For those of us who’ve always met our mates in real time, online dating can seem a little, well, different. Romantic souls that we are, we all wish we could bump into the guy of our dreams in the produce aisle at the supermarket or at a summer concert in the park. But are we really willing to bet on that happening for all of us? What’s wrong with being proactive about our search for love? Nothing, says online dating guru EflirtExpert.com‘s Laurie Davis. To get us over our fear of entering the digital dating pool, Davis offers advice on how to get into the online dating scene, from setting up your profile to meeting up for the first time. ESSENCE.com: If you’re brand new to online dating, should you sign up for a bunch of different sites? LAURIE DAVIS:  I do think it’s good to spread your wings, but if you’re brand new to online dating you should start with one site first. If you start with too many on your first time, it’s easy not to give your full attention to your matches. I always say that you should start with a big site, like Match, first. You’re going to get into the process there. Once you’re on the site, there are ways to decide if it’s for you before you pay. Don’t pay for your membership until you’ve browsed around, and never pay for more than one month. You don’t want to be stuck with six months if after two weeks there’s no more luck. If you aren’t finding matches, it just means that you’re probably not on the right site. ESSENCE.com: What about your photos? Some people have recommend getting them professionally done. What’s your take? DAVIS: I wrote a blog on do-it-yourself shots recently. You can do this in one night with your friends. Have them come over one night and you can try on different outfits and they can take pictures of you. Make sure there are good clear shots of your face, but also make sure there’s at least one good shot of you full-length. Also, Facebook is a really great way to start photo wise. Loot at the photos just around you and ask yourself, ‘could this be cropped in a way that makes it look like it wasn’t really cropped?’ ESSENCE.com: What about choosing a user name, and creating a profile? DAVIS: The user name you choose is very important. You don’t want it to be associated with anything else in your life. Someone shouldn’t be able to google that name and find a link that comes back to you. ESSENCE.com: What are the do’s and don’ts of creating your profile? DAVIS: Your profile should be two to three paragraphs long. Try to avoid cliches that don’t even matter like, ‘I’m laid back.’ Be specific. If you like to go skiing, where do you like to go skiing? And don’t read anyone else’s profile until you write your own–you’ll get caught up on what everyone else said. ESSENCE.com: Some things never change whether you’re on or offline. How long do you wait before you e-mail a guy back? Is there such a thing of seeming too hasty? DAVIS: We’re not playing games here. You’re online because you want to be proactive about your dating life. If you get an e-mail and you’re sitting at your computer and you have time, just write back. ESSENCE.com: What do you do when you’re ready to meet up for the first time? DAVIS: I always say that the first date is not a first date. It’s a meet and greet. It’s a chance for you to sit down and have one drink or one cup of coffee and see if you get along in real time. And then you can go on a date next time if you do.You should communicate about two or three exchanges on each end before you meet up. And don’t feel like you need to meet them because you’ve been e-mailing with them. ESSENCE.com: Any extra advice for first time online daters? DAVIS: Don’t expect to put up your profile today and meet “The One” by the weekend. You need to be persistent with online dating. That’s a huge part of it. Online dating will help you figure out what you actually want, what you like and what you don’t like, and what you’re type is and what it should be. It also puts you in control, which is another big thing–particularly for women. Don’t go online and put up a profile and do nothing with it. You want a say in who you’re dating. Don’t just wait for them. Go look! Read More: