XO, Ayana Turns 1 | My Take On How To Start A Blog

Blogger Ayana Lage wearing a Lilly Pulitzer Essie maxidress in Tropical Turquoise Elephant Appeal

I’m always big on anniversaries, but this one has me emotional. This little corner of the internet represents so much to me, and I’ve had Nov. 17 circled on my calendar for a few months. To celebrate one year of blogging, I’m sharing more about what motivated me to start and how to start a blog yourself. Also, I HAVE A COMPLETELY NEW WEBSITE! Pardon the dust as I continue to update it.

I was in a weird place when I created this website. After spending my whole career in fast-paced environments, I was suddenly spending all of my time working from home and freelancing. To make things even more jarring, I was also recovering from a hospitalization (read more about that in Bustle and the Tampa Bay Times). Because of my mental state and career change, I needed a hobby and decided to re-launch my website on a whim even though I had no idea how to start a blog. (I bought the domain name around the time that Vagner and I got married, but never did much with it.)

In the 366 days since the official launch, so much has changed in my life for the better. My mental health is better, I’m living in a city I love, my marriage is healthier, and I’m working in a field that I’m passionate about. I’m so grateful — and I’m also proud of XO, Ayana and the way it’s grown. Some fun numbers:

  • 37: The number of brands, restaurants and businesses that I’ve worked with since I began
  • 26,706: The number of individuals who have visited XO, Ayana since the site launch
  • 5,191: The number of pictures in my Adobe Lightroom library (the actual number of pictures taken since I launched is likely much higher — I try to clean out my library when I can!)

The People Who Made This Possible

But as you can probably imagine, the best parts of this year haven’t been related to sponsorships or web visitors. It’s been the sweet friends I’ve made along the way and the support I’ve received. My biggest tip when people ask me how to start a blog is always this: Find people who will help you out. Whether it’s taking your pictures, proofreading your posts, helping you network, or even giving you verbal encouragement, having people who want to see you succeed is so important. And on that note, here are some of my people who deserve all the praise:

  • Vagner, who is the best photographer/copy editor/plus-one/cheerleader I’ve ever met,
  • Mom and Dad, who still don’t understand the blogging world but have supported me in every way they can,
  • Nia, Al, and Cortney, my sweet friends who told me to go for it when I was worried that I’d look silly if I started blogging,
  • My sisters, who always tell me which pictures to post on Instagram and which to delete
  • Olivia Muenter, who commiserates with me regularly but also tells me to get it together and hustle
  • Affordable by Amanda, Girl Meets Bow, A Daydream Love and Bri Anderson, blogging queens who made my transition to Tampa that much easier by being my friends and introducing me to the right people,
  • and so many more.

This post is already way longer than my posts ever are, so I’m going to do my best to wrap it up — but I did want to answer questions I’ve received about how to start a blog!

Blogging FAQs Answered

How do I grow a local audience when I’m new to a city? This is such a great question and one that I have a lot of experience with! Vagner and I moved back to Tampa in March after two years in the Fort Lauderdale area. I had no idea where to start, even though Tampa has always been home for me. The best advice that I have is to find local bloggers and ask questions.

The ladies I listed above are some of the first blogging friends I made, and I befriended them all on social media or at events! Don’t be afraid to network with people who already have local audiences — they may end up becoming your friends. Also, reach out to local restaurants and businesses and see if they want to work together. Even if they don’t, stop in and familiarize yourself with the “cool spots” around town. I’ve literally made connections with people just from striking up a convo while at Oxford Exchange!

Will I make money when I start my blog? This is a tough one — I wish I could say, “YES!” but it all comes down to you. If you’re willing to network like crazy, send a gazillion emails and invest your time into making your content attractive, you will be able to monetize. If you want to post cute pictures without much thought, it’s much more difficult.

One thing I’ve realized since I started blogging is how much work goes into sponsored posts. A sponsored post that requires an Instagram picture and blog post can take 4-5 hours, and that doesn’t include all the time you spend negotiating with the brand! Once you know how to start a blog, it all comes down to how hard you’re willing to work. (You can find my most recent income report here.)

What do you do when you get discouraged? Oh, friend. There are so many times that I feel terrible about blogging and it feels silly. I start to hate putting myself out there and wonder whether I should quit — and it all comes down to my own insecurities.

If someone leaves a negative comment or a brand tells me they’re not interested in what I have to offer, my anxiety sometimes gets the best of me. But I remember that I bring something unique to the table, and that’s why people follow me and enjoy reading about my life. If I’m in a huge funk, I’ll take an Instagram break. Ain’t nobody got time for being miserable over a hobby!

Sorry for the mega-post, but I had so much to say! Thank you for helping me make this dream a reality. Here’s to the next year!

Leave a Comment


  1. I LOVE YOU AND CAN’T BELIEVE IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO READ THIS POST!!! You are killing the game and can’t wait to see everything that’s yet to come!

    xo, Bri | http://www.brianaanderson.com

    Posted 11.24.18 Reply
    • ayanagabriellelage wrote:

      CRYING! Thank you!!

      Posted 11.26.18 Reply
  2. Trene wrote:

    Wow Ayana,

    This is so inspiring to read and just goes to show that hard work pays off! For you to have only been blogging for a year, this is incredibly impressive that you’ve had such success thus far! I’m inspired to create even more after reading your content. I love how fun and relaxing your content is and how much you enjoy what you do. I definitely will be back to read more!


    Posted 11.27.18 Reply
    • Ayana wrote:

      Thank you so much, Trene!

      Posted 11.29.18 Reply
  3. Kacie wrote:

    Congrats on one year, Ayana!! The new site looks great and I’m excited to see what year 2 bring 🙂

    Xo, Kacie | theprettylittlehustler.com

    Posted 11.28.18 Reply
    • Ayana wrote:

      Thank you, Kacie! Xx

      Posted 11.29.18 Reply
  4. This was really helpful and inspiring! After one year you’ve made soo much progress! It gives me motivation and faith that I can do it too!

    Posted 6.18.19 Reply