Meredith Golden had an unlikely skill: She was an expert at managing her friends' online flirtations. When Golden's friends would match with others on dating apps and find themselves unsure of how to proceed, she'd take over and continue the conversation on their behalves.
At the end of 2015, Golden, a stay-at-home mom, wrote a Facebook post about her desire to anonymously help people manage their online dating accounts.
"I've always done this for friends because I love it and I never thought it would be a business," Golden, who's known as "the Tinder whisperer," tells CNBC Make It. "One day I realized, I have all these random people who know my friends who are reaching out to me and saying, 'Hey can you take a look?' So I said maybe I will do this as a side hobby while the kids are in school."
Within three days she had received 8,700 responses. "I don't have 8,700 friends," she says. "The first 200, I thought maybe that's just people I grew up with, but as the number started escalating I thought maybe I'm on to something."
Golden realized this could be more than a hobby, and launched SpoonmeetSpoon, a service through which clients can hire her to work as an "online ghost dater," managing their dating profiles.
"Now, I log in 12 hours a day," says Golden. "I eat, sleep and breathe this. I love what I do."
On a typical day, the the New York-based wife and mom wakes up around 7 a.m. to have her morning coffee while she checks her social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Afterwards, she checks her emails before getting her two sons ready for school.
"Once the kids are out for school I start logging in with my clients," she says. "I do all of the swiping and engaging for each client."
On average, Golden works with eight to 10 clients at one time. Most of her business comes from client referrals, and her clients tend to be New York professionals. She emphasizes throughout the entire process that no one is required to disclose they've hired her.
"I don't reveal who any of my clients are," she says. "I'm very strict about that. I will never want to blow anyone's cover."
Golden has a questionnaire that every client must fill out when they sign up for her services on which she asks a host of questions about a person's childhood, their place of employment, favorite vacation spot, bucket list travel destinations, past relationships, dealbreaker qualities and the main things they're seeking in a mate.
She offers two different packages, depending on a client's needs. Her full service package is $2,000 per month, and includes an initial in-person or Facetime meeting and daily communication afterwards about engagement on a client's profile.
For individuals who just want tips on how to be more successful with online dating, Golden offers a diagnosis and consultation package for $500 per month. With this option, clients get advice on which dating apps are right for their needs, advice on how they can improve their profile and suggestions for better online conversations. Individuals who sign up for this package manage day-to-day communication on their accounts on their own.
"I think the work is priceless if you want to end up in a relationship," Golden says. "I hate that it's a monetary amount attached to the services, but it's my time so I have to charge."
Each message that she sends is submitted to the client first for approval. If it's a heterosexual female client, she says she waits for the guy to make the move first, and then she contacts her client and says, "Bob asked you out. What do you think?" If it's a heterosexual male client, she'll initiate conversations on his behalf and say "Hey, we are going to ask Alissa out. What do you think?"
"The back and forth on the dating app lasts about three or four days," she says. "If the woman is not moving forward with it then we are moving on. If the guy is not asking you out by then, then we are moving on."
While most interactions go smoothly, Golden says there are a few instances where suspicious activity has led her to end a client's conversation.
"There was this one guy who said he went to an Ivy League school and that he worked for a top tech company. He was totally lying," she says. Her client wanted to let things play out a little longer, but some inappropriate photo messages finally led her to block him.
"Everyone seems to lie about their age, unfortunately," says Golden. "So I give a little wiggle room there, but if you say you went to Harvard, and you actually went to a community college, then why lie? It's not about you not going to Harvard, it's just — what else are you lying about? It's deceptive."
Nearly 50 percent of U.S. adults know someone who uses online dating or who has met a spouse via a dating app. Golden, who has been married for 13 years, met her husband through a mutual friend. Dating apps weren't yet popular at the time, but she says she's happy that more people have opened up to the idea of online dating today.
"Why not take five minutes out of your day and go on a dating app?" she says. "I think it's just a great invention for people who want to find love."
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