"Last June, Valdez, now 25, founded Virtual Dating Assistants -- a company that "specializes in making the dating dreams of busy individuals come true."
"Author Timothy Ferriss popularized the concept when he wrote about outsourcing his online dating accounts to teams of competing writers in his 2007 book, "The 4-Hour Work Week."
"Valdez's Atlanta-based firm is hardly the only outfit to offer such services. Dozens of profile-writing shops such as Arlington County-based TargetLove have popped up in the past few years, and dating coaches are increasingly managing their clients' online pursuits. Not to mention the well-intentioned friends and relatives who have taken over the process for the hapless singles in their lives.
"But Valdez and his team of 45 freelance writers, including Hartshorn, do it all: write a client's profile, pick out potential matches, send introductory e-mails and message back and forth until a date is confirmed. Then they turn over the correspondence and tell the lucky fellow where and when he's meeting Madame X. (And it's almost always that gender dynamic; 80 percent of the firm's clients are men.)...
"Mark Brooks, founder of Online Personals Watch, a site that tracks Internet dating trends, says this type of outsourcing is an ethically questionable form of "misrepresentation." Still, he expects the field to grow.
"Professional matchmakers often charge $5,000 or more a year and have a limited pool of matches. Online dating sites are populated with countless singles but can require more attention than some users are willing to devote. "It may look like instant gratification, like you dive into the pool and instantly come up with a fish, but it doesn't really work like that," Brooks says. "You've got to tap, tap, tap on the keyboard quite a lot to get anywhere."