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We keep being told that Britain is fastbecoming a nation of singletons, whatever they might be.

The split between big players and SMEs is around 70/30 – not accounting for the large number of fly-by-night operations that set up and fold regularly and are difficult to monitor.

Most agencies combine the traditional agency model (face-to-face interviews etc) with an online presence and generate the majority of their earnings through membership fees, the costs and implementation of which can differ greatly from agency to agency.

Some online-only agencies – there are only two that are members of the ABIA – offer a free service and generate profits by selling advertising space on their sites.

Business for dating agencies peaks in the New Year and, to a lesser extent, after Valentines Day.

Karen Mooney, press officer for the ABIA, founded Sara Eden Introductions in 1988 with £4,000, charging her single friends £50 to find them a match.

The firm now operates from two offices – in Central London and Windsor – and has developed a membership of 2,500 professionals, business people and entrepreneurs.

Like most of the big players in the industry, Mooney’s agency offers different membership levels.

These start at the “Discovery” level – a one-off payment of £695 that gives members ten “matches” on joining and a year’s “active” membership followed by six months’ “frozen” membership during which the member can organise their own introductions through the agency’s members-only intranet.

Membership levels peak at the “founder’s” membership – a £10,000 one-off payment means members are personally looked after by Mooney, who boasts a 95 per cent success rate with introductions she initiates, and are allowed an unlimited number of introductions.

Sara Eden’s most popular level of membership costs £1,495.

“A lot of people start up because they think it sounds lovely but you do have to have your business head on, you can’t please everyone and you can’t take everyone on.