Yes, I really posted this on Instagram.

The other day I outed myself on Instagram. As I do have a bit of pride, it took some guts for me to do it, and some might say it would have been better left unseen. I might agree, except that there’s a point.

In my own defense (and I realize I need one), I have a pretty good fashion sense; in my 20s and 30s, I had professional jobs and wore expensive suits and pantyhose (yes, pantyhose), and nice pumps made of soft, yummy Italian leather by Anne Klein. For all I know, Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo were still in diapers in the 90s, but Anne Klein pumps and well-cut suits were my daily wardrobe. I devoured each issue of Vogue and W. All that to say I’m not blind to fashion; though I’m not into dressing up as much as I used to be, I can still put a great outfit together.

So, you understand that I didn’t set out to dress this way. It just happened. I threw on the workout pants because I was working from home and they are comfortable — I wasn’t really concerned about the look. In the course of the day, my feet got cold, so I grabbed the first fuzzy socks I saw, hence the animal print. I threw on the Crocs because I was chopping some vegetables and our kitchen floor is hard ceramic tile. Lack of planning led me to grab what was easy, comfortable and nearby with no thought to the overall look.

Which is, sadly, how some folks approach their online presence. Instead of thinking through the vision before acting, they throw up a cheap, easy website — slap together a social media profile or two and the result is … well, the online equivalent of animal print socks and red Crocs.

When you’re thinking about your online presence, it’s not unlike deciding what to wear to an important business event. Here are my three tips to help you put yourself together online:

  1. Visualize your look and feel. Before you publish the first word, write one line of code, or hire anyone else to do so, sit down in a quiet place with a sketch pad and just think. Put pen to paper and start doodling and brainstorming.
  2. Choose quality pieces and take care of them. Don’t skimp on your website; for a large proportion of your audience, it’s going to be their first impression of you. My dad used to polish his shoes every time he wore them. No matter what he wore, he always looked put together and classy. It’s worth polishing your proverbial shoes, no?
  3. Consider the big picture, don’t think in pieces. That great jacket you got on sale that goes with nothing you own is not a wise investment. No matter how cool something is, if it doesn’t fit with the overall vision, you may as well throw it in the Goodwill bag. Sketch it out as a whole to work together harmoniously and project a smart, professional image.

Clean out your closet; get rid of the things that don’t fit your image or further your goals. It’s better to have a few good quality pieces than a truckload of ugliness. It’s ok to build slowly according to a well-thought-out plan. Put your best foot forward — and not in a Croc.

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