When I was in college, my career center hosted a free headshots photoshoot. Never one to pass up anything that comes free, I showed up, took my picture, popped it on LinkedIn, and assumed that would be the last time I looked at it.

Turns out that I'm bad at assumptions. That photo came in handy throughout my early career. It graced my author bio on The Muse when I was a remote intern, it was sent around the company when I started full-time so people knew who I was, and became the number one picture I grabbed from my desktop (yup, I have it saved on my desktop) when event organizers asked for a photo to advertise my speaking engagements.

Maybe you're thinking, Speaking engagements? Please, I'm never going to need a professional headshot in my career.

But if so, you're thinking all wrong. Because for starters, I can point to countless social media profiles I've come across that featured blurry or inappropriate profile pictures (or worse, gasp, no photo at all!) and this affected whether or not I wanted to reach out and collaborate with them. After all, if someone can't take one clear photo, how could I trust them with my limited budget?

For another thing, a nice headshot can be useful for so many situations:

Convinced? Great, now it's time to take one. And the good news is that, it's really easy.

Step 1: Pick out a shirt that you feel confident in. Pro-tip: avoid the patterns, the dayGlo, anything too seasonal, and anything that you'd wear out to a party.

Step 2: Grab the newest phone you can get your hands on and a friend.

Step 3: Find a plain, but ideally interesting backdrop. For example, a brightly painted wall. Avoid posing in front of windows or busy backgrounds (like a city street) unless you're a lighting and photography editing pro.

Step 4: Smile and take the photo. Then do it again. Take lots of shots so you can pick your favorite.

Step 5: Save it and use it for everything.

Of course, you can take steps to make it even nicer by using a camera, editing it on Photoshop, or hiring someone (this can be a super valuable investment if you think you'll need a headshot a lot), but that's the general gist. You can also read this article for more DIY tips for taking the perfect shot.

But whatever you do, make sure you have one handy--and update it every couple of years. It costs you little to make and will save you from having to scrounge through old Facebook albums and crop a red Solo cup out of your hand when the time calls.

--This post originally appeared on the The Muse.

Published on: Jul 13, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.