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Rethink your professional profile photos

Do you ever meet potential customers in person? If you do, take a closer look at the photos you use on your website and online profiles.

Why? Think about a businessperson you know, preferably someone with a reasonably high profile. Find their photo on their website, or photos they use for promotional purposes. Those photos look pretty good, right? Now go to their Facebook page.

Look like the same person? Not quite. The disconnect is a little jarring. The Brad Pitt in the profile photo turns out to look more like, well, me. (Ugh.)

You absolutely should try to look good in your photos. It's no surprise that potential customers tend to want to do business with attractive people.

Just don't try to look too good, because customers also want to deal with real people. Someday you will meet your clients. (And if you won't, while they're checking out your business, potential clients will probably Google you, too.)

Either way, potential customers will eventually find out you're not quite as handsome, quite as thin, quite as young, and definitely not quite as intense-yet-sensitive-artist-with-a-kind-soul as your photos make you seem.

Do this instead:

Use personal photos that flatter but don't mislead. Pick photos that look natural. Think about how you will look when you first meet a customer, and try to match that look. Avoid disconnects between photos and real life (or website photos and Facebook photos) as much as possible. Look good but look real. Otherwise, when customers meet you they will naturally wonder what else you're hiding or misrepresenting.

Never use stock photos. Never. Stock photos look cheesy and fool no one. The worst photo of the real you is better than any stock photo.

Don't misrepresent your facilities. Ever been to the Alamo? Ever seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame? In photos many landmarks look a lot different simply because the surrounding areas are usually cropped out. Try to show your facilities to their best advantage without misrepresenting the reality. Someday, someone will visit -- and if no one ever will, why show photos of your facilities at all?

Most of all, remember you're not a celebrity. Actors, performers, etc. make a living based at least partly on how they look. You don't. You make a living based on what you do. Always keep that in mind and you can't go wrong.