You're a dominant who is looking for a submissive, either someone to play with as a top, or maybe as a long term relationship. And you've decided to make a posting online.
If you're a subby (or switchy) person looking for a similar guide for submissives, check out my "An Online Guide to Pickup Play- Submissive Edition"
Are they looking for online only?
Doing kink is fun, intense and interesting. While online play can be enjoyable, it's not the same. Sadly, many people want to compartmentalize their life and only pursue their interests through the safety of a keyboard and mouse. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their interests. It can be difficult or frustrating, but it's important that if real life BDSM is what you're looking for that you make it clear.
Are they cheating on their significant other?
A really common experience online is that people post or respond to postings by dominants because they have a sexual need that's not being met in their current relationship. Often the desire for being submissive are tied into the desire to be wanted and needed. If someone is not feeling that way in their relationship, submission can be a very seductive feeling.
But as a dominant, you need to know that your own needs are going to be met, and someone who is cheating with their partner is already letting you know that they're willing to do things that are non-consensual.
The easiest way to find out if someone is cheating is call them at home. If they insist on only talking to you from certain places, that's a sign that something is off.
Are they only looking for sex?
If you're a dominant, you know that sex isn't the only thing that matters to you. While you may be sexual (or maybe not), power exchange is about more than sex. Oftentimes new submissives are only looking for a dominant bedroom partner, someone to "take them". While this sexual fantasy can be fulfilled, it's important to be sure that your desires for submission are met, and that your new potential submissive won't just want someone to have sex with.
Do they treat you like a kink dispenser?
Another common problem with finding people to play with is that many submissives have a lot of desires they want fulfilled but don't think about the dominant's desires or interests. When they talk about submitting, does it sound more like they are directing a film, "First I want you to tie me up, then pour hot wax om my back, force me to cum, then cuddle me". If they are directing all the action rather than having a conversation, they most likely see you as a vehicle for getting their kink, rather than a person to play with an explore.
Do they start putting you in roles you didn't ask to be in?
As a dominant you want someone to submit to you but hopefully you want someone with an identity and a backbone of their own. Being called "Sir", "Mistress", "Daddy" or "Mommy" too early is a sign that they're not either seeing you as a person (rather than a vehicle for their own desires) or respecting the relationships that these titles represent.
Do they have "no limits"?
It's lovely to have the freedom to explore kinks together, but having someone express "no limits" means that they're not taking the situation seriously. After all, would they be happy if during the scene, you cut off their foot? In my experience, "No limits" actually means "read my mind", and leads to far more restrictions on play than might be there otherwise.
Do they have absolutely no idea what they want to do?
Many subs come into the scene with an open mind. They want to try everything- and it can be a great deal of fun to help them explore. But someone who has no idea what they want to try, or who seems affect-less during negotiation is going to be hard to read and ultimately hard to play with.
Do they expect you to take over their life?
Occasionally you will find a person online whose life is a mess and they think "If my life is micro-managed, it will be okay" and they go online to find a person who will absolve them of all responsibility in their lives. These people usually want to quickly jump into a relationship in which they hand over the power of their daily lives to someone else. The questions to keep in mind with these people are: Firstly, do they see you as an individual or as a role to fill? Secondly, do they seem like they're able to make he kinds of changes in their life that they want? And third and most importantly- do you think, after talking with them, that this is something you'd want to do and would find rewarding?
Are they mentally healthy enough to play?
Unfortunately, many submissives (and masochists) use BDSM as an unhealthy outlet for their desires. For example, a self-harmer may want painful sadomasochistic play in order to not have to cause the physical harm themselves. Or an individual with Disassociative Identity Disorder may present as a "Little" to mask their ongoing trauma. While many people suffer from mental health issues and are able to play normally and responsibly in the scene, it is important that the bottom is open and honest with you in regards to their mental health so that you can decide whether or not this is a relationship or activity that you want to be a part of.
Are they open and honest with physical limitations?
BDSM play can be physically challenging and many people have physical ailments that make it more difficult or require adjusting in order to play effectively. If someone has back or knee problems, they may not be able to hold a position for long, or you may need to adjust your style of play to fit some physical limitation. This is quite normal. The question is whether or not the bottom is honest and forthcoming with limitations that may come into play during a scene.
Do they speak positively others?
While not directly related to BDSM, a person who speaks poorly of past or current partners is very likely to be speaking ill about you in the future. Conversely a person who speaks positively about others is more likely to be supportive and helpful in smoothing out rough edges. Especially if you're new, you want your kink experiences to be positive and supportive.
Do they take an interest in you?
While you may not be looking for a lifelong relationship, topping a scene can be physically and mentally draining and you want someone that shows interest in you and what you'd get out of doing a scene. It's very common for tops to have needs after a scene ends, or even the next day. Does this person you're discussing play with seem interested in meeting those needs- or if they can't, in being honest about the differences between your needs?
During play, do they help collaborate to make the experience good?
Playing is a two-way street. It's the bottom's job to communicate, but also to help keep the scene going, to keep it fun and sexy. Much like an improvisation, it's up to both of you to make the scene work, and if you're the only one, it can be challenging.
After play, do they take an interest in you?
Like play, aftercare goes both ways. Just as you began your negotiation as equals, after a scene, you may end as equals. Just as you as the top will care about and look after their aftercare needs, they should be looking after yours, including checking in the next day.
It's about you and your connection.
Just like there is no perfect dominant for everyone, there is no perfect submissive. Each person will connect differently. Some play is great, and other is less satisfying. There's no perfect person for everyone.
Good luck in your journey!