How to start a dating web site
Also - I am tempted to get involved in some kind of affiliate program with access to a big database of members at least at girst.
The problem is that I want to customize my site fully and I want to keep the new members.
As soon as your membership base hits something near the 10,000 active registrants range (this is actually a very small figure in this industry), then you can start implementing a fee for the site's services.
If your site is unique, and has something to offer that others don't, or if your members have had a somewhat successful or even fun time on your site, they will definitely consider paying a fee, since they've already tried it out.
Theme sites work VERY well, because it allows you to target one specific audience, instead of the entire world. Allowing new members to gain access for free, will definitely attract many more people to try your services out before they go to another place.
I don't mind giving away most of the comission on the sale - but I want the customers I gain to be MY customers. Basically I need at least a thousand profiles on the site so new viewers don't just leave my site when they see I have no existing members. There are so many dating sites out there, that I think you'd have to put a unique twist on it for it even to get visitors.
Maybe add a content section to draw search engine traffic.
Many of the bigger dating sites allow their larger affiliates to rebrand their site -- that is one reason it seems like there are way more dating sites out there than there really are. I would not let anyone tell me that it is impossible to do. You might just need a different approach to get started or the funds to push a new brand into the market. I know it's a flooded market and I do have somewhat of a niche.
I couldn't tell you where to go to buy members because I don't know. I'll probably offer free memberships at first as well.