing providers or freelancers to deliver the rest. Please contact me if you need further support.

Scott Kacmarski CEO of Reps Direct

May 30th, 2017

I have worked with dating sites for many years. The sales/marketing is probably the easiest part especially with niche sites. You could get a modified pre built CMS and probably be alright especially as an MVP. The other things you need to really concern yourself with is the ability to mail and process payments. You also need to consider how you are going to get people to want to stay on your site in the beginning when there aren't many members. Just because you can get them to sign up doesn't mean you can get them to stay. Those are just some things I would consider and plan for.

Mawut Mayen Euntrepreneur

May 28th, 2017

I would say that you either learn programming or hire someone to do it but if you want to cut the upfront cost then you can offer that the programmer take some type of equity in the company so that would cover some of the start up cost.

Martin Boyd Cofounder

May 28th, 2017

Don't discredit white label solutions. They may be what you need to get started and validate your concept. Then as your site grows and you start gaining the resources you can then start slowly building up a custom solution.

Steven Heron Ideas person, successful content marketer, Clickbank vendor

May 31st, 2017

Thank you everyone for the responses! They've been most helpful. To clarify I do know how to program, however I want an experienced web developer who's sole focus in life is programming and is intimately aware of security issues such as SQL injections, and stays up to date with the latest PHP exploits and the like.

An amateur programmer such as myself working on a project that relies heavily on a database backend that contains very personal customer details and messages is a terrible idea and a data breach just waiting to happen. I do very much respect programmers and have hired many in the past for my past ventures, and I'm familiar with the work that goes into it.

To clarify this project would be a 50/50 equity and partner split. I've kindly received some great JV offers and will proceed with one of those shortly, thank you again for your inputs.

Cezar Halmagean I am a business-minded Ruby on Rails consultant helping SaaS companies grow faster.

May 28th, 2017

It really depends on the complexity of your idea. You could probably get away with creating a small MVP yourself to test the market or, if your idea is more complex, I would advise you hire someone with enough experience to help you out.

It's probably a good idea to stick to what you do best and get help with everything else.


Cezar Halmagean

Mix & Go - Helping early-stage startups bring new products to market

David Jeba

May 29th, 2017


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