By giving everyone FREE memberships, it let's people join, post what they like, post their pictures, and start interacting with people immediately. Jewish Singles.com) and is a site for EVERYONE, then you may want to consider changing that.
You may also want to give current paying members an incentive, such as a reduced fee or free month for referring their friends who convert into paying memberships.
There's really no end to ways on how to make a site like this successful.
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.
Also try an affiliate program, that should get more people signing up. How could you possibly compete against the big sites?
Think of it from a members perspective: would you sign up for an obscure dating site when you could just use Yahoo or Match.com?
It also helps you to get a better Alexa ranking, too. Obviously we've got one (which is completely free so worth trying out) but there's a few others as well including Dating-Central and I know Dating have a white-label system as well - it's worth asking sites.
I held the Director of Marketing for a now, very popular and very profitable dating/singles site. I know it seems like a corny line, but if you are a brand new site, in such an absolutely cutthroat industry, you will need to make huge sacrifices in the beginning in order to gain more paying members down the line.
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.
When it comes down to it, it's all about what you are willing to invest (time, money), and your marketing plan. Yup but to get 10,000 paying members is quite an achievement - you'll need 100-200,000 members in total to have that many paying members (depending on your conversions of course).