“Are you single?” professional matchmaker Joanne Ng asks me the moment we sit down for an interview.
The 35-year-old explains she often asks people the question, even outside of work, as matchmaking is something she’s passionate about and that has become a part of her.
It is this passion that spurred Ng to set up a matchmaking agency in 2015.
A communications graduate, Ng was always drawn towards a people-centric career path, beginning as an air stewardess and later as a public relations practitioner.
She first discovered the possibility of a career as a matchmaker when she was approached by an overseas matchmaking agency looking to start a branch in Malaysia.
Ng took the job but left shortly after. Still, her passion for matchmaking never waned. In fact, she sought the help of Caroline Brealey, an award-winning matchmaker based in England, to learn more about the field.
“I wanted to learn from the best,” says Ng, who is a certified matchmaker from Brealey’s training programme.
Learning about matchmaking was one thing, applying the knowledge was another.
“The beginning was the toughest. My database was zero,” she recalls, adding she didn’t have an office space then and was meeting clients in cafes.
So Ng grew her database by holding speed-dating events.
“When I finally collected a few thousand (profiles), I thought, maybe I can finally hire one person to help me.”
There were times she would go for months without pay and had to seek financial assistance from her loved ones to keep the agency afloat.
“Around 2018, I felt I could finally breathe,” she says candidly.
Today, Ng has a database of around 25,000 profiles and a team of six matchmakers.
A matchmaker’s work starts with a detailed profiling session of the client, such as their background, personality, interests, life goals and expectations.
The information is used to help matchmakers match their clients and set them up on dates.
Ng says matchmakers spend a lot of time reading through numerous profiles to find a match for their clients. Twice a week, her matchmakers meet to discuss their clients to see if there are potential matches.
Ng personally approves each of the matches. “We aim to match at least 80% of our client’s requirements. And we do not promise our clients that we will definitely find them a husband or a wife. If you meet matchmakers who promise you the sky, that’s a red flag.”
Before the clients go on a date, matchmakers give them a rough idea of what their match is like but no pictures or personal information is given out.
There’s more to the work of a matchmaker than just setting two people up. Coaching makes up a big part of the job.
For instance, Ng says, she has noticed more and more people in their 20s coming to her because they have never been in a relationship before.
“I think it’s because of technology. They have everything at their fingertips, they don’t feel like they have to go out anymore.”
This, in turn, affects their social skills. Matchmakers help by coaching introverted clients to open up.
After the dates, matchmakers follow up with their clients and review how the date went. “Even after my clients have found love, I’d still call them up and ask them how they are,” Ng adds.
Helping someone to find a match is hard work: “It’s like I’m piecing together a puzzle and when I find so many of the pieces fitting, I get this emotional high.”
What love advice would she give, based on her experience as a matchmaker? Ng offers: “Reflect on yourself because we always tend to look at what (the potential matches) have or do not have.
“What are you looking for? Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, why have we been single for so long? Perhaps we have to change. If we don’t change, nothing will change.”